SALVADOR, Brazil – United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Tuesday night shot down any idea that overtraining led to three separate hamstring injuries for US players during the World Cup, instead insisting his players simply were not ready for a higher level of training and competing.
Defender Fabian Johnson went down with a right hamstring strain in the first half of the Americans’ 2-1 loss to Belgium in their Round of 16 game at Arena Fonta Nova and had to be subbed out for DeAndre Yedlin. A similar injury felled striker Jozy Altidore just 21 minutes into the opening game on June 16 – Altidore never played another minute in Brazil – and defender Matt Besler had to be subbed out at halftime of the same game with hamstring tightness before playing every minute of the three subsequent games.
“What leads to injuries is fatigue, and what leads to injuries is playing on the highest level with the most intensity that you’ve never played with before,” Klinsmann said. “We actually did an amazing job coming through to this point with 23 players available. Our staff did a tremendous job preparing this team for the extreme conditions in this World Cup.”
The players’ injuries, fatigue and the possibility of overtraining were one of the biggest criticisms of Klinsmann after the US were eliminated on Tuesday night, but USSF president Sunil Gulati said he had no concerns on the issue. He said that Besler’s substitution in the opener against Ghana was a “precautionary” measure and that a number of other teams were riddled with injuries in Brazil.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “Given the number of players Belgium had – five guys who were unavailable because of injury or four? – I’ll take our minutes lost to injury in this tournament against anybody. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
Altidore suited up but went as an unused sub on Tuesday against Belgium, while the severity of Johnson’s strain was unclear following the match.
“It’s a completely different level that we experienced here,” Klinsmann said. “A lot of these players are not used to going every four days the highest level and then extra time. That’s what we prepared them for, and I think they did themselves proud.”