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U.S. Travel Log Details Torrid Year

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 Bob Bradley 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.



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