U.S. finishes preparations for Costa Rica
MIAMI -- The U.S. soccer team concluded five days of training on Sunday and was looking forward to the arrival of members who couldn't participate in preparations for the team's World Cup qualifying matches this week.
Forced to run practices without such key players as Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley because of their commitments to their MLS teams or European clubs, coach Bob Bradley was also in the dark about the availability of veteran defender Frankie Hejduk.
After sitting out the last two games for the Columbus Crew with a groin injury, Hejduk was set to arrive in Miami on Sunday afternoon to be evaluated by Bradley and the training staff.
"We'll evaluate him over the next few days and make some decisions, and the first decision is just is he going to be ready for Wednesday," Bradley said. "He's obviously missed two games so that I think tells you there's some concern, but now we just have to try to make good decisions not only for one game but for the fact that we've got some heavy activity coming up."
First up is a match Wednesday in San Jose, Costa Rica, where the U.S. has never beaten or tied the home team in five visits. After that the Americans will host Honduras in Chicago in another qualifier on Saturday, and then it's off to South Africa to compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Should the 34-year-old Hejduk not be able to play, Bradley will likely turn to one of two 23-year-olds on his roster, Jonathan Spector or Marvell Wynne.
In addition to Hejduk, Bocanegra, Beasley, Donovan, Wynne, Pablo Mastroeni and Brian Ching were expected to join the team on Sunday. Goalkeeper Tim Howard, Benny Feilhaber and Jose Torres were slated to arrive Monday in time to board the team's charter flight to Costa Rica.
Danny Califf, who plays in Denmark, is flying directly to Costa Rica.
Those 11 players missed out on the last two days of training on the artificial turf at FIU's football stadium on Saturday and the soccer pitch on Sunday, which served as a bit of preparation for the artificial turf awaiting them in Costa Rica's Saprissa Stadium.
"Obviously, the majority of us aren't used to playing on turf, so I think a couple of days here and training over there should help us become more acclimated to their surface come Wednesday," said defender Oguchi Onyewu, the only player on the field for the U.S. the last time the two teams met in San Jose -- a 3-0 loss in October 2005.
"You feel the heat a lot more on turf, the ball rolls differently, your touches have got to be a lot more different and you've got to concentrate more when you have the ball at your feet," Onyewu said. "But that's what being a pro's all about and I think we have the players in camp that can handle that."
The U.S. (2-0-1) currently leads its six-team group with seven points through three of 10 qualifiers, with Costa Rica (2-1-0) just one point back followed by Honduras (1-1-1) with four points and Mexico (1-2-0) with three points. El Salvador (0-1-2) and Trinidad & Tobago (0-1-2) are bringing up the rear with two points.