SAO PAULO – While the rest of the field wrings their hands about travel time and weather in Brazil, the United States hope the unique circumstances they deal with on a regular basis could be a decided advantage once group play starts on June 16.
With 10 players on the squad hailing from MLS, a league where weekly flights spanning thousands of miles are the norm and weather varies from city to city, and European-based players well versed in transatlantic travel and the heat and humidity of CONCACAF, the logistics and conditions aren’t likely shock the American contingent.
“That something that’s being talked about in a negative way with a lot of other teams is something that we can use to our advantage,” midfielder Michael Bradley said in a press conference on Tuesday. “We’re used to travel. Guys who play in MLS constantly travel across the country, and even for guys in Europe, when it comes to coming back for qualifiers and for friendlies that’s also a long trip.”
The 4,000-plus mile overnight flight from Miami to Sao Paulo on Sunday? No longer on the USMNT’s radar. The nearly 9,000 miles they’ll log flying back and forth between Sao Paulo and Natal, Manaus and Recife for group-stage matches? Par for the course.
And the weather in those cities – all of which are expected to see humidity and highs in the mid-80s, with Natal and Manaus flirting with the low 90s? Surely, afternoon matches in the likes of San Pedro Sula prepared the Americans for the Brazilian heat.
“Jurgen [Klinsmann] said it best. It’s going to be a World Cup of patience, of knowing how to deal with the elements, of being able to suffer at times,” Bradley said. “We’re excited by it. When you talk about playing in the heat and the travel, it doesn’t bother us. Not only does it not bother us, it excites us to see now that the other teams are so worried about it because it’s not something that comes into our thinking.”
Also working to the USMNT's advantage is the fact that they spent the final portion of their pre-World Cup camp on the East Coast, which is just an hour behind Sao Paulo, a luxury Ghana and Portugal also took advantage of while Germany prepared on home soil.
As for how the Americans will handle the long flights between games, goalkeeper Tim Howard was succinct.
“Sleep,” Howard said. “We’ll have a couple hours on the plane, we’ll get some rest and we’ll be fine. The travel won’t be an issue for us.
“Eight-hour flights are like my norm,” he added.
Before the US have to fret about any of that, though, they’ll have very little to worry about in Sao Paulo. The traffic in the ninth-largest city in the world can certainly be a nightmare at times, but Sao Paulo FC’s training facility is immaculate, a setting that should allow the Americans to prepare for Ghana without a care in the world – off the field at least.
“We’ve been able to get the best,” forward Chris Wondolowski said, “and we’re hoping to bring our best.”