Jurgen Klinsmann worried about development of U.S. strikers

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says developing the striker position -- and not the embattled back line -- is his greatest concern for the future, while also saying Jozy Altidore's role on the national team remains "very, very important."

U.S. defenders struggled in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and in friendlies this year as Klinsmann tried out a number of different combinations including John Brooks, Ventura Alvarado, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco, DeAndre Yedlin, Timothy Chandler, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream.

But Klinsmann told ESPN FC he's more concerned with the U.S.' inability to fully develop consistent strikers than he is about the back line as his side prepares to face Brazil on Tuesday.

With Aron Johannsson injured and Clint Dempsey electing to stay with the Seattle Sounders as he returns to full fitness, the U.S. gave Bobby Wood his first start on American soil in Friday's 2-1 win over Peru.

Klinsmann has also dipped into the collegiate ranks this year, with the addition of Stanford's Jordan Morris underlining his desire to have a greater selection of strikers from which to choose.

"You know with younger center-backs that emerge really on a high international level, so this is very important backbone of a team, Klinsmann said in an interview with Taylor Twellman, airing on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPNEWS). "So I'm not worried about our back line, our defensive shape. I think we put a lot of good work in there.

"What I'm worried in the longer run is to find strikers that on a international level give you a goal every second game at least. This is something where we have problems.

"We have problems to develop a young generation of strikers consistently scoring -- in their club teams and then coming into the national team, in the national team environment.

"And this is why it's so important to have a healthy Clint Dempsey then being back with us against Mexico and that's why we leave him out right now because he's not 100 percent. And why it is important to have 100 percent Jozy Altidore being fit, being positive and being full of confidence."

Altidore shook off a lingering hamstring injury and took the brunt of the attacking load on Friday, scoring twice while captaining the U.S. in a phenomenal return to the squad after being sent back to his club ahead of the knockout stage at this summer's Gold Cup.

The Toronto FC striker has had an up-and-down career, excelling while playing his club football for AZ Alkmaar for Netherlands but failing to catch on in England with either Hull or Sunderland. But throughout it all he has remained a mainstay for the United States, and Klinsmann told ESPN FC that finding consistency has been crucial for Altidore's success.

"I think it's a lot of self-belief. I think Jozy is a very intelligent kid. But he went through a lot of roller coasters very early in his career," Klinsmann said.

"You know, going early, probably too early to Europe, bouncing around in Europe all over the place, then finding consistency at Alkmaar, then giving it a shot at Sunderland, it didn't work out. Then you know, coming back into MLS, then struggling with hamstrings, then having that injury in the World Cup, here and there and other ones.

"So a lot happened in very very few years for Jozy that we need to find ways to give him consistency. Consistency in his performances on the field but also consistency in his life off the field. They're all individual people so we try to individualize as much as we can.

"In the bigger picture of the [national] team, Jozy is really, really important for us because if he's in the right kind of state of mind, if he's healthy and fit, he gives you goals and that's what you need."

Altidore strained his right hamstring on May 16, an injury that sidelined him for five weeks before July's Gold Cup, but he showed he is back to full strength on Friday, drawing the praise of his manager at a news conference on Monday.

"He is simply physically on a completely different level than when he came in for the Gold Cup," Klinsmann said. "He was just not there. And he worked himself back, he tried hard, he did extra shifts with his club. And when he came in now you could see that he's fresh, he's explosive, he's hungry, and because of that he's in a better state of mind, because you need to have that physical foundation to come into camp with the national team because the intensity level is just much higher and the tempo is higher."

Klinsmann said Altidore took the decision to leave him out of the Gold Cup knockout-round squad as motivation to return to his peak conditioning.

"If you feel like the first couple of days you are not there, then that will hit your confidence, it will hit everything," Klinsmann said. "That's what he realized after a couple of days in the Gold Cup. 'Holy moley, I'm not where I should be.'

"We tested it out the first couple of games and we just came to the conclusion that the timing was not there. He did his homework, and Jermaine can probably tell you, [Jozy] is different now. He's in a good mood, he believes in himself, he's working hard. He prepared his own opportunities, which is important for strikers too that they go for their own opportunities...

"It's a big confidence booster for him, feeling just good about himself physically, and for us it makes a huge difference to have Jozy Altidore in much better shape. There's no doubt about it."

As for Tuesday's friendly against Brazil, Klinsmann says his side can not be afraid to attack one of the most powerful teams in the world, and expected the U.S. to "get in their face."

"When you play a team like Brazil, obviously five times world champion, and most successful team ever in history of the game, it's a little bit similar like if you would maybe play Spain or Germany," he told ESPN FC. "These top three, five nations, it's about your own confidence. It's about your own belief in yourself. So these teams will take you apart if you have to much respect.

"You know, when they feel that, when they sense that, and you kind of back off and you give them a little bit of space to these very special players that they have, they're gonna just destroy you, you know. So the message to our team is OK, over time we learn now to play bigger teams and some we did well, some we lost, but you always experience the same circumstances.

"The moment you step on their toes, the moment you get into their face, the moment you kind of kept up the pace with them, and you were in there for a fight, you had a game. You were very close, you were very close with Germany in the World Cup, you only lost 1-0. You kept Portugal behind with Cristiano Ronaldo. You know, you went to Italy and won there, you went there. So over time you want your players to become more consistent in their mindset.

"To become more consistent to believe, 'OK, Brazil, I know who Brazil is, I know who Neymar is and all these guys. But let's give it a shot, let's go out there, let's get in their face.' So this will be a great benchmark to see how much confidence do we really bring into a game like that from our perspective? And it will also help us in terms of preparing for Mexico next month."

Klinsmann also said defenders Brooks and Yedlin will be with the senior side for next month's playoff against Mexico rather than with the under-23 team at Olympic qualifying, though he was not certain which squad Morris would join.