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
Ever wondered what a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Team player is like? We followed WNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to get an inside look at a day inside WNT training camp, a day that included a weight session and on-field practice.
After a grabbing a quick coffee, the busy day starts early for Harris and the WNT, as they are headed to a weight lifting, the first of two trainings sessions that day.
“The bus ride is always total shenanigans with the people I sit around with. Usually that group is Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. It’s just fun and good vibes heading into our workout.”
First stop of the day: weightlifting. The WNT usually spends about 90 minutes at the gym, and each player has a specialized workout sheet that is tailored to their needs.
“At lifting I usually spend time on my shoulders and continue to strengthen my back; things I need as goalkeeper. Every day I hit the ground, so I have to make sure my arms are strong. Shoulder strength and shoulder stability are key to make sure my arms are moving well and to prevent any injuries.”
As the team exits the gym, several fans await them by the bus and most players, including Harris, stop to sign a few autographs and pose for a few selfies.
“It’s always just really cool to stop and have a chat with the younger generation after or before training sessions. They’re just awesome.”
“Our van leaves the hotel about 45 minutes before the field players whenever we go to the training. I always have a pre-training and pre-game routine of taping my fingers and hands. It’s a personal preference and to be honest, I’ve always done it. Being at training earlier helps us get some good stretching in, stay focused and it allows us to nail down techniques and work individually and collectively as a small group before we jump in with everyone else.”
For afternoon training, Harris, along with Alyssa Naeher and Jane Campbell, as well as goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel, all pile into a team van and head to training earlier than the field players to spend some time working on their technique and specific areas before the rest of the team arrives.
“Alyssa and I have very good communication and no one has a better view or can critique one another better than each other. If we see something we tell each other and help each other out.”
After training, the players all cool down, chat with each other, hydrate and reflect on the session they just completed.
“We tend to immediately grab our protein shakes. We talk about the day, what we saw on the field, what we can fix, what wasn’t good, what was good and we just overall critique the game in every way we can to become better.”
“Once we’re back in the hotel, it’s all about treatment. Like true professionals, we must take care of our bodies and be responsible to get the treatment we need. Our bodies take a beating from all the impact at training so we take care of it to do it all over again the day after.”