By AVI CREDITOR
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For the first time since cutting his roster down to 23, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had all of his players available and in training on Monday evening in a public session in front of an estimated couple thousand fans at the University of Maryland's Ludwig Field.
Jozy Altidore joined the team in Washington, D.C., on Monday and practiced, and Clint Dempsey participated in full training for the first time as he bounces back from a groin injury to round out the group.
"We are happy to have Clint back in training, Jozy joining us today, so obviously that's exciting news for us," Klinsmann said. "Now we are all together 23 players. It's a good situation now for me as a coach to be in."
Dempsey was candid about his fitness, saying that if the Brazil match were Monday night, he would not be able to start because he is not yet 90-minutes fit. He still has two more days to reach that point and give Klinsmann another option for his starting lineup.
"I felt OK," Dempsey said. "As far as getting on the ball I felt confident, but I lacked a little bit of fitness. "I'm just working hard to get back to max fitness and getting back to the form that I was on.
"You don't want to go back unless you feel like you can make an impact. After I get another training session under my belt and see how things go and push myself a little bit further I'll know whether or not I'll be ready."
As for Altidore, he has been out of action since AZ Alkmaar's last game on May 6 and has just one training session under his belt so far, so Wednesday could be a bit soon for his return to the starting lineup.
"It was his first training session after I don't know how many weeks," Klinsmann said when addressing his expectations for Altidore against Brazil. "We'll have a close look at him tomorrow, and then we'll take it from there. We're not stressing out about it."
LOOKING AHEAD TO BRAZIL
It is no secret that playing against Scotland and playing against Brazil are two entirely different tasks, and the U.S. men are well aware of the challenges presented by playing against the traditional world power.
"It's Brazil. We've all played Brazil. We know what playing against them means," Michael Bradley said. "We know on our end we're going to need a really strong effort, but we're confident.
"This will be a really different game (than Scotland). They've been together training now. It's a different team. They're using these games now to really get themselves ready for the World Cup, so it's going to be a really hard game."
Brazil, currently ranked sixth in the world, is coming off a 3-1 victory over Denmark in Germany, but the Selecao will be without the likes of young midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso (knee surgery), centerback David Luiz (thigh injury) and fullback Dani Alves (broken collarbone). Even so, there's plenty of talent to push the Americans to the limit.
"(Brazil) is a team that belongs in the best in the world," Klinsmann said. "You can't get tougher than that game on Wednesday night. The players have already forgotten about the Scotland game. They know that this is a completely different story."
Don't expect the United States to cower just because of the opponent, though. While some tactical changes will be necessary to offset Brazil's attacking and possession prowess, Klinsmann looks at the match as a true measuring stick with just a couple of more dress rehearsals before World Cup qualifying begins.
"We want to mesh ourselves. We want to look good against them," Klinsmann said. "We're excited to play them, because players like Marcelo, Neymar, Hulk, and all these guys coming, that is huge. We expect a very difficult game.
"This is a high-energy, high-focus game. This is what we need now to see where we really are."
The trip to Washington provides a homecoming of sorts for a number of U.S. players. Maurice Edu and Clarence Goodson played collegiately at Maryland, and Oguchi Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman are both Maryland natives.
The four were given a special salute by Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski, who was among the dignitaries to address the crowd over the course of the session.
- All 23 players were involved in the most spirited drill during the session, when one side of 10 attacked toward two goals and one side of 10 went at a single goalkeeper as a way to get Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando all involved. The sides were evenly split in terms of starters from Saturday, with one side being comprised of Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Clarence Goodson, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley, Beckerman, Joe Corona, Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd. The other had Edgar Castillo, Carlos Bocanegra, Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Edu, Jose Francisco Torres, Herculez Gomez and Altidore.
- The forwards ran through a finishing drill at the end of the session, with Gomez being the most accurate and sharpest of the bunch as they all received passes in different positions, turned toward goal and fired away. Altidore was the most inventive, opting to try and volley some of the balls first-time instead of settling and shooting.
- D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid and former United forward Joseph Ngwenya were among those in attendance.
- The U.S. men will train at FedEx Field on Tuesday afternoon in a closed session prior to Brazil's training session. Brazil started its preparations for Wednesday's match at American University on Monday.