The stifling São Paulo traffic splits for few. Even ambulances, with their ear-splitting high-pitched squeal, struggled to find their way through the honks, beeps and rumbles of early morning traffic from Guarulho International Airport this morning. Just about the only vehicles that found their way through the chaos were motorcycles weaving in and out between the cars; those and the U.S. National Team bus.
The USA arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday after a 4,000-plus mile trip that included nine hours of total flying – one hour-long jaunt from Jacksonville to Miami, then a nearly eight-hour overnight flight from Miami to Sao Paulo. The team arrived just past the peak of the São Paulo rush hour, boarded their bus, and a police escort guided the team through standstill traffic.
Some motorists had so much idle time, they stopped and took pictures.
"My eyes were still closed trying to get off the plane," Tim Howard joked. "I think we were quite tired, but the reception was great. We're looking forward to unpacking our bags and getting used to the hotel and our surroundings."
The streets surrounding the team's São Paulo hotel turned into an exhibition of security precautions as the bus approached for the players' first entrance into their home away from home. Brazilian military stood stone-faced with rifles at the ready. A phalanx of police guarded the sidewalks.
But the scene greeting the team in the lobby was a celebratory one; a line of hotel staff surrounded the players upon their entrance, greeting the Americans with a warm round of applause.
The team received their keys and proceeded to their rooms. For some, like defender Matt Besler, it was only then that the enormity of the situation began to dawn on them.
That moment when you land in Brazil and realize you're here to play in the WORLD CUP...yea, that just happened #USA— Matt Besler (@mbesler) June 9, 2014
There would be little time for basking in the glow. Despite head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's absence – he stayed behind in Miami along with advisor Berti Vogts to scout the USA’s Group G opponents Ghana in their friendly against South Korea – the U.S. would have their first training session in Brazil just a few hours after arriving at the hotel, and only 20 hours after leaving the country they will soon represent at the world’s most popular sporting event.
Another bus, another police escort. This time to the training grounds of São Paulo FC, the same location where the team spent 12 days training on a dry run in January – preparation for this very moment.
"It's like Christmas morning," Howard said. "We're just excited to be here, and now it's gotten real."
Walter Bahr was an American soccer icon, a renaissance man and one of the most beloved figures in the history of the sport in the United States. He excelled at the game at several levels, most notably as a member of the history-making U.S. Men’s National Team that upset England 1-0 at the 1950 FIFA World Cup.
He also was a successful coach at Penn State University and became an ambassador of the game, heading the U.S. delegation for many international matches and competitions. He also was the patriarch of an athletically talented family that included three sons who played professional soccer and a daughter who was an all-American gymnast.
Bahr, who was the last surviving member of the 1950 U.S. team that stunned England and the rest of the world, passed away on June 18, 2018. Few, if any other players, enjoyed the influence Bahr had over his many decades being associated with the beautiful game.
ussoccer.com spoke with several colleagues, former players, opponents and people that Bahr inspired over the years about Walter Bahr, the man, and his influence in American soccer over seven decades.
He inspired countless players, coaches, fans, media and people through several generations. His impact went further than just another participant in the beautiful game.Read more