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Defender Carlos Bocanegra's First Installment of "Off The Ball"

OFF THE BALL, a chronicle of the U.S. Men's National Team and their journey in France as seen from the unique perspective of U.S. defender and SoCal native Carlos Bocanegra

I. On The Road Again

Yesterday we set up shop in Lyon, after a 15-hour trip that took us from Washington Dulles to Lyon via Paris.  The travel itself was quite long, but yet not too bad (as long as you don't mind a middle seat.  Tough being a youngster sometimes...)  When we finally arrived at the airport, we were welcomed by the refreshing feeling of super-hot weather.  On the bus ride to the hotel, everyone was sweating ridiculously bad.  Marcus "Frank the Tank" Hahnemann took the initiative, lost his shirt and was airing himself out walking up and down the bus.  The long travel led to many bad jokes on the bus ride, so we were happy when we finally reached our sweet hotel in the city.  Pam Perkins, our general manager, had taken care of everything as usual, so dinner and our rooms were ready straight away.

II.  Cross Colors/Counter Culture

That night, with most of the players ankles being swollen from the long flights - we like to call this 'kankle-itis' - we went to our rooms, showered up, and got off our feet for a minute.  Bruce had told us not go directly to sleep, and to get out of the hotel for a bit.  We are staying in downtown Lyon, and there are lots of cafes, shops, and people milling around.  Most of the guys went to check out the city.  One thing I have noticed about France is no one seems to have sent them the memo about air conditioning.  It's like 90 degrees at nine o'clock at night, and everyone in the cafes and shops have their doors wide open.  I guess that's how they do it over here?  Anyways, the hotel is really nice, with the typical midget-sized beds you usually find in Europe.  It's funny to see how the guys that play for clubs in Europe adapt differently than the MLS players.  I noticed DaMarcus Beasley has put his cell phone back on his clip for a little while.  It's not been glued to his ear.

III.  The Back Four (Holla Back)

I'm going to talk a different set of roommates every day, getting their responses to four questions.  We'll see how the answers differ from room to room.  Today we've got the unusual duo of Steve Cherundolo (5'6", 145 lbs) and Marcus Hahnemann (6'3", 220 lbs), who seem to remind everyone of Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins ...  

Steve grew up in San Diego, and went to the University of Portland.  He's now learning Deutsche at Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga.  Steve loves cafe (as you'll find out).  Marcus grew up in Seattle, attending Seattle Pacific University.  He plays for Reading in the English First Division (all our 'keepers seem to like England!).  He's married to the beautiful Amanda, and they have two boys, Hunter (4) and Austin (3).  Here goes ...

1.  What's your favorite thing to do outside of soccer?

Steve: "I normally like to surf and play golf in my down time, but living in Germany doesn't enable me to do that.  Instead, I enjoy sitting in cafes, drinking cafe with friends."

Marcus: "I enjoy hanging out with my kids and modifying my cars."

2. For you, what are the biggest pro's and con's of playing in Europe?

Steve: "On the positive side, I like how everything is more compact, and the way of life is much simpler than the U.S.  It's not as fast paced.  I enjoy killing time in cafes, drinking cafe.  On the down side, it's not as convenient or service-oriented as the States.  Sometimes if you need something on a Sunday, it's tough because almost everything is closed, so you have to prepare a little bit better."

Marcus: "The best thing about being over there is the soccer.  You are engrossed in it.  It's everywhere.  That's also a negative because by the end of the year, you just want to watch some baseball or something.  It gets to be too much."

3.  Which superhero would you compare yourself to and why?

Steve: "I would say the The Hulk because I can be pretty mean and aggressive when I don't have my cafe in the mornings.  Everyone takes me for this little sweet guy.  They don't know how tough I really am!

Marcus: "The Hulk.  Always trying to help, but often misunderstood."

4. What's your biggest pet peeve?  What really pushes your buttons?

Steve: "When people leave their stuff lying around everywhere - like Marcus.  And I have no time for nailbiters ...

Marcus: "Neat freaks where everything has got to be put away, hair combed, bed made ...  Steve makes the bed before the maid comes in.  Me, I'm pretty easy going...

IV  Quote of the Day

" I feel great.  Only been up since 3:30 this morning..." - Taylor Twellman, on being asked how he is adjusting to the time change, which apparently is 'not so good'

Team dinner is calling.  We'll catch up again soon.  Later ...