World Cup: Looming cuts making USMNT training more intense, competition tighter

STANFORD, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t tipped his hand on anything – not who will make his final 23-man World Cup roster, not when those cuts will come and certainly not who his first-choice starting XI will be.

And to the 30 players here at Stanford University, that uncertainty has made things slightly edgy at US national team camp.

“Occasionally guys will get into each other a little bit,” defender Matt Besler admitted to reporters before Thursday’s training session. “But that’s good. It’s all been positive.

“There’s been a few occasions – scrimmages, small-sided games – where the loser isn’t happy, and you can see that. But that’s how it should be. I think everyone’s been on the winning end the last few days, on the losing a few days, and everyone’s still hungry.”

That has implications all over the field. Besler – despite what he has said to reporters during camp – is likely a lock for one of the starting center back spots. But Klinsmann also said he sees Geoff Cameron as a center back at the international level instead of right back, where the former Houston Dynamo man spent the majority of this past season at Stoke City.

That brings into question the status of Omar Gonzalez, Besler’s partner for most of 2013. It’s conceivable Klinsmann could opt for Cameron in lieu of the LA Galaxy defender when he names his starting lineup against Ghana on June 16 in Natal. And according to Cameron, anyone involved in that kind of position battle has conflicting voices in his head.

“You’re anxious, you’re confident, you have all the emotions you can think of competing for a spot because not every spot is locked or guaranteed,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“[Klinsmann] said that from the beginning – there’s no spot guaranteed to go to the World Cup. So that’s why everybody’s working their tails off and making sure they put it on the field every single day.”

Both Besler and Sporting Kansas City teammate Graham Zusi alluded to a 3-v-3 drill during Wednesday’s training session that got a little overly spirited. They weren’t forthcoming with further details but did spin it into a positive – that everyone is feeding off that vibe and enjoying the healthy competition. Despite the painful reality that’s coming soon for seven players who won’t make that plane to Brazil.

“I know it’s going to be a very difficult decision,” Zusi said. “I don’t envy [Klinsmann’s] in that position because there are 30 guys here that are seriously competing for that team.”

Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of

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