DOWN IN DORTMUND: The U.S. Men's National Team began their descent into Germany on Sunday, the first wave of players arriving just after 7 a.m. local time from points across the United States. By day's end, 16 of 17 players will be encamped at the team hotel in Bochum, with Heath Pearce the only remaining addition. More than 60,000 tickets have been sold for the USA's match-up with three-time World Cup Champion Germany on March 22. Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. ET (live on ESPN2) and fans can also follow the action live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker. The U.S. held their first training session at 5 p.m. local time on Sunday at Lohrheide-Stadion in Bochum-Wattenscheid. Eleven players took part in the 45-minute session Sunday afternoon, with the Kansas City Wizards contingent arriving in the evening along with Gregg Berhalter, who traveled after his Energie Cottbus side garnered a 2-0 win away to Unterhaching that left Energie in sole possession of third place in the second Bundesliga.
WHERE ARE WE PLAYING? The USA-Germany game will be played at the largest football stadium in Germany which, depending on who you ask, is either called Westfalenstadion, Signal Iduna Park or FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. Here is a quick history of the stadium's name game. Built originally for use in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the Westfalenstadion was named after the former Prussian province of Westphalia, which is now part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia. The stadium originally had a capacity of 54,000 and was expanded over the years to its current capacity of 82,932 for Borussia Dortmund home games. Internationally, the stadium seats approximately 67,000. In December of 2005, the stadium's name was changed to Signal Iduna Park, as the insurance company purchased the naming rights for the facility. At the World Cup in June, however, the stadium will be known as FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. So for now, the U.S. is playing Germany at Signal Iduna Park, but should the USA finish in second place in Group E during the tournament, they will be playing their Round of 16 match at FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. Got it?
FEILHABER IN/HEJDUK HAMPERED: The U.S. received more bad news from the training room as Columbus Crew defender Frankie Hejduk has been ruled out with a strained hamstring. The news follows the removal of Landon Donovan from the roster due to a strained calf. As a result, U.S. Manager Bruce Arena has added Hamburg SV-based midfielder Benny Feilhaber. The 2005 U.S. Soccer Youth Male Athlete of the Year made the 18-man roster for the USA's 1-1 draw in Scotland on Nov. 12, 2005, in Glasgow, and is searching for his first cap with the senior team. Feilhaber had a standout performance in the 2005 World Youth Championship in Holland, part of the U-20 group that defeated Argentina en route to a Round of 16 finish.
DEISLER, FRINGS OUT FOR GERMANY: Germany boss Juergen Klinsmann has some injuries of his own to deal with, one particularly serious. Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Deisler, a likely starter in the World Cup, has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will be sidelined for at least six months. Werder Bremen midfielder Torsten Frings, who U.S. fans will remember for the infamous 'no-call' on an apparent handball along the German goal line during the USA’s 1-0 defeat in the 2002 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals, has also been ruled out. Finally, striker Michael Hanke, who suffered a bruised hip in VfL Wolfsburg's 1-O home defeat by Hamburg SV, has been scratched for Wednesday’s contest. Klinsmann has recalled Borussia Moenchengladbach striker Oliver Neuville to take his place. [Germany Roster]
PODCAST - GIBBS GOING FOR IT: For a man who does not possess patience as a virtue, the last nine months have been an unprecedented challenge for 26-year-old Cory Gibbs. After experiencing a mystery pain in the USA's 2-1 loss to England in May of last year, Gibbs has endured a frustrating journey on the road to recovery from persistent knee problems. A rising star on the U.S. backline over the last two years, he was forced to watch the team's march to qualification for Germany while seeing his World Cup dreams draped in doubt. Now at a new club and with renewed confidence and perspective, Gibbs enters Wednesday's match against Germany with a singular focus - ensuring that on May 15, his name is one of the 23 called out to represent the United States in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Gibbs talked with ussoccer.com about both the road traveled and the road ahead in this exclusive audio podcast.
PRE-WORLD CUP TUNE-UP IN GERMANY HAS FAMILIAR RING: The U.S. is playing a World Cup tune-up against Germany for the second-consecutive cycle, having faced the former champions just under four years ago in Rostock. The match, one of three falling on international fixture dates prior to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, took place March 27, 2002, at the 29,000 seat Ostseestadion. Clint Mathis struck twice for the U.S., but a three-goal spurt in seven minutes in the second half vaulted Germany to a 4-2 victory. Four players on this week's U.S. roster appeared in the match, including three starters.
CONVEY CONVERTS AS READING CLOSES IN ON FIRST TRIP TO TOP FLIGHT: Bobby Convey's strike in the 22nd minute ensured Reading's share of the spoils as the League Championship leaders marched closer to securing a spot in next year's English Premier League with a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton at Madjeski Stadium on Saturday. Convey drove home a John Oster cross from 10 yards out to give the Royals a 1-0 lead, and despite a Kenny Miller equalizer, Reading remained 16 points ahead of second-place Sheffield United and 20 points ahead of third-place Leeds. With Leeds having eight games remaining and the top two teams automatically gaining promotion, Reading now needs but a few precious points to reach the top division for the first time since the club's inception in 1871.
CENTER CIRCLE TRIVIA: While several players on the U.S. roster have played against Germany, only one has scored a goal. Can you name him?
Hint: Sorry, no hints. Check back on Tuesday for the answer.
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