Is it a stretch to believe the U.S. can beat a young Brazil team tonight in New York? U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley stretches Monday during training (AP Photos).
The game kicks off at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 and Univision. Here’s a look at what to expect from Associated Press writer Ronald Blum:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Less than one month after the World Cup, players from all corners of the globe gather tonight for a high-profile exhibition game between the United States and Brazil.
A dozen Americans returned home from European clubs for Tuesday night’s match at the gleaming New Meadowlands Stadium. Jozy Altidore, below, was training less than 2 hours after arriving from Spain, where he played on Sunday.
Brazil’s Daniel Alves flew Sunday to New York from Beijing, where he was with Barcelona on a preseason tour. Seven of his Barca teammates from world champion Spain headed to Mexico for an exhibition Wednesday, their first match since the final on July 11.
“Us as players sometimes get pulled around quite a bit,’” Landon Donovan said. “Personally I believe there should be a little closer attention paid to how many games players are playing. I think Kaka’s a perfect example. Players are not machines, and there’s only so much you can do. That being said, I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that this is the type of game players love to play in.
“But too many high-intensity games like this, and players are going to break down. That’s normal — especially with all the travel that goes on nowadays.”
Brazil’s Kaka, the 2007 FIFA player of the year, had left knee surgery last week in Belgium after he reported to Real Madrid’s preseason tour in California and was diagnosed as playing through the World Cup with a torn meniscus. The Netherlands’ Arjen Robben arrived at Bayern Munich’s preseason with a torn left hamstring after leading his nation to the World Cup final.
Brazil had just two training sessions ahead of the match, its start of preparations for
hosting the 2014 tournament. The U.S. had one practice.
Alves said his flight from China went well. He doesn’t think all the constant movement causes problems.
“I think we’re all very well prepared,” he said through a translator. “I don’t believe we’ll
have injuries because of that. If you have injuries, it’s just because of the normal
circumstances of soccer.”
More than 65,000 tickets had been sold for the match in the new $1.6 billion home of the NFL’s Giants and Jets, where listed capacity of 82,500 includes more than 200 luxury suites and 10,000 club seats. Brazilian great Pele was expected to attend and see a new-look Selecao roster meet an old-look U.S. team that set U.S. television ratings records during the World Cup.
Mano Menezes replaced the fired Dunga as Brazil’s coach after the quarterfinal loss to the Dutch and selected just four of Brazilians who were on the roster in South Africa: defenders Alves and Thiago Silva, midfielder Ramires and forward Robinho, below right, training with Daniel Alves Monday.
Hoping to restore “Jogo Bonito (Beautiful Game)” and jettison Dunga’s defensive approach, Menezes chose 11 with no national team experience.
While the Selecao is missing Maicon, Lucio and Julio Cesar, its impressive roster includes AC Milan forward Alexandre Pato, Santos scoring sensation Neymar, Santos midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso, Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva, Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva and Real Madrid defender Marcelo.
“Tough trips and long flights, but of course when we are playing for the national team we must be focused,” Lucas said. “It’s a new start for everyone. I think after the World Cup, of course the pressure will be higher, especially now that the next World Cup will be in Brazil. So the people are really excited — and waiting for the national team to win the World Cup.”
Paulo Henrique Ganso said Brazil’s young group may be better in some aspects that the
“In technical quality, possibly even higher than the previous one,” he said through an
Brazil has won 14 of 15 meetings, outscoring the U.S. 29-10. The lone American victory was 1-0 in 1998 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in Los Angeles, when Preki scored in the 65th minute and goalkeeper Kasey Keller had 10 saves.
Last year, the U.S. took a two-goal halftime lead in the final of the Confederations Cup as Clint Dempsey and Donovan scored, but Brazil rallied for a 3-2 victory on two goals by Luis Fabiano and one by Lucio.
“The opportunity to play against Brazil at any point is special,” Donovan said. “I think
people are savvy enough to know the difference between playing in a World Cup game and playing in tomorrow’s game. That being said, we’re at a point now where we expect to compete with these teams in a real way and not a shot in the dark, hope we can beat Brazil.”
The U.S. roster includes 15 World Cup holdovers, with midfielders Dempsey, Stuart Holden and DaMarcus Beasley, and defender Jay DeMerit among the missing.
Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, who brought his surfboard to training, is the lone member of the U.S. roster with no international experience.
“I know that the game is that much more faster, so I have to be ready for it,” he said.
Menezes, right, plans an attack-minded formation that will start Robinho, Pato and Neymar, a repudiation of Dunga’s choices. He wants players who are fast and agile from midfield forward.
“It’s important to make clear to us and to all that Brazilian soccer always had this kind of
talent. We’re not inventing anything new,” he said through a translator.
In Brazil, winning is a must at all times.
“The results, I’m aware, it’s always important,” he said. “With no results, projects cannot
survive, and you can generate more doubts than certainties. And I know that I want to work here with certainties.”
In other news surrounding the game, apparently ex-Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan is no longer “bored” now he’s in Belgium:
Sacha Kljestan had quickly settled in at Anderlecht, becoming a regular starter for the Belgian club.
Selected for the preliminary 30-man World Cup roster, Kljestan was cut when coach Bob Bradley trimmed it to the final 23. Two days before the U.S. played its World Cup opener against England, Kljestan transferred from Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA to Anderlecht.
He scored in his European Champions League debut, a seventh-minute goal that started Anderlecht to a 3-1 win over Wales’ The New Saints July 27 in the first leg of the third qualifying round. Anderlecht plays Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade in the playoff round of qualifying, going on the road for the first leg Aug. 18 and finishing at home six days later. The winner advances to the lucrative group phase.
“It was a good start not only for me personally, but for the team, as well,” Kljestan said.
“It was of great importance to me personally just because I had been at Chivas and I think it was time to move on. I was excited that a club like Anderlecht came forward and wanted to sign me and really put a lot into signing me. I think we’re both very happy it happened.
“I just want to grow as a player, obviously, and explore Europe, just kind of further my life over there. You get kind of used to doing the same thing every day, especially living in California for a long time. I got a little bored. I’m ready to become a better player, be a
bigger part of the national team. Obviously, the big goal is making the next World Cup
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — American midfielder Benny Feilhaber hopes to move on from Denmark’s AGF Aarhus before the European transfer window closes Aug. 31.
The 25-year-old player signed with Aarhus before the 2008-09 season following stints with Hamburg (2005-07) and Derby (2007-08).
“I’ve got another year in Aarhus. The intent is there to sell me. They want to try to get some money for me,” Feilhaber said Monday, a day before the U.S. played Brazil in the teams’ first post-World Cup exhibition. “For me, as well, I’d like to go somewhere so I could play on a first-division team. Obviously, we were relegated last season,” Feilhaber said. “All in all, me and the team both want to try to get something done, but as of now there hasn’t been any official offer yet. There’s been interest from teams and I’ve just really got to wait it out, I guess, and see if something is going to happen toward the end of the month.”
Feilhaber is aware of several possible destinations.
“I’ve heard there’s a team in Spain and maybe a couple teams in Germany, maybe even a team in Denmark,” he said. “I could potentially stay in Denmark. But I’m not 100 percent sure on any of those. Those are all really rumors to me.”