Americans rush to prepare for next test

[USA] For the next day or so, the most important member of the U.S. Soccer contingent in South Africa may be fitness coach Pierre Barrieu.

In a tournament such as the World Cup, players need their own version of R&R: rest and recovery. Massage, pool therapy, stretching and dozens of other methods aren’t the stuff of headlines and chat rooms, but just as vital as conditioning and training.

“We’ll be ready,” said midfielder Michael Bradley in the aftermath of incredible scenes at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. “We could play tomorrow and we’d be ready."

Once the emotion and adrenaline drains away, however, muscles need to be revived and fluids must be replenished.

By stunning Algeria, 1-0, Wednesday with a stoppage-time goal to win Group C, the Americans get a round of 16 match on just two days’ rest against Ghana, which lost to Germany, 1-0, a few hours after the U.S. game. If they had finished second, they would have played Sunday against Germany.

Teams meeting in the round of 16 play on the same amount of rest, but the turnaround ranges from two (for the USA and Ghana and Group G winner and the Group H runner-up, which meet Monday) to four games.

The time between games, away from the training field, is another facet of competing in a major tournament the fans don’t know much about yet the players have learned to appreciate.

“He gets us in the pool, in the gym, and it’s not a lot of fun sometimes,” says Landon Donovan, described by Barrieu as a physical marvel of endurance and speed. “But we realize how important it is, because in big tournaments, you can’t waste any of the time between games.”

Eight years ago, the USA had two days to recover from its 3-1 loss to Poland before it faced Mexico in the round of 16 of the World Cup.

Needing to get fresh legs in the lineup, Coach Bruce Arena shuffled the U.S. lineup. Gregg Berhalter, Josh Wolff and Eddie Lewis started for the first time, and the USA went on to won, 2-0.

The Americans played on two days’ rest throughout the group phases at the Confederations Cup last year, so they are well-acquainted with fast turnarounds as well as the logistics of travel in South Africa.

After losing its opener, 3-1, to Italy, the USA lost to Brazil, 3-0, before beating Egypt, 3-0, to sneak into the semifinals. It played, and beat, Spain (2-0) on two days’ rest, then had a three-day break prior to the final against Brazil, which it lost, 3-2.

During the Hexagonal last year, it lost, 3-1 in Costa Rica on June 3, then traveled 2,200 miles to Chicago, where it beat Honduras, 2-1, on two days’ rest.

The travel demands for Saturday’s Rumble in Rustenburg, a rematch of Ghana’s 2-1 win in the final World Cup group game four years ago, won’t be nearly as strenuous.

10 comments about "Americans rush to prepare for next test".
  1. David Sirias, June 24, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

    I would sit Altidore and Dempsey until sometime in the second half. Heresy? I dont think so. This will be a battle of attrition and perhaps 120 minutes. Jozy coming on fresh at a tiring defense might be the ticket. Spector was not sharp in the run up. But he's fresh. I expect to see him sometime Saturday.

  2. Jim Murphy, June 24, 2010 at 3:25 p.m.

    There's something cockeyed about the way this thing is scheduled. Arg and Mex played on Tuesday, and their rd of 16 game is Sunday. The US and Ghana played a day later, and their round of 16 game is a day earlier. How can that be? What's the thought process that goes into this scheduling?

  3. Charles Stamos, June 24, 2010 at 5:01 p.m.

    I don't have a problem with the schedule as Ghana has the same number of days rest, although ~3 hours less. The next round sees the Ghana/USA winner with 1 more day's rest than Argentina/Mexico! Only the coach/trainer will know how each player will feel and what their recovery time requirements are. Put out the best 11 and be ready to sub as the game dictates. The USA bench is better than ever. I would start the best performers from the 3 WC games - Howard, Altidore, Gomez, Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Feilhaber, Bocanegra, Demerit, Cherundolo and a player not named Bornstein at left back, Findley or Buddle on top for Gomez at halftime. Clark for Feilhaber if the USA leads at half, Edu for him if they are tied or trail. Save the other sub for the last ten minutes and make sure you have your best 5-7 PK players out there at full time. You never know if OT will produce a winner.

  4. Charles Stamos, June 24, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.

    My bad - USA/Ghana winner plays Uruguay/SoKorea winner. Duh...same number of days rest.

  5. Gus Keri, June 24, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.

    Jim and all other who wondered!
    FIFA is trying to be fair to the teams that are meeting in the knockout round by giving them equal amount of resting time before the meeting. If you check the schedule, this goes all the way until the final where the finalists will have one day of rest defference. This way, the USA will have equal amount of rest to any team they are going to meet. (3 days then 6 days then 4 days then 4 or 5 days, depending on if they play the final or the third place game). If they reach the final game or third place game, they will have one more day of rest than their opponent which FIFA can't fix because they schedule the two semifinals in two different days.

  6. Alex G. Sicre, June 24, 2010 at 6:37 p.m.

    Hey Ric, some of your ideas are good, but showing your hatred for both Bradleys' isnt one of them. They're not going to go away. So why not support them and our team instead. Gooo USA

  7. Karl Ortmertl, June 24, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.

    The US is the favorite against Ghana. We lost to them in 2006, but we're a lot stronger and Ghana is weaker. They're very young and weren't that impressive in their group. The Uruguay-Japan winner will be much tougher. Both are playing well and each won twice.

  8. Steven SIegel, June 24, 2010 at 11:11 p.m.

    The biggest difference between Ghana and Germany was the finishing touch. They are a strong side, and it will take a tremendous effort for the USA to advance.

  9. Barry Ruderman, June 25, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.

    I can't see sitting Dempsey. We are deepest in the midfield and Dempsey has consistently produced shots on goal. If you're concerned with having him on the field at the end of the game, perhaps start him up top, instead of starting him in the mid-field and pushing him forward.

    Dave, I understand you logic for sitting Jozy, but he's 20 years old and ran 90 minutes after being sick the day before. Your 20 year old will recover and if not, I think we prefer seeing Buddle or Herculez finishing the match as his substitute, as both are probably better in a shoot out and certainly Herculez in the role of offensive sub is one he is comfortable with.

    I also believe this is a game where you want an extra midfielder on the pitch and where the biggest risks and the most running will be in the middle of the pitch. If Holden had match fitness, I could see starting him in the Dempsey position, if you push Dempsey up top. Its the right mix of speed, physical strength, ball holding and box to box running. I love Paco, but I think he and Bennie are more cut out for second half subs against Ghana, who are young, physical and have tended toward packing the center of the park.

    If the game goes to 120 minutes, you need to think in terms of having ad hoc tactical switches available between 70 and 90 minutes (ie real late game management), so coming in with a pre-conceived plan (which is easier to do in a 90 minute match) specifically in anticipation of going 120 minutes seems very risky, since one or two unexpected physical knocks leaves zero margin for late game substitutions.

    While I hated the Bornstein experiment in the last match, I'm definitely a fan of having both of our outside defenders capable of getting forward and comfortable with the ball at their feet, especially since Ghana should leave us with space to roam on the outside. Left back will be about choosing our poisons and so far, Ghana hasn't shown much threat out wide in the attacking third of the field.

    Should be fun!

  10. Barry Ruderman, June 25, 2010 at 1:11 p.m.

    Ric, I also need to call you out on the Bradley issue. I spent nearly 3 weeks in Italy and England in the time before the World Cup and I average 5-10 emails a day from friends and colleagues who are members at AS Roma, Werder Bremen, Chievo Verona, Arsenal, Tottenham, Cbelsea, Real Madrid, Atletico Bilbao and Bayern Munich. Bradley is always one of the first 2 or 3 names mentioned, both this year and last summer. While I understand the angst with BB, MB is far and away our most consistent 2 way player and has shown remarkable box to box skills for a 22 year old American kid. For years, we've suffered through players with limited upside potential. The thought of an Edu/Bradley central mid-field for most of the next decade, two guys who defend well and score big goals on a fairly consistent basis for club and country, gives us decent cover for our dreadful lack of quality attacking players.

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