STANFORD, Calif. — Jurgen Klinsmann cut right to it: The U.S. has some serious catching up to do a month before its World Cup opener.
Klinsmann was eager to get started on a scorching Wednesday afternoon at Stanford Stadium as the Americans began a two-week training camp leading up to a May 27 exhibition with Azerbaijan at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
While all 30 Americans have yet to arrive in the Bay Area, Klinsmann will have the tough task of cutting his roster to 23 by June 2.
“The reason we take 30 is we’re not sure yet,” Klinsmann said before his team took the field. “There will be intense training sessions ahead of them in order to show what they have, in every position not only as a center forward, the entire team.”
Defender Geoff Cameron and goal keepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are scheduled to arrive Sunday, as Klinsmann gave them a few extra days coming from their Premier League clubs in England.
Left back DaMarcus Beasley is trying for his fourth World Cup.
“I still get butterflies,” he said. “I haven’t been with the team for a while. To see all the guys’ faces, it’s good to be back with the team and obviously it’s very important. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of work to be done in these three weeks before the team goes to Brazil.”
Klinsmann said defender Omar Gonzalez, the Los Angeles Galaxy defender who is nursing a left knee injury from a May 3 game against Colorado, should be close to full strength later in the week.
Midfielder Maurice Edu wasn’t medically cleared for Wednesday’s workout because of concussion symptoms, but can train without body contact.
Klinsmann knows he needs to evaluate everybody in short order — and a versatile, deep defense will be one of those areas even if the group is lacking in World Cup minutes.
“This is World Cup preparation, this is building a foundation for hopefully a successful World Cup,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, it’s doing our homework, it’s fine-tuning a lot of elements there on the training field, getting a sense for the guys how they’re taking it. To build every piece you’re working on, whether it’s tactical, whether it’s technical, if it’s chemistry-wise, improve it and build on it to make this team as strong as possible to go into this summer’s World Cup.
“That foundation will be laid now in these two and a half weeks in Stanford and then we obviously go with it on the road to New York and Florida before we fly down to Sao Paulo.”
With temperatures in the mid-90s, team dietitian Danielle LaFata was ready to stress hydration — and she has some experience with it given none of the U.S. players cramped up even once during Gold Cup play last July.
She had already strategized how to keep the players hydrated and fueled with nutritional drinks before and after training prepared for each player’s individual needs based on body weight and minutes played. Especially for those traveling from Europe and dealing with hotter weather in addition to jet lag and general fatigue.
Beasley, for one, believes this is the best U.S. squad he has been a part of. The Americans are gearing up for their final three tuneups before the Group G World Cup opener June 16 against Ghana in Natal.
So what if the odds are against them?
“You should bet on us,” Beasley said, chuckling. “You never know what happens. It’s one game in a World Cup, whoever’s better on that day will win. Simple as that.”
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