MNT Jan 24, 2012
It's been less than 24 hours since the team arrived in Panama City, and already there's been a lot of activity.
The journey started at 6:45 a.m. MT in Phoenix and ended at 8 p.m. ET in Panama City. In between there was a stop in Houston, where guys got their last American food for a couple days, got a few extra bucks (Did you know the currency of Panama is the U.S. dollar?), and signed some autographs and posed for photos. It's four hours from Houston to Panama City, which most of the players spent either sleeping, reading or doing crossword puzzles - great work, Jeff Larentowicz!
Several members of the Panamanian Federation were waiting at the airport along with U.S. Soccer managing director Tom King to greet the team and smooth the entry process. It always been our experience that the Panamanians are extremely gracious and welcoming, and this was certainly no different. After interviews with Jurgen Klinsmann, Martin Vasquez and Ricardo Clark (did you know that Ricardo got his first cap with the U.S. when he played against Panama on Oct. 12, 2005? The reporters here sure did), the team stepped out into the warm and humid night air and boarded the bus for the 30-minute ride into the city.
There was a light stretch before dinner, at which point we noticed members of the Panama team coming out of their meal room - yes, the teams are staying in the same hotel. It's a friendly, after all. Some guys got treatment, and by 11 p.m. most people were lights out.
Tuesday morning began with a few interviews with traveling U.S. media, and then it was back onto the bus for the visit to the Panama Canal. When you arrive in a country at night, the lack of visibility gives you the sense that you could be anywhere. It's only in daylight when you get a feel for a place, and the ride through the city showed a vibrant downtown that gave way to sweet scenery heading to the canal.
As the say, timing is everything, and the team's was impeccable today. As soon as they arrived, a ship was crossing through the lock system which represents the engineering marvel of the canal. The players were duly impressed, and then taken inside to watch a video on the history of the project. Finally, they were afforded the rock-star status given to celebrities and dignitaries who visit by having the chance to be photographed in the iconic spot at the edge of the canal. Of course, there were dozens of onlookers, including many U.S. fans who are heading to the match tomorrow night.
After lunch at the hotel and a few hours of down time, it's time for a team meeting to review video on Panama before heading to the stadium field for training. Estadio Rommel Fernandez underwent major renovations since the last time the U.S. played here in 2005, so everyone is stoked to get out there.
Check back later as Studio 90 provides a preview of USA-Panama.
Oh, and Benny Feilhaber cut his hair ...