Like many in Prairie Village, Kansas, Matt Besler’s day began with a 6 a.m. wake up call. Welcomed by the harsh realization of 14-degree temperatures, and with the generous help of his wife, Amanda, he ventured outside to scrape the inch-thick ice off of his windshield and begin his ride to work. That’s where the similarities with his neighbors end.
Fourteen hours later, Besler’s work-day finished up with him on the lush green fields beneath the palm trees in Carson, California – the culmination of a spirited first U.S. MNT training session at StubHub Center.
Joining Besler on his flight to LAX was fellow Overland Park, Kansas, native, and Sporting Kansas City teammate 21-year-old goalkeeper Jon Kempin. With first-team minutes under his belt for Sporting, yet embarking on his first senior National Team call-up, the talented Kempin didn’t need to look far for advice from his World Cup veteran teammate.
“At the airport we were just talking about camp and what we were going to do, and he was giving me the rundown,” said Kempin. “It helped ease some pressure off of me and made me feel comfortable.”
Another pair flying west to warmer climates was Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, alongside teammate and midfielder Luis Gil. Rimando has seen first-hand the evolution of the young playmaker, already a key cog in the Real Salt Lake midfield.
“I was with Luis when he first came to the team, and he was just this little, very humble kid,” said the 2014 FIFA World Cup vet. “I’ve seen him grow playing soccer, and obviously he’s matured just body-wise, and playing-wise getting a lot of minutes has helped his confidence.”
For emerging players such as Kempin and Gil, camp insights are available everywhere – from the airport, to the team hotel, and of course on the training ground.
“Coming into this camp I know we have a lot of young guys for the U-23s and we’re trying to build on that,” Gil said. “So having guys like Nick around, he’s been there and done that. He’s been to the World Cup and he’s a great leader."
For Jurgen Klinsmann’s group of 28 players in the lead-up to challenging matches against Chile and Panama, the work to grow and learn has only just begun. Hearing veteran players from the 23-man World Cup team like Rimando continue to push forward provides a window into what’s expected at-large.
“Personally, I want to continue to grow as a player and to prove my worth to this team,” said the Real Salt Lake gloveman.
While each player’s path to January Camp may be very different, it’s clear that the opportunity for the group to discover what’s next starts now.