photo by Bernd Feil/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
LANDOVER, Md. — When the U.S. men's national team's starters walk through the tunnel at FedEx Field on Wednesday, two players who likely will not be among that group are Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
The two American attackers seem all but set to begin the United States' game with Brazil on Wednesday night on the bench after missing the initial week of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's training camp, which was held in the blistering heat of Orlando, Fla. Altidore missed that time due to his club not releasing him until this past Monday, while Dempsey was nursing a groin injury that he sustained near the end of the Premiership season.
For both players, that time off has resulted in them not being fully fit. And not many days are left for them to make up for that with World Cup qualifying around the corner.
"(Altidore) was not released by his club, AZ Alkmaar, before (Monday), which made me very angry and it put Jozy in a very difficulty position because he had a couple of weeks off and he was not allowed to train with us," said Klinsmann. "The guys that came in on the 15th of May they trained sometimes three sessions a day, and he's behind them, he's behind them. It makes it very difficult for him now to catch up."
"With Clint, we are pleased that he is back in the training, his groin injury is gone," added Klinsmann. "But he also knows that he still needs to catch up with the group. But finally we have the 23 guys together that we wanted. That gives us more options and opportunities, so that's the situation right now. We're happy and we'll see how far we take these guys already with us."
Both players did fitness work after Tuesday's training session inside FedEx Field, but Dempsey acknowledged that while he is making progress, he is not ready to go the distance.
"I think it would be a big ask for me to try and play 90 minutes tomorrow," said Dempsey.
The Fulham striker also touched on the topic many U.S. fans and media have discussed in recent months: how he and Landon Donovan will play together after not having done so in Klinsmann's first 10 months in charge of the U.S. team.
Whether it's been poor timing or injuries, the two American stars have not played together since last summer's Gold Cup final against Mexico (when Bob Bradley was still in charge of the team). Dempsey, however, is not concerned by that and he says there have not been any discussions as to how they will approach the way they play under Klinsmann when they eventually do step onto the field together.
"It's a team game," said Dempsey. "To me, it's not important whether two players are playing together or not. The most important thing is how the team is doing, that they're moving in the right direction and the time will come when it's supposed to come that we'll be on the field at the same time.
"But I think people are making more of a big deal out of it than what it should be. The most important thing is the direction the team is moving in and how we're going to do in the World Cup qualifying phases and how we're going to do if we do qualify in the World Cup. That's what it's all about."