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Jurgen Klinsmann

U.S. MNT Treating Busy Stretch as ‘Five-Game Tournament’

From Schedule Planning to Assigning Jersey Numbers, Klinsmann Creating Environment Similar to Competition Setting

From Schedule Planning to Assigning Jersey Numbers, Klinsmann Creating Environment Similar to Competition Setting

The U.S. Men’s National Team is preparing for its busiest stretch of the year, extending from the middle of May to early June and encompassing a 30-day schedule with five games during an 18-day period. If that schedule looks a lot like what the U.S. encounters to prepare for and play in a big tournament, there’s a reason: U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann designed it that way.

This heavy load of training and games is the result of careful planning, as Klinsmann felt this was an opportune moment to treat this period in the same fashion as a big-tournament environment. The work begins May 15 with the start of camp, extends with an opening international friendly on May 26 against Scotland at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., and will be capped off with a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on June 12 at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City.

“We’re treating this period of time like it would be a small tournament because this camp is a lot about how the players build chemistry and deal with a longer period of time being together,” Klinsmann said. “It’s about how they are willing to go the extra mile in that time period to answer a lot of questions in that stretch. That’s why we’re calling it almost a mini-tournament.”

The term is not meant to be a set of buzz words. Klinsmann is incorporating an approach that is very much focused on how he would utilize the team in a tournament. It is not a trial-and-error period, but rather a chance to hone in on maximizing team chemistry within a heavy workload.

“All of the focus is on fine-tuning what we want to do on the field and the way we approach things, and how we connect in many areas on the field,” Klinsmann said. “Everybody kind of knows more and more what the other person is doing. But we also want to help them off the field so they understand that there’s still a lot out there for them to improve their own personal game. We’re feeding them as much information as possible during those days.”

The team’s sheer length of time together during this stretch only happens for large tournaments, so the schedule allows for the opportunity to build fitness, expand on ideas on the field and connect as a group. Klinsmann and his staff will train the players hard in the initial phases and then taper off toward the games. There also is the post-game rhythm of regeneration, additional work for players who did not play in the match and then quick turnaround for the next game.

Even the assigning of jersey numbers – which is required in the tournament format – will be implemented for these five games.

“I think it helps when you give people an identity and they are given the numbers with their name on the back so it has a little more of a big-tournament feel to it,” Klinsmann said. “It’s a little thing, but I think it’s good for the players to see that even if it’s three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers, it’s serious.

“No matter who we play or what type of game we play, whether it’s Antigua or Brazil, we represent the United States of America,” Klinsmann said. “It’s a requirement that every player comes in with 100 percent commitment and with an attitude that he puts everything into the game.”

Among some of the other tournament-feel traits will be the structured travel and hotel accommodations, where players will have the rhythm of arriving and departing venues. The nutrition aspect will be monitored throughout the month-long timeframe and will be tailored to different energy needs based on whether the players are in the midst of a hard training day or the day of a game. In preparing a 24/7 athlete, no stone is left unturned.

“It’s about how they can improve their day-to-day lives, as well as improve the way they read the game and study the game,” Klinsmann said. “If I had that component during my career, it would have helped me. We’ll throw stuff at them with the hope that they buy into it.

“It’s not only for the players, but for the staff,” he said. “It’s about fine-tuning the team behind the team and the different areas we deal with on the administrative side and the scouting side. When you get three and a half weeks together as a staff and as a team, it’s tremendously important that everybody takes it seriously. These opportunities don’t come around often before a World Cup, and this is an important step toward being ready as a team.”