By Tom Bratcher
In less than half of the first game of the World Cup, the USA has had their chances to succeed and advance hampered by completely controllable injuries. Two of the top players, Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler could not make it past one half of the first game of the group stage. Both players were hit by the same thing, hamstring injuries and both are unlikely to play later this week. Altidore is likely out for an extended period, possibly the entire tournament. In the second half, Geoff Cameron, was having to stop and stretch throughout the half due to his legs “tightening up”.
This is inexcusable. Soft tissue injuries at this stage of the tournament simply should not happen. Broken noses, like Clint Dempsey’s, are going to happen. Knee injuries such as those involving stars Samuel Eto’o, or Bastien Schweinsteiger, are going to occur. Hamstring injuries in the fourth, fifth and sixth games in a short time, can and do happen. Those are understandable. They can happen on a cold day where a player just does not get his muscles warmed up to be elastic enough. But, for a country that boasts to have the top conditioning and ideal preparation, these two injuries are irresponsible and inexcusable and could cost the team a chance at advancing even though they are in the cat-birds seat. Especially in perfectly warm weather.
Was it too hard, too much work in a short amount of time over the last month? Was it improper nutrition? Was it lack of proper hamstring prevention work? Sitting on a long plane flight too close to the game day across Brazil. There are a lot of factors that can play in and multiple incorrect preparation methods in combination make for a disaster come game day. Only the players, coaches, and so called “conditioning coach” that works with the team know exactly what they did. But, I assure you, it was not correct.
Hamstrings have long been known to be an enemy of soccer players. But, they should never happen at a “peaking” phase of play. Mid-season, pre-season, understandable. But it never, never should happen if there are proper training methods and preparation methods in place. This event is too big to have these kinds of mistakes. Let’s hope the USA’s training staff can overcome the conditioning blunder and, or, the bench players can step up and use the opportunity to prove they are stars! And let’s hope they’re not hamstrung also. GO USA!