Soccer City

Landon Donovan, right, celebrates Edson Buddle's (14) first goal during the first half. (AP Photo / Elise Amendola)

The U.S. wins its final exhibition match against Australia, 3-1.

Chances are good if you’re reading this blog, you watched the match on ESPN2. If you didn’t, here’s the quick-hit lowdown: forward Edson Buddle scored two goals, forward Herculez Gomez added a third, the U.S. defense looked better than it did during the send-off series, but there were still some holes, especially on corner kicks (that’s how Australia scored its only goal) and crosses. U.S. forward Jozy Altidore did not play because of that sprained right ankle. He’s officially listed as day-to-day, but he did go through some drills (with the trainer) during pre-game warm ups and he wasn’t limping. Chances are good he might be back on the field tomorrow.
This morning, I went down to Soccer City just outside of Johannesburg to collect my credential. I took a video after getting my credential (that took 90 minutes) of the Soccer City stadium. I read on the flight over to South Africa that the stadium was designed to look like African pottery. It’s beautiful. I’m sure you can’t exactly tell how striking it is from the video, but driving towards it this morning, and coming over a hill to see it, it’s an amazing piece of architecture. You can check out that video in the player below on the right.
One of the main highways in Johannesburg, the N1, was closed both ways this morning. Listening to the radio, the DJ said the North-bound was closed due to a major accident with fatalities and the South-bound was closed due to an overnight shootout in which a police officer was killed. The D.J. then said, “For all you folks not from Johannesburg, welcome! – it’s not always this bad.” Hmmmmm. Either way, I spent a good amount of the morning getting to Soccer City on back roads and then to Roodepoort (where the U.S. played) on even more crowded roads. Thousands of people are landing every hour in Johannesburg, so maybe traffic will be awful.
Today’s match was a perfect warm-up for the World Cup: 7,000 folks inside a stadium that can’t hold much more; animated Aussie fans, animated USA fans, and thousands of Africans chanting.  You can check out the second video, of the stands and atmosphere as the Australian team runs out onto the field, in the video player. I make no claim to be a good videographer. 
Here were some interesting quotes from after the game: (Sorry, the first one is still about the soccer ball. Almost all of the guys mentioned after the game that the ball was the reason the team is struggling to clear corner kicks and crosses.)
“The ball is terrible. You’re going to hear that now, you’re going to hear that a month from now … “ said goalie Tim Howard. “You’re trying to read an unreadable situation. If you hit five balls in the same striking motion, you wouldn’t get the same result.”
England star David Beckham was at today’s match. Beckham is injured for the World Cup. U.S. coach Bob Bradley made it clear today’s starting lineup was no indication of who he might start against England. When asked if Buddle might be the guy, Bradley said he hasn’t decided yet. It’s unclear how much of that is truth and how much is a continual strategic game with England.
“You need the match,” Bradley said of today. “You need the adjustment to the altitude, the adjustment to the conditions, but clearly you want to make sure you’re careful.”
Tomorrow’s training session is 100 percent open to the media – the entire training session – so we’ll be back tomorrow with more videos and updates.