Jan 18, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. national team keep squeezing and squeezing, attempting to extract as much as possible from this ongoing Brazilian leg of the annual January camp, holding workouts and training matches in South America for a few more days before returning stateside.
This Sao Paulo-based stretch of the U.S. team’s annual January camp is about two things: getting in the effective workouts, same as they would back in California during any other January camp, and; doing as much to acclimate and familiarize themselves with Brazil, removing some mystery and looking for potential snags at the site of this summer’s World Cup.
No other team has this opportunity, after all, to bring about half the men that will make up this year’s World Cup roster – a full complement of 26 American players are in Brazil, but only about a dozen will make the final 23-man list for this summer in Brazil – to train and stay where they will train and stay this summer.
It’s about removing any hardship borne of the known unknown and the unknown unknowns for players, coaches and staff. And it is about building relationships with support staff and potential allies at hotels, training grounds, the U.S. Embassy, etc.
How much this familiarization efforts will really help can be debated; at some point, soccer matters are decided by 11 v. 11 on the field. Then again, it can’t hurt, right? It’s a World Cup, after all, and dotting “Is” and crossing “Ts” certainly seems like the prudent and thorough approach.
So the busy days continue. To help keep fans informed, U.S. Soccer has been sending back diaries, like this one on the first “double-day” session from Brazil.
The team has had one closed door training game, a 2-1 loss to national power Sao Paulo. Details are sketchy, although some intrepid journalists did manage to stow away with the details you see in that piece (linked just above.)
Journalists weren’t as lucky the following day, when U.S. security staff nailed them trying to film some of the workout. Apparently the team’s security staff is slowly plugging the leaks, getting acclimated to the weak spots, too.
The U.S. players visited the Estadio Das Dunas in Natal (pictured above), site of the team’s group opener against Ghana. (Remember, getting out of this tough World Cup group is all about winning that first one over Ghana.) I spoke to U.S. national team communications director Michael Kammarman in Brazil this afternoon; he reported that players and staff thought the building looks fantastic.
Meanwhile, Klinsmann and some other staff members did more complete site inspections today at Natal and at the stadium in Recife.
Assistant coaches Martin Vasquez and Andreas Herzog ran the U.S. workouts on the field while the big boss was site inspecting. Masa Sakihana, the team’s fitness coach, had the players for a gym session later in the day.
See what I mean … the days are stacked and packed.
The team has yet another training game Monday. Details will be scarce once again. Why?
U.S. Soccer typically resists providing details on these closed-door matches because they are so informal that only incorrect or wholly imprecise conclusions can be drawn. That’s the theory, at least.
In last Thursday’s training match – which we might call a “scrimmage” in our parts … but since the world wouldn’t know anything about that American football term, we’ll call it what the rest of the globe calls it – 24 out of 26 U.S. players got on the field. The outside backs played 30 minutes each, in no particular order, so there’s not much to infer from that.
It’s more “glorified practice” than “match.” At least, that’s what I’ve been told before by U.S. staff.
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