Camp opened today at Home Depot Center with 22 of the 25 players on the roster taking part in a two-hour training session designed to work off those holiday meals.
Striker Brian Ching was scheduled to arrive later today, while defender Clarence Goodson has not sufficiently recovered from ankle surgery to participate. Defender Cory Gibbs is also out with an injury and Coach Bob Bradley said he is looking to bring in reinforcements in central defense.
A busy year looms – U.S. Soccer officials estimate the team will spend 135 days on the road in 2009 with World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup, etc., – and I spoke with Bradley after today’s training session about a variety of topics.
“We feel good about the work we’ve done in the last two years,” he said, “and now it gets put to the test.”
A few more excerpts are below.
On whether he’s approaching this camp differently than the ones held in January in past years given the busy, competitive year and with the Feb. 11 World Cup qualifier against Mexico just over a month away:
“For the most part the focus is the same. It’s a chance to reward some players that we think have had good seasons. In some cases it’s players that are here for the first time, so it’s a chance for us to size them up. And then there are players we would expect to be on the roster for Mexico, so this month is essential to getting them back into form and that has been the case the last two years.”
On the scheduling clashes with MLS:
“We all know that in a perfect world the MLS schedule would comply with FIFA dates. That would be the ideal situation. But again I know how difficult it is to put the league schedule together. There are so many factors in terms of stadiums and weather that for the future you hope we can go more and more in that direction, but I think we all understand the reasons at this time that it’s easier said than done.”
On American-raised defender Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund choosing to play for Serbia instead of the U.S.:
“Any time there’s a young player who has represented the United States in the youth world championships there’s a hope that experience will be important (and) will lead to the senior team. That’s what you always want to see, so when it doesn’t work that way it’s disappointing.
“We’ve really been on top of Neven over the last two years in terms of following his progress. The first request to bring him into the senior team was quite a while ago – it was when he was still at Mainz. We always look hard to see how players around the world are playing and then at the right moment you make decisions to bring players in. I think we were ahead of the game in terms of calling him in and the fact that he’s continued to play for his (club) team, which is always important, you would think that would give him a good chance (of playing for the senior U.S. team this year) and so we certainly felt he was a player we were keen to get into a camp, get him training with us.”
On what Landon Donovan making his loan move with Bayern Munich permanent would mean for the national team:
“When a player feels that he needs a new challenge, it’s a healthy thing. The timing of it is totally out of our hands, but certainly the idea that Landon is exploring new challenges is I think important for him and therefore will be important for the national team.
“Has (playing overseas) been good for Timmy Howard’s career? Sure. Has it been good for Clint Dempsey’s career? Sure. Has it been good for Michael Bradley’s career? Sure. And so when a player decides that it’s a time for some new challenges, it’s a great thing. Landon has accomplished a great deal here in MLS and so, hopefully, this will continue to push him forward. That’s what is most important for him and our national team.”
There were only a couple of other reporters present today, so I took the opportunity to engage in a relatively lengthy chat with former Galaxy defender Danny Califf, one of the nice guys in American soccer.
I have a column to write for Tuesday right now, so I’ll get that post up a little later.