USMNT Daily Update: January camp not a sure thing, but it should be

To camp, or not to camp? That is the question.

U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not yet settled on whether to hold  the traditional January national team camp in 2013. With the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying set to begin in February, and with the possibility of that Feb. 6th qualifier potentially being a very difficult opponent (like Mexico or Honduras on the road), Klinsmann could wind up scrapping the early January camp traditionally reserved for MLS-based national team prospects on the fringes of the radar.

Why? If the USMNT faces a tough qualifier on Feb. 6th (and yes, all qualifiers should be tough in the HEX, but some are clearly tougher than others) then Klinsmann will likely be more inclined to having a smaller camp in late January that would roll into the training camp ahead of that February qualifier.

If that happens, it will mean fewer opportunities for players on the fringes of the national team, and while you can certainly argue that focusing on a World Cup qualifier is of utmost importance, the case can certainly be made for it being a good idea to find a way to keep the regular January training camp around.

You need only go back a year, to the camp attended by U.S. national team newcomers Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron, for evidence of just how important the January camp can be for identifying new talent and establishing new players in the national team pecking order. If there had been no January camp, then Cameron doesn’t play in the friendlies tied to it, doesn’t get a call-up to the subsequent Italy match, and doesn’t then become a regular on the national team for the rest of the season.

Then you have Zusi, who caught Klinsmann’s eye last January, and earned a May call-up before being sent home, but eventually caught on and became a regular starter in some of the biggest games of 2012.

Now that isn’t to say that the next January camp will yield a pair of potential starters, but there is definitely a collection of up-and-coming MLS-based talent that Klinsmann should take a closer look at. Talent that has paid the price for the national team program’s disappointments of 2012.

Between the failed Olympic qualifying bid, and the fact that the USMNT needed all six matches to qualify to the Hexagonal Round of qualifying, promising national team prospects missed out on several chances to play in important matches, and chances to impress Klinsmann and play in his system.

What Klinsmann can do, and should do, is hold an early January camp for fringe national team prospects, and hold a smaller camp at the end of January to carry over into the February qualifier. He can do both, and therefore give players like Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Steven Beitashour, Will Bruin, C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius a chance to impress and potentially earn a place in the World Cup qualifying camp before February’s qualifier.

In the past, there have been questions raised about the need for the January camp, but with the American talent pool in MLS growing stronger, and with a number of quality prospects still waiting for their chance to attend a Klinsmann-run camp, it makes perfect sense for Klinsmann to keep the early-January camp intact, regardless of what opponent the USMNT winds up drawing for the Feb. 6th qualifier.

Yes, there will be other opportunities for Klinsmann to see fringe players, and the busy summer schedule means plenty of the top prospects in the pool will have chances to wear the national team uniform, but there is no point waiting months to get start on building a qualifying roster, and no point waiting to take a look at the latest crop of MLS-based national team prospects.

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What do you think about the possibility of scrapping the January camp? Think the national team can do without it, or do you think Klinsmann should keep the early-January camp going?

Share your thoughts below.

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52 Responses to USMNT Daily Update: January camp not a sure thing, but it should be

  1. Shane says:

    Like you say Ives, he should do both camps.

  2. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    Come on Klinsmann, it’s important. Just have the January camp. Why are we even discussing this?

  3. Old School says:

    For pure developmental purposes, I think there’s zero question this January camp should happen for non-regulars and outsiders looking in.

    I think it’s important for someone to potentially catch JK’s eye but even more important for these developmental players to understand what JK is looking for and how to best achieve that while playing for their club.

    That said, he is his own manager and if this is what he chooses (like all of his decisions) the outcome and strategy will be on him.

    • downintexas says:

      +1 old school, hopefully he will do both camps. This summer is jammed pack with games. It will be wise of him to see as many players as possible.

    • GW says:

      Old School,

      The January camp was never a “developmental” camp as such. Basically, it was an “enhanced audition” camp. The camp was designed for the manager and his staff to meet with and work out potential candidates for the USMNT. Most of the candidates were from MLS, or the Scandinavian leagues. They had to “catch the manager’s eye” so to speak, just to get invited in the first place.

      The guys who have attended these camps were veteran pros, some young, some older. They were already” developed”. If they didn’t already know how to kick or head a ball they weren’t going to learn how in a couple of weeks.

      Almost all of them were newbies, fringe guys or maybe vets returning from injury.

      The benefit to them was they had a chance to make an impression as well as get an idea of what playing for the USMNT was like and what was expected of them.

      The benefit to the USMNT manager and his staff was it gave them a chance to get a better look at these guys and learn more about them. If they impressed, like Cameron, like Zusi, they were given more chances to be worked into the senior team.

      I always thought the camps were a good idea but perhaps JK feels he now has other ways of evaluating this pool of players such as having them go train in Europe or whatever. I don’t know. The camps always had a kind of B team feel to them especially because they usually wound up playing some CONCACAF team in a reasonably lame exhibition directly afterwards.

      The two separate camps sound like a good idea but how do the clubs involved feel about the increased commitment? I think fans forget that the USMNT is not a club team; they are not the USWNT, which for all intents and purposes is almost a club team.

      • Old School says:

        I think you chimed in previously for the same word usage. You can split hairs all you’d like but any time a player has an opportunity to train, get fitness/nutrition regiments and hear straight from the gaffer himself on aspects/attributes/abilities he’s most looking for: that’s development.

        This notion that “development” is isolated to long term and not in stages is naive.

        I used the term development, because development in fact takes place. Because you decided it does not ,unfortunately, does not make it so.

        • GW says:

          Talk about splitting hairs.

          The kind of “development” you are talking about can be done in a few days. And then I think, it would “take” better if they got right down to business.

          Rather than a two or three week camp , whatever it used to be , it would make more sense to invite the players you have already targeted over the last couple of months or so and play two three or four games against the best opposition available, probably CONCACAF and South American teams.Playing away would be even better.

          JK has said there will be a lot of games in 2013. Even “meaningless friendlies” with unfamiliar lineups are more useful evaluation tools than intra-squad scrimmages. After all, actual game performance is what everyone is looking for right?

          To help narrow the field, the players invited shouldprimarily be the available ones who might actually make some sort of contribution to the 2014 World Cup and the qualifiers.

          • Old School says:

            I actually have no problem with the premise you’re suggesting either.

            However, would it not be possible (albeit it more work for the staff) to have the usual early January camp leading into the abbreviated late January/early February camp pre-Hex?

            Two birds with one stone, essentially…possibly resulting in a stand out performer from the first camp to transition to the pre-Hex camp.

  4. beto says:

    i don’t think its even a question; the question is should they have the conventional camp or the conventional camp plus something else.

    I think the should have something in mid-January for the top 20-25 younger (under 24ish) players that are available. hold a camp and play a game vs. Canada or something. I think that Adu, Shea, Hamid, Johnson, Kitchen, etc. would all like a mulligan as a group and a nice time to evaluate them vs. level opposition.

    After that Jurgen should keep the players that he actually thinks is ready for International call ups and add in the other top players that are available (Landon, EJ, Bedoya, etc) for a home and away like we did last year. A game vs. El Salvador in LA would be great for Zusi, Shea, Omar, EJ, etc. but a game three days later AT El Salvador is even better.

    We don’t want to be walking into Panama, Jamaica or anyone in February with guys still in pre-season form.

  5. Mc says:

    Just waiting for the ONE guy to leave a comment, opposing everyone and insisting that no January camp is necessary, it’s coming…

    • Josh D says:

      I’ll be that guy: Do we really need to give chances to MLS players who have never stepped up? Let’s look at the camps from the previous five years and see what players have made up full national team rosters for important games. And of those, let’s see how many needed the Jan camp to step up. Very little.

      Hosting a camp costs money and resources that could go to qualifying. Players like Pontius and Besler have already caught Klinsi’s eye. And while he has agreed, MLS helps develop players, he also understands that for 90% of players, they have to leave MLS to take the next step in their development. Hosting a camp doesn’t really offer that much. Klinsi has seen them play and talk to their coaches. If anything, camp hurts players like Altidore who come out looking lazy.

      Klinsi doesn’t baby players. He tells them what they need to hear and based on their reactions, determines if they’re ready. It’s a European way of doing things.

      Does any other country spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on a camp that coddles to fringe players? No.

      We have the Gold Cup this year to give those fringe players a shot at impressing. And a camp is not going to cure those players who missed out on the Olympics. They’ll just play with some above average MLS players – like they do every day in training.

      • CG says:

        “And while he has agreed, MLS helps develop players, he also understands that for 90% of players, they have to leave MLS to take the next step in their development. Hosting a camp doesn’t really offer that much.”

        There is some truth in this, though how much will forever be debated on this board, but assuming it is completely true, how do you think most of those players get the opportunity to leave MLS? They gain exposure by playing MNT games. And if you want them to go to England (as many on this board do), they have to play a lot of MNT games.

      • DCP says:

        Just how exactly is the money saved by not holding a January camp supposed to help with qualifying? You may have a good answer, but the only thing coming to me is that it could be used in some way to buy wins…

      • TomG says:

        Disagree. Klinsi has proven to be pretty dense for long periods of time, refusing to call guys in, then suddenly getting them in only to realize that they are capable of playing a major role on the team. As Ives cited, Zusi and Cameron exemplify this. Guys like Herc and Sacha, and even Bradley were excluded from camps for much longer than most pundits expected. I can definitely see Klinsi giving some time to Pontius and having a revelation. Lichaj (albeit might not be able to make a January camp) and Diskerud, Omar and Besler are others that could potentially step right in and contribute. You’d also be remiss not to keep the light on for guys who are returning from injury or who haven’t been able to break through with their clubs: Holden, Edu, Ream, etc. These camps can be vital.

        • GW says:

          “Guys like Herc and Sacha, and even Bradley were excluded from camps for much longer than most pundits expected”

          Disagree.

          First of all pundits include people like Lalas and Harkes and do you really expect them to be right all or even most of the time?

          Bradley was settling into a new club and country. Once he was settled JK brought him in and everyone was impressed with the “new” Bradley. And what did he miss? A bunch of friendlies. So what?

          I’m pretty sure JK knew he was going to be good and knew he was going to blend right in, right away and assert himself like he always has.

          He is a central midfielder, a position everyone one of you seems to think is overcrowded already. So why not take your time bringing Mikey back, and giving others a chance to impress? What was the rush to bring him in before he was settled in Italy?

          As for Sacha, he had been playing a different role for Anderlecht when JK finally called him in. And he called him in because of an injury crisis. Without that and the position change, he doesn’t call Sacha in. If the regulars come back healthy don’t bet on seeing Sacha again.

          But I bet you he’ll be ready, knowing JK could call him up at any time if it all hits the fan. Sacha is a “depth” player, an alternate, and JK has made that crystal clear.

          As for Herculez, he is a streaky player who seems to play well when motivated by things like rejection or fear of being cut. I would argue that JK brought Herc in at just exactly the right time, to get the most out of him. I don’t think you could argue with the results. After all he should understand strikers better than you.

          Do you seriously expect us to believe you have a better handle on how well these guys are playing at any given time than JK and his staff?

          Holden, Edu and Ream play in England and the schedule does not work out for them attending January camps. And if you are thinking injury rehab assignment for Holden that is probably best done under Bolton’s supervision at this point. It would be bad if he blew out his knee against Guadeloupe’s B team or whoever.

          The thing about Zusi and Cameron is that they were/are standouts for their clubs. JK might think a lot of some of these guys who aren’t breaking through at their clubs but, if you listen to his message he expects his players to break through what barriers there are to get the necessary playing time. He talks all the time about players having to prove they are willing to suffer to get what they want.

          So if they are new guys and want to play for him, they have to make some noise at their club. JK will give a shot to a veteran with a club “situation” (like Rico or JJ) but not some new guy who hasn’t proved a thing yet.

          .

      • Bobb says:

        Brek Shea in 2012? Juan Agudelo in 2011? And that’s just from the 2011 January camp. Other guys like Mix Diskerud were at that 2011 camp as well, and he could be of use if he ever gets called back in.

        2012 January camp: Omar Gonzalez and George John were both called in but pulled out to go to Europe.

      • THomas says:

        Don’t they make money off of the friendlies they host surrounding the camp?

  6. Ramon says:

    Ives has done a solid job since June covering the national team (well even better than his normal coverage). His articles are insightful and I really felt most of his opinions about this team were spot on. The January camp is too important to developing youth and also finding MLS players with good prospects that might have otherwise been over looked. I really hope the tradition continues well after Klinsman. That being said I’d like to see Pontius, Betashour, Morrow, Okugo, Gatt, John Brooks and Diskerud integrated into this team for this cycle.

  7. ManicMessiah says:

    Did Klinsmann notice Cameron and Zusi because they were in the January camp, or were they two players who got called in who happened to be in the January camp? I’m not saying I know better, I’m just asking if it’s something he’s been on the record about it.

    It’s hard to argue against the camp, though, because what else is JK doing that he can’t put a camp together? Unless, from Klinsmann’s point of view, he thinks their time would be better spent looking to train with a professional team abroad during their break, and having a camp would hinder those opportunities.

  8. Chloride Soap says:

    We need the camp. Failing the prepare is preparing to fail.

  9. Beto says:

    So when does the hex schedule come out? I assume the roster for next wednesday will be sometime this weekend, will the schedule be before or after the game?

  10. bryan says:

    I say do both.

    • Steve B says:

      What? Prepare to fail AND fail to prepare? That’s not a good strategy!

      …Please check your sarcasm radars before replying :)

  11. Roman Lewandowski says:

    Any John Anthony Brooks updates/rumors?

  12. soccerhorn says:

    Cancel camp. What’s the point of it anyway? We already know who most of our starters are. The coaches and staff of the USMNT have plenty of other things to do. And besides, what self-respecting German wants to be in Southern California in January?

    • mikeandike says:

      following your logic: Since we know who our starters are, why waste time taking a closer look at other players of potential value…..

      nothing ever changes, right? for example, the game against Costa Rica in 2011, when Klinsmann rolled out this line-up, including newcomers and USMNT stalwarts

      Howard
      Chandler, Fiscal, Boca, Castillo
      Donovan, Edu, Torres
      Rogers, Altidore, Shea

      at the time, Dempsey and Cherundolo were the only regulars truly missing

      It’s not like players ever lose form (Shea, Torres, Edu), get hurt, weren’t that good to begin with (Rogers, Fiscal, Castillo), fall into the doghouse (Altidore) or lose motivation to play for USMNT (Chandler, Donovan)…

      now look at Cameron and Zusi working their way into indispensable roles…

      why not do this camp? because it’s more work for a coach who onyl works part-time anyhow? (compared to club coaches)

    • SBI Troll says:

      “And besides, what self-respecting German wants to be in Southern California in January?”

      The climate in So Cal at that time of year is very desirable for European tourists. Klinsmann is no different as he will stay coach for a maximum of four years.

    • soccerhorn says:

      Holy moly. I guess I forgot to use the sarcasm font. Lighten up people.

  13. OleGunnar20 says:

    the USSF can’t be so broke they can’t manage to do both camps. i mean seriously. call in 25-30 guys in January, under 24s, from Scandanavia/MLS/Liga MX and wherever else they can and reward the 2 or 3 best with a bump to the February camp for the qualifier? how hard is that.

    and this year, with the need for probably both an A team and a B team for the WCQ and the “meaningless” Gold Cup it is even more important to get what might be the core of that GC B-Team together for a bit of getting used to each other and maybe even a cupcake friendly or two for that Camp Strudel group.

  14. Ando says:

    Ill say this, with the MLS being a Spring-Fall league and with the limited amount of time the national team get to have around one another, why is he considering not to have camp?
    Not to compare apples to oranges but I bet if Roy Hodgson had an opportunity to hold an extra England camp or two, he would.
    It is not going to kill anyone (god forbid) to get some guys who wont be playing otherwise and played little to nothing for the U.S.A to go to LA and train for 2 weeks.
    Klinsmann complained last year about the long preseason for MLS and pushed fringe players to go on loan and held a camp for the rest. And now he is considering cancelling camp…

    • GW says:

      Ando,Ando,

      Camp is not the same as playing games.

      And if you are an MLS guy you would be training mostly with other MLS guys. JK maintains you would learn more training with players in other leagues.

      Also Hodgson would want that camp to feature his first 14 or so players.

      That can’t happen for JK in a January camp since his best players, the euros, would not be available.

      Camp is not the same as playing games. And if you an MLS guyother MLS mostly n with you would be trainig

  15. wilyboy says:

    The camp needs to happen. Sure, we’ve got a core group of players, but our bench is pretty damn weak right now, especially on the wings. We need to see Pontius, Lichaj, and whoever else JK is pondering before it’s to late to integrate them properly.

  16. Amru says:

    I agree not holding the camp would be a wasted opportunity to look at MLS standouts that have yet to be called up i.e. Pontius, Gonzalas, Besler, etc.. It’s also great for youngsters like corona to get some valuable game time experience on the international stage.

    Ultimately there is much more to be lost by not having the tournament than there is to be gained by skipping it. Should JK decide to cancel it, it will only reaffirm my suspicion, and believe me I will gladly eat crow should I be wrong, that he really is a poor manager.

  17. Mensrea says:

    In addition to using the camp to get a look at players, it is also helpful to get MLS contributors ready to play meaningful games following their season.

    We have a handful of MLS players who will be in the 23/18/11 for those big February games, so why not use this camp as a tune-up for them?

  18. beachbum says:

    biggest reason to hold both camps in my mind is Klinnsman came on board with the cycle already underway so there’s been less time for him already to evaluate talent. As we’ve seen, the roster is hardly locked down but instead quite the opposite! There have been hits and misses and a continuing search which is great and I believe he will continue by doing both camps. Even if but one true contributor is found because of the efforts 2 camps require it would be worth it seems to me

    any number of spots remain undecided. who knows what injuries and other pitfalls may lie ahead if depth is not mined and developed prudently? of course Coach knows this which is why I think he’ll do both. we’ll see

    • beto says:

      exactly, if only 1 USNT contributor if found its is all worth the time.

      by the looks of the group: Zusi, Shea, Gaat, Gonzalez, Morrow, Parkhurst, Diskerud, etc. i think a few of the spots on the 23 are up for grabs.

  19. PD says:

    This would be the most beneficial use of a january camp

    three days of Altidore and Adu doing suicide sprints, Omar Gonzo writing “I will not jump when in the wall” 1000 times on a chalkboard, and LD getting some good talks in on the beach with JK.

  20. Hogatroge says:

    All of these players will be free to come in for a January camp:

    Bedoya, Beitashour, Besler, Bruin, R. Clark, Diskerud, Evans, Gatt, Gonzalez, Gruenenbaum, Hamid, Johannsson, John, S. Johnson, Kitchen, Loyd, McCarty, Morrow, O’Brien, Pontius, Sapong, Shea, Wondolowski, and possibly some LigaMX players

    Tell me there’s not a single hidden gem or a career resurgence in that list somewhere.

    • GW says:

      Hogatroge,

      I’ve heard of all the guys on your list except for Gruenebaum. And I bet JK and his staff are as least as informed as I am. So who is Gruenebaum?

      If you have scrimmages with your list guys maybe some of them will shine.
      But would it not be more telling if they shined in a game rather than a scrimmage?
      As I recall the January camp took up about two or was it three weeks, then two games Shorten the camps and you could have three exhibition games.

      You mean to tell me you wouldn’t rather see your guys line up against, for the sake of argument Venezuela, Chile and Panama, even weakened B versions?

      JK made the point that we will have a lot of games in 2013 what with Qualifying, the meaningless Gold Cup and friendlies

      I don’t know about you but I would think we would find out a lot more about your list guys from games, even meaningless ones, than from camp scrimmages.

      • Hogatroge says:

        GW,

        I’m simply saying that a January camp where fringe/new players are evaluated needs to happen (rather than the implication that it may not). The more friendlies (even against B teams) the better. Remember… we’re not trotting out a full lineup of untested players in a meaningful game, but those who shine could make the 23 for WCQ, and we’ll need a 2nd roster for the Gold Cup this year.

        Andy Gruenenbaum (sp?) is the goalkeeper for Columbus Crew. He was the backup until this year until Will Hesmer ended up missing the whole season (I forget why). He had an outstanding statistical season, and there’s no need to bring a known commodity like Rimando in to January camp when he’s already a regular #3 GK for the Nats. He’s mid 20s, I believe, compared to Dan Kennedy (who also had a statistically great season) who is 30+.

        An aside: JK has said he’s not sure whether he’ll have 2 rosters for WCQ and the CG, but it would be foolish not to have a B team roster for the GC. If our 1st team depletes its energy and risks injury in a “meaningless” tournament and comes up with anything less than 1st place, it would be a huge disaster with a negative effect on morale for WCQ. Since it’s almost a certainty there will be a B team for the GC, the more players JK can look at this January, the better.

  21. Guy #2 says:

    Mainly I want there to be a January camp so that we can see Mixx in action

  22. Jason says:

    As long as we dont see Bornetein-Ream-Omar G-Spector. Anyone else having dreams similar?

  23. biff says:

    I don’t really see the need of all the guys going through all the hassle and cost of flying to a January camp. Seems like a big waste of time kicking a soccer ball and running around sweating and getting tired and stuff when they could be learning all they really need to know from the comfort of their homes by simply clicking on this link and listening to the words of wisdom of Donnie Moore.

    link to youtube.com

  24. RNG says:

    IVES:

    “Klinsmann will likely be more inclined to having a smaller camp in late February”

    Did you mean late January?

  25. Excellency says:

    Ives, my understanding is that JK was thinking of canceling the Jan camp but as part of a larger plan to have a “B” team which would be needed for the Gold Cup. I wonder if you could flesh this out a little for those of us not familiar with how the Gold Cup affects callups and how it fits in with WC qualifying, summer vacation in Europe, summer tours of European teams with Yanks, MLS Schedule. (Won’t there be regular MLS matches in July?)

    I can’t seem to get a handle on it and it seems most posters just see this camp canellation as happening in a vacuum.