Walking into the training ground at Sao Paulo FC in Brazil, Brad Evans felt like he was walking into a soccer paradise.
With three perfectly manicured fields, a pool, full gym, dorms and all the amenities, the grounds have all the trappings to help the U.S. National Team in its training camp. Add to that the pictures that line the walls of Sao Paulo’s opening match Starting XI from every year, dating back to the inaugural season in 1936, and there is a rich history added to the modern luxury.
“It’s insane. I’ve never been to any place like it. It’s like a tropical oasis, almost,” Evans said. “Everywhere you go, they have the Starting XI photo from every club dating back to when the club started. It’s pretty incredible to see that. The style of play of this club is a culture. Once a left midfielder leaves, they bring in the next guy who is 5-10 years younger and plays the same way in the same system. That’s what this club has done to stay with the top clubs in Brazil.”
That is the site that the U.S. is calling home during this leg of January training camp and it is where many of those same players will return in June for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, acting as home base for the Americans as they open in the Group Stage with Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
However, the oasis is a bit of a mirage.
While in Brazil, hot temperatures and a humid climate have left the players in a bit of a daze, working their way through two training sessions each day through the first few days of camp. That is by design, though, as Klinsmann is working to get a cohesive unit by putting the players in situations where they have to work hard together.
On Thursday, they played a closed-door scrimmage with Sao Paulo FC, followed by a fitness session. Even through that fatigue, they still were able to put in a good session on Friday and build toward the weekend.
“It was extremely difficult. They told us they wanted us to hit the wall and stay together as a group and sometimes those things bring the group together,” Evans said. “You face a little bit of adversity together and you make it through unscathed and then you feel better after it.”
Although the trip acts as a dry run for the U.S., the team in camp isn’t focused on what is happening in June. They aren’t even concerned with the February 1 friendly at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, against South Korea.
All that matters to the 26 players training at Sao Paolo is that day’s training sessions.
“Nobody is really focusing on February 1st just yet. The game is the ultimate goal, but it’s two weeks away and we still have a week left in Sao Paolo and a week left of some hard trainings in the heat and guys are focused on being in the moment and getting better and playing some more soccer,” Evans said. “That’s the goal right now – keeping your mind focused on the task at hand. Right now that’s training hard, training smart and making sure that you’re healthy through this trip to make sure that you have the best shot to make the roster for the South Korea game.”
The 26 players will return to California late this week and enter their final week of camp before the February 1 match against South Korea.