photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2010 World Cup had enough seasoned talent to surpass expectations by finishing first in their group before reaching the knockout rounds of the competition.
Tim Howard believes the current group of U.S. players is even better.
Howard expressed his strong belief in the current U.S. squad earlier this week when asked what he thought of the overall talent level on the roster. The veteran goalkeeper said that while the current 30-man roster – which is comprised of more MLS players than those of years past and will soon be trimmed to 23 players – is not on the same level in terms of experience as the team of four years ago that made it to the Round of 16, he believes it has more talent because of how young and eager some of the players are.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent,” said Howard, who has represented the U.S. at the last two World Cups and is expected to start this summer in Brazil. “The 2010 team was a good team because we had a lot of experience, we had a ton of experience. This team is younger, but I think we’re slightly better than 2010 only because of that youth and because that inexperience almost helps you; guys don’t actually know what to expect and are just hungry and ready to go for it.
“I think collectively as a group, this is a really strong team, a very athletic team.”
As talented as the team might be, many observers will not view these Americans as better unless they make it out of a difficult Group G. The U.S. will take on Ghana, Portugal and Germany in what many are labeling the upcoming World Cup’s Group of Death, and navigating out of there successfully will likely be the minimum requirement in order to convince most that this team is better than the one from 2010.
Here are more notes from the U.S. camp:
DEMPSEY DEFENDS DECISION TO GO ON FULHAM LOAN
Clint Dempsey has gotten off to a red-hot start this MLS season, but prior to that he had endured a forgettable loan stint at Fulham in which he did not see much playing time.
Dempsey came to the defense of that decision to start the year with the Cottagers earlier in the week, and attributed part of his success in MLS to having spent a few months training with the English club. The U.S. captain was limited to just five appearances during his two-month loan, but he believes that routinely training and not having an offseason in the winter benefited his cause after a rough first six months with the Seattle Sounders that drew lots of criticism.
“I had opportunities to go to other teams,” said Dempsey. “I wanted to go to an organization that I knew well. I know that they have a really good physio team in terms of keeping players healthy and making sure that you’re prepared. I wanted to go somewhere that I felt comfortable, I knew the area. For me, that’s the reason why it was a good fit.
“In terms of when I was first going to go there, Martin Jol was going to be the coach but then things had changed. When I went over there under (Rene) Meulensteen, it’s a manager I hadn’t worked with before but, still, I was familiar with the club. For me, it was trying to get my body right. I had some breakdowns (in MLS) I think adjusting to playing on turf, to travel and for some reason I was breaking down and I needed to go over there and keep pushing, keep fighting.”
Dempsey’s time with Fulham helped translate to a successful start to his second season in MLS. The veteran attacker has scored eight goals and assisted on three others in nine matches for the league-leading Sounders, who are surely as happy as Dempsey is now about the choice to allow him to start the year abroad as opposed to with the U.S. during its annual January camp.
“I thought that would be the best type of preparation for myself to start the season off on the right note, and I think you can see that it has helped me,” added Dempsey. “But also (U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann) agreed that that was the right decision to make as well because we had talked about it before. I wanted to keep going, I didn’t want there to be a lull.
“For me, to maximize that time of preparation, it made more sense to go on loan because I could go over there mid-December and be pushing for my fitness to get back even though I was still coming off that injury. That I’d be pushing to try to be at full fitness come January 1. That’s what my goal was for.”
CHANDLER THOUGHT INJURY HAD KILLED WORLD CUP DREAMS
Timmy Chandler thought it was all over.
After injuring his knee in February while playing for FC Nurnberg, Chandler believed that his chances of playing at the World Cup were done. Klinsmann, however, reached out to offer words of encouragement to Chandler to keep the right back from giving up, and that translated into a quick recovery at the end of the Bundesliga campaign that led to a somewhat surprise call-up to the U.S.’s preliminary World Cup roster.
“He said I can have a chance if I work hard,” Chandler told reporters earlier in the week. “I work hard for my comeback and when he called me here to Stanford, I was very happy. For sure, surprised, but I think I worked very hard and that’s why (I’m here). It’s good.”
Chandler also shot down the notion that his struggles in a 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss in Honduras in February 2013 – his lone appearance in the qualifying campaign – played a part in his continued absence from the U.S. In fact, Chandler repeatedly professed how much he enjoyed being with his American teammates during his interview with media.
“I think everything is nice here,” said Chandler. “We have a good team. We have nice people in the team. Now, I’m here.”
The 24-year-old fullback also addressed the idea that having so many other German-Americans on the U.S. helped him feel comfortable by saying that everyone on the squad has made him feel like a part of the group since he was first capped back at the start of the cycle back in 2011.
“When I come first Bob Bradley was coach here and everything was the same,” said Chandler. “We understand everything, whether it’s English, German, Mexican, Chinese. Everything is nice with the group.”
Do agree with Howard that this current squad is better than that of 2010? Have you changed your tune towards Dempsey’s loan stint at Fulham now that you’ve seen how strong he is playing? Think Chandler will make the final 23-man roster?
Share your thoughts below.