Thursday, January 26, 2012

Camp Cupcake; A Look Back

Article by Pedro Gomes

As yet another January camp enters the United States Soccer history books, let us take a quick look back at what has transpired and what we have learned from the camp. 


Typically US roster announcements are desperately anticipated, usually overly analyzed and this camp was no different. Everyone had their long list of names from MLS that they thought were well deserving of a look and an opportunity to impress the new boss. And when the initial 20 man roster was announced on December 22, the majority of the US soccer community was fairly pleased with the names Klinsmann had selected. There was an interesting mix of first time call-ups, young up and coming talents, and a sprinkle of senior team veterans for good measure. For the most part many fans were eager to see how these men would grasp Klinnsman’s style of play in the three week camp.

Here is a quick look at the initial 20 man roster by position:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (7): Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), George John (FC Dallas), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Jeff Parke (Seattle Sounders – added after initial call-up)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders- added after initial call-up)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), C.J. Sapong (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Significant Events:

We begin the significant event summary with a few discussion inducing decisions by long time call-up hopefuls George John and Omar Gonzalez. Both defenders were given a leave of absence by Jurgen to attend trails that had been arranged with overseas clubs, in hopes of securing a transfer during the January window. Klinnsman called up two Seattle Sounders, Brad Evans and Jeff Parke to fill their now vacant spots.
The good news for US fans is that George John was eventually able to secure a 2 month loan deal with the option for a full transfer to Championship side, West Ham United. John joins U-23 member Sebastian Lletget. In fact, George seems to be adapting quite well as he recently scored in his first Reserve match for the Hammers only 17 minutes into the game.

The bad news for US fans is that Omar Gonzalez tore his ACL during just his first training session with FC Nurmberg following a collision with non-other than US National Teamer, Timothy Chandler. US fans will have to wait quite a while before they will have an opportunity to see what Omar could offer the Stars and Stripes.

Staying in Germany, a third significant event to come out of January Camp was the late inclusion of Jermaine Jones to the squad following a highly controversial play in which Jones stomped (stamped) on the already injured foot of Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Marco Reus. The play was missed by the referee but caught by the Bundesliga disciplianary committee which hand Jones a 2 month ban from play. Klinnsman took the opportunity to call in the steely vet for some tenacious play in the mid-field and a veteran presence in the locker room.

Growing Closer to Klinnsman:

The relatively long camp gave Jurgen plenty of time to work with the players and talk to the media. There were a few key takeaways from the camp that were of interest.

Top players must be playing in top environments. This probably explains why he was willing to let Omar and George leave camp in order to pursue opportunities to play in Europe. But he also mentioned that even our top players should be content with just playing in the Premier League or Bundesliga, they should always be striving to get to the next level of play whether that is Europa League or Champions League Soccer.

Klinnsman is more of an architect than a foreman. Essentially, Klinnsman isn’t there to motivate or tell players which plays to make instead he sees his role more as one of offering the players knowledge and the freedom to express themselves on the field. He believes that a player needs to motivate himself to achieve success and must always look forward to the next challenge to improve himself. He wants driven individuals on his team. He explains this philosophy a bit during an interview with Glenn Davis onSports790. 

And finally, Jurgen wants a challenge. He wants to put his team into difficult situations and attempt to bring the best out of them through both success and failure on the pitch. That you can only gain confidence on the field by putting yourself “eye-to-eye” with the best and that eventually the players will see they can meet these challenges and elevate their game and the overall style of play. You only have to look at the upcoming schedule to see that this is something he takes serious and is actively pursuing, for better or worse. In fact, listen to the end of the Venezuela post-game conference to see what he means and in a way getting what he is hoping for.

Match Summaries:

The US Squad did not exactly wow the US Soccer community during their two performances against Venezuela and Panama. Both matches saw the young squad have sessions of sloppy play, missed opportunities, along with moments of decent possession and defensive cohesion. But all in all we came away with more questions than answers for the depth of the US squad.

USMNT 1,Venezuela 0:

Overall the US outplayed Venezuela and controlled the majority of possession and created a decent number of goal-scoring opportunities. If it wasn’t for some amazing goalkeeping the score line could easily have read 3 or 4 in favor of the US. Although, the US did have plenty of sloppy passes and poor touches they did manage to recover well and regain possession and continue to press the Venezuelan side. Our defense stayed compact and we even saw a few decent runs out of the back from our Center Backs. However, once again it seemed that would were going to spoil all of that great possession and chance creation until Ricardo Clark was able to find himself wide open on a ’97 corner kick and nod a low header home for some good ol’ fashioned late game US heroics.

Here’s a quick look at our line-up during the match:

United StatesBill Hamid, A.J. DeLaGarza, Heath Pearce (Zach Loyd 72), Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Jeff Larentowicz (Chris Wondolowski 62), Graham Zusi (C.J. Sapong 74), Jermaine Jones (capt.), Teal Bunbury (Brad Evans 88), Benny Feilhaber (Ricardo Clark 62), Brek Shea
Substitutes not used: Nick Rimando, Jeff Parke

USMNT 1, Panama 0:

The second and final match of the camp was never going to be easy, especially when you have to travel away to face a rising CONCACAF force that recently beat us for the first time ever in a Gold Cup match this past summer. And a combination of poor play on our part and a persistent Panama side made the match sloppy and sometimes downright tough to watch. The US seemed a bit out-of-sync all night and we never were able to truly put our stamp on the game. A decent cross into the box by Zach Lloyd and some misplays by both Teal Bunbury and the Panamanian defender provided a well-positioned Graham Zusi a golden opportunity in the first half that he buried for the lone goal of the night. However, aside from that play the Panamanians looked the more dangerous team on the field for the majority of the first half and it took a second half red card to Geoff Cameron for the US to finally gain some decent possession passing in order to hold off for the 1 goal victory. All in all it was a tough match to both watch and I assume play and we can only hope the players took something away from it in the end.

Here’s a quick look at our line-up during the match:

United States: Nick Rimando (Sean Johnson 45'); A.J. DeLaGarza, Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Zach Loyd (Heath Pearce 41'); Ricardo Clark (Jeff Larentowicz 67'), Jermaine Jones (capt.), Graham Zusi (Brad Evans 66'), Brek Shea; Chris Wondolowski (Jeff Parke 55'), Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 76').
Unused substitutes: Benny Feilhaber

The US next travels to Italy to face yet another tough European side in what will surely be a loud and difficult environment to lay in. It will be interesting to see how the First Team call-ups respond to this challenge in light of the CONCACAF qualifiers right around the corner on the international  schedule. Until then, Ciao! 

You can follow Pedro Gomes on Twitter @MLSSuperSub


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