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National Team Camp Update

Jan 24, 2013, 12:37 PM EDT

source:  Former University of Notre Dame men’s soccer standouts Matt Besler (’09) and Justin Morrow (’10) are currently taking part in the US National team training camp at the Home Depot Center in Los Angels, CA.  Matt took some time out to write on US Soccer’s blog about is time so far in camp:

This is Matt Besler checking in from the U.S. Men’s National Team January training camp. It’s my understanding that Tony Beltran gave everyone an inside scoop on what happened during our first week (fitness!), so I’m here to talk about our second week.

On Monday, we finally were able to step out on the field twice a day with the balls! This may not seem that exciting, but after doing fitness and weight sessions twice a day for a full week, it’s a nice change everyone was looking forward to.

Last week’s theme was technical and fitness. This week we are moving on to more of a tactical approach. So far, there’s been an emphasis on team defending and shape. We all understand that in order to be successful in World Cup Qualifying, everyone must be on the same page. This takes a lot more practice than people think. Each player in this camp comes from different clubs, leagues, and countries. Each person has their own style of playing and has been coached a certain way on how their club team wants to play. But now we are all together and we must gel as one unit. Personally, I enjoy this dynamic of a team. I take pride in making sure all my teammates are on the same page and knowing exactly where to be and how we want to play. I have to credit everyone’s approach so far, we have all been extremely focused and determined to accomplish these goals.

One of my favorite exercises so far has been a full-field transitional drill. We were divided into three separate teams of six players (red, blue, yellow). We set up two teams (red, blue) in one half of the field, while the third team (yellow) waited in the other half. To start the drill, one team (red) attacked the other (blue). When the defending team (blue) won the ball, they immediately had to sprint to the other half of the field and attack the waiting yellow team. Once the yellow team won the ball, it was their turn to sprint back to the other half of the field and attack the waiting red team. This pattern repeated itself over and over until someone scored a goal, and then everything started again. This exercise includes a lot of running and therefore helps with fitness, and more importantly I think it’s a very effective way to educate the group on how we want to play. It teaches us to immediately put pressure on the ball and try to win it back by swarming in small numbers. It also helps us with communication and making sure we have the right cover and balance. Finally, it develops good habits of getting forward as quickly as possible once when we win the ball.

I have to admit that sometimes two-a-days can be grinding both mentally and physically, so it’s important to have some fun in training as well. This is something I’ve already taken from Jurgen’s philosophy. While he always stresses hard work and concentration, he also emphasizes the importance of enjoying the game. He usually gives us this opportunity during the second half of a training session with a bunch of small-sided games. It’s great to see how hard everyone competes and how much pride we take in winning, even if it’s just a small-sided game against each other! Oh yeah, I must humbly add that my “yellow bib” team were the champions of last night’s 6v6 round robin tournament.

One of my personal goals in this camp is to get comfortable with the players and coaches. I believe the more comfortable I can become, the more confident I will play. 2013 is the 100th anniversary of U.S. Soccer and figures to be a busy year. There are numerous opportunities to participate in big matches with World Cup Qualifiers, the Gold Cup, and friendlies. I hope to be a factor in as many of those as possible. Anytime you represent your country, you want to do whatever possible to help them be the best!

I don’t have a lot of time before our next session so I better go and get ready, but here are some quick, random thoughts and stories from inside camp:

  • Pilates is way harder than it looks – Wow!
  • Ping-Pong matches get intense. It’s too early to tell who the best doubles team is so I’ll have to get back to you. My chosen partner – Mix Diskerud.
  • Cold tubs (outside) after our afternoon practice are freezing. It’s mandatory, and t truth be told it’s so worth it considering how important it is for recovery.
  • Nutrition fact #1 – When eating meat, “the less legs the better.”
  • Nutrition fact #2 – Make your plate as colorful as possible
  • Omar Gonzalez has been showing some of the guys where to eat dinner and what he considers the best restaurants in LA. I’m a Midwest guy – meat and potatoes – so I would say he’s about 50% with his recommendations so far!
  • Not naming any names, but some of the guys’ driving skills are questionable. Let’s just say I’m not sure if the DMV in Scandinavia is as strict as in America.


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