In the latest of his diary entries from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein talks about the aftermath of the emotional U.S. victory over Algeria and what's coming Saturday versus Ghana.
Thursday, June 24
JOHANNESBURG -- It's been a day and a half now since the game against Algeria, so I thought I'd take some time for the next journal entry. I was just hanging out on Facebook and trying to talk to everyone who is messaging me. So many people -- it's ridiculous!
It's been an amazing few days, both for the team and for me personally as well. I'll start with the couple of days leading up to the match, when I first heard that I'd be making my World Cup debut. We often train with a lineup, but you never really know the exact starting lineup because Bob Bradley always moves guys around. But in training on Tuesday we had a starters versus reserves game, and Bob had come up to me before training and told me that I was going to get the nod. It became 100 percent confirmed at the meeting the night before the game. That's how I found out, and once I got the news I was just really excited, and from then on I was mentally preparing for the game and trying to get myself ready to play.
The day of the game was pretty typical for us: We woke up and had our pregame meal at noon because it was a 4 p.m. game, and then we went to the stadium. I was a little nervous because I knew I was going to be starting, and it's been my dream since I was a little kid to play in a World Cup game, but I was also just really excited. I tried to calm my nerves by going through the same routines that I always do before every game.
When we went on the field for warm-ups I was just trying to get myself as ready physically as possible. That was when everything was sinking in, because all the fans are in the stands and people are cheering and you could see all the Algerian fans and USA fans out there. When we came back into the locker rooms before the anthems, Landon [Donovan] and Carlos [Bocanegra] took a minute to say a few words to me.
In the tunnel, Landon tapped me on the shoulder and told me, "More than anything, just have fun out there. There are a million people who'd want to be in your shoes right now, so enjoy it and do your best."
There were a lot of emotions going on during the anthems. I was nervous, but when we were singing the U.S. anthem, I felt extremely proud. But there were definitely nerves because that moment had finally come and I was going to be fulfilling a dream that I had set out to do a long time ago.
Once the game started, I got my first touch, first tackle, first pass; it became more like just another game. My nerves settled down and it was just business as usual from there, trying to contribute to my team as best I can. Defensively I thought I did pretty well and didn't get beat very many times down that side. Offensively I tried to get forward, contributing to the attack when I could. I had one shot -- it wasn't the greatest, I know -- but something good came of it, and I just tried to play the game that I know how to play. It was a great experience and I had fun, and I'm looking forward to more games of this magnitude.
When I got subbed out in the 80th minute, DaMarcus Beasley went on and I said to him "Good luck out there, and bring something to lift us." I shook hands with all the players and coaches, and it felt good to have been part of that defensive effort that we had put up.
Flash forward about 10 minutes and Donovan scores the goal. It was amazing. We all went to celebrate and I think Stuart Holden was already further down the field because he thought Clint Dempsey was going to score. I had started to run and stopped when Clint's shot was saved, but then started again, and it was just unreal how it played out.
We all went to the corner, which I think has turned into our team's celebration -- getting to the corner and having everyone, including the entire bench and all the players on the field, join in on the celebration. It's what I did in D.C. when I scored against Costa Rica, and that's where we ended up again Wednesday. It was an incredible moment.
On the way back to the hotel, Benny [Feilhaber] and I were talking about what we thought the response would be, and who would've watched the game, and when we got to the room we realized that every single person we know had watched the game. It was crazy that we had that much support. Then we started seeing the videos on YouTube from around the country of people watching the game in bars, coffee shops, at their houses, and all reacting to the goal. It was amazing to see the response from all over the United States; it's truly something I would have never expected.
I also felt bad for a couple of my friends -- Garrett Taylor and Anthony Olea -- who had come all the way to South Africa to see me play but could only stay for the first two group games. It was too bad that they missed me, but I definitely appreciated that they came all the way out to support the team. All the fans that have traveled here to see us have been incredible -- I want to thank all of them.
What's nice is that after that game, a lot of the pressure we felt has been lifted. The group stage is extremely difficult, and for us, there were so many ups and downs. Going down early to England, going down two goals to Slovenia, and then fighting back both times, it's been a crazy ride and we're all pretty thrilled and relieved to get out of that group and on to the next round. We're extremely happy to have achieved the goal we set out when camp started, which was to make the second round. To take first place in the group, that was icing on the cake. We're all really proud of that, and now we're just really looking forward to this game against Ghana.
We started our preparations today, doing some scouting. We get a sheet with all the players, their positions, their attributes, and their qualities, and we also watched some video of their game against Germany. We're just trying to get a feel of what they're all about. I think everyone is really eager about the game, and we'll just be getting ready over the next day or two as this gets closer.
Talk to you after Saturday's game!
Thursday, June 17
JOHANNESBURG -- Hello from South Africa! I'm here hanging out in the room, where we just got done watching the Mexico vs. France game, which was pretty exciting. Benny [Feilhaber] and I have been doing ESPN's Pick 'Em for the World Cup and we both took Mexico to win, so we got our predictions right on. It was pretty awesome to see a former MLS player, Blanco, get a goal, and a former Chivas player, Chicharito (Javier Hernández), get the other one.
It's been a busy week since our game against England. It was a really exciting game, and it was great for us to get a point. But immediately after the game, we realized we had to move forward from there, and we started talking about Slovenia. The buzz throughout all of our preparations had been for the England game, and so we had to change gears right after the match. We had a 2 1/2-hour bus ride from the stadium to our hotel, so that gave us a lot of time to talk about everything. Everyone was just really excited, and confidence is high going into this next game.
Training this week has been good. Everyone is confident coming off that tie and now we're focused on Slovenia. We've been doing work both at training and at the hotel, where we're watching the video on key matchups for individual players, trying to get a feel for Slovenia and look at their overall game plan. We had Monday off, and on Tuesday and Wednesday we tried to raise the level and make things pretty intense. Today we trained at Ellis Park, which a lot of us remember from the Confederations Cup final and from 2007, when we played against South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup. It's good to be back in that stadium, and tonight we just went through our final preparations for tomorrow.
Earlier this week we also had the chance to do something a little different. Overall, the food here has been good, but it's gotten a little repetitive, and on Sunday night we wanted a little bit of a change. A bunch of the guys, especially the England-based guys, like this place called Nando's, which is originally a South African restaurant but they have them all over. I think there are a few of them in Washington, D.C. It's a grilled chicken place, and to be honest, it's a little bit like Charo Chicken, where I used to work when I was in high school. Benny got everyone's order and we got this huge delivery. The chicken was a good change from the normal rice-and-pasta-type thing.
On Monday we had the day off from training, and after Benny and I went golfing (again), we came back and had a big barbecue with everyone's family at our hotel. We got to meet everyone's parents, aunts, uncles, friends, girlfriends, wives; it was great to meet all these people that have supported us for so long. Plus it was different setting for dinner, so we got away from our normal routine a little bit, which was nice.
As for our match tomorrow, I already chose the U.S. on the ESPN Pick 'Em, and I feel really confident in our team's ability. If you look at it in terms of qualifying for the next round and getting out of the group, it's kind of a must-win for us. A loss would almost knock us out, a tie would put us in OK position, but we'd still have to win the next one and results from other teams, but a win puts qualifying in our own hands. Mentally, we're getting ready, trying to stay as relaxed as possible, and I'll call it a night relatively early so that we wake up refreshed and ready to go. I try not to think about it too much the night before, because I don't want it to cost me any sleep, but either way, it's the World Cup, so I'll definitely be ready.
One thing that made me wish I was home is that today is my little brother Taylor's graduation from Los Alamitos High School. I am so proud of him and want to make sure to wish him congratulations.
Thursday, June 10
RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- We just got here tonight. We had training at 10 a.m., which is a little different than our normal schedule, because we've normally been training at about 4 p.m., and we trained today in the same Tshwane Stadium where we'd been. Then we departed for Rustenburg at 2:15 p.m., and drove here and got here at about 4:30.
Traveling a larger distance like Tshwane to Rustenburg is pretty much the same as getting to training on a daily basis. We've got a handful of motorcycle cops who go ahead of us and block off the roads, and once we pass them on the road, they'll drive past the bus up a mile or so and then block off the street again. We also have a cop in front of us and behind us, and a couple of other cars, and today we even had a helicopter escort. It's pretty intense, the level of security we have, but it's all worth it.
Even when we went golfing we had two security guys with us, following us and watching us play. Late in the round, I went up to them on a par-3 and told them "All right, you guys have to hit on this hole." So everyone in our group, even the security guards, played the hole. We always try to make sure they know that we're appreciative of them and the work they do and the way they operate.
Since we got here today, we've just been hanging out in the hotel. We had dinner, a meeting, and then a bunch of us played poker. If I were still in the tournament, I'd still be playing, but since I lost I'm doing this now! People other than Brad [Guzan] have been winning recently; I think Benny [Feilhaber] won one night, and some other guys split the pot another night -- but not me. I haven't won at all; bad cards, bad decisions and impatience. ... I might have to make sure to stick to the pingpong.
Friday is going to be pretty similar to the game-day schedule, because we're training in the stadium at 8:15 p.m., which is the same time of day as our match Saturday. It'll be a good way to prepare, to get an idea of the weather, the field and the stadium. Other than that, we've got a lot of downtime, and after we get done with training we'll have a meeting and another meal. A pretty uneventful day, but it's all mental preparation and just fine-tuning everything.
In terms of my personal preparation tomorrow, I'll just treat it pretty much like a normal day. I think they've got a pingpong table at this hotel -- they had one here last year when we played against Egypt -- so we'll see if I can find somebody to play.
With our preparation for the England game, we feel pretty good. Since we got to South Africa, trainings have been very productive and everyone is getting on the same page and everyone has a pretty good mindset about what we have to accomplish. We're really looking forward to the game. I think our chance for success is to play our style of soccer, to be very compact in the back and not give them many opportunities. We've done a lot of scouting on them, so we have a sense of what to expect, and now it's just a matter of stepping on the field and performing.
The game is late in the day, so my preparation starts when I wake up in the morning. I'll make sure to get a good breakfast, and then just relax before lunch. We'll just hang out in the hotel room before the pregame meal, and after that it'll just be taking a shower, getting ready for the game. On the way to the game I'll have my iPod on, listening to some stuff to pump me up, like Rise Against. Once we get to the stadium, I have some superstitions: I'll put on my right sock before my left sock, and I won't tie my cleats until I get out on the field. Then just go through the warm-up and get myself as ready as I can for the game. It's almost time!
Thanks for reading.
June 7, 2010:
JOHANNESBURG -- We've been in South Africa for about a week now. This year, we flew in as a team, which was different from the Confederations Cup last year, when I flew on my own from Los Angeles to Germany and from there to South Africa. We took a bus from Philadelphia to D.C., then got on a plane and flew to Dakar, Senegal, which was eight hours, and then to Johannesburg, and that was another eight-hour flight.
We were all in first class, and I was sitting next to Benny Feilhaber, so we just hung out and talked, slept a lot, ate the meals when they woke us up to eat, and it kind of went by pretty fast, actually -- a lot faster than I remember it going when I flew in on my own last year.
When we arrived, everyone gave us an awesome welcome. We got through customs, had our passports stamped, and people from the embassy were there to meet us and tell us what to expect. It was a good introduction to the country.
Then when we got to the hotel, and they had about 30 or 40 people from the hotel staff who were all singing and dancing as a welcome to us, and it was definitely the coolest part of our arrival to South Africa.
Since we've been here, we've just been adjusting to the time zone and everything, and I think we all feel pretty well adjusted now. My sleeping pattern has caught up to me; I go to bed between 11 and 12, and breakfast is anywhere from 7 to 10 in the morning. If you have a gym workout at 10 a.m., you get up for that, but otherwise we usually have a team lunch around noon, and sometimes you don't have to wake up until then.
In the free time after training and meals and stuff, there's plenty of stuff to do. We've got two ping-pong tables, two foosball tables, a pool table, a game room with a bunch of board games; we've got Xbox and Wii. Other than that, you can be on the Internet in your room, which works pretty well.
The rest of the time is just training and being with the team. I'm rooming with Benny Feilhaber again, and we hang out a lot because we've been friends for a long time.
I've been playing a lot of ping-pong, just like after practice with Chivas USA. I'm undefeated here, actually -- nobody's beaten me yet, and I've played a bunch of the guys: Landon Donovan, Stewie Holden, Steve Cherundolo, Pierre Barrieu. Everyone's been playing a little bit, and they even brought a doubles match to me, Coaches vs. Players: Me and Stuart Holden against Jesse Marsch and Pierre. We beat them, in a pretty close match -- closer than the one-on-ones, anyway! That's been a lot of fun.
Also we've been playing cards at night in little poker tournaments. On Friday night, I took second and Brad Guzan took first, and the night before that Brad won again. He's been the best out of all of us so far, but I'm sure a lot of other people would argue that they're better than he is. We've just been passing the time as best we can so far.
On the field, we're definitely getting excited for the World Cup to start. When we got here, training started out pretty easy, because on that first day we just needed to get our legs under us and get the travel out of our systems. So at first we took it pretty easy with an extended warm-up and then played some possession games, and that was basically it. The second day, guys started to get their legs back a little more and we started getting more intense. Since then, we've been having normal training sessions with the 23 guys. We're trying to get prepared as well as we can, staying fit and going through pretty normal practices.
I felt like we prepared pretty well for Saturday's game against Australia. The game went pretty well for us, with a lot of positives overall. As the last tune-up game before we play England, I think that what the coaching staff learned from the game will help us weed out some of the bad stuff in our last training sessions and emphasize some of the good things. I thought overall the team played well, and we got the win, which always helps your confidence going into the first game.
For me personally, I thought I had a more solid game than the last couple, and I finally felt like my feet were under me a little bit more, and I felt good. I hope to build on it in these last training sessions before the game and take it from there!
Well, I think it's time for me to head down and see if I can still jump into tonight's card game. They might have already started, but I could also just play some FIFA or just hang out with all the guys -- and if anyone wants to play ping-pong, I'm always up for the challenge!
Talk to you later.
Jonathan Bornstein is a defender for Chivas USA and the U.S. men's national team. He will be filing a regular diary from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa throughout the tournament.