Today was Day 3 of pre-World Cup training camp at Princeton University. For the first time since camp opened on Monday, all 30 players on the invited roster were present. Not all of them practiced, but everyone has reported to camp.
Before we get to the nice, long conversation of the day -- today's was with midfielder DaMarcus Beasley -- here's what is available on today's blog. The above photo is a picture of the team's end-of-practice training run. As has been the case everyday, the media is allowed in for the final 15 minutes or so, and all of it is spent completing training runs. We also posted two videos in the video player below and on the right. The first one is of Clint Dempsey talking about how he grew up playing soccer and was influenced by the South American game. The second one is of the last few minutes of practice and the team's training runs. I'd love to provide some videos of drills, scrimmaging, tactics, but come on! The team opens the World Cup against England on June 12 and everything is on lockdown. (There's plenty of British media there!)
And here's the news from today's camp: Chad Marshall and Eddie Johnson worked with the trainers on their own. Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard both participated in a portion of training, as did Jay DeMerit. Oguchi Onyewu practiced for the first time today. U.S. coach Bob Bradley said that sometimes when a player is coming off an injury like Onyewu is, training can be a more difficult test than a match because of break-down drills, tight quarters, lack of space to make decisions. Here's what Bradley said about Onyewu's first day back:
"Sometimes as a player is coming back from a period of time off, at those times, it’s almost like training is more difficult than a regular game. In those times, you can see sometimes, to release a pass, takes him a second too long. But those are the training sessions he needs and it’s really good to see him back on the field."
Bradley reiterated that he plans (or hopes) to go into May 29th's send-off match against Turkey, held at Lincoln Financial Field, with his roster set at the FIFA number of 23 (obviously down from the current number of 30). Here's what Bradley said about that situation:
"We have some ideas, for sure, but there’s still some decisions that need to get made. The idea of having 30 guys in gives people an opportunity to show where they are. And also it means that if we had another injury or something, we have people prepared if you need to go to what would be your alternates."
With that comes the question about guys "on the fringe" of making this team, guys who still haven't gotten onto the field at this camp, or guys that are spending a good amount of time in the training room, not on the field being evaluated. Will those injuries impact their ability to make the roster?
"Every situation is different," Bradley said. "Some cases, guys might be on the fence for the 23 and, yes, I’ve said many times the idea is that we’ll have our roster selected after the game in Hartford. In other cases, you may feel confident there is time, and you bring a player to South Africa feeling he’ll be ready in time."
So there is the hard-and-fast news from today's training session. One of those "players on the fringe" for this year's World Cup is midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who was a mainstay on the U.S. National Team for many years. Beasley had a poor performance in last summer's Confederations Cup, but earned a spot in this camp due to his strong performance against the Netherlands in a match on March 3. Beasley, though, finds himself in an unusual position -- fighting for spot on the 2010 roster. Here was today's conversation with him:
On thinking he might have made his last appearance with the MNT: "Nah. I never thought that. It was just the fact that at that time I wasn’t in form, I wasn’t playing well. Give credit to the coaching staff because they gave me a chance to prove I can still play at that level. At that time, those two or three months, I wasn’t playing the best I know I can play. It just wasn’t meant to be."
On Landon Donovan saying "something clicked" with Beasley: "Nothing has clicked, it’s always been this way. Since the 2006 World Cup ended, I’ve always wanted to play in South Africa. So it’s not something that clicked, it’s just about me getting down and playing and getting back to my best form. It’s fair for him to say that, but it’s never been in my head that I didn’t want to play for my national team. I just needed to put my head down and get back to my best."
What's it like entering a camp without a spot?: "It’s a little bit different, I haven’t been in this situation before. But I welcome it. I enjoy competition with some of the young guys and getting into tackles. That part is fun for me. I don’t have anything to prove to anybody, just hopefully I can make the squad and give Bob problems when he makes the 23-man roster."
Does he feel pressure to perform well in the send-off matches?: "Obviously it’s a little more added pressure for a lot of people that don’t know if they're going to make the team. I approach every game pretty much the same. It’s very important for some guys – for all of us – that need the games, for getting formation right, for guys that are on the bubble. Guys are thinking different things but it’s important for us in a lot of different ways."
On his new-found "form": "My head’s on right. I feel the confidence from my teammates and from the coaching staff, so that part is always good. Sometimes players need confidence from the players and coaches, to push them. Once I got their backing again, it made me fit in more easily."
"I’ve always been confident in my ability and how I can play, but it just wasn’t clicking at the time. I wasn't playing at all at Rangers, pretty much. It was disappointing, frustrating. I just thought I could come on the field and play like I usually do, and obviously that didn’t happen. It’s nothing anybody else did, it’s all on me. But I pushed myself after Confederations Cup to try to get back on the team at Rangers and get back on the National team and I have so far.
On the difference between this team and the '06 disappointment: "I think just with the coaching staff, they bring a different mentality to the team. In ’02, we had a good team mentality in how we went about things. I think ’06 we might have lost that a little bit. I think we were riding high on our ’02 performance and we thought it would be easy in ’06 – obviously it wasn’t. This time around it’s a litte bit different. Bob and the coaching staff have the guys on track: We have youth and experience mixed together."