The significance of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann taking all 26 players to Brazil

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The United States national teamers de-camped from sunny So-Cal late Sunday night, leaving for Brazil for a portion of the January camp that might be more important than it seems at first glance.

All 26 players were on the overnight plane bound for Sao Paulo – and that’s pretty important in itself.

Jurgen Klinsmann said he was quite happy with the level of preparation for all 26 players summoned into this camp. (Remember, this one mostly for Major League Soccer types, who are out of season; no reason to bring in the European brigade, most of whom remain in season or soon to return from winter break.)

Yes, there is still a chance for a young gun (We’re still looking at you, DeAndre Yedlin … but those crosses need to get sharper, man!) to make a move and insert himself more forcefully into the World Cup roster conversation. But that’s not the real importance to examine, not in the big, big picture.

Klinsmann has been quite clear that his team is into serious business time now when it comes to World Cup prep. That message was clearly heard by a bunch of men who are either A) trying to catch the coach’s eye and make a late run at the Brazilian roster, or; B) working hard to keep their positioning, already in good standing along the all-important depth chart.

In the larger framing, Klinsmann’s overarching message is apparently being heard, and that’s the larger significance here. Klinsmann’s message from Day 1 in charge has been about how the players must push themselves, must always find ways to find more game in their game. I always call in the “blessedness of discontent,” and that’s what Klinsmann always wanted to see.

More than wanted to inspire the players, he sought to motivate them to inspire themselves.

One “for instance:” he rather famously advised them to take less time off. Rather than lollygag for two months, he said “Take two weeks, recharge your batteries … and then get back after it!” That was the message … and it was apparently heard.

All the fitness tests last week at the national team’s StubHub Center training site, all the blood tests and the eyeball tests showed the boss that the message was being heard. Previous camps, Klinsmann had said with a bit of a frown, he could see players who quickly exposed themselves as not quite fit, and therefore lagging behind in the soccer at international level.

For the whole group, he reluctantly had to spend time in January camp getting the vacationing players back into shape rather than working to improve the tactical tenets and overall speed of thought, etc.

Now getting settled for their time in Brazil, they can work on the soccer side of things, on getting acquainted with the surroundings and making contacts that might help this summer.

Why is that important? More on that later at ProSoccerTalk …

Luis Enrique leaves with feeling of mission accomplished

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique leaves Barcelona with no regrets and the feeling of mission accomplished.

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The coach capped his three-year stint with the Catalan club by winning the Copa del Rey title with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

Now it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time off after three “intense” seasons, and let the club move on under fresh leadership.

“There is no sadness at all, just happiness,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m the one who decided to stop, and I think that it was a wonderful decision for me, for the players and for the team as well. The intensity of this profession demands maximum dedication every single day and there is a natural wear out.”

He said players always need new challenges and will benefit from a change in leadership, and the club will certainly keep winning despite his departure.

After missing out on the league this season, the Copa del Rey was Barcelona’s second title of the campaign to go along with the Spanish Super Cup, but Luis Enrique has won nearly everything since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014. The former midfielder led Barcelona to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2015. He also managed the league-Copa double in 2016, and also won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2015.

He said he was “proud” to have helped Barcelona fans celebrate so many accomplishments during his time at the helm.

“If someone had told me when I arrived that I would have the opportunity to help my team win nine titles out of 13 that we played, I’d say that these would be good numbers,” he said. “It would have been nice to have won La Liga and contended for the Champions League title this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I believe that the fans recognized the effort and the sacrifice of all the players throughout the season. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make them happy.”

Luis Enrique said he was also lucky to have had the chance to coach a player like Lionel Messi.

“He is extraordinary, extraterrestrial,” Luis Enrique said about the Argentina forward, who scored the team’s first goal on Saturday. “I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy Messi at his best, performing at the highest level. He is the very best, without a doubt.”

Neymar and Paco Alcacer also scored at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to help Barcelona win its third straight Copa del Rey title, and 29th all-time.

Luis Enrique celebrated with his seven-year-old daughter by his side, waving his winner’s trophy and singing the club’s anthem in front of the Barcelona fans who traveled to Madrid.

Barcelona is expected to announce this week that its new coach will be Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao a few days ago.

Luis Enrique’s future remains up in the air.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing, really. I’m open to every possibility, including changing sports,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said, with a smile on his face. “I do know that I’m very competitive and it’s been like this since I was born. Right now I’m looking forward to the opportunity of enjoying my friends and my family.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Report: Reus could miss six months after sustaining knee damage

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Marco Reus missed much of the 2016/17 season with injuries, and the Borussia Dortmund attacker had that unfortunate spell continue on Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U-20 World Cup ]

The 27-year-old exited the club’s DFB Pokal final win against Eintracht Frankfurt at halftime after suffering a knee injury.

According to German outlet Bild, Reus will miss at least six months as he rehabs and prepares to make a comeback.

Despite the bad news for Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s men captured the title behind goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Day 9: USMNT tops Group F and more from the U20 World Cup

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Five teams booked their place in the knockout phase at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday, including Tab Ramos and the U.S. after the Americans picked up a valuable point to finish atop Group F.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

USMNT U-20s 1-1 Saudi Arabia

An unbeaten record in group play has Ramos and Co. moving on to the Round of 16, where the U.S. will meet New Zealand. Brooks Lennon inked his name on the scoresheet for the first time at this month’s World Cup just prior to halftime, before Abdulelah Alamri equalized with almost a quarter hour left to play.

Senegal 0-0 Ecuador

A draw was all Senegal needed to ensure it would continue its run at the World Cup, while Ecuador fell short of a final 16 bid after only managing two draws during Group F play.

New Zealand 0-2 France

With nine goals for and none conceded during Group E play, France remains one of the heavy hitters at the conclusion of the group phase. Les Bleus received a strong contribution from Bastia winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who netted twice in the first half.

Honduras 2-0 Vietnam

Honduras scored twice in the final 14 minutes-plus added time but neither nation reaches the Round of 16 with Sunday’s result.

Daly collapses during match, treated for heat illness

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly collapsed during the final minute of a National Women’s Soccer League match against the Seattle Reign as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

The 25-year-old Daly was stretchered off the field and taken to the hospital, where the team said she was being treated for heat illness.

The temperature at BBVA Compass Stadium was 92 degrees at the 3 p.m. kickoff. The Reign won 2-0.

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The NWSL issued a statement that said the league had worked with the Dash before the season to schedule any afternoon games early in the year to help avoid heat issues. The teams took a hydration break late in the match.

“We will immediately review these measures to prevent this situation from occurring in the future,” the statement said.

Reign coach Laura Harvey posted to Twitter: “Proud of the team today. Some of the hottest conditions I’ve seen. Road games are tough but that was crazy.”