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Sports

Bundesliga Holds Valuable Lessons for US Players

Even after the US team's 4-1 loss against Germany in a soccer friendly Wednesday, many Americans will continue gaining experience they wouldn't be able to get at home by chasing Germans across the Bundesliga's fields.

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Americans such as goalie Kasey Keller are still an exception in the German league

After the routing of the US team, German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann seemed to revel in his chance to shoot back at members of the media who spent three weeks attacking him after Germany's 4-1 loss to Italy at the beginning of the month.

"Now we know where the enemy within is," he said after the game Wednesday. "This win will allow us to carry on in the next few weeks in a much calmer atmosphere."

While US coach Bruce Arena admitted he wouldn't want the kind of obsessive attention Klinsmann deals with to follow him back to the United States, he acknowledged that the pressure European teams face, even at club level in the German league or Bundesliga and other European leagues, helps American players there develop faster than they could at home.

Bruce Arena

Bruce Arena said the US leagues does still create some top-quality players

Nothing like European experience

"When you play on a regular basis in top European competition, you improve at a greater rate than you do in our domestic league -- there's no secret about it," Arena said. "The games are more meaningful, more purposeful."

Of the pool of about 70 players available to Arena to choose for his World Cup roster, nine play in England, four in Germany, three in Holland two in Norway while Belgium and Denmark both have one US player each.

Bundesliga experience has helped national team members including goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who plays for Mönchengladbach; Gregg Berhalter of Energie Cottbus and Hanover 96's Steve Cherundolo solidify their spots on the US roster.

"I wasn't certain how he was going to do, but I can see differences in Steve between now and 2001 when he first came to us," Arena said of Cherundolo. "He is a much more experienced player and he is a very good player, and if he remains healthy, there's no reason to believe that he won't be in our first 11."

Steve Cherundolo Fußball USA

Steve Cherundolo plays for Hanover 96

Americans need to earn their place

Cherundolo, Hanover's deputy captain, said playing for a German team isn't just a matter of strolling onto the field and taking over.

"The mentality here is difficult, and I think they try to beat you down and build you up in their own way, with their own set of rules," he said, adding that playing in Germany was an opportunity he wouldn't turn down.

Playing in Germany also keeps soccer from becoming a routine, according to Keller.

"It has helped maintain my levels of motivation," he said in a FIFA interview. "You're thinking, 'This is fresh, this is not something I have done before'."

Despite FIFA recently ranking the US the fifth best team in the world -- Germany came in at 22 -- American players aren't receiving any handouts when it comes to club playing time.

"We realize that the respect that the Americans have at this point in time is small," Arena said. "Everything we earn, we have to earn on the field and that's fair enough."

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