World Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann says USMNT must use camp to play "catch up" with group-stage foes
STANFORD, Calif. – The US national team’s pre-World Cup camp is officially underway.
Twenty of the 30 players called in by Jurgen Klinsmann were at the team’s first official training session at Stanford Stadium on Wednesday, and the US head coach made no bones about his squad’s preparedness for next month’s main event in Brazil:
Compared to their group-stage opponents, the US are way behind.
“That’s why I was discussing with many club coaches – obviously with MLS – to get the players out here as early as possible because a lot of our guys do not have the same foundation as our opponents have,” Klinsmann said at Wednesday's introductory press conference. “We have to be clear about that. [Our opponents] are coming from 10-, 11-month seasons. Some of them [will] play in Champions League final, they play until the very end, they have X amount of games in their legs. Their foundation is different than ours.
“So we have to catch up. That’s the work we have to do now over the next three weeks before we start our tournament. Hopefully we catch up and even add a little bit more on top of it. That’s what starts today.”
Ghana – the team against whom the USMNT will open their World Cup on June 16 – don’t open camp until May 20. Portugal and Germany start a day later.
Klinsmann’s US camp, meanwhile, is expected to be intense and physical. It will feature two training sessions a day geared toward catching an MLS-dominated squad up with the fitness levels of players whose seasons are just wrapping up.
“We combine it all in an exciting way,” he said continued. “With the ball, with small-sided games with a lot of action there, so we’re not going to be running through the forest here even if it’s beautiful.”
According to Klinsmann, the overall fitness level of his 30-man squad is good but still needs to improve over the next two-and-a-half weeks. Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu reported early as he nurses pre-concussion symptoms, and while LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez is among the 20 early arrivals, he won’t be ready for full action “until the end of the week” as he recovers from his knee injury, according to the coach.
"Fitness-wise, we have a good base, obviously," Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis told reporters on Wednesday. "I know we’re going to be pushed pretty hard, but us guys from MLS are feeling pretty good. Maybe the first couple days are going to be difficult – some of us are going to be coming off three games in a week – but it is what it is. We’ll all get through it."
Toronto FC's Michael Bradley and Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler and Graham Zusi will head here to Northern California after their Wednesday-night club games, while Columbus Crew defender Michael Parkhurst flies in Wednesday night, and Seattle Sounders and USMNT captain Clint Dempsey arrives on Thursday, according to US Soccer.
Klinsmann said he gave his English Premier League trio – defender Geoff Cameron and goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan – until Sunday to report as “they went 11 months non-stop.” AZ Alkmaar forward Aron Johannsson and Besiktas midfielder Jermaine Jones are both in action for their clubs on Sunday and will be the final arrivals.
By the end of the camp, Klinsmann must make the decision of which seven players to cut from the squad in order to submit a 23-man roster to FIFA.
“We have until the second of June,” Klinsmann said. “And maybe I need until the second of June to make those final decisions. If so, we’ll do that. We’re going to make it in time, promise.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.