World Cup camp, Day 1

U.S. coach Bob Bradley (center) oversaw the first day of practice at Princeton University's soccer stadium. (Mel Evans/AP)

Less than a month remains before the 2010 World Cup begins in South Africa, June 11-July 11.

From now until July 12, this will be the Inquirer's World Cup blog. It's unlikely there's a huge crossover between 76ers' fans and World Cup soccer fans, but perhaps there's a few. For the next month, Kickin' It will attempt to be somewhat like the Sixers' blog (Deep Sixer): we'll post stuff here each day of this week's camp, we'll post during the send-off matches, and we'll post extensively from South Africa. We'll do as many videos as the FIFA communications people will allow, we'll Tweet (that'll be at DeepSixer3 ... still), we'll do Live Chats, and we'll post as many pictures as seems necessary, or as my Blackberry's media card can hold.

Today at Roberts Stadium on the campus of Princeton University, the US Men's National Team began its World Cup camp, which will run for a week. After, the team will play two send-off matches: against the Czech Republic in Hartford on May 25, and against Turkey at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly on May 29.

The team, which was without a number of guys because of injury, physicals, or because they weren't yet in town, practiced for about 75 minutes and ended with fitness runs. As our "welcome to the Kickin' It blog" video, you can check out the team's fitness run in the Video Player below on the right side of the page. Only the best here.

Here's the hard news coming from today's camp. Four guys (goalie Tim Howard, quad strain, defender Jay DeMerit, ab strain, forward Eddie Johnson, hamstring, defender Chad Marshall) were in the training room instead of on the field. Defender Carlos Bocanegra did, as coach Bob Bradley said, "a little of his own program" today. And midfielder Landon Donovan, forward Edson Buddle, and midfielder Jose Torres missed practice because they were at physicals. A few guys still haven't arrived: defender Clarence Goodson and midfielder Benny Feilhaber are arriving today, while defender Oguchi Onyewu and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya are arriving tomorrow. By my (admittedly suspect) count, that means there were 11 guys missing from today's practice, meaning Bradley had about 19 guys that went through the entire practice.

Tomorrow should be full, save for a few still in the training room.

If you're reading this blog, you probably know some of this stuff by now, but since it's the first day, let's start at the beginning. Bradley will have only a roster of 23 that he can take to South Africa. At today's press conference, Bradley said he plans -- plans, being the key word -- to have his team set by the final send-off match at Lincoln Financial Field.

The US team opens the World Cup on June 12 against England. Also in their group is Algeria and Slovenia.

Here are some quotes from today's media availability: 

Howard (goalkeeper) on his injury: "It was a thigh strain that I’ve been playing through for the last two months and it’s fine. It’s completely fine. It’s just something where we have a lot of time now: between the first day of training and the Czech Republic and so on and so on. To take a day or two to kind of make sure it’s even better than it should be, so, yeah, there are no issues."

Clint Dempsey (forward, midfielder) on the notion that he needs to be more consistent for the US team: "It’s unfair because if you look at my goals per game, it’s up there with the best on the team. If you look at major competitiions, what have I done? Last World Cup, I scored a goal. Confederations Cup, I had three goals, one assist. I don’t know what more y’all want me to do."

DaMarcus Beasley (midfielder) on guys fighting to make the final 23: "It’s about playing and being fit and trying to piece together the team. Right now, it’s not going to be about positioning and this and that. I think we’ll save that until we get closer to the games. Right now, seeing everyone, doing fitness, playing football and have fun."

Bradley on the notion that the England game is a grudge match. (Side note: plenty of English media there today, as was the person who asked this question): "We know England is a good team. We always do our work to prepare thoroughly and know our opponent and their players. It’s easy in the case of England because we see their players, we have guys who play in the Premiership and come up against these guys. In the first game of the World Cup, it’s not about grudge matches at that point, it’s about getting off to a good start, you have to use that to push through the first round."

Continued: "It’s a great game from the moment we were drawn to play England. Everyone was excited about the fact it would bring such attention to the game, there’s great storylines. It’s something that we’re pretty excited about."

Bradley on the ups and downs within opening round play: "We talk often about the whole first round, the understanding that as you go through those three games, it’s rare that it’s just going to fall perfectly into place. Normally there’s a moment there where you have to regroup, something didn’t go right, you have to adjust. If you win the first game, that’s exciting but that would not mean you’re guaranteed to go through. I liken it sometimes to the kind of adjustments that go on in the NBA Playoffs, where team understand the need to adjust and adapt and come back the next game a little bit better."

That seems like a nice place to end today's blog: a perfect union of World Cup soccer and NBA basketball -- although there aren't a whole lot of other similarities.

Check out today's videos, if you get a chance, and follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer.