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.