CARSON, Calif. – For members of the US national team, the race to Brazil begins early in 2014 – in January camp.
The Yanks will get a preview of this coming summer when camp switches locales next week to São Paulo, Brazil, the same spot where they’ll set up shop for this summer’s World Cup.
The group will be there for 13 days before returning to Southern California for a Feb. 1 friendly against South Korea. But not all of the 26 called up to January camp will make the trip – Jurgen Klinsmann will whittle the group to 23, a squad that will closely resemble the final 23 who will make the squad for the summer's main event.
The trip is designed to give the Americans a feel for Brazil before returning in late spring for the World Cup, and Klinsmann – a veteran of four World Cups, three as a striker and another as head coach with Germany – believes it will provide his side an advantage of sorts.
“We'll try things out there,” Klinsmann told reporters before the national team's training session Tuesday morning at StubHub Center. “We want to get to know the people. We want to build relationships, if it's at the hotel, at the training ground. We want to get a feel for how things work there – for the Brazilian lifestyle, in a certain way – and this is a good opportunity.
“So we connected it because no other [World Cup] team really has that January camp happening. It's because of the schedule that MLS has gives us that opportunity.”
The US will stay at the hotel that will serve as its base in Brazil and train at São Paulo FC's grounds – “one of the best sites you can have in Brazil,” Klinsmann said – which it will use in May and June. There are two scrimmages set, both closed-door outings with São Paulo's first team, “and maybe some more scrimmages,” he said, will be added to the schedule.
“It’s about familiarizing ourselves with the country and hotel we'll be staying at,” said Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler, who last year rose to prominence within the US team. “Everything we do is about preparing us to get out of the group. I'm excited to get down there. I've been to Brazil once before, and some of the guys have been. We're looking forward to checking out where we're going to be staying and training.”
Said LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez: “It’s great so we can get used to the food, the sleep cycle and all of that. It won’t be a surprise once we get there.”
All 26 players in the current camp play for MLS clubs except midfielder Mix Diskerud. The three who don't make the cut for the trip will continue working out here in Carson and rejoin the group when it returns Jan. 26.
“I think the trip down to Brazil makes it all real, very real, and I think that that has gained the focus of every single player, 100 percent...” SKC midfielder Graham Zusi said. “It's going to feel real good going down there this first time and kind of knowing what you'll be up against in the summer.
"If there are any snags or unexpected things, we'll be able to experience them this first time and really take them out of the question the next time we're down there.”