U.S. Web Log: Entries 1-20
For the 2006 FIFA World Cup, ussoccer.com is on the bus, in the meal room, at training, in the locker room and at the hotel to bring you those little tantalizing nuggets most people usually never find out.
June 6, 2006
During the World Cup, you’ll be able to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team on ussoccer.com’s Studio 90 daily webcast, you’ll be able to hear the players and coaches on our various podcasts and you’ll even get to read features about certain guys in our revamped daily Center Circle. But even with all that, we figured some of those slight everyday details, those little tantalizing nuggets most people usually never find out, would continue to fall through the cracks.
We can’t have that during a World Cup. So, to bring you the most comprehensive coverage, we’ve encamped ourselves within the team at all times and we’re writing down all we see and hear in our 24-hour-a-day blog, right here on ussoccer.com. We’re on the bus, in the meal room, at training, in the locker room, at the hotel and in the showe….er…wait, okay, not that far. We’re bringing you everything, just not EVERYTHING.
We never know when something interesting, outlandish or hilarious will happen, so check back every so often to get the latest update about the MNT’s journey through the World Cup.
Entry #20: June 6, 3:30, p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET)
Guess who just dropped by the Studio 90 set again - Bruce Arena! He's made a habit of stopping in every afternoon to see how the group is holding up (fine, thank you very much). Check out today's edition of Studio 90 for another impromptu visit from the boss.
Entry #19: June 6, 2:38 p.m. (8:38 a.m. ET)
Today's media frenzy centered on the 'mystery' lineup from yesterday's scrimmage. The session was listed as a 'closedoor training game' for about three months, yet the fact that we didn't wear jerseys (which we never do in these practice games) and wouldn't turn in a lineup (same deal) has caused much fascination and speculation with the press. Most of the U.S. reporters tried 20 different ways to ask players who played, how much, etc. Read the wire stories today and we'll find out how well the boys handled it ... The other hot topic amongst the international journalists is the security around the U.S. team. As all of you who have followed the team on ussoccer.com during qualifying can attest, having a police presence around is nothing new to the group. Sure there are a lot more scary looking guys around - and women, for that matter - but you hardly really notice anymore. Except for when the sirens are wailing every time - I think the whole city hears those. Rest assured, the U.S. team feels very safe.
Entry #18: June 6, 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m. ET)
Some quick hits from Tuesday's public training session.
- An estimated crowd of about 1,000 showed up to cheer on the team at Edmund Plambeck Stadium in Norderstedt, about one mile away from the HSV training ground.
- Clint Dempsey absolutely killed it today with a pair of back to back finishes during drill time. His first shot was a low rocket that Kasey Keller didn't even waste his time diving for, and on his subsequent chance he turned and finished far post with another low lazer.
- The goalkeepers were the stars of the finishing drill with fans cheering saves as well as goals, especially with Keller as one of the best-know players.
- Prior to the session, the U.S. team was introduced to the crowd and the team presented Mayor Grote of Norderstedt with a U.S. jersey.
- We're not sure if school is out -- but the kindergartener's (guess that German word!) were there in full force waving American flags. And not just soccer players were their heros -- the autograph-seeking youngsters were also having the local police sign their flags.
- Former U-17 MNT goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was in the house. He's been traveling around Europe looking at future career opportunities.
- Some of the loudest - or at least most recognizable cheers came from a group of U.S. college students studying abroad, or as they said "watching soccer and occassionally reading books on the side."
- Everyone loves Brett Farve -- including one fan in attendance. Green Bay native and Studio 90 host Neil Buethe struck up a conversation with Mike from the Navy who was wearing a Packers hat.
- One young boy was sporting a Princeton Soccer t-shirt, and his father explained that he lived in Princeton for 11 years and his son was born in New Jersey before the family moved back to Hamburg. He said that his son has taken to routing for the U.S. team ahead of Germany. When asked, the boy tabbed Kasey Keller as his favorite player.
- Keller, once again a focal point, received a policeman's hat from the local authorities. After posing for a few photos with the hat on, he joked with the journalists that he would leave it on the front seat of his Porsche with the hope of getting out of a ticket or two.
Entry #17: June 5, 5:00 p.m. (11:00 a.m. ET)
As we’re headed out the door to get on the bus for the Angola scrimmage today, we came across this media report. While not everyone on the U.S. team had a deep knowledge of Africa (the answer to Claudio Reyna’s trivia question from entry # 11 is Lesotho), it seems that the Angolan team also has a lack of familiarity to the Americas. The following is a direct quote by Angola head coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves to a South African newspaper:
"I think the friendly against the U.S., like the one we played against Argentina, will help to prepare us for the game against Mexico. It will help us to adapt to the Latin American style, so that we don't get sprung with too many surprises," he added.
It looks like they are in for a surprise in about one hour.
Entry #16: June 5, 4:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m. ET)
While we’ve been killing the weather here (easy to do when it’s cold and rainy every day…see, there we go again), we figured (ah…prayed) that it would get sunny at some point. Well, it looks like we might be right, as it’s supposedly getting nice just in time for our opening match against the Czech Republic. On weather.com’s 10-day forecast it has sunny skies starting on June 9 in Hamburg and no clouds in sight for game day in Gelsenkirchen, with a temperature around 75 to 80 degrees. Woo-hoo!
Entry #15: June 5, 3:35 p.m. (9:35 a.m. ET)
Another big turnout at the media day today. Despite today being a German holiday - you could literally walk downtown and not see a person, much less a car - over 40 journalists turned out for the hour-long event. Eleven different players came into the press hall in two groups, each spending a half hour addressing the throngs. The General Manager at the hotel was absolutely flabbergasted at the number of journalists on hand despite of the holiday. He told us that in Germany you are not allowed to wash your cars or even mow the lawn on the day of a public holiday - they are that focused on their day off. Anyway, there were a ton of popular subjects, not the least of which being Marcus Hahnemann and his family, some of which live in Hamburg. Marcus speaks better than passable German (at least that's what he says). You'll be able to hear and watch much of today's event in the sights and sounds section. Meantime, Bruce continues to make visits into Studio 90 to offer his .... um ... support (read advice!).
Entry #14: June 5, 3:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m. ET)
The friends and family of the U.S. players and staff are arriving in a couple days and we got to go check out their hotel along with Carlos Bocanegra, Josh Wolff and Tim Howard, which is about a 15-minute walk from the team hotel. It’s definitely a nice hotel and will keep the friends and family comfortable during their time in Hamburg, but there are some pretty funny quirks. For one, there are eight floors, but just because your hotel number is 8204 (yes, they are four numbers, not three) that doesn’t mean you are necessarily ON the eighth floor. Some rooms that begin with the number eight are on floor seven, some that begin with the number seven are on six, some that begin with the number six are on floor five, and so on and so on. Why? Well, we’re not sure. There must be some sort of reasoning behind it, but we haven’t done enough investigation to provide a clear explanation. If we can come up with it, we’ll let you know.
Here are a couple more interesting tidbits on the hotel:
- Every room has an egg-shaped footrest. It’s black and a little furry. It’s a bit odd, but we actually sat on the couch next to the bed and the egg rested our feet comfortably.
- The rooms also have a spotlight in the room that shines against the wall. We’ve seen either green or red. Why? Again, we don’t know, but maybe it will come in use at some time.
- The bathrooms are really spacious, with a shower and a bath, but there is an odd 12-inch wide full-length window (floor to ceiling) between the bathroom and the bedroom. Depending on where you are sitting in the room you could easily spy on a person cleaning up in the glass shower.
- Every so slightly, techno music can be heard when you come in the lobby of the hotel, and also when you’re waiting for the elevator on one of the floors.
Entry #13: June 5, 8:08 a.m. (2:08 a.m. ET)
Has anyone ever made the connection of how Germany’s Michael Ballack looks like Matt Damon? Ballack is a spokesperson for an electronics company in Germany and there are advertising billboards all over the bus stops here in Hamburg. With his hair parted down the middle, he looks so much like Damon in “Good Will Hunting” it’s scary. Seriously. When you get a chance, compare the two.
Entry #12: June 5, 5:51 a.m. (11:51 p.m. ET)
They finally broke down a sand volleyball tournament that had been going on here in front of the city hall building a couple blocks from our hotel…well, at least we think it’s been going on. They set it up on Monday, bringing in a ton of sand for a few courts, and also put up stands for fans to watch. Whether they did watch, we don’t know. During the three or four days they played games, it was cold and rainy. We never actually saw people playing, only the sight of a ball flying through the air as we drove by to training one day. How’d you like to be the PR guy trying to promote that tournament? First, how do you get people pumped up for volleyball when all the media is concentrated on the World Cup? And second, most guys might go for the girls in the bikinis, but in this weather they were probably in raincoats. Anyway, they shut it down yesterday.
Entry #11: June 4, 8:43 p.m. (2:49 p.m. ET)
Not sure how it got started, but the discussion at tonight's dinner table revolved around the nations of Africa. A debate ensued amongst the players about the total number of countries, with John O'Brien, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and others registering their guesses. The crack communications staff was called into action to settle the debate, and when the final tally came in, it was (Have you written down your guess yet?) - 54 countries, and a total of 61 territories. JOB was the winner ... Keeping in the same theme, Claudio Reyna posed the question of which is the only country in the world to be completely landlocked by one other country. Hint - it's in Africa as well ... We'll save that answer for tomorrow (and no, none of our guys got it ...).
Entry #10: June 4, 3:49 p.m. (9:49 a.m. ET)
Preston Zimmerman was watching the U.S. practice out at HSV this afternoon. Preston signed with Hamburg earlier this year and has been with the club since February. He couldn’t get in to see the training at first (similar to when he tried to give us a tour for Studio 90), but finally someone at the club was able to explain to the police that he was okay to come in. He sat with a HSV official at the end of the field next to the training center and watched the entire session.
Entry # 9: June 4, 12:51 p.m. (6:51 a.m ET)
Just finished up the press conference for today. Mooch was there in place of Bruce (he’s got to take a break some days), along with Dempsey and Convey. You can see some of the conference on ussoccer.com’s Studio 90 show later today, and access the entire podcast as well, but we thought it was necessary for us to get out this classic line delivered by Mooch. A reporter asked if Clint would be putting together any CD’s while he’s in Germany and Mooch replied, “Bruce is working on his own rap video. It’s going to be released after the World Cup.” We’d pay money to see that. Top cash we’re talking here. How ‘bout we get a Bruce and Deuce collaboration!? I like that: Bruce-Deuce. Can you imagine Bruce freestyling? Hey, we are in Germany. If the Bruce-Deuce duo were to ever get going, this is the place. I mean, they thought Hasselhoff was one of the greatest singers of the ‘90s. Bruce-Deuce could be the next Hasselhoff!
Entry #8: Posted June 4, 8:08 a.m. (2:08 a.m. ET)
Was in the lobby and saw Marcus talking with one of the hotel staff. I walked over to the elevators and he jumped on as well. We were talking and right away I noticed he had the Nike Maxsight contact lenses on. Now, while these innovative contact lenses can provide athletes with a sight advantage by eliminating glare and enhancing contrast, they can make your eyes a bit scary looking. Hahnemann’s were tinted orange and it’s a bit odd to look at, especially when you don’t know that he the person has contact lenses on. We asked him if he was wearing them and replied, “Yea, and I think I just scared the crap out of the hotel staff.”
Speaking of the hotel staff, they have been unbelievably helpful to the players and entire staff. If you’re ever in need of something they'll have it for you or will find a way to get it done. Seriously, there's been a couple times when we've been thirsty and literally, a staff member walks through the door with, "Hellooo...we have drinks for you." Or, we'll be talking about what we're going to do for dinner and Markus, the director of food and beverage, will pop in and provide us, players and other staff with some restaurant options, call for a reservation and provide directions on how to get there. He does so much, you have expect him to drive you there. We’d like to thank General Manager Stephen Blackburne for all his and his staff's hard work, as it is a huge benefit to know we have everything we need at our fingertips.
Entry #7: Posted June 3, 4:43 p.m. (10:43 a.m. ET)
Just dropped in the training room where Marcus Hahnemann was getting a massage from a trainer and Claudio was getting stretched out. They were both watching the England-Jamaica game that was being played live on one of the channels here in the hotel (4-0 at the time). In the adjacent connecting room was Landon who was curled up on a couch fast asleep.
Entry #6: Posted June 3, 2:34 pm. (8:34 a.m. ET)
Players got their accreditation taken care of today, as members from FIFA came in and took pictures of the players and staff in the players lounge during lunch. The photographs will be put on their credential, which they’ll have to wear to get inside the stadiums for practices and, most importantly, games. All the players had to come in and put on their correct jersey for the picture while holding a piece of paper that had their name and “USA” written on it. While holding the sheet of paper for his picture, Landon said, “This is like in first grade.” The photographer asked Dempsey to smile for his shot after the first two he didn’t. “Deuce” joked around with him, saying how he was smiling. The staff on the other hand had to put on blue warm-up jackets. While people might not know all the 23 players, they definitely know Arena. When Bruce walked up with his jacket, he held up the piece of paper just like everyone else, but the photographer said, “I don’t think we need that. We know exactly who you are.”
Entry #5: Posted June 3, 2:12 p.m. (8:12 a.m. ET)
Coming back from practice, we figured something was going on around the hotel. There were a couple guys dressed straight out of the 70s with bellbottoms, large-collar shirts and curly blond wigs. Less than an hour later, sitting in our team room we were enticed to the window with yells and a blaring horn coming from the street below. A look out the window revealed a busload of the decked out ‘70s partygoers driving slowly down the street. We figured the sight of them waving out the window meant there was some kind of parade going on, but there wasn’t anybody following behind so this was either a stand alone bus promoting something or the smallest parade we’ve ever seen.
Entry #4: Posted June 3, 1:31 p.m. (7:31 a.m. ET)
Also, as we were leaving training this morning we saw a car decorated with “Just Married” signs. We have no idea who they were or why the car was parked at HSV’s training site, but congratulations to the two people getting hitched.
Entry #3: Posted June 3, 1:01 p.m. (7:01 a.m. ET)
Fans have been lining the streets on the team's route to training, and today the U.S. team got a special wave from German international legend Uwe Seeler. One of only two players to score a goal in four World Cups
(Pele is the other), Seeler is a Hamburg legend, playing for HSV his entire career despite numerous big money offers to play in other leagues in Europe. He retired in 1972 having made over 700 appearances and scored over 550 goals for HSV. His home happens to sit adjacent to HSV's training ground... Speaking of the training ground, there was a remarkable drop in attendance by German media at training today. Loss of interest in the U.S. team? Not exactly. Try a three-day weekend thanks to a public holiday to celebrate Pfingsten, which falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. No papers will be published Monday, which could make tomorrow's session even emptier. Even World Cup mania slows down for a day off...
Entry #2: Posted June 2, 10:47 p.m. (4:47 p.m. ET)
We didn't think the food in the hotel could be any better than we had at the J.W. Marriott in Seoul in 2002, and like all good surprises, this one came out of nowhere. Incredible meats, breads, local cheeses, mango smoothi (must be the German spelling), and desserts which would tempt even the most disciplined of athletes. Yes, a few lost the battle, but they did it with a smile on their face. In fact, it's one of the challenges that players face in this type of environment: mind over matter, or in this case, over stomach. The presence of such fantastic food is very enticing, particularly when it is so abundant and available, and eating is one easy habit to fall into when you have a little time on your hands.
We'll see how the boys fare - in the meantime, there's a coffee cake with our name on it ...
Entry #1: Posted June 2, 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET)
Ahhhh…where should we start? After the Latvia game, the players jetted home to be with friends and family for three days, but those days seemed like mere hours when the team was actually back together in the Newark Airport on Thursday afternoon.
Some of the players actually flew into New York a day earlier to do some last minute media on Good Morning America. Conrad, Ching, Gooch, Hahnemann and Dempsey all got in on Wednesday night and were put up for the night, but there was almost a big snafu the following day as the two boys from L.A. almost didn’t make it. LD and Albright’s flight was delayed and it was a toss-up whether they’d make it to the show on time. Fifteen minutes till the show was to hit, no L.A. boys. Ten minutes, still not there. Nine minutes…oh, man, GMA is getting nervous. Eight minutes…whew, in comes Landon and Chris and the tension dissipates, the producers finally breath a sigh of relief and the show begins. The players were literally running in to make it on time, barely sneaking in for a bathroom break before.
They actually shot the piece at an indoor soccer field at Chelsea Piers, kicking off live at 8:50 a.m. ET. GMA’s weatherman had on a white U.S. jersey and goalie gloves, and after some small talk with Landon, all the players got a chance to shoot on him. Pretty humorous stuff. Check it all out here on our all_access video.
After doing the show, some guys returned to the W Hotel to catch up on some z’s, while Hahnemann and Albright took a trip to the Nike store to design their own shoes. You actually need to make an appointment to get it done and they had their “shoe time” all set up earlier, so they were able to get some new, and unique, kicks for the World Cup.
All the players met at the airport for their 4:30 departure on Lufthansa. The team settled in at the Lufthansa business class waiting room and guys caught up on their three days of vacation and did some last minute emails. Then it was time to board.
The team traveled in style as every player and staff member had their own business class seat, which reclined almost entirely horizontal, giving guys the ability to get some sleep. They didn’t sleep the whole time though, of course, with some of the best “airplane” food you’re going to see. Dinner was either a choice of chicken or shrimp, and there was cheese, bread, desserts, coffee, chocolate, and more to keep the guys happy.
Besides eating and sleeping, the coaches did some scouting work and the guys passed around copies of the latest Sports Illustrated with Landon, Beaz, Convey and Gooch on the cover. Convey joked a little bit about not really being on the cover (he’s the smallest picture of the four), but he was reminded, “You’re on the cover of SI.” Fair enough.
The players were also each given personal DVD players to watch movies, with “Walk the Line” being the most chosen of the bunch.
Benny Olsen was his usual comedic self, jacking up the leggings some of the players had that they wore to reduce any swelling from the flight. It was an image you had to see, but probably didn’t want to at the same time. Either way, we’ve got it for you in our first Studio 90 show, which will debut later today.
The U.S. finally touched down at the Hamburg Airport at 6:03 a.m., with a throng of media – about 75 total – waiting for them on the runway. With a red carpet laid out to meet the team, the players and staff walked down the stairwell and were greeted by FIFA members before boarding the awaiting bus, all the while cameras shuttering and videographers asking for players to turn and smile as they passed by.
While Bruce and Claudio were greeted with traditional flowers, the more unique aspect was the 12-person chorus that was singing Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.”
The bus ride to the hotel, usually a 30-minute trip, was a quick 11 minutes as eight motorcycle cops were able to provide an unbelievably efficient escort, which, along with the team bus, included four cars behind and four ahead, full of security and affiliated team staff.
When the players arrived to the hotel, they grabbed their personal bags, took a look at the helicopter overhead and either grabbed breakfast or hit the hay.
Today was the team's open training session. There's a lot to take in, and a lot to get done today so we'll go "quick hits" style with what we saw.