It has been a long and intense two-and-a-half week training camp for the U.S. Men’s National Team on the Campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Grueling fitness testing followed by the first of three Send-Off Series matches, which the U.S. won 2-0 against Azerbaijan on Tuesday, have been the focus for the squad that now consists of the final 23 players who will play at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
For the players, the secluded collegiate setting was a welcome environment for the beginning of their final preparations ahead of the gauntlet of high-level competition and unyielding attention from media and fans that awaits. Some of the USA’s players who played college ball in the States were particularly fond of the experience.“It’s been nice, reminds me of the good old college days,” said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who attended both Fairleigh Dickinson and Boston College during his collegiate career. “It makes me miss those days, being able to have lunch on campus with some of the students. We’ll sit next to them and have conversations with them. It’s been cool to take a break from the hard work and be able to relax with the students on campus.”
Bedoya isn’t the only college standout on the roster either. Former Notre Dame defender Matt Besler, who roomed with then Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen for a spell, also enjoyed the nostalgia of living the campus life style.
“It’s fun, it’s refreshing, it brings me back to my college days,” said Besler. “Everyone is so open. There are students that come up to us while we’re eating lunch as a group and they’ll just ask if they can sit next to us. It was refreshing to see that and experience them as college students.”
The curiosity didn’t just flow one way. Many of the USA’s players skipped the opportunity to experience college life in pursuit of their professional dreams.
“A lot of the guys didn’t get to experience what college was like,” Besler noted. “It’s been fun at lunch, sitting next to Jozy and Tim Howard and they’re all asking about what it was like.”
And for players like defender Fabian Johnson, who did not have an idea of the United States’ college system, the taste of campus life was an all-together new and enjoyable experience. “It’s a whole different world for me,” he mused. “In Germany we don’t have a school program like this. It’s so different. The campus is really big, like almost a city in Germany. It’s incredible.”
The Stanford University campus covers approximately 8,180 acres, but the players, unlike many of the students they rubbed shoulders with during camp, did not have to traverse its entirety. And when longer distances were involved, they were afforded a little transportation by the University, which pulled out all the stops in situating the team for its stay.
“It’s very nice to drive a golf cart and have fun, but it’s very bad when a German guy drives a golf cart here in America,” joked defender Timmy Chandler. “It’s fun here to drive in the golf cart on the campus.”
“This whole experience has been amazing; Stanford has treated us so well,” added midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “The facilities and everything have been perfect. Stanford really rolled out the red carpet for us. It’s given us everything possible to train our hardest and recover to be ready for the next training sessions.”
- Logan Buckley