Perhaps U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has not said it publicly, not this time, at least. But there is one thing I can assure you as the U.S. men report Monday for the national team’s annual January camp: the players had darn sure better report in shape.
Yes, this is Major League Soccer’s off-season. So players are not expected to be in tippy-top game shape. But Klinsmann will certainly expect them to be closer to “finish line” than “starting line,” if you know what I mean.
First, there is his long-standing contention that Major League Soccer’s break between seasons is too long, that having a bunch of talented men lounging about, country club-style, for any period longer than three or four weeks, tops, is just a waste of time. At the very least, he doesn’t want anyone with national team ambition taking more than three-or-so weeks off.
Second, his push to create individuals who want to push themselves stands among the core principles of his national team initiative. So coming into this camp unfit, adorned with a little too much “table muscle,” would tell the national team boss something: that the individual in question wasn’t serious enough about his own, personal development.
Third, I know for a fact that this sentiment has been conveyed to the players: they need to report in shape, no doubt about it.
Klinsmann may be an easy-going type, but he is definitely serious about his time with the team, about the need to get things done in the limited time he has with the group. He doesn’t want to waste a bunch of time improving fitness and limited time with the ball because his men need hours or days to recover from the previous session.