The days are dwindling before the U.S. Men's National Team trims its roster from 30 to 23 and sets off for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Today at Princeton University, the MNT completed its fourth day of pre-World Cup training camp. All 30 players are in camp and almost everybody is back on the field after missing some time with injuries. The team has tomorrow off, returns to camp for its final two days on Saturday and Sunday before leaving for Hartford, where the U.S. team plays its first send-off match against the Czech Republic on May 25.
The media has been intense at the pre-World Cup camp, with plenty of folks here from England and other countries (England being the most represented considering the U.S. opens with England on June 12). We tried to get some different videos from today's camp, although there's the standard video (if some folks have frequented the blog since we kicked it off on Monday) of the team's end of practice running. There's also a video of a couple of U.S. players shooting a video for what appeared to be a type of comedy station and a video of defender Jay DeMerit, Michael Bradley, and Hercules Gomez speaking with the media on the field.
The news: Chad Marshall and Carlos Bocanegra participated in full training. Eddie Johnson participated in full training except for the fitness run.
Today, we talked to defender Oguchi Onyewu, who tore his patella tendon seven months ago. Onyewu, who plays for AC Milan, was invited to camp after seven brutal months of rehab as well as training with Milan in the final weeks of the season. After practice today, Onyewu did sprints on the field; it looked like he had a slight hitch in his step. We asked him about that, as well as a bunch of other topics:
On the status of his knee: "Tomorrow will be seven months to date of the operation. I feel really good. I've done some extreme rehab, thankfully now I can compete and train regularly. I'm getting fit right now. It was an extreme injury, so any rehab I did was going to be extreme. I was fighting against time to get back in time for the World Cup and the end of the season. I was focusing a lot of my energy to get healthy and not re-injurying it."
On his offer to play for free this upcoming season for Inter Milan: "I think you read the article, you can take from it what you read. Right now, as much as I am committed to Milan and showing that in my actions and discussions with the officials there, the season is over and I'm with the national team now and I'm not trying to focus on that as much as the World Cup."
On a slight limp in his stride: "You're telling me. I don't feel it. I've been doing a lot more extensive running than that."
On his fitness: "Like I've told you, I've been training extremely hard and working a lot on my fitness. I've been doing double days when I was in Milan so the rust factor won't be an issue: working a lot on playing, my touch, technical, and positioning. I don't think right now the rust factor, you could say I'm behind anybody else. I'm thankful I was given an opportunity to be a part of this World Cup."
On Tuesday's match vs. Czech Republic: "If I'm to play next Tuesday, I'm definitely excited about it. It's been a long time since I've been in a game situation. I'm sure there's going to be a little nerves for a minute or two. But after that, you're going to see the same person you saw seven months ago."
On the two send-off matches and exhibition match before World Cup: "These three games will be important to evaluate where players are, who's at their best form, I think they're going to use the friendly games -- I don't like to call them friendly games, because there are no friendly games for me -- to assess each individual player and see who is at their best right now and who can help the team the most."
On getting into better shape than before: "If given the opportunity to play, I want to show to everybody -- because I'm sure they read blogs, newspapers, and magazine articles saying I won't come back like I was -- I'm going to go out there and agree with them. I won't come back like I was. I'm going to come back stronger. I'm not the same player I was seven months ago, regardless of what anybody thinks. And I'm going to use this year, 2010, to prove that."
On exactly how he has become a better player: "Mentally, I'm a stronger player due to the rehab process. Anybody that's come back from any serious injury will tell you it's not easy, at all, to get through it. I've worked a lot on elements on my game, I've had time to work on elements of my game that perhaps weren't up to par before. You'll see it soon enough. You can judge me on your own basis soon enough. I know you guys are harsh with your critiques and I'm expecting that, I wouldn't expect anything less. And I'm ready for that and I think the rest of the team is as well."
On his rehab: "I was definitely ahead of schedule in terms of things I was doing. I don't think there was any part of the process where they told me to put the breaks on. Thank God everything happened smoothly, there were no setbacks."
On the injury, seven months ago vs. Costa Rica: "I think it was a corner kick and I was backtracking to jump and when I took off, I actually thought that one of the Costa Rican players kicked me, in my hamstring. I could have sworm -- until I saw the video -- that someone kicked me. When I landed, I was looking for the referee because I thought I got fouled. When I turned back around I saw my knee and I knew something was wrong. I knew it would be a long time before I got back on the field."
How has it shifted your mindset?: "There was a lot of soul searching because it's not easy to watch your team play. There was a lot of internal motivation."
What was the last part of your game to come back?: "The last part in terms of the rehab was feeling comfortable jumping, just because that's how I injured it. The doctors kept on saying, 'You're not going to hurt it, it's reinforced.'"
On difference between 2006 team and this year's: "It's two completely different teams. The 2006 World Cup was filled with a lot more veterans that don't play anymore. At that time I was the youngster, the newcomer, in the group. Right now, I don't like to say I'm old, but I'm one of the veterans of this cycle. I think both teams were talented, but this team has more of a youth to it that can help us, and hopefully it will."
On 2006: "Germany was hard to swallow because I felt we had a better team than the results showed."