Things are about to get serious for the U.S. national team. The 2014 World Cup is five months away in Brazil, and U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann called in 26 players for a training camp that begins Monday in Carson, Calif., and continues Jan. 13-25 in Sao Paulo.
The roster is made up almost entirely of Major League Soccer players, who are in their offseason. Klinsmann wants to make sure MLS players in the running for World Cup roster spots don’t get rusty, and understand the importance of training in the down months. He said he will probably cut the roster down to 23 for the trip to Brazil, where the team will begin familiarizing itself with the surroundings.
“It’s very important, especially for MLS players, to get off vacation and start working again and get into a rhythm to build a foundation for the entire season of that upcoming year,” Klinsmann said in a U.S. Soccer statement. “Therefore, it’s extremely important for us to see with what attitude and with what physical base they present themselves in the January camp. Do they understand that in the offseason they have to work, they have to do something to stay decently fit?
“Already, the first week of January camp gives you a lot of answers. It shows you what they’ve done in the offseason, how prepared they are, how serious they are about their job. For the players, it’s exciting because they can come in and make an impression, they can really send out some signals, ‘Hey, national team environment, I’m here, I’m ready for this! I want to show that I deserve to be part of that group going forward.’ ”
He said in the past two years, a few players broke into the lineup because of the January camp, and he wants to see which players seize the opportunity.
Klinsmann also thinks it is important for the players to spend time in Brazil, which makes good sense.
“It gives us the chance to train at the facility where we are going to train for the World Cup at FC Sao Paulo training ground, to stay at the hotel where we are going to stay. It’s meant to connect ourselves with Brazil, connect ourselves with the people that work there, with the circumstances you’re going to meet there and to get a real good feeling for how it’s going to be in June. It’s a tremendous advantage for us to do that trip. Therefore, we are going to focus on a lot of things in Sao Paulo off the field, not only on the field.”
The preliminary roster features 10 players who were involved in the qualifying rounds. Among them: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (DC United), and Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), and Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg).
Klinsmann has stressed from the moment he took the job that he is seeking players who are playing for their clubs, not just sitting on the bench.
For that reason, he was thrilled to learn that Brek Shea moved down a division in England from Stoke City to Barnsley to get more playing time. He is also pleased to see forward Clint Dempsey join Fulham on a two-month loan from the Seattle Sounders. Dempsey struggled after returning to MLS, scoring just one goal in 12 games while he was slowed by a hamstring injury.
“We are happy with Brek Shea, who made the jump over to a Championship [English Premier League’s second tier] team in order to get playing time,” Klinsmann said. “That’s what he needs. He doesn’t get that at Stoke City.
“Obviously, we are pleased with Clint Dempsey, our captain, making the jump for two months to Fulham to get games in now. He had a very difficult couple of months because of injury and the transition back into MLS. I think it’s a great decision from Clint to start off the year in the right way going on loan for two months to Fulham, his old team. They need him to get them back up in the table of the league, and by the middle of May when the season stops in Europe and we get into camp for the World Cup, I think he’s going to be in tremendous shape.”
Nobody knows how the United States will do in Brazil this summer. But one thing is certain — Klinsmann has a very detailed plan. And it sounds like a good one.
The complete camp roster:
Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), Chance Myers (Sporting Kansas City), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC).
Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).