Young U.S. players put through paces
January, 5, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Bob Bradley knows what he'd like to see from the mostly young, entirely inexperienced -- internationally speaking -- group of players he has gathered for the U.S. national team's camp at the Home Depot Center.
“Barcelona,” he said, staight-faced, following the Americans' first training session Wednesday morning. “That's always what we want to see.”
What he will see will fall far short, but that's OK. Bradley, on crutches after having his knee cleaned out after “wear and tear over a lot of years,” and his staff are putting 24 players -- none with more than six caps, through their paces the next three weeks or so, culminating in the Jan. 22 friendly against Chile at HDC -- to give them a feel of what the next level is like.
The group, just 22 to start the camp -- forward Juan Agudelo is due Thursday from the U.S. U-20 camp, and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, the man with six caps, arrives from Orebro, his Swedish club, on Jan 15 -- includes a dozen players who have never played in an international match. Seven of them are in their first full national team camp. Eight of them are 22 or younger.
“It's a chance to start to give them an idea of the little things on the field and off the field that we think are important. See how they respond,” said Bradley, who is beginning the four-year cycle toward the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “Obviously, it's players that have done well [in MLS or for their teams abroad] and have earned the opportunity to be here, but now as you move from one level to the next, there's little soccer things that just need to continue to get better and better.
“January [camps] always are a chance for us to start the process with some guys that we've seen play in MLS but haven't always had the chance to work with.”
Included in the group are three Galaxy defenders -- Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge), A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez -- Chivas USA forward Justin Braun and two UCLA alums, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS) and Colorado Rapids defender Marvell Wynne.
The 6-foot-5 Gonzalez, MLS's Rookie of the Year in 2009 and an MLS Best XI selection last season, has the potential to be a national team star. So does teen Agudelo, who scored in his debut in November's victory at South Africa. Others, too, could play key roles by the time 2014 rolls around. And several players, those 22 and younger, could feature for the side the U.S. hopes to take to the London Olympics next year.
What does Bradley expect to see?
“You always have an idea of the little things that guys need to be better on every day ...,” he said. “After 18 days, it's an opportunity for them to get on the field and see where it stands. There's always an understanding that in a big pool of players, you know -- we know the differences between what camps look like when certain guys are there, what camps look like when certain guys aren't there.
“We know what January camps [with younger players] typically look like, so, again, your picture of what a game is going to look like in 18 days has to take into account all of these facts. But nonetheless, it's a good chance after 18 days to see what it looks like.”
And it won't look like Barcelona.