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Dispatch from Palo Alto

Stanford Provides Collegial Backdrop for U.S. Training

For Graham Zusi (University of Maryland) and Alejandro Bedoya (Boston College), training for the 2014 World Cup at Stanford University is a welcome reminder of their college years.

BY Jon Arnold Posted
May 26, 2014
7:53 AM
PALO ALTO, Calif.—Across the globe, all 32 teams that will compete for the the World Cup have met up in various locations to start their preparations for the tournament in Brazil.

And yes, some weird things have happened. The Honduran side splashed around on the beach; Japan's team did an exercise that involved standing on a balance trainer and holding a paddle; several managers banned sex or in Mexico’s case sex and beef (simultaneous or not) after past scares with the banned substance clenbuterol being found in beef products.

But the United States is likely the only team greeted after training by a pep rally featuring a guy dressed up as a tree.

Hosting camp on a college campus with class still in session tends to lead to some odd moments. In addition to the Stanford University band welcoming the team atop the tunnel from the stadium one day, players have been eating meals in the cafeteria and sharing space with Stanford’s athletic teams.

Being on campus brings back good memories for several of the national team players.

“It’s been a lot of fun actually,” said Graham Zusi, a University of Maryland graduate. “Stanford has provided us with absolutely incredible facilities, and we haven’t had to worry about anything but the product on the field— and that’s the way it should be.”

“Ah, it’s been nice. Reminds me of the good old college days,” ex-Boston College student Alejandro Bedoya said. “I feel like many people around the world don’t really understand how the college experience life and how it is in the States. It makes me miss those days, but it’s been cool.”

Of course, many of those people Bedoya mentioned are playing with him on the national team right now, whether they missed out on four-plus years of studying and/or partying to pursue a professional career in the sport or simply didn’t grow up in the country.

“I can’t really tell because it’s like a whole different world for me because in Germany we don’t have such a school program like this,” defender Fabian Johnson said with a laugh. “Just so different and I think the campus is really big, like almost a city in Germany. It’s just, yeah, incredible.”

With a sprawling campus, golf carts are the preferred method of transportation for many players. Pressed to name any particularly poor drivers among his teammates, the affable Johnson politely demurred.

While the facilities are generally top notch, some sacrifices must be made. The cold tubs seem to be the same kind of inflatable kiddie pools available for purchase at your local Walgreens. But aside from that minor detail, the players are enjoying the chance to chat with people outside the staff and utilize the various campus amenities.

“Stanford’s been really nice to us, opening up all the facilities pretty much to us and being able to have lunch on campus with some of the students,” Bedoya said. “We’re sitting next to some of the students, having conversations with them and it’s been cool. You can take a break from the hard work and stuff and be able to just relax with the students on campus.”

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributor and podcast maker. He will be in the Bay Area covering the U.S. national team through Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter.

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