It has been a long and intense two-and-a-half week training camp for the U.S. Men’s National Team on the Campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Grueling fitness testing followed by the first of three Send-Off Series matches, which the U.S. won 2-0 against Azerbaijan on Tuesday, have been the focus for the squad that now consists of the final 23 players who will play at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
For the players, the secluded collegiate setting was a welcome environment for the beginning of their final preparations ahead of the gauntlet of high-level competition and unyielding attention from media and fans that awaits. Some of the USA’s players who played college ball in the States were particularly fond of the experience.“It’s been nice, reminds me of the good old college days,” said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who attended both Fairleigh Dickinson and Boston College during his collegiate career. “It makes me miss those days, being able to have lunch on campus with some of the students. We’ll sit next to them and have conversations with them. It’s been cool to take a break from the hard work and be able to relax with the students on campus.”
Bedoya isn’t the only college standout on the roster either. Former Notre Dame defender Matt Besler, who roomed with then Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen for a spell, also enjoyed the nostalgia of living the campus life style.
“It’s fun, it’s refreshing, it brings me back to my college days,” said Besler. “Everyone is so open. There are students that come up to us while we’re eating lunch as a group and they’ll just ask if they can sit next to us. It was refreshing to see that and experience them as college students.”
The curiosity didn’t just flow one way. Many of the USA’s players skipped the opportunity to experience college life in pursuit of their professional dreams.
“A lot of the guys didn’t get to experience what college was like,” Besler noted. “It’s been fun at lunch, sitting next to Jozy and Tim Howard and they’re all asking about what it was like.”
And for players like defender Fabian Johnson, who did not have an idea of the United States’ college system, the taste of campus life was an all-together new and enjoyable experience. “It’s a whole different world for me,” he mused. “In Germany we don’t have a school program like this. It’s so different. The campus is really big, like almost a city in Germany. It’s incredible.”
The Stanford University campus covers approximately 8,180 acres, but the players, unlike many of the students they rubbed shoulders with during camp, did not have to traverse its entirety. And when longer distances were involved, they were afforded a little transportation by the University, which pulled out all the stops in situating the team for its stay.
“It’s very nice to drive a golf cart and have fun, but it’s very bad when a German guy drives a golf cart here in America,” joked defender Timmy Chandler. “It’s fun here to drive in the golf cart on the campus.”
“This whole experience has been amazing; Stanford has treated us so well,” added midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “The facilities and everything have been perfect. Stanford really rolled out the red carpet for us. It’s given us everything possible to train our hardest and recover to be ready for the next training sessions.”
- Logan Buckley
On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup