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Jan 22, 2010

Bornstein sticks to routine in preparation for Honduras

CARSON, Calif. -- A Honduran fan walks up to a soccer practice. Looks over the fence. Starts to yell. And then …

Well, let Jonathan Bornstein tell it.

"This guy was in a full Honduran kit and was yelling my name, and I looked over at him, and he was like, 'Thank you. Thank yoooouu,'" says Bornstein, who will take the field with the U.S. national team against Honduras at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night. "And then he wouldn't stop yelling my name. I was just trying to play. And he kept going, 'Jonathan! Jonathan! Thank you!'

And I'm like, 'All right man, that's cool! Thank you.'"

The Hondurans can't thank Bornstein enough. His out-of-nowhere header in the dying seconds of the final World Cup qualifier in October clinched a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica and the top spot in the CONCACAF group for the U.S. More important from a Central American perspective, it enabled Honduras to claim CONCACAF's third and final spot in South Africa -- giving the Catrachos their first World Cup trip since 1982.

It's just one reason Bornstein's a busy man these days. The goal against Costa Rica made him a hero in Honduras. His L.A. ties -- he plays for Chivas USA after a college career at Cal-Poly Pomona and UCLA -- make him a popular interview for local media. And his battle for a starting job at left back marks him as a person of interest in figuring out Bob Bradley's South Africa roster.

U.S. men's schedule
Saturday
U.S. vs. Honduras
Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
9 p.m. ET

With all that, Bornstein was good enough to let ESPNsoccernet in on how he has prepared for the match.

"This is my third January camp," he says, "three weeks where guys from MLS or Scandinavia are all coming off break. The first thing you have to do is build your fitness and get your feet under you."

In the beginning are double days, with training in the morning and evening, usually a gym session.

After two weeks, "the last week you taper down." The focus turns to tactics and what's expected from your position in the game, often with video and small group talks with coaches. Scouting Honduras won't be difficult. The U.S. played the Catrachos four times last year, winning two qualifiers and two Gold Cup matches. "They've got speed on the flanks," Bornstein says, "so you've just got to keep them at bay and be good with the ball."

U.S. national team blog

Get exclusive insight into the U.S. national team and its players as they prepare for South Africa. National team blog Insider

Less training time means more downtime, and the California native has plenty of family around, but they know enough not to be a distraction. "I tell them it's OK to watch, but I'm out here training, so don't be vocal and yell absurd things," he says. "They do a pretty good job. The first year they came out all the time and really wanted to see what was going on, so they've experienced it. This time they're just looking forward to the game."

So are the media, who have stood out in the rain every day this week to catch quotes from Bornstein after practice. "As it gets closer and closer, there's been a lot of requests," he says. "The reaction to the Costa Rica goal has been very positive, and I always say how crazy it is that one goal can affect a whole nation. It's pretty inspiring."

So is Bornstein's patience with the media, including the ESPN guy asking him what he eats on game day. Defenders tend to be detail-oriented. Bornstein? Well, let him tell it, and you decide …

"For me personally, it's get a good breakfast and just kind of relax. I'll eat like eggs and a bowl of oatmeal with some fruit in it. Maybe some potatoes. Then I'll kind of relax.

"Then the pregame meal is like four hours before, and for Chivas games, I always go to Subway. The foot-long. [Pause] The turkey. On Italian herb and cheese bread. [Pause] Tomatoes. [Pause, as the drizzle picks up.] Lettuce. Pickles. [Pause, as other reporters hoping to get their questions in, probably about soccer, stare uncomfortably at their shoes.] Cucumbers. The same thing every time."

He's not finished. "Before the national team games I'll eat what they have for us. Four hours before. Usually it'll be like chicken, pasta, vegetables. And rice or potatoes. Then I usually try to take a nap after that meal. If I don't get to sleep, it's no big deal. Just so I'm relaxing."

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And for the final countdown?

"On my way to the bus I put my headphones in and listen to this certain pump-up mix that I've had for basically like seven or eight months. It worked for a game, I can't even remember which one now, so I've kept it up. It was whenever Black Eyed Peas came out with that "I've Got a Feeling" song. That's the one I finish with. You know, 'I got a feeling tonight's gonna be a good night.'"

Bornstein scored his first national team goal here two years ago in a friendly against Denmark after the January camp. His last national team goal sent Honduras to the World Cup.

His next? We've got a feeling.

Luke Cyphers is a senior writer for ESPN The Mag.

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