Ching, U.S. team arrive in Germany for Cup
HAMBURG, Germany — The U.S. soccer team arrived in Germany early today, carrying high expectations for the World Cup, generated by the team's No. 5 ranking and its quarterfinal finish in 2002.
Players and the coaching staff traveled in a charter flight from Newark Liberty International Airport and emerged from a terminal at Hamburg Airport just after 6:10 a.m.
Led by coach Bruce Arena and captain Claudio Reyna, the U.S. team was greeted in Germany by a choir dressed in soccer jerseys. The players, many carrying cameras and taking pictures and video, had a 75-foot walk on a red carpet to the team bus, which was to go directly to the downtown hotel.
Police and security vehicles surrounded the bus on the tarmac, but the security presence was far less than the one that met the U.S. team when it landed in South Korea four years ago.
The team was to hold its first news conference in Germany in the early afternoon, then head to its first workout at Norderstedt, the training camp of the local Bundesliga team, Hamburger Sport-Verein.
"The ranking has got expectations maybe a bit skewed," defender Chris Albright said after several U.S. players appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" yesterday. "I think it's flattering that we're fifth in the world, but I don't know if that's exactly accurate. But at the same time, what do rankings mean? Who would have thought George Mason would get to the Final Four?"
After three exhibition games in six days, the Americans had three days off this week. The United States opens the World Cup against the second-ranked Czech Republic on June 12 in Gelsenkirchen.
The U.S. team is a mix of veterans and newcomers.
One veteran who could most affect the U.S. fortunes is Reyna, who strained his right hamstring against Morocco on May 23 and missed the games against Latvia and Venezuela. Reyna hopes to resume training today.
"He's huge," said forward Brian Ching, a World Cup rookie who scored one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Venezuela. "When he's healthy and on the field, he's the general. He's so good on the ball and so important to our team as far as possession goes. We're going to need him out there if we're going to go far."
Ching is a Kamehameha Schools alum from Hale'iwa.
After facing the Czechs, the U.S. team plays Italy in Kaiserslautern on June 17 and concludes group play against Ghana in Nuremberg on June 22.
"It's important for us to do well in this World Cup because of the pressure and the media attention we're getting," Ching said. "People have to understand it's a tough group. A team like France the last time around didn't even win a game or score a goal, and they were the defending champions. When you look at that, you realize anything can happen in these games. I think we have the right mentality and we'll be prepared going in."