Speed comes to the U.S. national team  

April, 18, 2012

It's NFL draft week, the second-greatest non-news news-generating cycle of the sports year, just behind NFL combine week. What can soccer fans learn from this? The genius of the NFL is that it entices fans to care about players they won't see on the field for at least five months, if ever, and talk about stuff that exists almost entirely in an offseason vacuum, like 40-yard dash times. How many who want projected top pick Andrew Luck on their squad have actually seen him play more than a bowl game or two? More important for our purposes, how many know that his dad, Oliver, as GM of the Houston Dynamo, presided over two MLS Cup victories?

Yet many of those same draftnik-come-latelys know all about Luck's personal workouts, and how his 40 time (4.59 seconds) compares with that of his main rival for the No. 1 selection, RG3 (an astonishing 4.38).

Which brings us to today's topic: How is the U.S. soccer team fixed for speed in this World Cup cycle?

It's not an easy answer. The soccer world doesn't have the same odd fetish for measurement that American sports does. But U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is changing that somewhat, with his use of trainer Mark Verstegen and Athletes Performance, which still makes a business of training would-be NFL players for the combine. Athletes Performance tests national teamers at every camp for stamina, strength, vertical jump and swiftness in a 30-yard sprint. But that information isn't released, so we're left to observation and stealthy conversations around the team to answer this question.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.