Well, this is pretty interesting.
Following Jurgen Klinsmann’s well publicized concerns over the fitness of his U.S. national team squad during the January camp and in recent friendlies against Chile and Panama, Sporting Kansas City’s manager and captain have addressed that matter.
And as you can expect, this is pretty juicy stuff from the Kansas City Star.
Besler, Sporting’s central defender and skipper, was among the group of the players Klinsmann called into question following the USA’s 3-2 defeat to Chile after yet another second half collapse. Besler believes more dialogue may be crucial to determining the level of fitness MLS players were expected to have when they arrived in camp at the start of January after the offseason.
“My goal is to be in my peak fitness on March 1,” Besler said. “That’s when my season starts. It goes from March to December. So on Jan. 15, we devised an offseason plan for me to hit my peak fitness on March 1, and I think that’s what most of the guys did. If the expectation is different, that’s something that needs to be discussed so we know going into a camp where we need to be.”
[ RELATED: Klinsmann’s comments on fitness levels ]
SKC’s head coach Peter Vermes revealed he has respect for Klinsmann, but was less than complimentary about the fitness comments.
“To expect those guys to be in top form at a January camp — and I mean this — I think it’s utterly ridiculous,” Vermes added. “Totally disagree with the comment. I have a lot of respect for Jurgen. Obviously he was a great player, and he’s done tremendous things as a coach, as well. But that doesn’t mean every time someone opens their mouth, they’re right. And I completely disagree.”
Klinsmann has since explained his comments about the “culture of fitness” needing to improve in and around the U.S. national team, and it will have rubbed plenty of people the wrong way. Only time will tell if Klinsmann’s comments were helpful but it’s a safe bet that most USMNT players in MLS and further afield will echo the views shared by Besler.
That international break at the end of March, where the U.S. will play friendlies in Denmark and Switzerland, is going to be an extremely interesting get-together. Sure, most of the USMNT squad will be those playing for clubs in Europe, and not those who spent over a month in January camp, but the fitness levels Klinsmann cited as an issue was aimed at his entire squad.
Calling out a players fitness publicly, whatever the motivation, is something which could prove pivotal in Klinsmann’s tenure as the USA’s head coach when we look back on things years from now. Let’s hope his comments have the desired positive effect he intended.