TORRANCE, Calif. – All but two of the 25 players invited in for the US national team's first camp of 2013 were present for Tuesday's start of fitness work, the traditional kickoff to the annual January gathering in Southern California. But head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear that this is nothing like past camps to start the year.
With the final-round hexagonal to CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying slate less than a month away, Klinsmann and his staff are treating this as preparation for games that matter, and he expects a half-dozen players, and perhaps more, to be on the roster when the US take on Honduras early next month in San Pedro Sula.
“It's a little bit of a different type of a camp,” Klinsmann told a group of reporters at the team hotel following the first fitness session. “It's not really a preseason camp, like it was always in the recent years, because of that Feb. 6 date in Honduras. It's actually a World Cup qualifying preparation camp, so we work as hard as we can in a very short amount of time.”
Klinsmann said he also is following closely American players in Europe and Mexico as he determines the roster for the Honduras game, and that “based on what happens in Europe, in Mexico, we can then see how many players from this [camp's] roster will feed into that one. Off the top of my head, probably six, eight, nine players maybe.”
One who will not be considered for the qualifier is LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who has taken a leave of absence to consider his future.
“We don't have him in our sheet for Honduras, because if you're not part of this camp, you have basically no preparation for a World Cup qualifier,” he said. “As with everyone else, we're curious what he comes up with and what he decides to do.”
The players in camp will continue fitness work the rest of the week and plan to be on the field next Monday, by which time Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi and Chivas USA forward Juan Agudelo should be back from a training stint with English Premier League side West Ham United. Both are expected to arrive in LA on Friday.
The other 23 players – including five in their first full national team camp, Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall and forward Will Bruin, and defenders Tony Beltran from Real Salt Lake, Connor Lade from New York and Justin Morrow from San Jose – are looking to impress ahead of the Jan. 29 friendly against Canada in Houston with the hope their performances will put them in the mix for qualifiers and this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
All but four players on the camp roster are from Major League Soccer.
“If you look at MLS over the last couple of years, every year MLS has done a step forward. And I think last season quality-wise was probably the best-ever season we've seen ...,” Klinsmann said.
“We've seen many [players] that are now part of this camp play on a very consistent high level, and that's what we want to see now in this camp, that they kind of prove that consistency in their game, that they are ready personality-wise to step in another level up, because that's what is needed on the international surface. And so we are really curious to see how much they can confirm of what they have already shown in MLS.”