DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, June 28, 2016
With the curtains drawn on the Copa América Centenario, players are beginning to return to their clubs for the pre- or current seasons.
Players whose seasons ended directly prior to the pre-tournament training camp and tournament itself are given roughly a three-week break before linking up with their teams for ongoing pre-season preparations.
After a rough final two games, several players are heading into their vacations or returning to the clubs with more than just the mental bruises of two straight losses to finish the tournament.
John Brooks was forced to sit out the USA's final game - playing for third place against Colombia - on Saturday night due to what US Soccer officially described as a "knee inflammation".
The uncertain nature of the injury and the refusal of US Soccer on gameday to completely rule him out gave the impression that his absence could merely be a measure of caution. However, words by Hertha's general manager Michael Preetz in the local media on Tuesday do give rise for concern that the injury.
"We do not know how severe the injury is," Preetz told local media outlet BZ Berlin, adding "he will now return to Berlin and then be examined by our team doctor."
Preetz went on to explain that the team had originally expected him to link up with the rest of the team by July 18 so that he could be ready for their Europa League qualification round beginning 10 days later. The team fears, however, that this could be derailed by his injury.
Brooks has had multiple cases of returning from international duty with injuries which subsequently cut into his time on the field for his primary employers Hertha BSC. This has been a source of irritation for team management, and yet another instance will only exacerbate any antagonistic feelings towards Klinsmann and US Soccer.
Similarly, Michael Bradley is seeing his immediate participation in Toronto FC's ongoing season limited by injury. The US team captain appeared to suffer some kind of injury early in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third-place game.
While he did stay on the field and continued to play before being subbed out with 11 minutes in regulation, Toronto FC has indicated that there are some lingering effects keeping him from play.
The team is scheduled to play Vancouver on Tuesday night in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final in Vancouver. Bradley had immediately joined the team to participate in their quest to regain the Voyageurs Cup for the first time since 2012, and more importantly, entry into the the CONCACAF Champions League.
However, they will be forced to do it without their captain. "The TFC captain returned to Toronto after joining the team in Vancouver in order to reassess the knee injury he suffered while with the United States National Team," the team stated on their website.
Fabian Johnson was also forced to miss the third place game with a groin problem, the first sign of trouble during this summer after what had been an injury-hit spring.
He is presumably also scheduled to join his club team Borussia Mönchengladbach in mid-July after a short break, so barring a preemptive statement by the team, the exact severity of the injury will not be know for a few more weeks.
There is, however, some encouraging news for returning players after the tournament. Defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen, who did not play a single minute for Jürgen Klinsmann, has foregone his three-week break and linked directly up with his club team Heart of Midlothian.
The Scottish team's head coach Robbie Neilson did confirm to the Edinburgh Evening News on Tuesday that Kitchen will indeed be in the squad for the team's Europa League qualifier at home against Estonian club FC Infonet Tallinn on Thursday night.
"Perry will arrive back on Wednesday and he'll go straight into the squad. I've no fears about fatigue or anything with him," Neilson confirmed.
This will be a boost to the team, who must navigate four round of qualifying and a total of eight games if they hope to reach the group stage of the competition.