U.S. Web Log: Heading Home
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 #100: June 23, 4:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. ET)
Pretty quiet in the halls today. The first group of players left the hotel at 5:30 this morning to head back state-side, with the majority departing throughout the day. The holdovers are mostly the Euro guys getting ready to head on vacation. Just like that, our Hamburg outpost is becoming a ghost town. The staff are still here closing up shop, and some are even threatening to take a couple days off and enjoy Germany. Man, even though you know that eventually the journey has to end, it's still amazing how quickly things change when it does...
Entry #99: June 23, 4:05 p.m. (10:05 a.m . ET)
Got through our last press conference today, and an important one it was. Claudio Reyna made it official when he announced his retirement from international soccer. You'll be able to hear most of it later, but one thing that stuck out was Bruce's genuine appreciation for Claudio as a player as well as a man. Claudio brought so much to the group that people on the outside don't have the benefit of seeing, and hopefully when the history books are written U.S. Soccer fans will appreciate the truly great contribution he made to the national team's program.
Entry #98: June 22, 11:41 p.m. (5:41 p.m . ET)
Pretty interesting scene here at the Park Hyatt. The fifth-floor hallway is littered with items to get signed - jerseys, balls, hats, Ben Olsen's back (yeah, a little weird). Families are hanging out, and guys are saying their last goodbyes. It's been a fantastic ride with this group, most importantly because they are such good people. Yes, we're about to quote "The American President": It's all about character, and these guys are full of it.
Entry #97: June 21, 10:30 p.m. (4:27 p.m. ET)
Watching the games tonight on Premiere Live and noticed that this channel has chosen an interesting pair of analysts to dissect the games. Joining the host are Christoph Daum and Stefan Effenberg. For those of you who don't know your German soccer history, Daum is a former coach at Bayer Leverkusen who had been tabbed by the DFB as Germany's next national team coach back in 2000. Unfortunately for Daum, that never happened after he was fired from Leverkusen for a failed drug test and then allegations began arising about heavy drug use and other unsavory affairs. As for Effenberg, he will always be remembered for being sent home by Germany at the 1994 World Cup in the United States for giving the finger to fans at a game in Dallas against South Korea. That gesture is often referred to as "showing the Effenberg" now in Germany. Interesting pair. I wish I knew what they were saying. I bet it is entertaining.
Entry #96: June 21, 6:32 p.m. (12:32 p.m. ET)
It’s all about timing. Earlier today we shot the final segment of Wednesday’s edition of ‘Studio 90’ from the team bus, procuring the help of our bus driver, Chris Nirode. Well, no less than two hours later, we checked the Studio 90 email account and discovered we had received an email from his wife, Aki, who wondered if there was anyway that we could include Chris in one of the segments for “at least a few seconds.” She had sent the email before we shot the segment...odd, right?
While shooting the segment, Chris had told us his wife was a big fan of ‘Studio 90’ and watched it every day, even catching a glimpse of Chris’s hands on the steering wheel during one piece. Well, we’re happy to inform Aki that she’ll get the chance to see more than her husband’s hands and in the end she didn’t even need to ask as we were on it! A point of reference Chris wanted us to make was that he was not in his usual uniform (suit and tie) for the shoot and would have rather been dressed up. At the time though, he was literally cleaning the bus to make sure it looked good for the team, so cut him some slack, alright?
As a side note, we’ve talked with Chris a couple of times during team meals and he has quite an interesting background, which his wife also included in her email. Chris lived in the small town of Panora, Iowa (or Linden, Iowa, as they are very close to each other) as an exchange student when he was a junior in high school back in 1975-76. He said he still has a close relationship with the family he lived with and many others from the town, explaining to us that it’s been easy to stay in touch because not too many people he met have moved out of Iowa. Also, due to his skills as a bus driver, but also his ability to speak English (there are only three drivers that can speak English from his bus company), he has also driven for a number of other American VIPs, including former President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, during their visits to Berlin.
Entry #95: June 21, 12:20 a.m. (6:20 p.m. ET)
Those of us on the staff not the 'victim' of the prank can confirm that the unsuspecting target got completely punk'd. After weeks of extremely hard work, even the sharpest minds can be susceptible to attack, which made the timing all the more perfect. The look on his face was pretty priceless throughout - where are the Studio 90 cameras when you need them? Hats off to Bruce for really keeping the ruse going. The man can already wind people up with the best of them, and the chance to really make someone sweat elevated his game to another level. And to his credit, the victim laughed his you-know-what off when the joke was revealed. But not harder than we did ...
Entry #94: June 21, 12:15 a.m. (6:15 p.m. ET)
The team moved operations to Nuremberg this afternoon, setting up shop literally on the training grounds of FC Nürnberg. The window at the end of the hallway looks out onto the training field. Most of the doors of the rooms were left open during the England-Sweden game so comments could be traded across the hall. A little on FC Nürnberg: Knows simply as 'Der Club,' 1. FCN is probably the most famous club in Germany - no, it's not Bayern Munich for all you Champions League followers. Founded in 1900, the club began playing football a year later and by the 1920's was the most dominant team in Germany, capturing five national championships (the Bundesliga wasn't formed until 1963)in that decade alone. The 1927 final between Nürnberg and Hertha BSC Berlin was the first match to be broadcast live and in full on German radio. The official title of the club:
1.Fußball-Club Nürnberg - Verein für Leibesübungen e.V. If you're interested in learning about the fascinating history of German football - including deciphering just what the heck all those words in their name actually mean - pick up a copy of 'Tor!: The Story of German Football', by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger. Fantastic read ...
Entry #93: June 20, 11:25 p.m. (5:25 p.m. ET)
Back at the Friends and Family hotel, some of the USSF staff sat down to catch the England vs. Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago vs. Paraguay matches. While most of the crowd camped out in front of the Panasonic 42" flat screen on one end of the room, a crowd of one sat at the other end as Trinidad tried to shock the world and advance out of group play. None other than former T & T international Brian Haynes (the original MLSer and former FC Dallas assistant) was rooting on his countrymen and in some cases former teammates, who unfortunately didn't get the result they needed in either match.
Haynes told the story of how Chris Birchall (the only white player on the team) was discovered by midfielder Aurtis Whitley during a club game in England, as Whitley caught Birchall's distinct T&T accent and asked him where he was from when Birchall said "Give me the ball, man." Birchall said “Trinidad” and Whitley called the coaching staff after the game, and Birchall earned a call up shortly thereafter.
Also interesting, was everyone with ties to Trinidad's Evans Wise. Gail Rongen, Thomas Rongen's wife, knew Evans when he played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996, and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati was one of the MLS executives who helped bring Wise (and many other players) into the league its inaugural year. Their assessment of Wise's play was the same then as it is now: he’s a great player (but not the best crosser of the ball).
Entry #92: June 20, 9:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m. ET)
Wow. That was a classic. At dinner tonight the entire coaching staff pulled a pretty substantive prank on one of the team's administrative staff. We can't tell you who or what, but we can tell you it lasted for a full hour and the person in question was completely fooled. He clearly did not enjoy his dinner as the "news" of the prank was bandied about by his co-workers and the coaching staff throughout his meal. The well-orchestrated ruse stopped for a few moments while Bruce addressed the team to lay out the schedule for the next two days, then resumed as the room began to empty. By the time the truth was revealed (by Bruce, no less), I'm pretty sure the victim was so happy that the entire thing was a joke, that he will sleep very well tonight.
And that almost made us forget ... all is good as the team traveled from Hamburg to Nuremberg earlier this afternoon.
Entry #91: June 19, 8:40 p.m. (2:40 p.m. ET)
We can't believe we forgot to mention this after the Italy game (well, actually we can…we tied Italy with nine players people!). Anyway, while watching the Ghana-Czech match in the media center at the stadium (basically, the epicenter for all journalists and photographers before and after the match) we saw Matt Groening's inspiration for Sideshow Bob on "The Simpsons." (See picture…pretty hilararious, huh?) We didn't happen to get this guy's name, but he was a working photographer at the game (possibly for an Italian paper?), and our own photographer was on top of things, snapping a few pics of the crazy-haired doppelganger. He's got the hair, but we're assuming that's where the similarities end. Unless, before becoming a photographer, this guy was a clown's sidekick and then tried to frame him, married a chain-smoking, DMV-working woman named Selma and attempted to blow her up, did his best to destroy a kid named Bart, ran for mayor and almost blew up a town. Nah…you're right, pretty unlikely. Oh, and we didn't see his brother Cecil. Still in jail maybe?
Entry #90: June 19, 7:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. ET)
Wow. The ratings are in for USA-Italy and they are pretty great. On ABC the match earned a 5.2 overnight Nielsen rating, the highest overnight rating for a World Cup game on ABC since the 1998 final between Brazil and France (which earned a 7.0). Univision did a 13.5 NHTI (Nielsen Hispanic Television Index) household rating for the match, translating to 1,511,000 Hispanic TV homes. Overall, there were 2,661,000 Hispanic viewers, making it the fourth most-watched game of this tournament. Since they announced the exact tournament schedule earlier this year, we've been thinking that USA-Italy, on a Saturday, at 3 p.m. ET, on ABC, would be huge. We were right. Fantastic stuff.
Entry #89: June 19, 7:24 p.m. (1:24 p.m. ET)
With more than 340 people involved in U.S. Soccer’s “Friends & Family” program here in Hamburg, getting all of them to each venue is a task that, at times, seems almost as difficult as winning a World Cup. Imagine bussing that many folks to Gelsenkirchen to watch the Czech match and then five days later getting ‘em all checked through the airport to pile on a double-decker Boeing 747 for the trip to Kaiserslautern…not the easiest of tasks. Well, some middle-aged fellas that are part of the “Friends & Family” program are having some fun with what’s become a trend when they travel to the U.S. matches. It seems there happens to always be one person who gets temporarily “lost,” forcing the U.S. Soccer staff to go out and track him or her down, so these unnamed gentlemen have been joking that they’re going to take odds on who will be the next person to go missing. Albright’s sister: 10 to 1. Dempsey’s uncle: 15 to 1. JOB’s grandma: 2 to 1. Okay, okay…so we don’t really know if those odds are accurate (or even if JOB’s grandma is here), but we’re putting all our money on Conrad’s dad. Why? We’d cheat of course. All we’d have to do is put out a pair of Cobi Jones’ pants and he’d be so preoccupied with trying ‘em on, he’d forget where he was supposed to meet the group. Confused? You wouldn’t be if you watched Studio 90 people!
Entry #88: June 19, 5:03 p.m. (11:03 a.m. ET)
Before today's press conference, Kasey Keller became an official Ambassador for the SOS Children's Villages campaign, the official charity of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Begun in 1949, the SOS Children's Villages revolve around the effort to give children who have lost their parents or who are no longer able to live with them a permanent home and a stable environment. Together with FIFA, the goal for this World Cup is to help create six new villages in Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam. Kasey joins more than 80 current and former football stars including Andriy Shevchenko, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Fabio Cannavaro, Lucas Radebe and Juninho in the honorary role of “FIFA for SOS Children’s Villages” ambassadors. For more information, log on to http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org.
Entry #87: June 19, 2:20 p.m. (8:20 a.m. ET)
This must be getting to be a long trip, because today the players started talking to ... cows. Today's route to training took us past a field full of heifers (ok, who knows if they were all actually heifers, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a young cow; especially one that has not had a calf") and the players took it upon themselves to start 'mooing' to the crowd. Same drill on the way back from HSV. No word on whether the cows heard or responded...
Entry #86: June 19, 11:25 a.m. (5:25 a.m. ET)
We apologize for the delay in throwing anything interesting up, but, well, really not much went on the past day. At least not that we saw, as the players had the day off and we're around the hotel much. We did see Carlos Bocanegra walking around town with his parents, Pablo Mastroeni pushing his stroller up the street with his wife and Tim Howard hanging out at a sidewalk cafe right outside the hotel. Being Father's Day we did hear that a number of players took their dads out for dinner, including Bruce who got a chance to break away and spend time with the family.
Entry #85: June 18, 1:10 a.m. (7:10 p.m. ET)
Col. Rod Zastrow is aboard the plane and is addressing Bruce Arena directly to say goodbye to the U.S. team on behalf of the air base. You might remember Col. Zastrow from Saturday's Studio 90 as he talked about the pep rally held at Ramstein back in February. Shoud be in the air shortly ...
Entry #84: June 18, 12:48 a.m. (6:48 p.m. ET)
When the team returned to their charter parked at Ramstein, they were greeted by 40 airmen from the 435th Security Force in full camoflage with black berets. They were clapping and cheering for the team. We spotted a familiar face - the big fella who introduced Extra Time on Friday's Studio 90 (you know, the guy in front of the bus with the machine gun).
Entry #83: June 18, 12:25 a.m. (6:25 p.m. ET)
The U.S. bus is on it's way back to Ramstein, and the guys are fired up. They are enjoying some Budweiser, and cheered heartily when Bruce told them that Sunday would be a day off from training.
Entry #82: June 18, 12:05 a.m. (6:05 p.m. ET)
Kasey Keller, Oguchi Onyewu, fitness coach Pierre Barrieu and Italy's Alessandro del Piero were waiting for the elevator down to the bus from the mixed zone (one side of Fritz-Walter-Stadion is litterally on the side of a steep hill/cliff and the busses pull in underneath the entire structure), and this was the gist of the conversation:
Barrieu to del Pierro: "Beat Czech Republic"
del Piero to the U.S. players as he nodded and cracked a smile: "Beat Ghana"
Friendly conversation ensued in which Onyewu and Keller told del Piero that the U.S. would gladly finish in second place so that Italy wouldn't have to face Brazil.
Entry #81: June 17, 11:35 p.m. (5:35 p.m. ET)
Let's all take a deeeeep breath. Still alive in the tournament and after one of the most-gutsy performances is U.S. history, here is what Bruce Arena had to say to the team after the game in the locker room:
"We said before the game the measure of the match would be if we could come here after 90 minutes and look each other in the eye, and there is no question that we can do that."