U.S. International Kyle Beckerman Enjoys “First Class” Experience at Kaiserslautern

U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has emphasized his desire for the American international players at MLS clubs to get extra training after the 2011 season concluded last month.  Feeling that playing more soccer during the long MLS offseason will only improve the abilities of those players, Klinsmann used his contacts in Europe to place many American players with European clubs for two-week training sessions.

Many Americans spent time in England, such as Brek Shea (FC Dallas) at Arsenal, Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps) with Fulham, Andy Najar (DC United) with Spurs and Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids) and Tim Ream (NY Red Bulls) at Bolton.  But several others have spent time training with German clubs, including Red Bulls youngster Juan Agudelo at Stuttgart, DC United’s Perry Kitchen and the Philadelphia Union’s Amobi Okugo at Freiburg,  the Union’s Zach Pfeffer at Hoffenheim and Robbie Rogers of the Columbus Crew and Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake at Kaiserslautern.

Red Devils’ Coach Marco Kurz and Chairman of the FCK Management Board Stefan Kuntz agreed to allow the two Americans to train with the first team for several weeks.  “Given our cooperation with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association, it goes without saying that we give Rogers and Beckerman the opportunity to train with our first team squad. The excellent relationship with the big number of Americans in and around Kaiserslautern and the good cooperation regarding talent development is of huge importance to us,” Kuntz stated.  Rogers has appeared in 81 matches for the Crew, as well as 17 senior international appearances.

Beckerman, 29, is a defensive midfielder and captain of the Real Salt Lake side that won the 2009 MLS Cup.  The dreadlocked American has made 18 appearances for the USMNT, beginning in 2007, and has played in six of the seven matches coached by Klinsmann since the German took over leadership of the squad at the end of July.  The Maryland native has also played for the Miami Fusion and Colorado Rapids before joining RSL in July, 2007.  He talked about his recent training spell with Kaiserslautern in the following interview on the US national team’s website.

ussoccer.com: What was the thought process in the decision to go train at Kaiserslautern?

Kyle Beckerman: “There had been talks about players from MLS going to train in different parts of Europe, so when Jurgen told me that I was going to Kaiserslautern, my first thought was excitement that I finally knew where I was going. I was looking forward to having a different experience. I guess I also got a bit nervous because it was a new team and new players, so I had some old feelings that I haven’t had in a while.”

ussoccer.com: You went into this training spell coming straight off the end of your MLS season and the two U.S. friendlies against France and Slovenia, so you had to shift your mindset pretty quickly. How was the experience when you first got there?

KB: “I came in not knowing much about the club or what was going to happen, and I was really surprised at the way they treated me. It was first class, from the president on down to the head coach and all the players. They welcomed me with open arms right away. When they picked Robbie and I up at the airport, they took us the stadium right away and introduced us to everyone from top to bottom, from the top executives to the janitors. Everyone knew everyone, and they treated everyone like family. We took a tour of the stadium, and they made us feel at home.”

ussoccer.com: You dove straight away into training sessions. What were your impressions of the level of play?

KB: “What I took from the training sessions was that there are a lot of guys playing in MLS who are at this level. It’s a different pressure here than in MLS, but in terms of technical ability, athletic ability, and just pure soccer smarts, we are right there with the players in the Bundesliga. That definitely stuck out. We hear in America how great it is over in Europe, but we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we have in the United States.”

ussoccer.com: The Germans are renowned for their training regimen. How did Kaiserslautern go about their schedule?

KB: “They have a double day at least one day a week. Early in the week they like to beat each other a little bit with one-v-ones and two-v-twos in small space. It’s a bit of a cage match at that point. We did some stair runs. Things lighten up as the week goes on. For two weeks I became part of the team, and they welcomed me like that. I fit right in.”

ussoccer.com: What was the banter like in the locker room?

KB: “What’s funny is how small the soccer world is. As soon as I got in the locker room and started talking to the players, I met a Danish guy who had played with Danny Califf. There was a guy who I had played with in Israel. There was one player who had played with Conor Casey at Karlsruher. You have all these connections that you have no idea about. As it turned it, you have a lot in common with all these players, which I thought was pretty cool.”

ussoccer.com: We also often talk here about the atmosphere in stadiums in Europe. Did you get to see a game?

KB: “We saw one game against Bayer Leverkusen. It’s a beautiful stadium, and we had great seats. We were watching the game and I thought it was a great atmosphere, then on Monday morning at training a couple of the guys said that fans had apologized to them because the atmosphere wasn’t as crazy as it usually is. Personally, I thought it was great!”

ussoccer.com: Did you have a chance to do much off the field?

KB: “When you play in the Bundesliga, that’s all you focus on. You have long days, and you’re just getting ready for the next day of training. We lived in a hotel in Ramstein near the U.S. military base. We found a couple good restaurants. The food was great. It some ways it was like soccer camp for two weeks, except I drove instead of taking a bus …”

ussoccer.com: Overall, what do you take away from the experience?

KB: “I really just learned what the day-to-day life is like for players, and seeing what that means. To be able to live through it was cool. There are a lot of similarities to what we have here. MLS is really on the right course towards catching the European countries.”
ussoccer.com: Is there anything specific that you hope to incorporate?

KB: “It’s going to sound weird, but what I’m definitely going to bring back is the approach on how to treat new players. The coolest thing about my time at Kaiserslautern was how welcoming they were to me. I’d like to share that with somebody that comes to my team. It’s not like I don’t already, but I’m going to try to add to that so when we do have a trialist or someone training with us, I’m going to expand that factor. I know how comfortable it made me feel. It could have been a lot different and they didn’t have to treat me the way they did, and I want to add that for me as a person. That goes for any team I’m on, whether it’s Real Salt Lake or the U.S National Team.”

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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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