The MLS offseason often passes in the blink of an eye, but for US men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, it is far too long.
Preparing for the 2014 World Cup, Klinsmann plans to work with MLS-based national-teamers to plan their offseason with a mix of individual training, European loans and a January national-team camp split between Southern California and Brazil.
"Our priorities are set so that the first one is if you get a chance to go on loan to Europe, do it," Klinsmann told USSoccer.com in the second part of a post-CONCACAF Hexagonal Q&A. "It is very crucial for us that the players understand that everything they do now today has an influence on Brazil 2014 next summer. They can't take it easy."
Klinsmann mentioned three MLS players by name – Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi – as examples of players he hopes to see compete for minutes with European teams in the early part of 2014.
All three have varying levels of international experience. US captain Dempsey, of course, played in England from 2007 until this summer with first Fulham, then Tottenham. Donovan began his career in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen and went on loan to English club Everton in both 2010 and 2012. Zusi went on trial with West Ham United last January.
Other MLS-based players are expected to be part of Klinsmann's January training camp, which will for the first time take the national team to the site of that year's major competition, in this case to São Paulo, Brazil.
"Whoever won’t be on loan in January or February overseas is going to be part of our mandatory January camp," Klinsmann said. "We expect everybody comes in. We’ll try to bring in some younger players [and] have a look at them as well, because we want to get a roster together of 20-23 guys that is highly motivated and inspired to go into the World Cup year. It will be exciting. Our plan is to break it down into two periods: one in LA and one in São Paulo, Brazil. They will get a first taste of Brazil in January."
With the MLS Cup Playoffs set to start next Wednesday, Klinsmann said he has high expectations for national-team players – like the aforementioned trio, Seattle defender Brad Evans, Sporting KC defender Matt Besler and Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman, and possibly Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson and Houston midfielder Brad Davis – to lead the way at the club level.
"I think it’s exciting. … The stadiums are full," Klinsmann said. "There are packed atmospheres in those places that are getting more intense every year; therefore, it’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks. It also shows the players they need to be on top of their game.
"What we want to see from a national-team perspective is our players putting a stamp on the playoffs, putting a stamp in their performances for their team and not just go with the flow.”