USMNT plays basketball & learns how to tear phone books
MIAMI — Members of the US men’s national team were told on Tuesday that they are the masters of their destinies.
In a hotel conference room here, motivational minister Donnie Moore displayed feats of strength — tearing a phone book in half, ripping apart a license plate, crushing a full Pepsi can in his hands — to convince the Yanks they are in control their lives and playing careers, starting Friday with their World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston (8 pm ET, beIN Sport, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
That control, apparently, does not extend to the weather.
Minutes before the team was to begin a late-afternoon training session at Florida International University, an apocalyptic wall of gray clouds rolled in from the Everglades, carrying enough rain and electrical current to force the team inside the school’s US Century Bank Arena. On the same court where former FIU coach Isiah Thomas suffered his most recent professional failure, the Americans divided into four teams of five and competed in a round-robin mini-tournament. In basketball.
“We had a good time,” manager Jurgen Klinsmann said afterwards.
Practice was closed to the press, so results could not be independently confirmed. But one player was adamant of his teams’ dominance.
“Obviously my team,” forward Herculez Gomez said. “It was me, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Jose Torres and Jonathan Spector. We ran things.”
The basketball tournament followed not only a motivational speaker but also a pre-lunch workout at the hotel gym. Klinsmann, in his own motivational address to FIU soccer players before the afternoon practice moved indoors, explained that two-a-days are his training preference whenever possible.
“The best players in the world work the hardest,” he said. “Lionel Messi is doing more work. Cristiano Ronaldo got the message from his coaches at an early age: You’ve got to always do more than the other guys do. The more you do the better you get. You’re not getting better laying around listening to rap music. [Rap] is good! But it’s not as good as training harder.”
All that said, Klinsmann then revealed that the afternoon session wasn’t scheduled to be very intense.
“Some of the team has come over from Europe and need to recover,” he conceded.
Among the late arrivals fleshing out the 24-man squad were Jozy Altidore, who flew in from the Netherlands, and Bocanegra, the team captain recently transferred to Racing Santander in Spain’s second division.
“We’re definitely confident,” Bocanegra said of Friday’s game in Jamaica. “But we know it’s going to be a very tough game down there. They’re sitting at the top of their group with us. So it’s an important game.”
The full US squad is scheduled to train in Miami one last time on Wednesday morning before flying down to Kingston in the afternoon. No word on whether the can-crushing Donnie Moore will be joining them.
Robert Andrew Powell is the author of This Love Is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez.