CARSON, Calif. – The respect was palpable at the LA Galaxy’s training session on Tuesday morning as the club went through their first training session of the week.
Almost two dozen members of the U.S. team preparing for next month’s World Military Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan watched the session and marveled at the talent displayed by the two-time defending MLS Cup champions. Galaxy coaches and players later went out of their way to thank the visitors for their service to the country.
The U.S. team’s coaches and players also were in attendance for Sunday’s SuperClasico, watching the Galaxy defeat Chivas USA 1-0 behind a first half goal from Gyasi Zardes, who had played against some of U.S. squad when he was in college at CSU Bakersfield, facing conference rival Air Force.
“It’s a good experience of watching the level of play. It makes us pick up our games a little bit, even in training,” said Andrew Hyres of the U.S. Army, who is a native of Seattle, Wash.
“I look forward to them coming back to Seattle and playing the Sounders,” he added with a laugh.
The team, which includes players from each branch of the military – one is a Navy Seal who just returned from Afghanistan -- is getting down to its final cuts. It has been together for less than three weeks and will compete in the World Military Cup from July 2-14.
Algeria won the last competition in two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The U.S. has been drawn into a group that includes Ivory Coast, Oman and one of the tournament favorites, Germany.
The Navy’s Mike Tuddham, originally from Cincinnati, said most of the players have college-level experience.
“There are a lot of opportunities afforded to us on each base,” he said. “I know in Hawaii, when I was there, I played on three teams.”
Galaxy associate head coach Dave Sarachan addressed the visitors after Tuesday’s training session and related to them his experiences from the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
“I first thanked them for their service. I have such an utmost respect for people in our military,” Sarachan said. “I got an understanding of what their mission is and we talked a little bit about my experiences in 2002, being a real team and putting themselves in a position to advance.
“That’s what group play is all about. I tried to make them understand that game one (against the Ivory Coast), win or lose, really doesn’t mean anything.
“Just position yourselves so that in game three you have a chance to advance.”
Sarachan laughed when asked if any of the players asked for a tryout – “I would give it to them, believe me,” he said – and knew there was one aspect of their games that needed no extra attention.
“I told them there’s four components coaches talk about,” he said. “The psychological, the physical, the technical and the tactical. The physical, you don’t worry about that. Maybe the others you have to put a little more time in.”
Kevin Rosser, stationed in Florida with the Air Force, said he and his teammates cannot wait for next month’s competition.
“We feel very lucky to go represent all the military, fellow servicemen and servicewomen and have an opportunity to represent the U.S. on the soccer pitch,” he said. “We feel very blessed.”