Major tournaments operate in their own time. The preparations and the plans extend for months and months, with each detail carefully sketched out along the way. The tournament itself proceeds with uncertainty and vigor. It essentially acts as a snapshot for a brief moment in time, bound and influenced by form and function in a compressed frame.
Consider the framework of last summer as an informative instance in the pattern. Fortune changed and shifted in a matter of weeks. The highs of victories in the Netherlands and Germany in early June yielded to the lows of a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal defeat to Jamaica by the third week in July. Several factors influenced those peaks and valleys, but they were linked by the impact of time – particularly the significant break during the interim between those friendlies and the start of the Gold Cup – and the challenge of the broken rhythm of several of the USA’s prominent players.
The upcoming Copa America Centenario arrives at an ideal juncture to smooth out some of those foibles. Its placement – situated just after the close of the European and Mexican seasons and right in the middle of the MLS campaign – removes those tricky fallow periods without infringing on most club obligations. It is a chance to align all of the disparate schedules together, funnel all of the energy toward one sole objective and sustain it over the course of a defined interval.
Previous successes point out the potential benefits of this particular placement on the calendar. The magical run to the FIFA Confederations Cup final in 2009 unfolded in June. The 11-match winning run through three important World Cup qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicked off with a celebratory victory against Germany at the start of June and then marched through with only a brief interlude at the end of that month prior to the tournament.
Those instances provide a glimpse at the potential importance of marching straight through without interruption. The recent form of the players included in the Copa America plans underscores the possible benefit of a hasty transition from club to international commitments.
Many of the European-based standouts linked up with U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the friendly against Puerto Rico on Sunday. They jumped straight into their obligations in a bid to translate their club form to the international stage.
“We are doing this week in Miami and finishing off the week with a game in Puerto Rico because it’s really important in terms of transitioning our players coming in from Europe and some who are already done in Mexico to keep them in a flow, to keep them in a rhythm,” Klinsmann said. “One of our lessons from last year’s Gold Cup was because the tournament was pushed into July, we couldn’t transition our European-based players and some of the Mexican players perfectly.”
It is the sort of form worth maintaining during the next month, particularly given the strength of the European-based contingent this season.
Bobby Wood leaned on his record-setting, 17-goal season with Union Berlin to complete a move to Hamburg before his arrival in camp. John Brooks and Fabian Johnson both played significant roles as their clubs secured European places for the upcoming season. Geoff Cameron reinforced his importance week after week as Stoke City finished ninth in the Premier League for the third consecutive season, while DeAndre Yedlin showed his progress as he helped Sunderland engineer yet another escape from the drop. Alejandro Bedoya punctuated his fine second half of the campaign with Nantes by scoring in the penultimate match against Caen.
As those players run through their paces ahead of the landmark friendly, several of their MLS colleagues are carrying out their club duties this weekend before the friendlies against Ecuador on May 25 (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2 and UniMas) [TICKETS] and Bolivia on May 28 (7 p.m. CT, FS1 and Univision networks) [TICKETS].
Michael Bradley controls the proceedings for Toronto FC in the heart of midfield. Jermaine Jones continues to impress with his prominence in the final third with Colorado. Chris Wondolowski has assumed his familiar perch near the top of the league scoring table.
Once the entire squad convenes in Dallas on Monday, the focus quickly shifts toward channeling those club exploits for the big tournament next month.
There is no time to waste. Their task is to grasp the looming opportunity with both hands. The calendar and the timeline fall right into place. It is their task to ensure they seize the moment.