Old and new came together around U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann on Wednesday morning to receive the pertinent instructions for the practice and the toil ahead.
The snapshot of the group — a mixture of ascendant prospects, aspiring fixtures and experienced campaigners huddled around their manager — captured the current dynamic of the side neatly. Klinsmann is in the midst of overseeing an evolution at the start of a new World Cup cycle, but this diverse gathering reflects the need to maintain balance and familiarity amid the experimentation.
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“After the World Cup, it’s been about trying new things and preparing for the future,” U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said before the Americans went through their paces at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre. “It’s getting the new guys mixed in with the veterans and preparing for the future. This is just another one of those games. We want to finish 2014 on a high note.”
Klinsmann turned to a couple of his World Cup stars to ensure this pair of friendlies against Colombia (Friday in London) and Republic of Ireland (Tuesday in Dublin) meets that lofty criterion. The inclusion of DaMarcus Beasley and Kyle Beckerman in this squad underscores the desire to establish a consistent tone and rely on those seasoned professionals to deliver once more.
The impact from those players extends beyond the field at this stage. It is about conveying the right habits and reinforcing the proper message to blossoming prospects attempting to fight their way into the pictures and seize the opportunities ahead of them. Klinsmann highlighted the importance of those traits when he unveiled the squad and noted the responsibility of older players to usher their potential successors along, but it is incumbent on the younger generation to soak in those lessons ahead of the day when some of the veterans depart the scene entirely.
“All of these guys are very experienced players,” U.S. defender Greg Garza said. “They’ve played all around the world and in the Champions League. I think it’s definitely a wonderful way to pick their brains.”
It is not quite time to cast the seasoned campaigners into a purely advisory role, though. They will not march quietly off into the night. They plan to keep their places for as long as possible, particularly with the CONCACAF Gold Cup ahead next year and the Copa America looming on home soil in 2016.
All four outfield players over the age of 30 — Beasley, Beckerman, Jones and Chris Wondolowski — and other absent players of that particular vintage can point to those tournaments and reasonably vie to stay in the pool until that juncture. Their ability to educate the younger generation will play a part in whether they can manage the feat, according to Klinsmann.
For now, the focus is more immediate and the payoff is more tangible. Their presence allows them to convey their knowledge and offers the perfect incentive for the remainder of the squad to lift their levels and tailor their approaches accordingly. Everyone must fight to move up a level and stay in the frame.
It is this common ground where this side comes together ahead of stern tests against the impressive Colombians and the resolute Irish. Klinsmann’s continued harping on club situations and level of play concerns reinforces the need to push at every opportunity. This camp and this pair of matches supplies yet another chance to address those concerns with the displays on the field regardless of the situation at hand.
“Every time you come in with the national team, you try to prove yourself, try to show the coaches what you’re capable of, show them different things,” Bedoya said. “This is another one of those games where it gives me and other guys like myself have a say in things moving forward.”
The disparate characteristics all congeal together around that principle and the shared goals behind it. It shows every time the players gather around Klinsmann and prepare to take the training field for another day. Old and new still matters in the wider context, but the combined contributions from both camps will ultimately chart the course and dictate the success of the collective as this side evolves.