The U.S. National Team’s January camp was ostensibly split into three distinct parts. In the first part, the players worked almost exclusively on fitness. In the second part, they spent 12 days in Brazil training in the heat of Sao Paulo’s training grounds, learning the ins and outs of their host city for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in June. In the final part, the team has returned to California for Saturday’s friendly against South Korea. All the while, they were still put through rigorous training sessions.
Sounders FC’s Brad Evans has been through the January camp for the last few years. This year was a different experience because of that trip to Brazil and he is grateful to have the experience of training in those conditions.
“It was cool to be able to experience what one might get to step into this summer and not go into something blind,” Evans said after returning to California for the final stage of camp over the weekend. “The first time you go on a road trip, you don’t know what to expect. Travel. What the rooms are like. Food can be a big issue. All those little things add up. Now I can look back and say travel was perfect. Getting to and from training sessions was never a problem. The food was great. We had a chef that traveled with us and made sure that we were accommodated in the kitchen. We had all those little things that made things easier. Before the trip, that was the goal and I think we accomplished that.”
Another mission that was accomplished was the development of some cohesion among the players that may be competing on the world’s biggest stage in the World Cup.
Adding to the difficulty of the training sessions themselves was the grueling conditions in Brazil, where temperatures remained above 90-degrees with high humidity throughout the trip.
“You always want to see how guys react to certain situations and I think we did a great job of pushing each other through difficult situations. This summer, you’re really going to see that,” Evans said. “You hit your tipping point at a certain point and you can look to your left and right and push each other. Everybody tried to get the best out of each other and that was pretty impressive.”
Finally, Evans, DeAndre Yedlin and the rest of the team has returned to Southern California in game-preparation mode, hosting South Korea on Saturday in a friendly at the StubHub Center.
Along the way, the roster was trimmed to 22 players, with five players returning to their MLS clubs and Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann adding Columbus Crew defender Michael Parkhurst to the group that will be eligible for Saturday’s friendly. Colorado defenders Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill, Kansas City defenders Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers and Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall all returned to their respective clubs.
That leaves Evans and Yedlin to compete for playing time among a much smaller group of right backs and that is the prime objective this week – establishing the group that will start against Korea.
“Now the goal becomes Saturday. In Brazil, it was just grinding together and getting through the 12 days that were going to be difficult,” Evans said. “Now the focus starts to shift to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It’s going to be a good week of training.”
While it sounds like the finish line is in sight, it is only just the beginning as players will return to their club teams after the friendly knowing what they need to do to be included with the U.S. roster for the World Cup in June.