It’s time again for the USMNT’s annual edition of Camp Cupcake, or as our friends over at The Best Soccer Show have coined it in honor of a certain German influence on US Soccer, Camp Strudel. Reserved for Scandinavian and MLS players who are just outside the core USMNT lineup, this edition of Camp Strudal certainly will feature many players for which fans have been clamoring. This camp will give players a chance to impress Coach Klinsmann, and will be capped off with two friendly matches in late January.
The goalkeepers you would expect are there. Leading the way will be Bill Hamid, who has been Klinsmann’s preferred number two since his hire. Hamid will be expected to see his first action in a U.S. jersey in one, if not both friendly matches. Also getting called into the squad are MLS keepers Sean Johnson and Nick Rimando. Both Hamid and Johnson will have just over a week off in between national team duty, as currently those two are part of Caleb Porter’s U-23 National Team camp in Florida.
The defenders are a curious bunch, because there is only one player amongst them who has been a strict fullback over the past year, that player being Zach Lloyd. Several defenders championed by fans will be present at the camp, notably Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, and George John. Michael Parkhurst, a player that I have personally wanted to see enter the mix for a while now also gets his shot (My support of Parkhurst has nothing to do with the fact that we share a birthday, Nothing at all). A.J. DeLaGarza and Heath Pearce round out the defenders. As I said earlier, Zach Lloyd is your only true fullback, as DeLaGarza and Pearce, while certainly able to play right and left back respectively, were deployed mostly as center backs for their respective clubs this past season. Michael Parkhurst, enjoying a career year at FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, has moved around from center back to right back and even has spent some time as a defensive midfielder. It will be interesting to watch the center back competition during the camp with MLS Defender of the Year Gonzalez, Cameron, John, and perhaps even Parkhurst will all get a chance to earn their spot in upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches.
In midfield, a couple of familiar faces get a chance to impress Herr Klinsmann. Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark are back in the mix. Many a pundit has claimed Feilhaber’s style matches exactly how Klinsmann would want his central attacking midfielder to play. Clark returns amid troubles finding steady playing time in the 2.Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt. Excellent hairstyles are not in short supply either, as Brek Shea and Kyle Beckerman will both make the journey to Phoenix, Arizona. Beckerman and Shea are both fresh off training stints in Europe, as Beckerman spent time at Kaiserslautern and Shea spent time with Arsenal. It is interesting to see that both players are in the fold for the January camp, as both seem to be regulars in USMNT camps since Klinsmanns’ reign began. The midfielders are rounded out by the steady Jeff Larentowicz and new face Graham Zusi. Zusi had a break-out season with Sporting Kansas City, making 32 appearances and recording five goals and seven assists. A young and talented attacking midfielder, he is one of two players in the bunch who has never been called in to a USMNT camp.
As for the forwards, it’s mostly the usual suspects. Juan Agudelo has become a familiar face, but will need to have a solid camp to avoid being relegated to the U-23 team, having not scored for the US since the Argentina match earlier this year. Teal Bunbury is another player who will come straight out of the U-23 camp. By all accounts, he looks one of the more impressive forwards in the bunch. His Sporting Kansas City teammate (and MLS Rookie of the Year) C.J. Sapong joins the team for his first camp. He accumulated five goals and five assists in his first campaign for Sporting, looking very comfortable in their 4-3-3 setup. Old hat Chris Wondoloski joins up for another January camp, his second consecutive. He’s accumulated 35 goals across all competitions for San Jose in the past two seasons, but just hasn’t been able to find that form when in a US jersey. At Camp Strudel, he will have his chance…again.
On a different note, this will be the first camp for newly named assistant coach Andreas Herzog. Herzog most recently coached the Austria U-23 team, and is the most capped player in Austrian history with 103 caps. On the way to his century, he scored 26 times for the Austrians. He and Klinsmann played together at Bayern Munich in the mid ‘90s. He was later one of Klinsmann’s assistants at Bayern Munich in 2008-2009. In his heyday, he was one of Europe’s more impressive attacking midfielders, scoring more than a hundred goals in the Austrian and German leagues from 1986 to 2003. He finished his career in 2004 as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Let’s see what influence Herzog can have on the talented, yet distinctly underwhelming, USMNT midfield.
Connor Walsh writes about MLS and the USMNT for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can and should follow him on Twitter at @USAGunnerWalsh.