CARSON, Calif. — As the U.S. national team's latest winter camp concludes, three members of Real Salt Lake find their international careers at different extremes.
For Luis Gil, 20, the future is not quite now. United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann invited the midfielder as one of several young players to evaluate four years before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But for veterans Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, this latest camp is their best — and perhaps last — sustained opportunity to impress Klinsmann before this year's World Cup in Brazil.
"Any time you come in for a January camp, you know it's going to be a battle," Beckerman said. "This is an opportunity for the coach in a really long period of time to see you in practice, not just in the games, and see how you react to different things."
Since Beckerman is 31 years old and Rimando is 34, this might be the last chance for either to fulfill their dream of representing their homeland in soccer's biggest event.
"I can't really look at it like that," Beckerman said. "Maybe three or four years ago, I didn't think I'd have this opportunity. So I don't feel any more pressure. I feel like I'm playing with house money."
Rimando tries to maintain emotional balance.
"Pressure? Yeah, I think there's pressure," Rimando said. "Jurgen's made it very clear that the door is always open. The next guy wants to take your position. So you've got to be sharp and, sometimes, pressure comes with that.
"But it's about being a good pro, being consistent and showing Jurgen why you deserve to be in camp."
Gil is trying to provide Klinsmann with such rationale in his first camp with the senior national team.
"My goal is to work hard always for Jurgen," said Gil, who played for the United States on the youth level. "Jurgen's not looking for guys who just use (the camp) as preseason. He wants guys to get going.
"I came in with the mindset to work hard and get things going from the beginning. Obviously, the level is a lot higher. You're playing with the best of the best. It's always going to be difficult, but I feel like I'm handling myself well."
Beckerman more than agrees.
"Luis has done great," RSL's captain said. "He's used to this type of thing. When he came into our team, he was 16, and he was coming into a team of grown men. He's got a really good head on his shoulders and I think he just adjusts really well to any situation. You would think he's a lot older than he is."
Meanwhile, Beckerman and Rimando have to overcome a crowd at their respective positions.
Ahead of Beckerman in central midfield are international veterans Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. Behind him is Dax McCarty, who has impressed with the New York Red Bulls.
At goal, Rimando has to repel challenges from Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid while trying to supplant two veterans of the World Cup and England's Premier League: Tim Howard and Brad Guzan.
RSL's goalkeeper also has other responsibilities.
"I'm one of the older guys here, and I have to show young guys what it's like to be on the national team," Rimando said. "For me, it's just keeping it loose. When some of the young guys come in, it's a bit frantic. They're a bit nervous.
"But they're there for a reason. Jurgen likes the way they play. If they're too tense or a bit nervous, they're not going to get the best out of themselves. One way is keeping everybody calm and loose, and having fun."
That was true when the squad spent 12 days in Brazil as a logistical dress rehearsal.
"We wanted to get a lot of work and it was really hot and humid," Beckerman said. "It had been the hottest temperature since 1940-something. They definitely made us hit the wall, where you're extremely tired, and they want to see how you react to that."
Training in Brazil also provided unique motivation.
"It was a bit of a taste of what may come in a couple of months," Rimando said. "The players are anxious to get down there. It was good to see what it was like and get us hungrier."
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