Tuesday, October 11, 2011

United States Men's National Team Holds Open Practice at Red Bull Arena

It’s been said in the media that new United States Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann is still in the honeymoon stage with the team and its loyal supporters. Klinsmann still seems like quite the charmer and is endearing himself to the fans.

Emotions are positive for the German coach. He finally won his first game with the USMNT on Saturday and on Monday, one day before the team takes on Ecuador Klinsmann opened the team’s practice at Red Bull Arena to the public.

Only a day before a game, the practice was light and featured a lot of stretching as opposed to an intense one, but it was a unique opportunity for fans to see how the team went about their daily business with a new coach as well as what Klinsmann’s personal interactions with individual players and the team as a whole are like.

As the players trotted onto the field Klinsmann explained the purpose of the practice and what the fans would see. Things started off with the players breaking up into small groups and doing some one-touch passes in a circle with defenders in the middle. The goalies, in the meantime, did some drills on their own at the end line.

The field players then went to the opposite end of the field and did a lot of stretching. All the players are in the middle of their seasons now. Add in intense training and playing with the national team and injury prevention becomes a big concern.

After stretching the team went into an 11-vs.-10 half-field scrimmage with Clint Dempsey donning a blue pinny and playing as the extra man for both teams. While the starting lineup for the Ecuador game isn’t out the white team featured mostly regular starters like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jozy Altidore while the orange team featured the likes of Nick Rimando, Jeff Larentowicz and Edson Buddle, three guys who did not play on Saturday.

The play was pretty back and forth for the most part but with little execution. Only two goals were scored during the 20 or 30 minutes the team scrimmaged for, one by Clint Dempsey (for the white team) and one by DaMarcus Beasley.

Beasley was an interesting player on the left-side for the white team. Beasley showed some speed on the flank and dribbled in circles around Michael Orozco Fiscal. At the same time though, Danny Williams seemed to have his way with Beasley, dribbling around him or pushing him off the ball.

Williams was impressive in his ability to push the ball past his defender and his crosses, as were scrimmage teammate Brek Shea’s, were dangerous.

The highlight of the scrimmage came in a series of nice plays. Kyle Beckerman, playing for the orange team, collected a loose ball and slammed a shot at Tim Howard. Howard saved it and –like his pass to Landon Donovan in the Algeria game at the World Cup—threw the ball almost the length of the field to Jozy Altidore. Rimando came out to cut Altidore’s angle off, but the big forward chipped it over his head for what appeared would be a nice goal. While the ball floated back down to the field however New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream came in, got underneath the ball, and cleared it before it went in the back of the net.

When the scrimmage was completed some of the players that logged big minutes in Saturday’s game (Altidore, Onyewu and Bocanegra for example) stretched at midfield. The rest took part in a crossing drill.

On the left was, as suspected, Brek Shea, Timmy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley. On the right was Williams, Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Spector.

Each side would take turns crossing the ball to a man in the middle: Jeff Larentowicz, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo or Orozco Fiscal.

The crossing and finishing both left a lot to be desired but Larentowicz had the goal of the practice when he took a cross and put a diving header into the net past Rimando.

Klinsmann himself got in on the drill as well, for a brief moment, collecting a rebound and shooting it into the back of the net, earning a nice ovation from the crowd.

At completion of the drill, Klinsmann talked to his team in a huddle and then he and the players thanked the fans for coming out.

The practice wasn’t too intense but it got the fans excited about the team and for the game against Ecuador.

Klinsmann, the players and the fans are optimistic about the team’s future. Now it’s up to the new coach and the players to see how long that optimism lasts.


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