Report: Some players question leadership of coach, cite divisions within team.
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Commerce City, Colo. • The timing would be akin to the Nuggets anonymously blasting coach George Karl right before a playoff series. That was the vibe Wednesday after a Sporting News report cited 11 members of the U.S. soccer team pool questioning the leadership of coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The story comes before Friday's 8 p.m. World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Team USA, which plays at Mexico on Tuesday, must finish at least third in the six-team CONCACAF to qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil.
According to the report, players and others connected to the U.S. program claim the team has deep divisions. Cited are differences between the veteran players and the German-Americans whom Klinsmann, a former World Cup hero for Germany, brought to the roster.
One unnamed player said Klinsmann's support began to erode even more after losing the qualifying opener in Honduras 2-1 on Feb. 6.
"Several things about the lineup didn't work," the player said in the report. "Sometimes a coach's biggest mistake is trying to get in who he sees as the best 11 players on the field. But they don't have to be. You have to have 11 players on the field who are going to work well with each other and be good for each other."
Players also criticized Klinsmann for not including long-time captain Carlos Bocanegra on Friday's roster. Bocanegra has sat on the bench for Racing de Saltender, in Spain's second division, since Feb. 5.
In addition, players questioned Klinsmann emphasis on yoga and fitness instead of tactics.
"The Peles and the Maradonas in the world weren't doing all these things," one player said.
Klinsmann wasn't made available to the media after Wednesday's practice. But midfielder Michael Bradley sounded furious with the report.
"It's shameful," said Bradley, who plays for A.S. Roma. "It's embarrassing. For every guy who's played on a team, you give everything you have. You put everything of yourself inside.
"Any team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy. On every team in the world, there's going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things they wish were different. That's normal.
"But you cross a line when you take those thoughts and you take your disappointments outside of the team, outside the inner circle. It doesn't help anybody. It doesn't help anything we're trying to do."
Bradley said the players discussed the story among themselves.
"When you play on a team you have a chance every day to give everything you have and part of that means having the [guts] to say things to guys to their face, having the [guts] to say things in front of the team," Bradley said. "In those ways, it's really disappointing. In a week as important as this, in a week where so much is on the line, you'd have something like that happen."
Added Clint Dempsey, who replaces Bocanegra as captain: "It's something that doesn't matter. The thing that matters is getting three points and qualifying for the World Cup. It doesn't matter about the little petty things here and there."
World Cup qualifier
O Costa Rica at United States
When • Friday, 8 p.m.
TV • ESPN
RSL's Saborio will play against U.S.
Alvaro Saborio should be available to play for Costa Rica in Friday's World Cup qualifying match with the United States, despite earlier reports that a knee injury would keep him out.
Deportes Repretel, of Costa Rica, reported Wednesday that Saborio was doubtful for the match. But Real Salt Lake officials spoke with the Costa Rican soccer federation later in the day and said the report was inaccurate. Saborio bruised his knee during training with his national team, but intends to play Friday in Denver.