Having not been together in three months' time (almost an eternity in international soccer scheduling), the U.S. men's national team's "2½-hour flight from Miami to Costa Rica
marks the beginning of a summer-long world tour that will feature 14 matches on three continents and in four time zones," writes writer Wayne Dreh in the first installment of a unique travel log
that is part of an ESPN "Outside the Lines" online special report. "The players and coaches know what's ahead: World Cup qualifiers in hostile territory, Confederations Cup matches
against the greatest teams in the world, and defense of the team's 2005 and 2007 Gold Cup championships."
Having set the scene, the nine-city soccer diary goes on to follow the
USA's up and down year from the lows of a demoralizing 3-1 World Cup qualifier loss at the hands of Costa Rica in San Jose ("We let ourselves down," stated Tim Howard
"Tonight was simply not good enough."), to the highs of the 2-0 upset of Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals in Bloemfontein, South Africa ("You could just sense this quiet
confidence," said defender Jonathan Spector
of the team's pre-match mentality. "Everyone believed.")
In his final installment, a preview of the
USA's monstrous match-up vs. Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Aug. 12, we learn that Landon Donovan
embraces his villainous role ("There is a very tangible negativity that I feel
toward me the second I step on the field," says the 27-year-old team captain. "Good or bad, you want people to care. And for some reason, they certainly seem to care."), while Coach
wonders "now that we've gone our separate ways" since South African success, "how much do we have to remake?" and "have we grown enough so
that when the next tough challenge comes, when that situation rolls in, are we ready?" On Aug. 12, "We're going to find out," answers Bradley.
Read the whole story at ESPN.com »