A quintessential South Bay backdrop frames the U.S. practice today on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the Goodyear blimp taking off from its Carson base in the background, while Chivas USA’s Justin Braun controls the ball and Rolling Hills Estates’ Robbie Rogers (closest to the camera) stays out wide.
Today was day five of the 29-man U.S. squad hitting the practice fields at Home Depot Center in Carson, Coach Bob Bradley holding a single morning session after several days of two a days.
Players have their first day off Sunday and will be back out there Monday, the first week now behind them.
Held out of practice today were midfielder Sacha Kljestan (mild hip flexor strain), San Jose’s Brandon McDonald (mild calf strain) and Marcus Tracy, the Aalborg striker.
Players already appeared to be moving the ball quickly in the short game I saw at the end of the training session, the Columbus Crew’s Robbie Rogers in particular looking creative and effective out wide to the right (those previously mentioned pick-up games he organized after the MLS season ended with Kljestan at the HDC helped his fitness, he said).
Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez and former Galaxy forward Robbie Findley were having a good tussle at one end of the park.
Benny Feilhaber also sprayed one or two of his trademark crossfield passes to pretty good effect.
Chivas USA’s Zach Thornton was in goal for one team while former Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman manned the other net. Goalkeeper Coach Zak Abdel was seen giving a pointer or two to Hartman and it must have taken both back a few years when they had the same roles with the Galaxy.
And, in case you’re wondering, there were no goals, although that’s beside the point at this early stage of a long camp that culminates with the Honduras game later this month, of course.
I chatted with Rogers afterward, who is shall we say not happy with the goings-on at the Crew of late (and that’s perhaps an understatment). I’ll post that interview later.
Bradley addressed a variety of topic with reporters, although he didn’t always directly answer the question posed.
For instance, I asked how many slots were still open on the World Cup squad?
“Over the last couple of years there’s been a solid group of guys that have established themselves, have played in important games. Most of them continue to be important players on their club teams. There are always ups and downs on that part. But I think that nucleus is there for us and from there we’re trying to assess always the rest of our pool, make decisions about depth and be ready to put a good group together.”
Bradley watched part of Landon Donovan’s debut for Everton against Arsenal Saturday morning (and has taped it at his Manhattan Beach home, too) and was asked what he thought of his most influential player’s EPL performance. I also asked whether whether he thought the experience was beneficial or should Donovan be here rather than playing at such a competitive level given the number of games he will play this year.
“It’s great that he started. I think that in today’s game he showed that technically he’s got abilities. He’s a player who has shown, whether it’s in Confederations Cup or other big tournaments in the past, other World Cups, he’s technically very good, able to make plays, he sees things very well, his movement is good. Now adjusting week in and week out to the Premiership is a good challenge for him and today was a good first step.
“This experience is excellent. He had a little time off. The opportunity now to keep himself going, be in a good environment, play in Premiership games, those are all great things for him and will ultimately help our team.
One reader had asked why the veteran likes of Brian Ching and Frankie Hejduk were’t in camp, so I asked Bradley about that.
“Every situation is different, but there is a category of veteran players and you assess at the end of the season where they are physically. You talk to them, you talk to their coaches, you talk to their trainers. In some cases I think that decisions were made that they needed to be doing other things to prepare for their seasons and therefore we can assess them when their seasons start. We didn’t need another January camp. There’s different situations for different guys and I think those are two players that kind of fit that example.”
Similarly he was asked how he assesses the young players such as McDonald and Justin Braun.
“New players come in here and there’s a mix of excitement, there’s a mix of nerves, Typically, the level in this camp, the pace in this camp, the games are played quickly, the bar is raised so far as everything they do and so a lot gets thrown at guys.
“You expect that at first it’s going to not be so easy and you combine that with the fact that guys have been off and everything else and then you see over the course of three weeks how they sort of come along. I would guess that’s the case with most of the young guys you’re referring to.
“Again, you’ve got to be careful who you choose now. Robbie Findley was in when we were preparing for El Salvador and Trinidad, so he’s been in a national camp lately. There’s guys that have been in camps before. They kind of understand how we do things and they understand a little bit of what’s demanded day in and day out. That’s a little but easier for them. There’s guys that are new – there’s a lot to throw at them. All of them come in having some period of time off, so now they have to face the challenge of physically getting going again. So there’s a lot different things going on in January.”
I plan to head back out to camp Monday BTW, so if you have a question you’d like answered by Bradley (or one of the players), put in the comments section.