One unique absence from the Portland Timbers squad during the opening of 2014 preseason training this week has been defender Michael Harrington. Coming off a stellar 2013 season that saw the outside back log a team-leading and career-best 2,951 minutes, Harrington was called up to be part of U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s January training camp. Though a consistent member of USMNT youth teams at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels, this was Harrington’s first invitation to the senior level.
It’s been a busy month for Harrington. The U.S. first began camp at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on January 6 before heading to Brazil in what was labeled as a kind of “dry run” ahead of this summer’s 2014 World Cup. Using the lush facilities of Sao Paulo FC as a center, Harrington and his U.S. teammates trained at what will be the USMNT’s home base during the tournament. Spending time in the city as well as playing in a number of closed-door scrimmages against Sao Paulo, the trip south allowed the team to get a feel for the country and climate.
“I think it’s been going well,” said Harrington earlier this week. “It’s been great to get in and see the quality of play at the national team level and get yourself accustomed to it. As an experience, it’s been a good thing for me. A good start for the year.”
WATCH: MLSsoccer.com previews the match
Klinsmann's January camp culminates tomorrow with back at the StubHub Center for a friendly against South Korea (2 pm PT; ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas).
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “We’ve worked hard for three weeks now. It’ll be great to just get out on the field against some real competition with a sold out crowd here at the StubHub.”
Apart from a chance to play on an international level, the camp and game could also help propel Harrington into the mix for a coveted slot on the final World Cup roster. Previous January camps have served as showcases for players who haven’t been part of the USMNT's usual suspects. Jimmy Conrad’s play in 2006 at the January camp helped gain him a roster spot for the tournament in Germany while Robbie Findley made the jump after the winter camp in 2010 for South Africa.
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, Harrington has enjoyed his time with the national team. All but one of this camp’s roster are based in MLS and the speed of play as well as great training and fitness work has not only been something Harrington values, but is also something he knows will provide him an excellent foundation for when he returns to the Timbers preseason camp.
“It’s exciting to see the guys you play against all year long,” said Harrington. “It’s exciting going to work every day. It brings your best level out of you. I’ll be sad when it’s over.
It’ll help a great bit obviously with fitness and things like that. I’ll be able to join my club at a good base level. The speed of play and the competition level here is top notch so I’ll just try to bring that into my club and keep the standard high to have a good 2014.”