In the world of international soccer where deadlines are fixed and schedules are set years in advance, the odd confluence of timing this week presents a unique opportunity for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Consider first the schedule/deadline aspect:
- Top flight European leagues finished their season May 14-15
- Liga MX playoffs kicked off last week
- Copa America Centenario final roster due May 20
- Official release date for MLS players is May 23
- Opening game of the tournament is June 3 against Colombia
And then there are the variables. Christian Pulisic and Dortmund reached the DFB Pokal Final and will play Bayern Munich on May 21. Timmy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt drew 0-0 on the final day, forcing them into a relegation playoff this weekend.
While putting together this jigsaw puzzle may seem daunting, U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has learned to locate opportunity where challenge exists. Thus, the transition camp was born.By bringing the available senior team guys into Miami, they can bridge the time between the end of their season and the start of the tournament in a relaxed environment. Even a week off can set back fitness and form, something Klinsmann hopes to avoid after the lesson of 2015.
“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,” said Klinsmann. “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.”
A host of players in contention for next month’s Copa America Centenario will be in camp, with 15 of 22 players having been included in the binding 40-man preliminary roster from which the final 23 for the tournament must come. With the final roster due May 20, some of the guys will go into the Puerto Rico game (May 22 – 12 p.m. ET, FS1, UniMas, UDN) with the chance to impress and earn a chance at the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
And that’s where another opportunity comes in. A total of seven players in this group are not eligible to be included in this summer’s tournament. Five are making their debut appearance in a senior MNT camp: Club Tijuana duo Paul Arriola and Amando Moreno, Fabrice Picault, and the SC Freiburg pair of Caleb Stanko and Zach Steffen. The other two are Julian Green and Emerson Hyndman.
Many have put themselves on the radar through the Youth National Teams – Hyndman captained the U-20 MNT in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup and played alongside Arriola and Steffen – while others have shone well at their clubs like Fabrice Picault, who scored four goals in his last eight games for FC St. Pauli.
All will be provided a platform to impress the coaching staff, and whether they reap the reward now or in the future, a week that would normally have been the start of vacation could turn into the start of something much, much bigger.