PHOENIX – In order to play at the international level, you have to feel it. You have to understand the poetry, the music.
That's what Jurgen Klinsmann wants to instill in his players – most of whom have limited international experience, or none at all – during his first January camp in charge of the US national team.
But is it working?
"They're getting the music," Klinsmann told reporters after Wednesday morning's intraquad scrimmage at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in northern Phoenix. "They understand that the pace internationally is much faster. The demand is much faster in terms of the concentration, speed of play, speed of thought, speed of implementing certain things."
To make sure the players get the music, they first have to be fit. Much of the camp so far, which shifts from Phoenix to Southern California on Friday, has been spent working on the players' fitness – three-a-days, weight-training sessions, sprinting exercises and the grueling periods developing fast-twitch muscles.
Klinsmann said the rigorous work is essential to help the inexperienced players reach the level of fitness required at the international level, especially with the team's friendly games fast approaching – vs. Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 21 and vs. Panama in Panama City on Jan. 25.
"For every week you don't train, you have to have two weeks of training to get back to equalize that," he said. "Now, if you have a player that didn't train for eight weeks like the MLS offseason, you basically have four months to get back on track. We've got to pump them through the process. This is reality. Now we have three weeks to prepare the players for an international game."
The national team has been playing intrasquad scrimmages since last weekend but the first real test won't come until it plays against the US Under-23 team on Friday and next Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"We'll see a little bit where we are, but it is a tight race toward an international game," Klinsmann said.
So far, though, the German legend has been pleased with the current crop at camp.
"They're greedy for the next step," Klinsmann said. "They're hungry. They want to know, ‘OK where is my next level here?’ So we push the envelope. We push the speed. We push them physically. We push them mentally. They need to see the barriers in front of them so they are able to jump over it one day."
Teal Bunbury was back on the field for Wednesday's scrimmage and played without a hint of pain. The Sporting Kansas City striker had suffered a minor injury to his right ankle in an intrasquad scrimmage on Monday.