[WORLD CUP 2014]The USA began its World Cup preparations on Wednesday with 21 of 30 players on hand and all expected by the end of the weekend. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has until June 2 to cut his roster down to 23 players, and he says he may need until then to get it done. "We have 50-50 battles all over the place," he said.
While the USA's three Group G opponents don't begin training until next week as they await the release of all their players following the end of the European club season -- Portugal will have to wait another week to get Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid after the UEFA Champions League final -- Klinsmann's troops were greeted by unseasonable heat on the opening day of camp. For the 4 p.m. session at Stanford Stadium, temperatures hit 98 degrees.
Klinsmann says his players have catch-up to do in comparison to its three opponents. "Their foundation is different than ours," said Klinsmann of his squad that includes 15 MLS players who are only in their third month of play.
Some would argue that it's better to have fresh legs than have players exhausted after a 10-month season. Klinsmann sees it differently. "A lot of our guys do not have the same foundation as our opponents have," he said, emphasizing the point he has been making to MLS coaches.
"We have to catch up," added. "That’s the work we have to do now over the next three weeks before we start our tournament. Hopefully, we catch up and even add a little bit more on top of it. That’s what starts today.”
Absent were players for various reasons. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi had an MLS game with Sporting Kansas City, while Michael Bradley had an Amway Canadian Championship match with Toronto FC. Mix Diskerud was flying in from Norway. Jermaine Jones (Besiktas) and Aron Johannsson (AZ) have club matches this weekend that have important implications for European berths.Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Geoff Cameron -- all the players based in the English Premier League -- were given off until Sunday. (Maurice Edu, who was ruled out of Philadelphia's MLS game with a concussion, joined the U.S. national team in training at Stanford University, though Klinsmann said he was limited to non-contact training.)
Klinsmann's intentions are not to run his players into the ground during the two-week camp that ends with a match against Azerbaijan May 27 in San Francisco.
“We combine it all in an exciting way,” he said. “With the ball, with small-sided games with a lot of action there, so we’re not going to be running through the forest here even if it’s beautiful.”