To camp, or not to camp? That is the question.
U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not yet settled on whether to hold the traditional January national team camp in 2013. With the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying set to begin in February, and with the possibility of that Feb. 6th qualifier potentially being a very difficult opponent (like Mexico or Honduras on the road), Klinsmann could wind up scrapping the early January camp traditionally reserved for MLS-based national team prospects on the fringes of the radar.
Why? If the USMNT faces a tough qualifier on Feb. 6th (and yes, all qualifiers should be tough in the HEX, but some are clearly tougher than others) then Klinsmann will likely be more inclined to having a smaller camp in late January that would roll into the training camp ahead of that February qualifier.
If that happens, it will mean fewer opportunities for players on the fringes of the national team, and while you can certainly argue that focusing on a World Cup qualifier is of utmost importance, the case can certainly be made for it being a good idea to find a way to keep the regular January training camp around.
You need only go back a year, to the camp attended by U.S. national team newcomers Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron, for evidence of just how important the January camp can be for identifying new talent and establishing new players in the national team pecking order. If there had been no January camp, then Cameron doesn’t play in the friendlies tied to it, doesn’t get a call-up to the subsequent Italy match, and doesn’t then become a regular on the national team for the rest of the season.
Then you have Zusi, who caught Klinsmann’s eye last January, and earned a May call-up before being sent home, but eventually caught on and became a regular starter in some of the biggest games of 2012.
Now that isn’t to say that the next January camp will yield a pair of potential starters, but there is definitely a collection of up-and-coming MLS-based talent that Klinsmann should take a closer look at. Talent that has paid the price for the national team program’s disappointments of 2012.
Between the failed Olympic qualifying bid, and the fact that the USMNT needed all six matches to qualify to the Hexagonal Round of qualifying, promising national team prospects missed out on several chances to play in important matches, and chances to impress Klinsmann and play in his system.
What Klinsmann can do, and should do, is hold an early January camp for fringe national team prospects, and hold a smaller camp at the end of January to carry over into the February qualifier. He can do both, and therefore give players like Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Steven Beitashour, Will Bruin, C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius a chance to impress and potentially earn a place in the World Cup qualifying camp before February’s qualifier.
In the past, there have been questions raised about the need for the January camp, but with the American talent pool in MLS growing stronger, and with a number of quality prospects still waiting for their chance to attend a Klinsmann-run camp, it makes perfect sense for Klinsmann to keep the early-January camp intact, regardless of what opponent the USMNT winds up drawing for the Feb. 6th qualifier.
Yes, there will be other opportunities for Klinsmann to see fringe players, and the busy summer schedule means plenty of the top prospects in the pool will have chances to wear the national team uniform, but there is no point waiting months to get start on building a qualifying roster, and no point waiting to take a look at the latest crop of MLS-based national team prospects.
What do you think about the possibility of scrapping the January camp? Think the national team can do without it, or do you think Klinsmann should keep the early-January camp going?
Share your thoughts below.