By FRANCO PANIZO
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After four training sessions in two days, the U.S. men's national team returned the practice field on a cool Thursday evening finally able to do one thing: Focus on Honduras.
Having been recovering from weekend games and with their upcoming friendly against the Catrachos getting closer, the Americans went through a 90-minute session in which every player aside from Nick Rimando (who is not yet in camp) participated. The team did some one-touch passing, keep-away drills before breaking out into a 10-v-10 game. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann wrapped up the session by having the players work on some set pieces.
The preparations for Honduras continue on Friday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. But that practice is mostly going to consist of an intra-squad scrimmage for the fans in attendance, meaning most of the heavy duty work has been completed.
"The quality is always high when the national team comes in, but there are other issues to battle," said Steve Cherundolo. "You have travel, you have tough schedules, you have injuries and guys coming from different clubs, so it's always a challenge of getting the guys back on the same page and that's been the job this week."
Here's more from Thursday's lone training session:
THE FOREIGN INFLUENCE AND PRESSURES OF WINNING
For anyone following the United States ever since Klinsmann took over, it's quite obvious how much of a foreign influence is on the squad.
From the integration of several German-Americans to the addition of more players with Latin roots, the U.S. team has changed somewhat in terms of culture. But rather than it being something of a barrier, the foreign influence has been embraced and has helped the team grow.
"It's a little bit of a different swing for us," said Tim Howard. "At first it's somewhat funny to have such a large amount of guys speaking another language. We've got a lot of Spanish speaking guys and a lot of German speaking guys, and then you kind of get the feeling that it's a really positive thing. It just brings a uniqueness to the squad, and I say that, a lot of times you find cliques, and it's not like that. The guys just feel really comfortable."
Whether it's a new German-American like Danny Williams or a grizzled veteran like captain Carlos Bocanegra, the players are being relied upon to continue the implementation of Jurgen Klinsmann's ideas while also pulling out a victory after failing to do so in their first three attempts under the new coach.
But not all players feel added pressure after one draw and two losses under Klinsmann.
"It's always important to win for us. Obviously, they didn't come the last few games and that's something that disappointed us," said Bocanegra. "But every time we go out there we try to win. Obviously, we're trying to influence things and what we've been doing in training and bring those over to the field. I thought we actually did a lot of those things very well the first few games, so the results will come."
BUNBURY FITTING IN WELL AFTER REGAINING FORM
The foreign U.S. players aren't the only ones trying to jell with the U.S. team.
With just two caps to his name, Teal Bunbury is still one of the new guys. As a result, he is still slowly finding his place within the squad, something that, so far, has been relatively easy for him.
"Everyone's kind of being really friendly to me and I'm just trying to build a relationship with the guys," said Bunbury. "I'm one of the newer guys, and I'm just trying to feed off of everybody. Most importantly, trying to feed off the coaches."
After enduring a rough few months in his sophomore season as a professional, Bunbury has gotten back to his scoring ways in recent weeks. His form has improved drastically to what it was in the summer, though Bunbury doesn't attribute the rough patch to a lack of confidence.
"I feel like always when you're scoring goals obviously you're confident, but I don't know if it was a thing of confidence," said Bunbury of his slump. "It happens in players' careers, ups and downs, and I was thankful to help my teammates (at Sporting Kansas City) and have faith in the Lord and things are looking good now."
Here are some other tidbits from the practice:
- All 21 players in camp participated in the training, including Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream, who arrived to South Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
- Nick Rimando, the only player not with the team yet, will join the squad on Friday.
- Bill Hamid will return to D.C. United following the match against Honduras.
- The team began training by warming up and then splitting up into three groups and playing one-touch, keep-away games or monkey in the middle, if you will. Five guys passed the ball in a small square while two others were in the center attempting to steal the ball. When someone had a pass intercepted, they would move to the middle.
- Goalkeepers Hamid and Tim Howard were off training to the side, so Jurgen Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna participated to make numbers equal among the three groups during the drill.
- Following that exercise, the team split into two teams of 10 (yellow and gray) for a scrimmage that was played 3/4s the length of the field at first. The scrimmage wound up being played on the full field. Michael Bradley began the scrimmage by being a two-way offensive player in the center of the field.
- Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Timmy Chandler, Jeff Larentowicz, Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Teal Bunbury were on the gray team.
- The yellow team was made up of Hamid, Jonathan Spector, Michael Orozco, Tim Ream, Danny Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo and Edson Buddle.
- After about 10 minutes, Beckerman was used as a two-way offensive player. Following another 10 minutes, Edu became the two-way player.
- Goals were scored in the scrimmage by Altidore (twice, with one coming off an assist from Beasley) and Buddle (once).
- The team concluded practice by working on their set pieces.
What do you think of the United States' preparations for Honduras? Should the players feel more pressure to get that first win? Hoping to see Bunbury earn his first cap under Klinsmann on Saturday?
Share your thoughts below.