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Klinsmann says MLS schedule has US players at a fitness disadvantage

May 15, 2014, 12:40 PM EDT

Klinsmann AP

The World Cup is strategically placed during the three-month offseason most leagues around the world observe.

However, with Major League Soccer playing through the American summer and placing its offseason during the winter, USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann says the United States is at a disadvantage when it comes to fitness.

“A lot of our guys don’t have the same foundation that our opponents have,” Klinsmann said at yesterday’s presser to open camp at Stanford.

With both Portugal and Germany in the United States’ group, there are many players the US will face whose seasons haven’t even ended yet. “[Our opponents] are coming from 10-, 11-month seasons where some of them are playing in a Champions League final, they have ‘X’ amount of games in their legs. Their foundation is different to ours, so we have to catch up, and that’s what we have to do now over the next four weeks before we start our tournament.”

Many will argue that US-based players are fresher, because while they are into the heart of the season with over month under their belts, they haven’t worn down with the rigors of a full season that lasts nearly a calendar year.

However, Klinsmann’s point is that, with players at the peak of physical condition, it’s more important for them to play a full season and transition seamlessly into World Cup training just a month or less before, whereas MLS players are still working their bodies back into its highest gear.

While this may not manifest itself right away, the extra rigors of a tournament with games every few days may wear down players by match three or beyond.

Additionally, heat may be a factor, as the Brazilian equatorial climate figures to be taxing on a player’s body. The United States will play Portugal in the jungle of Manaus, which will receive extra attention for its extreme humidity in addition to the temperature.

But Klinsmann says he’s not planning on using the topography of Palo Alto to train players for those conditions. “We have some work to do,” he said. “We combine it all in an exciting way, with the ball in small side games, with a lot of action. We’re not going to be running through the forest, even though it’s a beautiful forest here.”

The camp will last two weeks before three quick-fire friendlies against Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria beginning on May 27.

  1. Vnice - May 15, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Hot and humid? Sounds like Houston.

  2. geojock - May 15, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Put me in the camp that argues. I think US players are about 1 month short of ideal fitness, but most have 10 weeks of games under their belts. On the flip side, I seem to remember many stars who have faded in previous World Cups after finishing great club seasons. We also hear all the talk by players at the end of the World Cup about how exhausted they are after a full season plus extra cups in between.

    I am not worried about fitness, I am worried about this team coming together and playing as a team We have had lots of movement in the 18 as a part of Klinnys mental toughness strategy. Time to get the boys playing, eating, drinking, etc together to build some comfort and consistency with each other.

  3. Scott Hevel - May 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Am I the only one that remembers when the USMNT was mostly from the MLS that the one thing everyone was in agreement on was that the US team had the best fitness in the world?

    I completely disagree with Jurgen and have no idea how you can say someone in the middle of their season is more out of shape than a player who has been out of live game playing shape for weeks.

    Now is not a good time for excuses

  4. midtec2005 - May 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    I kind of agree with the previous posters. I think this is an advantage, not otherwise. Think about all of the little niggling injuries you get throughout a season. MLS players should be fresh and fit.

  5. konmtu - May 15, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    It seems to me that while maybe the MLS players are still working up to peak fitness, they are at more of an advantage or on equal footing. The players whose seasons run through the winter have been beating up their bodies for 10 to 11 months. Their bodies are likely telling them they need a break while the MLS players are still building up to their peak. I would hope that they get there by June. I would think a professional athlete can get into top shape in three months.

  6. talgrath - May 15, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    I’m not an expert or anything, but MLS has been going for over two months now, I think MLS players are likely in great shape by this point, if they aren’t then they must have been injured during part of the season so far.

  7. bobinkc - May 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    If Jurgie-baby doesn’t like the way MLS runs, why did he take the job, knowing that’s where most of his players were coming from?

  8. bdh75gunner - May 15, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    “Additionally, heat may be a factor, as the Brazilian summer…”

    Last time I checked, Brasil was in the Southern hemisphere; i.e. WC is during Brazilian winter.

    Regardless, it will still be hot and humid.

  9. steves4 - May 15, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    You guys are all totally more knowledgeable on this topic than the man that won the World Cup, Euro Cup, UEFA Cup, Bundesliga, scored 226 club goals in 506 matches, 47 international goals in 108 matches, played 16 years at a professional level, and has managed club and international teams for 7 years.

    MLS Players have played at most 11 games and in some cases as little as 7. It stands to reason that guys who have played 10-11 games will have less true match fitness than guys that have played 40-50 games. Note that his exact wording was “don’t have the same foundation”. That’s a fact. They don’t. Will they be fresher and have fewer knocks and small injuries? Yes. But that’s not what Klinsmann was talking about. He was talking about foundation.

    This is gonna get so many thumbs downs……..

  10. mlsconvert88888 - May 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I think this is a bit of posturing by Klinsmann. He just wants to get the players focused and ready to work.

  11. mazblast - May 15, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    I think it’s just the opposite. The European players may be beat all to heck after a full season in their home leagues, while the Americans who’ve stayed here have far less mileage on them.

    I hear this kind of talk all the time, what I call “pre-excusing”. We’re going to get our butts kicked, so let’s run our alibis out in advance. I doubt that it’s “sandbagging”, where a coach who knows he’s going to win badmouths his team’s chances so his side can “exceed expectations”.

    Could Klinsmann be making excuses as a way of keeping his job?

  12. drewvt6 - May 15, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    I think it may simply be some posturing from Klinsmann. He’s going to throw out all kinds of goodies to the press to get the Germans, Portuguese, Ghanians to relax a bit in their prep for the US.

    • lyleoross - May 16, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Agreed – why is that we all want to believe that things which really mean nothing in terms of actual game play are important? Add to your comment that the U.S. is coming in at a huge disadvantage in terms of skill and talent. JK is doing everything he can to get the Germans and Portuguese to take us lightly. Too bad it won’t work.

      • drewvt6 - May 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        I have this whole conspiracy theory that Donovan’s exclusion is a game, too. At the last minute we’ll claim someone is injured and he’ll come riding in to mess with the German/Portugues game planning.

      • lyleoross - May 28, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        LOL – truthfully, I think he P.O.ed JK with his no show. People spend their entire lives wishing to get that opportunity and he essentially walked away. If I’m JK I’m gonna question his passion, and once you’ve questioned, there are too many others for whom you don’t have to question.

        On the other hand, if Dempsey is truly hurt, and I know they are saying he’s not, LD will be back before Turkey.

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