SAO PAULO – Twelve hours down, but how many more weeks to go?
That’s the question after the first full day down in Brazil for the crew at MLSsoccer.com, which staggered off their respective planes early Monday and haven’t quite stopped moving since, except when traffic brought them to a screeching halt on the streets of this huge metropolis.
The US national team pulled into town at roughly the same time Monday morning following the 2-1 win over Nigeria in its final tuneup match on domestic soil. The team departed Miami late Sunday night – they flew commercial, but all players and staff members sat in business class – and arrived early on Monday (the team's bus is at right) before enduring about an hour’s worth of traffic to arrive at their five-star hotel in downtown São Paulo.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, World Cup advisor Berti Vogts and scout Matthias Hamann stayed behind in South Florida to scout Ghana’s match against South Korea on Monday night (7 pm ET, beIN Sports). They’ll fly out late Monday night and arrive Tuesday morning.
The team’s homebase here is the gorgeous training facility at nearby São Paulo FC, the same locale they used with the US’ January campers earlier this year. Described by a US Soccer official as “as good as any facility you’ll see in Brazil,” the spot earned serious interested from the Italian national team and at least two other clubs participating in the World Cup, according to a São Paulo FC spokesperson.
“It’s beautiful,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard, one of three US players who met the media during a brief scrum. “Everyone’s happy to be here and unpack our bags. It’s like Christmas morning.”
Without Klinsmann in camp, the team worked out under the watchful eye of assistants Tab Ramos and Andreas Herzog. The Americans are scheduled to work out twice on Tuesday before they hold a FIFA-mandated open practice session on Wednesday.
They’ll then close up shop to the media for a scrimmage on Thursday against Belgium, a potential knockout round foe if the Americans can survive Group G.
They’ll then train on Friday morning before departing for Natal on a charter jet later that day, with the team’s opening game of the World Cup against Ghana set for June 16 (6 pm ET, ESPN).
São Paulo, meanwhile, will play host to the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia on Thursday (4 pm ET, ESPN), but there’s still plenty of work to be done on the venue, Arena Corinthians.
Even a cursory tour around the site on Monday revealed that aesthetics outside the stadium are still very much incomplete – a giant scaffolding staircase connecting the stadium to the public transit line (right), patchwork sod on the inclines outside the stadium and construction workers rushing to complete projects just about everywhere – and the stadium itself will feature temporary stands approved by Brazilian officials just last week.
Authorities inspected the stadium on Friday and said it will be safe to use the stands during the opening match, the first time the stadium will be filled to capacity. FIFA initially said the stadium would hold 68,000 for the opener, but only 61,000 tickets were put on sale because many places will be used by journalists and to accommodate cameras needed to broadcast the match.
MLSsoccer.com will report from all available USMNT training sessions this week as well as the Brazil-Croatia match on Thursday. If, of course, traffic obliges.