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USA Training Camp Notebook: Conrad the leader and Gonzalez the advisor

Jimmy Conrad (

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On a rare chilly morning in Carson, California. the members of the U.S. men's national team endured their longest training session to date. As the camp enters its second week, it is clear that the intensity level has been raised in preparation for the January 23rd friendly against Honduras at the Home Depot Center.

The training began this week with a number of injuries that are common during this time of year. Forward Marcus Tracy sat out his third straight day with tendinitis, while Kevin Alston (hamstring),Chris Pointus (Hamstring), Robbie Rogers also missed practice. None of the injuries are considered serious enough to threaten the players status with the national team.

One of the better storylines from this week's training camp has been the defensive pairing of veteran defender Jimmy Conrad and national team newcomer Omar Gonzalez. The pair has become common during the 6. v. 6. or 11 v. 11 scrimmages that take place at the end of training. The pairing of the 2009 MLS rookie of the year and Conrad has been highly effective in neutralizing the attackers that have faced the two defenders. The Kansas City Wizard veteran Conrad said he is interested in helping the younger defenders the way veteran U.S. defenders Jeff Agoos and Eddie Pope helped him.

"Mainly, I try to lead by example, I took some notes from Agoos and Pope on how they carry themselves and the mentality that they approach each game and practice with," said Conrad of his growth. "Specifically, when I am lined up with Omar during scrimmages, I see him talking (amongst players) and making generally good soccer decisions. If I see something that he could have done different then I'll let him know but generally he has good soccer instincts."

In addition to leading by example, Conrad has also become active in stressing the importance of national team appearances.

"Sometimes I'll share some stories at dinner or in my van after training on what it means to play for the national team. Let alone if it's a World Cup, Gold Cup or a friendly with Honduras, they're all good opportunities to get some experience," said Conrad.

Conrad is not the only player who is offering advice to those new to an experience. Omar Gonzalez has offered a some pearls of wisdom for the players who will be selected in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. The 2009 Rookie of the Year was selected 3rd over all in last years SuperDraft by the Los Angeles Galaxy.The former Maryland Terrapin offered this piece of his advice for those players preparing for Thursday's draft.

"Stay calm and wait for your name to be called. Wherever you go its going to be tough for the first few days, but you've got to work your way into the team and never stop working hard," said Gonzalez. "My advice for their first year is sit back and learn from the other guys. Don't step on people's toes and be a good rookie by putting your head down and working hard."


  1. I find your logic a bit flawed.

    If a player does badly in game one but then does a little bit better in game two and then maybe even a little bit better in game three, you know what that is called? It’s called improvement. It doesn’t make sense to hold a player’s previous bad games against them forever because all players are capable of reverting to their worst games. But a manager must make a decision based on what they are likely to do for you in the upcoming game. Rogers hasn’t done enough yet to earn the kind of trust a Donovan or Howard has but that may happen one day. Otherwise, if you go by your logic, Rogers might as well retire right now and go flip burgers at Mickey D’s.

    One good game does make up for a series of bad games if that game is the last game he played. I wouldn’t say Rogers had improved dramatically and I believe his chances for the World Cup team depend mostly on how a number of other people play these next few months. Still,I feel a lot better about him after his last USMNT game than I did after the Gold Cup.

    As for right footed players playing on the left and vice versa, well, you better get used to it because it happens all the time and has for many, many years. Just because a player is right footed doesn’t mean he can’t use his left. I’ve seen Beckham use his left foot many times. And just because you start out on the right wing, it doesn’t mean you stay there for every minute of the game.

    I don’t see how you “know” Torres has those intangibles unless you know him personally, or have played with him in the last year or know the guys on the USMNT squad.

    As for Bradley’s favorites, I notice that Ching, Sascha, and Pearce haven’t played for some time.

    All national team managers have “favorites”. Know why? Because they have very little game and practice time with their players in comparison to a club team. It helps to have players around that you trust and who know what you are talking about and how you want them to play.

    Bradley had about 20 games last year and whatever camp and practice time he could get in. Compare that to Dom Kinnear who had 30 games and had,barring injury and international duty, most of his guys available for practice. Bradley is ofen denied his players due to club committments. Hodgson at Fulham has 38 league games, X number of cup and european games and he has a squad of nearly 40 players to choose from. Not only that but if he thinks his left back stinks, he can (budget allowing) buy a new one. Bradley is stuck with eligible Americans. That is why national team managers are often forced to try putting square pegs in round holes.

    Believe me if you were USMNT manager you’d have your “favorites” too.

  2. Edwin – We all have our favorite NT Players, and think we know what the best way to use the players. While I actually agree with you on many of your points in the above essays there are a few things that have to be put into perspective…

    1) This camp procludes the involvement of any players whos club teams are in camp or league play (Unless the team allows them leave). This basically limits the pool to MLS and a few Scandinavian teams.

    2) Yes, BB made some seriously bad choices on player selection during the Gold Cup and even during the Qualification campain. Personally would have liked to see Pitman, Tracey, Gonzo and some of the other young players.

    3) Yes, it would have been nice to see more PT for players like Torres, Jozy, Davies, and earlier in the WC qualification cycle, but again we have no control of what BB does/did.

    All that said this camp is intended to give experiance/exposure to young players and not intended to find players for this WC…but find those who have the potential for the next WC qualification cycle, by mixing and matching them with veterans and roll players like Jimmy, Benny, etc…

  3. Sorry bro, we all have flaws.

    One of my biggest one is I write long long posts and text mesages? Trying to cut down.

    What can I say man, I’m tired of seeing guys who are worthless on the US camps, and guys who if given shots and PT could have grown much faster within the national team system and could of helped the team get better results. Like if Bob had played Torres earlier and more often maybe we don’t tie in El Salvador and do much better in the final vs Brazil at the Confeds since he is the type of guy who keeps possesion.

    Jozy was about 6 months too late making his regular appearances and starts

  4. Ummm, I never said his corners were bad, in fact I never mentioned anything bad about his corners. I said he got one nice corner to work vs Costa Rica, I guess I should say he did pretty good on corners when he came in vs Costa Rica.

    But what I did say is that his shots and croses were Consistantly bad! I’ll give you that he did better when he moved to the right vs Costa Rica, but I’m not a big fan of a player playing on the opposite side of his kicking foot. Unless he has tons of talent with both feet ala Donovan.

    Messi gets away with this because of his incredible ability to dribble and accurate shots.

    But like I said one sub appereance doesn’t make up for a long time of inconsistancy, we’ll see how he does vs Honduras B squad.

    Torres is WAY more deserving of the consideration based on the “intangibles” you mentioned, funny I think Bob just has favorites like Ching, Sacha, Bornstein, Pearce etc. Oh and Torres is hands down a much better player!

  5. Dude…kickback, you keep writing full on essays and stuff, we get that you think Rogers shouldnt be near the USA team, but damm after a few posts, kickback……this camp is not one for our starters, its to look at the future, what Bob Bradley can pull out last minute before the Cup, so chill, dnt think that he’s gna choose 5 players for SA

  6. I’m pretty sure Chad Marshall will be alongside Conrad. I know this sounds stupid, but I don’t even predict Gonzalez making the 18-man roster.

  7. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?

    Edwin, it is interesting that you mention particular bad corners or bad shots to justify tearing Robbie a new one. I have a more positive view of Rogers. I saw every game Rogers played for the US last year and, while he has been inconsistent overall, based on his last few performances, he was getting better for the US, particularly after he was moved to the right side.

    Rather than nitpick, I prefer to weigh a player’s overall performance and what he contributes to the overall effort rather than focus on the errors. One of the nice things about being an attacking player like Rodgers is you can make all sorts of errors but if you get off that one shot or one pass that leads to a goal then the importance of all that negativity decreases dramatically. Defenders can play a near perfect game but if they make one pass or miss one tackle it can cost the team the game.

    Finally there is a series of intangibles that a manager has to weigh up when evaluating a player,like how they fit into the locker room,what kind of character a player has, how well they take directions, what kind of smarts do they have and so on. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have access to these factors.

    Hahnemann is now starting regularly for Wolves in the EPL. Assuming that stays true for the rest of the season (and that seems likely) then he will be sharp right around the time the final WC rosters have to be submitted. The World Cup is a short, intense physically demanding tournament. Unless you are Brazil or Argentina every person on the 23 man roster must be able to perform because they may well be called on. While it’s unlikely it’s not impossible that Howard and Guzan could both get hurt, in which case, I’d rather have Hahnemann facing Algeria than Perkins.

    The World Cup is no place to “develop” players for the future. The US will have another couple of years to do that after the tournament.

  8. I don’t think it would be a good idea to start Gonzalaze in this WC. I can definitely see him as a consistent starter in upcoming WC, and maybe one of the 23 this year (not that impressed by Goodson/Parkhurst/Conrad), but definitely not a starter. He seemed to struggle with the pressure in the MLS playoffs, and that pressure will be infinitely greater in SA. Pressure on a stage like that can make or break a young player if the coach doesn’t carefully prepare him.

  9. So exactly how old do you think Adu is and was at the time when he was a rookie in MLS at age 14?

    They guys has no facial or physical aspects that show he’s not 14!

    And please don’t give me this whole thing about how he is from Ghana and in Africa they tend to register the kids inaccurately, you have to come up with a better argument than that

    I know Adu has been known to be a problem with discipline and stuff but I have read this is not the case any longer and hasn’t been for about 2 years, also in his defense he was tearing up defenses like Crazy in MLS his 1st 2 years, even if he was 6 years older at 20 and 21 he took on teams like LA Galaxy then a defending champion and he just waltzed into the goal box like Romario did in 97 I believe vs Italy or France can’t remember, except Adu just fired a shot to the upper far 90, Romario literary walked into the goal

  10. Tell me what he did in MLS Brian?

    He can’t cross worth a dime, he didn’t do well crossing in the Gold Cup, he didn’t do well crossing vs Sweeden a year ago and he sure as hell hasn’t done much in Columbus, not this past season at least.

    The guy kept boinking cross after cross in the Gold Cup, when he was already open for gods sake after doing all the hard work of making his move past the man marking him, and like mwc said, once the teams figured out that his 1 move is all he has, he was done!

    He is a huge surplus, I rather look at guys like this Bedoya kid or guys from the U-20’s & 17’s.

    Gaven, Evans, Sacha, McCarty are all among the same MLS bum category. Nor sure why we would be testing midfielders when is obviously our deepest line.

    And if we do it should really only be for people who have played at a level that could transfer to the international level, not just Concacaf. Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Clark, Edu, Feilhaber, Torres, Holden that’s 8 mids better than all 3 of the guys I listed as MLS bums in this camp’s midfield.

    I’m not that much of a fan of Beckerman for the the A team, more like the Back up of the B team or starting C team but he’s an example of someone who should be looked at, hell Adu with his very few club games played in the last 3 years has done a lot better than Rogers.

    You have guys like Jermaine Jones also who could easily be a much better selection, Edgar Castillo plays left mid for his club sometimes and does it much better than Rogers in a more cometitive enviroment

    Even Beasley showed better results with the team and now is playing much much better.

    Brad Davis is an example of a player that should be in this camp! Lefty winger and great crosser and set piece passer!

  11. Brian, I know Rodney Wallace plays for DC and is born in Costa Rica, but since he did move here when he was 9, almost 13 years ago, went to college and plays professionaly in the States now, I don’t expect it to take long, he started the process about a year ago, it only taks about 18 months for it to go thru, with the new stricter rules of Naturalization maybe 2, but more important is that he is much better than Rogers.

    About the 3rd keeper, Hannehman has barely gotten any PT with tha national team, Perkins seems good enough to be the 3rd keeper and being still young enough to play in the future after Guzan becomes the 1st choice as his back up. Remember the US will always play friendlies outside of FIFA dates and stuff so Perkins will get some chances, specially if he stays in MLS like it just got reported. Seems he has some family affairs to take care of so he’s coming back home.

    Hannehman seems to suffer from a very hardly contested role when Friedel, Keller and Howard played most of the games for the past 14 years or so? And now Guzan is in there too.

    Josh I agree that we had the disadvantage to have to play the Gold Cup 5 days after the Confeds final, but only do I wish he would of fielded more 1st team players, but considering how Adu fared and the fact that they hardly play him and that Benny was in great form he should of kept him.

    Also there were lots of bad decisons as far as how he was going to use who?

    Heaps? Really? I think Beasley was better despite sucking really bad, Heaps was slow when he was young and is old as hell and with no skill what so ever, Pearce really? Logan Pause? I had no idea who this was?

    Bob could of fielded a much better team, why take Torres to the Confeds if he wasn’t going to play him a single freaking minute? WTH? He was our best player in Costa Rica and has played some garbage minutes in Utah vs El Salvador and in DC vs Costa Rica, why? Not a single minute vs Mexico where he’s actually used to playing?

    I know there was the lasik thing but he could have allowed him to get it done before the Gold Cup, more important is Bob negotiated to only take him to SA should of used him on both. Jozy was available even signing autographs in Santa Monica, CA when the Gold Cup was going on, there were so many bad choices in that cup is not even funny, Goodson over Parkhurst? Really? No Orozco another player in Mexico who could have helped in the Final

    Too many things to list

    Robbie Rogers had a decent corner vs Costa Rica but 1 okay game doesn’t make up for all the ones he sucked at, all of the Gold Cup vs B teams from Concacaf is really bad, a year ago vs Sweeden’s B team he sucked so bad is not even funny!

  12. Oh certainly. I’m not saying that he should be a starter. I don’t have him on my final 23 for South Africa right now, so I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t make it. If he does it will be one of the last couple spots (and probably because some of our injured players weren’t healthy).

    Still I think his crosses aren’t “retarded Pearce like crossing”. I feel he’s one of the best crossers on the team behind Donovan, Holden and Beasley. I really don’t know what Edwin is getting at because this is definitely a camp that Rogers should be at.


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