If this summer's USMNT campaign began in May with a flourish, most would agree it ended in June with a whimper. The U.S. kicked off on May 26th with a freewheeling 5-1 win over Scotland, and ended two and a half weeks later with a hard-fought but somewhat disappointing draw at Guatemala.
Coming into the Guatemala match -- which sized up all along as the most in terms of combination of degree of difficulty and meaningfulness -- the team had played 360 minutes of decreasingly convincing soccer, with many of those minutes soaked up by the likes of Steve Cherundolo, Jermaine Jones and Carlos Bocanegra, veterans already coming off the grind of grueling European club seasons. Yet throughout, coach Jurgen Klinsmann pushed the team with two-a-days and demanding fitness training.
So for many, one reason behind the Americans' deteriorating form was simple fatigue. Except that you won't find anyone in the U.S. camp of that mindset.
"They're not overworking us, physically it's been demanding but it hasn't been too much where we say, 'coach, we need a break,'" said Cherundolo before the Guatemala match. "It's been demanding, but more demanding mentally because we have a full schedule all day, which is something new. As far as physically, there should be no excuse there."
So players are pretty much down with the fitness plan, which is a good thing, because the coach seems to have every intention of continuing the rigorous camps as his squad edges toward the 2014 World Cup.