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Direct from Sao Paolo

Dive Talking: A Relaxed U.S. Chats About Fred & More

Seventy-two hours before a massive match against Ghana, members of the U.S. men's national team discussed the Brazil-Croatia match, Fred's dive, and their eagerness to get things started.

BY John Godfrey Posted
June 13, 2014
12:39 PM
SAO PAOLO, Brazil—Jurgen Klinsmann elected not to hold a full practice on Friday the 13th.

Superstition? A matter of logistics? A little of both?

Or perhaps the national team was, like Sao Paolo itself, experiencing a slight World Cup hangover. The fast-paced city seemed positively sleepy Friday, and the U.S. men's national team seemed to be enjoying its time away from the training pitch.

It's fair to say that nobody on the U.S. men's national team got injured during Friday's morning gym session, and the odds are that the team will come through unscathed at this afternoon's beach run in Natal.

A half-dozen U.S. players met with the media outside the team hotel today, but there wasn't much to talk about. Most of the conversations centered on what the players watched on TV last night—Brazil's controversy-marred 3-1 victory over Croatia in the 2014 World Cup opener.

And diving.

"I've got no problem with the Brazilian player going down," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "I would encourage my own players, if they felt contact, to go down. It's the referee's job and obligation and responsibility to get it right."

When Graham Zusi was asked about Fred's theatrical fall in the penalty area, he jokingly said that he practices his diving technique for 15 minutes after every practice. But then he got serious and said he's not a fan of the tactic.

Diving "exists in all leagues across the world, but as far as I'm concerned I'd like it to not be there," Graham Zusi said. "I've never really incorporated [diving] into my game."

Backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan acknowledged that the players made quite a bit of noise when they saw the slow-motion replays of the dive, "But you could hear more shouts and screams coming from the streets outside."

Jermaine Jones didn't have much to say about the play: "It's not my decision, it's not my group. So I don't really care."

What the players do care about, certainly, is getting on the field and playing. While the World Cup is in full gear, the U.S. still has to wait until Monday to square off with Ghana in its opener. You could sense the excitement, and perhaps a slight tinge of frustration, in the players.

"We're all itching to be out on the field," Zusi said. "We had an exciting time last night watching the first game and we want to be doing the same thing. I think our preparations are on point and we're ready to get going."

"There's a real buzz about it," Guzan agreed. "We're ready to get things started. The World Cup is only once every four years, and we're in a position now to hopefully surprise some people and set some exciting times for U.S. Soccer."

While there have been multiple reports of protests in Sao Paolo—and elsewhere in Brazil—none of that seems to be bothering the players in the slightest. The players seemed calm, lighthearted, and even jocular three days before one of the biggest games of their careers.

"I haven't seen riots," Howard said. "I've heard fireworks go off, but I've been up in the hotel, relaxing. I've been sleeping comfortably for the last week, no traffic problems, everything has been great."

Howard, apparently, has been sleeping extremely well. He even dozed off during the Brazil-Croatia match.

“Yeah we train hard," Jones said with a smirk, "and Timmy’s like a little bit older so he has to sleep.”

John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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