Before the January training camp began, ussoccer.com spoke with U.S. head coach Bob Bradley about the philosophy behind the roster selections.
As the second week of training concluded, we sat down with U.S. assistant coach Jesse Marsch to hear the thoughts of the coaching staff on the work done so far, how the players have performed, and what remains before the match against Chile.
ussoccer.com: From the perspective of the coaches, what were the goals of the second week of training?
Jesse Marsch: "The goal of this past week was to take the foundations of the first week – creating movements that gives options for passing lanes, and making connections and combinations that lead to good attacking chances - and to build upon them. The first week was about introducing concepts; the second week was raising the tempo."
ussoccer.com: How is that accomplished through exercises in training?
JM: "In order to raise the raise the level and the speed at which those things are executed, exercises are done at a faster pace and in tighter spaces. Those situations also more accurately simulate international play."
ussoccer.com: The training plan for the first two weeks did not include much in the way of pure fitness work, which is somewhat different than previous camps. What was the philosophy behind this?
JM: "The sessions incorporated a fitness element into training and playing more so than straight running. On the scale of importance in this camp, soccer lessons are more important than fitness. Because there isn't a qualifier around the corner, the focus can be on playing this one game and then sending these players into their preseasons."
ussoccer.com: Most the players in this group have little to no experience with the full national team. How have the players progressed?
JM: "We have seen improvement, but the success rate of play is lower when the speed gets raised. That’s all part of the process. You want to introduce ideas and let them practice them when they can be successful, then try to get them to do it a faster pace. The positives are that the group has been extremely eager, mentally and physically committed to learn. The challenges are that in some cases they are new ideas, and they have to get accustomed to a higher level of training because overall the players are better and the speed is faster. This is part of the process. They understand that, and are excited about it."
ussoccer.com: With less than a week to go before the match against Chile, what will the plan be for training?
JM: "The last week will start to look more like game preparation, which means tactical work and team shape. There will be more work on an 11 v. 11 basis to prepare to be as strong and competitive team as we can be for against Chile. The players have worked hard. Hopefully it pays off against Chile."