The stifling São Paulo traffic splits for few. Even ambulances, with their ear-splitting high-pitched squeal, struggled to find their way through the honks, beeps and rumbles of early morning traffic from Guarulho International Airport this morning. Just about the only vehicles that found their way through the chaos were motorcycles weaving in and out between the cars; those and the U.S. National Team bus.
The USA arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday after a 4,000-plus mile trip that included nine hours of total flying – one hour-long jaunt from Jacksonville to Miami, then a nearly eight-hour overnight flight from Miami to Sao Paulo. The team arrived just past the peak of the São Paulo rush hour, boarded their bus, and a police escort guided the team through standstill traffic.
Some motorists had so much idle time, they stopped and took pictures.
"My eyes were still closed trying to get off the plane," Tim Howard joked. "I think we were quite tired, but the reception was great. We're looking forward to unpacking our bags and getting used to the hotel and our surroundings."
The streets surrounding the team's São Paulo hotel turned into an exhibition of security precautions as the bus approached for the players' first entrance into their home away from home. Brazilian military stood stone-faced with rifles at the ready. A phalanx of police guarded the sidewalks.
But the scene greeting the team in the lobby was a celebratory one; a line of hotel staff surrounded the players upon their entrance, greeting the Americans with a warm round of applause.
The team received their keys and proceeded to their rooms. For some, like defender Matt Besler, it was only then that the enormity of the situation began to dawn on them.
That moment when you land in Brazil and realize you're here to play in the WORLD CUP...yea, that just happened #USA— Matt Besler (@mbesler) June 9, 2014
There would be little time for basking in the glow. Despite head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's absence – he stayed behind in Miami along with advisor Berti Vogts to scout the USA’s Group G opponents Ghana in their friendly against South Korea – the U.S. would have their first training session in Brazil just a few hours after arriving at the hotel, and only 20 hours after leaving the country they will soon represent at the world’s most popular sporting event.
Another bus, another police escort. This time to the training grounds of São Paulo FC, the same location where the team spent 12 days training on a dry run in January – preparation for this very moment.
"It's like Christmas morning," Howard said. "We're just excited to be here, and now it's gotten real."