CARSON, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann and the US national team's two-week São Paulo trek provided a nice feel for what they can expect when they return to Brazil in a few months, whetting their appetite ahead of the World Cup.
“I think it was really, really helpful, these two weeks for the team, but also for everyone involved with US Soccer, to experience our team-base hotel in São Paulo, to train at the São Paulo FC facility, to meet the people, to get around the city, to get a real sense for it,” Klinsmann said Tuesday, as the US returned to their StubHub Center training grounds ahead of Saturday's friendly against South Korea (5 pm ET, ESPN2/UniMas).
“We have a much, much better picture now of what to expect and what will challenge us, and therefore I think it's really important to give the players feedback: 'Listen, guys, it's not all going to be perfect, we have to be very tolerant and we have to be patient with things, but if you know that in advance and we adjust to it right away mentally, then it's no big deal. It's no problem at all.' ”
Klinsmann and some of his staff made side trips to the sites of the Americans' group-stage matches: Natal, where they'll face Ghana in their June 16 opener; Manaus in the Amazon rainforest, which will stage their June 22 match against Portugal; and Recife, site of the June 26 showdown with his native Germany.
He was particularly impressed with Manaus, a locale about which he'd expressed concerns before last month's World Cup draw.
“Before the draw, you say, 'OK, if I could avoid that flight there and playing under those conditions, it would be nice,' ” Klinsmann said. “But once the draw was done, there was no complaining anymore from our end, because both teams will play under the same circumstances. It will be a little hotter than other places.
“The place now is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, to be in Manaus is an experience, and therefore I want the players also to take it all in. This is something unique. The people there are extremely excited. They are so excited to host World Cup games, and they're a different face of Brazil. And that's what a World Cup is about, to see the different faces of a country, and Manaus is one of those different faces. I'm really looking forward to [playing there] now.”
The players were impressed with São Paulo FC's facilities and pleased about the work they accomplished.
“Brazil was good. It was hot, very hot,” Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi told reporters on Monday. “I thought it was great for us to go down there, kind of go through a dry run of what to expect. They put us in a hotel that's fantastic, there's really nothing to worry about, but being in a foreign country, there's differences. There's the little things that sometimes you can't predict or expect, and I thought it was great for us to go down there and go through these things.
“As a playing standpoint, I thought it was fantastic. We got a lot of really good work in, the training facilities were incredible, just perfect. We were pushed hard, but I think we responded very well and got a lot out of it.”
Zusi had never before visited Brazil.
“São Paulo, the city, is absolutely massive, bigger than anything I've ever seen, and you can kind of feel the buzz already from the locals and everything about what's going to come in the summer,” he said. “You look out your hotel window, and though you're in the middle of a massive city, you see little fields between the buildings and on rooftops and whatnot.
"It's really neat to see that kind of culture we're not used to seeing here.”