U.S. World Cup hopefuls face tough competition, hot weather

Members of the United States national soccer team warm up during a training session Wednesday at Stanford University.
Members of the United States national soccer team warm up during a training session Wednesday at Stanford University.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

The temperature at Stanford Stadium hung around 90 degrees Thursday afternoon, a few welcome degrees cooler than the day before. But none of the players competing for a spot on the U.S. World Cup team were complaining about the weather.

“It’s going to be warm like this down in Brazil. So it’s good to get us acclimated,” said Michael Parkhurst of the Columbus Crew, one of 11 defenders competing for a spot on the U.S. team.

Coach Juergen Klinsmann has invited 30 players to a three-week training camp, at the end of which he must pare his roster to 23. And while some players -- forward Clint Dempsey, midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones and goalkeeper Tim Howard -- are sure to make the cut others, such as Parkhurst, still have something to prove.


“I wish I knew exactly what I needed to do,” Parkhurst said with a smile. “I need to come out here and have a really good camp just like anybody else. Put in the work and show that I can bring something to the team.

“Every player in the country wants to be right here, have this opportunity to be in the 30 and give yourself a chance for the World Cup. And I plan on taking full advantage.”

Also hoping to make the most of his chance is midfielder Joe Corona, whose playing time with Tijuana’s Xolos of Mexico’s Liga MX was limited by a nagging ankle injury. Corona played eight games for the U.S. last year, scoring twice, but he is considered a longshot for Brazil.

He’s not conceding anything yet, however.

“I always kept my faith coming into this camp,” he said, speaking in a voice just above a whisper. “At this point I’m worried about myself. I’m trying to do what I always do when I come into the national team: Try to show Juergen why he should bring me to Brazil and do my best in every practice.”

German-American defender Fabian Johnson said the camp will also give the players, who come from 24 teams in nine leagues, a chance to build some chemistry.

“We almost know each other pretty well. So I think that won’t be a big deal,” he said. “The team has to find out how good we are. And what kind of shape we’re in.”

The players figure to be in pretty good shape by their first exhibition, a May 27 friendly with Azerbaijan at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the first of three games the U.S. will play before leaving for South America and their World Cup opener June 16 against Ghana.

“This first week will be really difficult,” Parkhurst said of Klinsmann’s training camp. “I think the work here will be like a preseason camp even though we’re in midseason. The first few days are always the toughest. Just running, getting the heavy legs.

“Once you get past it, things get a little bit easier.”

The players drilled for about 90 minutes under a blazing sun Thursday afternoon in the second of their two daily workouts. The team was joined by four new players -- Bradley, Dempsey, midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler -- all of whom were given permission to arrive late. That brought the number of players in camp to 25 with some of the team’s European-based players, whose seasons just ended, not scheduled to begin working out until Sunday.

Also Thursday, Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu was cleared to take part fully after being treated for a concussion. And Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, who sat out his club team’s last game with a knee injury, worked out lightly.