Photo by ISIphotos.com
By ADAM SERRANO
On a rare chilly morning in Carson, California. the members of the U.S. men's national team endured their longest training session to date. As the camp enters its second week, it is clear that the intensity level has been raised in preparation for the January 23rd friendly against Honduras at the Home Depot Center.
The training began this week with a number of injuries that are common during this time of year. Forward Marcus Tracy sat out his third straight day with tendinitis, while Kevin Alston (hamstring),Chris Pointus (Hamstring), Robbie Rogers also missed practice. None of the injuries are considered serious enough to threaten the players status with the national team.
One of the better storylines from this week's training camp has been the defensive pairing of veteran defender Jimmy Conrad and national team newcomer Omar Gonzalez. The pair has become common during the 6. v. 6. or 11 v. 11 scrimmages that take place at the end of training. The pairing of the 2009 MLS rookie of the year and Conrad has been highly effective in neutralizing the attackers that have faced the two defenders. The Kansas City Wizard veteran Conrad said he is interested in helping the younger defenders the way veteran U.S. defenders Jeff Agoos and Eddie Pope helped him.
"Mainly, I try to lead by example, I took some notes from Agoos and Pope on how they carry themselves and the mentality that they approach each game and practice with," said Conrad of his growth. "Specifically, when I am lined up with Omar during scrimmages, I see him talking (amongst players) and making generally good soccer decisions. If I see something that he could have done different then I'll let him know but generally he has good soccer instincts."
In addition to leading by example, Conrad has also become active in stressing the importance of national team appearances.
"Sometimes I'll share some stories at dinner or in my van after training on what it means to play for the national team. Let alone if it's a World Cup, Gold Cup or a friendly with Honduras, they're all good opportunities to get some experience," said Conrad.
Conrad is not the only player who is offering advice to those new to an experience. Omar Gonzalez has offered a some pearls of wisdom for the players who will be selected in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. The 2009 Rookie of the Year was selected 3rd over all in last years SuperDraft by the Los Angeles Galaxy.The former Maryland Terrapin offered this piece of his advice for those players preparing for Thursday's draft.
"Stay calm and wait for your name to be called. Wherever you go its going to be tough for the first few days, but you've got to work your way into the team and never stop working hard," said Gonzalez. "My advice for their first year is sit back and learn from the other guys. Don't step on people's toes and be a good rookie by putting your head down and working hard."