World Cup: LA Galaxy's Sao Paulo products Juninho, Leonardo say USMNT's facility a big advantage
CARSON, Calif. – If the US national team finds success in Brazil over the next few weeks, perhaps a little credit should go toward their digs in São Paulo.
That's the thinking of LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho and center back Leonardo, products of São Paulo FC's development system. They give the facilities at their former club high marks and say the US snagged one of the premier training grounds in all of Brazil.
"Beautiful," Juninho said, describing the grounds at the club he's cheered on all his life. "Very nice facilities. I think one of the best facilities in Brazil. One of the best in the world. Very nice fields and in a very good spot."
That's among the keys, he suggested. São Paulo FC are based in an optimal locale, in the Barra Funda neighborhood of Brazil's biggest city, with everything the US might need within arm's distance, more or less.
"They are in São Paulo downtown, right in the middle of São Paulo," said Juninho, who started at the club in 2004, when he was 15. "Very good spot, and I hope they can stay there until the final. You never know."
"The hotel is right there," said Leonardo, "and it's close to everything. I don't know that USA can go outside, though. I think it's very difficult for the guys: police, FBI, everything [providing security]."
There are three full fields, another on which goalkeepers train, and further space to work in the "backyard," Juninho said. The gym and trainers' room also are top-notch.
"Of course [it's important]," he said. "If you have a nice pitch, a nice facility indoors, guys can take care of body, relax for the next game. This can help."
The Americans open Group G play on Monday against Ghana in Natal (6 pm ET, ESPN), on the Atlantic coast some 1,400 miles northeast of São Paulo, then face Portugal on June 22 in Manaus (nearly 1,700 miles north, on the Amazon) and finish up against Germany on June 26 in Recife (about 150 miles south of Natal).
Leonardo, who joined São Paulo in 1999, when he was just 11, compared the grounds to the Galaxy's terrain at StubHub Center, but said the fields were softer, spongier.
"It's like here. Good field. I think it's no problem for USA," he said. "It's a little different. Here, it's a good field, but it's a little bit hard. [São Paulo's fields are] a little bit better for the guys."
Leonardo has been checking out video of the US in São Paulo and has felt twinges of nostalgia.
"Yeah, I was there, four years ago," he said. "I think the guys had a barbecue [the other] day. I see [head coach Jurgen] Klinsmann let the guys drink beers, and the steak. It's good."