Web giant Yahoo announced as part of the Digital NewFronts that it will team up with Mike Tollin (“Arliss”, “Coach Carter”, “Smallville”) to produce a half-hour comedy series with basketball as the backdrop.
To be written by Chris Chase, eight half-hour episodes of “Sin City Saints” will follow the exploits of a Las Vegas-based pro basketball expansion team.
The new series will be launched via Yahoo Screen, a video platform that can be accessed on the Web or on a branded app available for consumption across devices and on TV via set-top boxes including Apple TV and Roku. Even though specific launch dates have yet to be determined, every episode will be available at once.
Roland Lazenby, author of Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, delivers another hoop star tome. This 797-page gem covers six-time NBA champion, five-time MVP, fourteen-time All-Star and recent inductee into the Hall of Fame – Michael Jordan.
Drawing on his personal relationships with Jordan’s coaches, interviews with Jordan’s friends, teammates, opponents and family members, Lazenby, in exploring some startling details beginning from Jordan’s childhood, draws an engaging portrait of his life and career including the hey-days of the Bulls’ title runs.
Having spent thirty years as a basketball journalist covering Jordan from a skinny rookie to global icon, Lazenby explores the player’s rise to superstardom and its effect on family and friends. It also offers solid insight into Jordan’s renowned competitive intensity.
On the business side of the game, there is a well-told story of how Nike came to endorse and build a brand around a rookie pitchman who had yet to play a single minute of pro ball. There is also a look at his clashes with Bulls GM Jerry Krause and the ups and downs with teammates.
Objectively written but a bit long, the book certainly would have been served well with some accompanying images. Overall Michael Jordan: The Life offers an unparalleled view of the man behind the icon.
For the fifth year, starting tomorrow and running for three days and four nights, fans of vintage cinema will enjoy screenings at some of Hollywood’s classic movie palaces as the cable channel TCM brings it popular film festival to Southern California.
The theme of this year’s fest is Family in the Movies: The Ties That Bind.
The 2014 slate includes three films celebrating their 75th anniversaries this year — “The Wizard of Oz”, “Gone with the Wind” and “Stagecoach,” which made John Wayne a star — will be presented.
The festival also will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” Mel Brooks will appear for the 40th anniversary of his comedy classic “Blazing Saddles,” and 93-year-old Maureen O’Hara will be on hand for the world premiere restoration of John Ford’s Oscar-winning “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).
The curtain rises Thursday with a gala screening of the newly restored musical “Oklahoma!” On hand will be one of its stars, Shirley Jones, who made her film debut in the 1955 movie directed by Fred Zinnemann.
Legendary actor, filmmaker and humanitarian Jerry Lewis will participate in a hand and footprint ceremony in front of refurbished TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday then attend a screening of The Nutty Professor (1963), which he starred in and directed.
“Jerry Lewis is a very important name whenever movie comedy is discussed and enjoyed,” TCM host Robert Osborne, who also serves as the official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival, said in a statement. “Jerry has provided the world with great merriment and laughter, while also showing, in such films as Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, what an exceptional dramatic actor he can be.
“Add to that his many credits as a popular director, producer and writer, and you see the reasons we are pleased to be able to honor him for his more than 60 years of contributions to the world of motion pictures.”
Other films set for screening include: the Frank Capra comedy-drama “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936); Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” (1944), William Wyler’s Best Picture Oscar winner “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946); “Godzilla: The Japanese Original” (1954); Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958) and Richard Lester’s Beatles’ hit “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964).
For any true movie lover, it’s a dream event seeing a classic movie on the big screen in the company of like-minded fans.
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL
When: Various screening times Thursday through April 13 in Hollywood.
Where: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd.; TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, 6925 Hollywood Blvd.; TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.; Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.;; El Capitan Theatre, 6838 Hollywood Blvd.; Montalban Theatre, 1615 N. Vine St.; The Hollywood Museum, 1660 N. Highland Ave.
Tickets: $14 for most films.
According to a report in Variety, actor Will Ferrell is attached to star in “Match Maker”, about the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
Based on Don Van Natta Jr.’s ESPN.com article, “The Match Maker: Bobby
Riggs, the Mafia and the Battle of the Sexes,” the story follows the high profile
rivalry between the two tennis pros and their iconic 1973 tennis match. The
match was watched by 50 million Americans, who tuned in to see whether a
29-year-old female King could beat the retired 55-year-old Riggs. She did.
Soccer, hockey, auto racing and figure skating are some of the other sports movie backdrops that have featured Ferrell as the star.
Writer Steve Conrad (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) is attached to adapt the script.
This NFL Films production documents the Seahawks’ magical ride to glory on its way to winning the franchise’s first championship title.
You’ll go down the sidelines, on the field and into the locker room with exclusive access to all the vivid sounds and images of every game in Seattle’s memorable 2013-2014 season that culminated in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl Media Day
Super Bowl Post-Game Ceremonies
The Richard Sherman Story
NFL Game Day Morning: Russell Wilson
The Journey of Pete Carroll
Ken Norton: Back to the Super Bowl
The Derrick Coleman Story
The seasoned filmmakers that brought you such acclaimed films as A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, The Damn United and Cinderella Man, among many others, have taken on a genre that has proven elusive in Hollywood, indeed in global cinema history, that of an engaging movie with auto racing as a backdrop.
What does it tell you that the best racing films were made over 40 years ago! And even then it demonstrated how hard it is to combine the speed, glamour and excitement of that world with a compelling story. Steve McQueen’s “Le Mans” (1971) and John Frankenheimer’s “Grand Prix” (1966) were superb in capturing the racing atmosphere (indeed the latter winning three Academy Awards: Best Effects-Sound Effects, Best Film Editing and Best Sound), but critics rightfully felt both fell short on story.
In “Rush”, released by Universal, two-time Academy Award-winner Ron Howard delivers the exhilarating true story of a legendary rivalry that rocked the world. During the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing, two drivers emerged as the best: gifted English playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth – “The Avengers”) and his methodical, brilliant Austrian opponent, Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl – “Inglourious Basterds”). As they mercilessly clash on and off the Grand Prix racetrack, the two drivers push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there’s no shortcut to victory and no margin for error.
Now out on DVD, you’ll see what theater-goers saw- the cinematography is great – intimate and brilliant, the ‘feel’ of the era is palpable, the racing scenes are exciting, the music is brooding, compelling and exciting by turn and most of all, the casting is superb.
Extras: “Ron Howard: A Director’s Approach.” Blu-ray adds a six part segment, “Race for the Checkered Flag: The Making of Rush,” with “Peter Morgan on Writing Rush,” “The Making of Rush — Finding James and Niki,” “The Light of Speed and Filming F1,” “Around the World in One Location,” “Fashion and Styles of the 70′s” and “The Making of Rush — Ron Howard: A Director’s Approach”; three-part segment, “The Real Story of Rush” with “Meeting James Hunt and Niki Lauda,” “F1 Take 1: F1 Racing and the F1 Car” and “The Rock and Roll Circus”.
Brian Grazer, who has produced “Friday Night Lights”, “Blue Crush” and “Cinderella Man”, knew the challenges of making a film with any kind of sports backdrop, but was intrigued with Peter Morgan’s script.
“There are certain paradigms of story that appeal to me. One is mastery. I like sports stories about mastery. And within a sports story of mastery, I like are the themes of heartache, the pain, the passion that becomes engendered when you see someone struggling from an early point in their career,” explains the Beverly Hills-based veteran producer. “In “Rush”, the two lead characters compete and make each other better. It gets to the point where you feel the struggles both go through”.
Grazer credits his partner at Imagine, director Ron Howard, to help capture that on screen.
“(It) is really hard to make any sports movie a success. They have to become emotionally transcendant. For example, “Rocky” for me is not a movie about boxing. It is a picture about a universal theme of self-reliance. It is hard to find an emotional vehicle, a character or characters that can be emotionally transcendant. So I think that Ron is very good at doing that because he is so humanistic. I think the two lead characters of “Rush”, Niki Lauda and James Hunt, had that multi-dimensionality within them for Ron to mine that and find a story that goes beyond Formula 1”.
ESPN Films will premiere a new series in April surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN.
30 for 30: Soccer Stories will include a mix of standalone feature-length and 30-minute-long documentary films from an award winning group of filmmakers telling compelling narratives from around the international soccer landscape.
In addition, a collection of 10 vignettes about Brazil’s rich culture will be featured throughout ESPN’s FIFA World Cup programming.
“With ESPN being the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we know that sports fans will be looking forward to high quality content focused on what is perhaps the world’s most revered sport,” said Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films and Original Content. “We feel this is the perfect time to expand upon the success of our 30 for 30 series by focusing this collection on some of the incredible stories of soccer’s legendary past.”
Two feature-length films: Hillsborough, Directed by Daniel Gordon 25 years ago, on April 15, 1989, the worst disaster in British football history occurred in an overcrowded stadium in Sheffield, England, 150 miles north of London. 3,000 fans flocked through the turnstiles to head to the area reserved for standing, despite a capacity of less than half of that. The result was a “human crush” that killed 96 people and injured 766. Prior to the disaster at Hillsborough, British football was known for the grime of its stadiums, hooligan fans and inadequate facilities, but great change came after the Hillsborough disaster. What emerged is now known as the most rich and powerful soccer league in the world, the English Premier League.
White, Blue and White, Directed by Camilo Antolini; Produced by Juan José Campanella Although a large number of Argentinian players have found football success around the world, few have made a name for themselves in England’s top league. One notable exception is Ossie Ardiles. Fresh off Argentina’s victory in the 1978 World Cup, Ardiles and his compatriot, Ricky Villa, joined Tottenham Hotspur later that year, when the notion of overseas players was still new to the English league. Helping lead Spurs to victory in the 1981 FA Cup, the Argentinian stars became cult heroes in England. But on April 2, 1982, everything radically changed as Argentinian troops descended on the British-ruled Falkland Islands, asserting rightful sovereignty. A conflicted Ardiles returned to Buenos Aires two days later, his bright future with Spurs suddenly in question.
Six 30-minute films: Garrincha: Crippled Angel, Directed by Marcos Horacio Azevedo. In Brazil, Pelé is “The King”, but his teammate, Mané Garrincha, is also remembered as the one of the best soccer players of all time. In a country where the sport grants its protagonists such royal deference, Garrincha is the jester– an entertainer who amused crowds and turned soccer into an irresistible spectacle, all while helping Brazil capture two World Cups. This, despite his legs being so bent that early in his career doctors deemed him unfit to play professionally. Match after match, he proved them wrong. But his unpredictable moves were of little assistance after his playing career came to an end. Abandoned by the soccer establishment, Garrincha died a victim of alcoholism in 1983. But his fans did not forget him. His body was brought to a cemetery, in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Garrincha’s relatives had to borrow a grave, which turned out to be too small for his coffin. Thousands of people flooded the tiny burial ground, much more than the place could accommodate. After 49 years of a brilliant career and tumultuous life, the man who turned soccer into a “Beautiful Game” was memorably laid to rest. His legend lives on.
Barbosa – The Man Who Made All of Brazil Cry, Directed by Loch Phillipps; Executive Producers: Jonathan Hock & Roger Bennett. In 1949, Goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa and his Brazilian national team are on top of the world, having just won the South American championship by a score of 7-0. Barbosa is one of the heroes, widely considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers. But everything changed during the 1950 World Cup, played for the first time in Brazil. Before the final game against neighbor and rival Uruguay, the Brazilian Football Confederation was so confident of victory it had made 22 gold medals with the names of their players imprinted on them.
With 11 minutes left, Uruguay shocked the estimated crowd of 200,000 at Marcana and scored the winning goal – a goal that is still considered to be the greatest sporting tragedy to befall Brazil. The blame was mostly pinned on Barbosa for being out of position on his goal line, tantamount to Bill Buckner letting a baseball roll between his legs. The country went into a deep mourning, fans committed suicide, and Barbosa was nationally blacklisted.
Barbosa was considered cursed and he never played in another World Cup. He rotted away, practically penniless and alone.
On July 13th, the 2014 World Cup Final will again take place at the Maracana, giving the Brazilian team the chance to write a new ending into Brazilian folklore.
Ceasefire Massacre, Directed by Alex Gibney and Trevor Bunim. New Jersey, June 18, 1994. Giants Stadium is awash with green as Irish soccer fans arrive to watch Ireland’s opening World Cup match against the mighty Italy. The sense of optimism is infectious. The Celtic Tiger is in its infancy, Bill Clinton’s decision to grant a visa to Irish Republican leader Gerry Adams has propelled the peace process forward and Jack Charlton’s team are walking onto the pitch before 75,000 fervent spectators made up of Irish, Italians and Americans of Irish and Italian decent.
Amongst the fans is Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds who is sitting with members of an American group who’ve been working behind-the-scenes to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. The electrifying mood is shared by the supporters watching the match in the Heights Bar, a tiny pub in the Northern Irish village of Loughin Island, 24 miles south of Belfast. At the half, the Irish are remarkably ahead 1-0. Shortly after the second half begins, two masked gunmen belonging to a Protestant terror group burst into the Heights Bar. Thirty rounds are fired and six innocent men watching a soccer match were killed.
Ceasefire Massacre will reveal how the juxtaposition of the jubilation felt inside Giants Stadium against the horrors of what happened in the Heights Bar, encapsulated the mood of the time. After 25-years of conflict, Ireland and her people longed for peace and prosperity but the brutalities of the violence in the North were never far from the surface. The gunning down of innocent men as they watched a soccer match marked both a low-point and a turning-point in the Northern Ireland conflict; one that would ultimately contribute to the paramilitaries on both sides calling ceasefires just weeks later.
The Opposition, Directed by Ezra Edelman. In the wake of the 1973 military coup in Chile, American-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet transformed Santiago’s National Stadium into a concentration camp where political opponents were tortured and assassinated. Only months later, that same stadium was scheduled to host a decisive World Cup qualifier between Chile and the Soviet Union. Despite protests, FIFA’s own investigation, and the Soviet’s eventual boycott, the Chilean team still played the game as planned, qualifying for the 1974 World Cup on a goal scored against no one.
Mysteries of The Jules Rimet Trophy, Directed by Brett Ratner. Inspired by Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the Jules Rimet Trophy was awarded to the nation that won FIFA’s World Cup and was among the most coveted prizes in all of sports. It is also the sports prize shrouded in the most intrigue – with the whereabouts of the original trophy unknown to this day. This film focuses on the great prize’s first brush with crime – a Nazi plan to steal the Rimet Trophy from Italy during World War II. The story unfolds like a great caper film, where our hero, Ottorino Barassi, a mild-mannered Italian soccer official, attempts to protect a valued treasure.
Maradona ’86, Directed by Sam Blair; Executive Produced by John Battsek. In the 1986 World Cup, Maradona redefined what is possible for one man to accomplish on the soccer field. Already a figure of notoriety, but with one failed World Cup behind him, Maradona took possession of the international stage in Mexico, the spotlight rarely drifting from him as he wrote an indelible history with his feet and, of course, with a hand from God. Delivered with passion and intelligence, Maradona ‘86 is a fascinating, evocative and operatic portrait of Maradona, revealing his inner complexity and contradictions while basking in the joy and passion of his performance on the pitch as he wrote his name on soccer history forever.
10 Vignettes:Coraçao, Directed by Jonathan Hock; Executive Produced by Roger Bennett. Brazil’s soccer tradition does not compete with other countries’ teams: it exists on a different level. But aside from soccer success, and despite Brazil’s recent economic boom, most Americans know little about the country, its geographical richness, gripping culture, and complex recent history in which the nation has transformed from a military dictatorship to a thriving, if young, republic. This short vignette series will travel from the beaches and favelas of Rio, to Salvador – the former hub of the slave trade – on a journey of music, dance, and history, to discover the stories that lie behind Brazil’s legend and explore how Brazilian soccer is truly the expression of the soul of its people.
In one of the more amusing films of the holiday season, Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Grudge Match” stars award-winning movie icons Oscar-winner Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Oscar-nominee Sylvester Stallone (the “Rocky” films, “The Expendables”) as old boxing rivals who come out of retirement for one final match.
De Niro and Stallone play Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all.
Even before De Niro’s “The Kid” and Stallone’s “Razor” get into the ring to settle their decades-old score, both the fists and the barbs fly across the screen as the two contenders prepare to meet in the rematch of the century.
“I’ve always loved boxing, and I’ve always been attracted to second chance stories,” says comedy veteran Peter Segal (“Anger Management”, “50 First Dates”), the film’s director and producer. “But even more important than the fight is the second chances the characters are given to repair relationships they destroyed three decades earlier. In essence, the fight becomes a metaphor for never giving up.”
Like Segal, De Niro honed in on the idea of second chances, but, he says, “It’s not a second chance for a guy who’s down and out trying to make a comeback. It’s really about getting what he’s always wanted, what he’s waited years for. But along the way he sees there’s a lot more to it than he was even aware of.”
“I love boxing and the metaphors about it,” says Stallone. “There’s a real classicism where it breaks down to a man’s athletic ability coupled with his courage. The two don’t always go hand-in-hand. I’m always watching the character of a fighter more than the punches. You see what a person is made of under duress.”
After retiring from boxing, Razor returned to the working class life he’d always known. Stallone sees him as a “forlorn guy who’s been left out in the cold, who recedes into the background, working at a mill, welding steel in the heat of his own purgatory.” He spends his downtime alone, turning scraps of metal into tiny animal sculptures and working on his prized Shelby, covered in his garage.
For Stallone, Razor’s decision to quit boxing was something the character regretted. “Here’s what I think is very relatable about this story, it’s the idea if we could only go back,” he says. “We all say, ‘Why did I do that?’ It’s that life-long yearning that he should have gone right when he went left. He should have married this person or that person. He quit boxing too early. He had talent; he was good and he just let it go. He let his emotions really dictate his future.
“When the story begins, Razor’s in a steel mill and Kid’s in a gin mill,” the actor continues. “They are both in their own little hell. I think it’s more of a male thing, but they have that competitiveness that goes beyond all rational thought. I know guys who will never get over a wrong, assumed or actual. They’ll remember a slight forever. They want to go back and clean it up and if they can, they will.”
While Razor wishes the renewed interest in what happened three decades ago would just go away, Billy “the Kid” McDonnen relishes the new-found attention. The spotlight-loving Kid continued to box after the cancelled bout with Razor, but after 11 fights, his career sputtered out. He parlayed his celebrity into being a moderately successful pitchman for everything from Jockey to jock itch. He invested his money in some local Pittsburgh businesses and continued to obsess about “the fight that never happened and never will.”
De Niro states, “These two guys are in really different places in life. My character’s done alright for himself, financially, but he still has this unfulfilled yearning to have this final fight, because he felt that he was kind of gypped the last time when Razor pulled out of it. Razor’s the one that needs it, for the money, but Kid’s the one that really wants it.”
Are you Ready for Grudgement Day?
Preparation for the much-anticipated Grudgement Day started long before the principal photography began. When De Niro and Stallone signed on to “Grudge Match,” they both made a commitment to train and get into shape, and that meant months of preparation.
Segal says, “Both Sly and Bob totally dedicated themselves. For Sly, staying in shape is a lifestyle, especially because of the films he’s been doing this over the years. For Bob, it was a real challenge and physical commitment. But he really dug in and worked his butt off.”
De Niro worked with boxing trainer Robert “Bob” Sale, who worked previously with Stallone as technical advisor on “Rocky Balboa.” Based at the famed Fortune Boxing Gym in Los Angeles, Sale hit the road to train De Niro and was blown away by the stamina and determination he saw in the veteran actor.
“It was a 101 percent, complete and utter sacrifice,” says Sale. “The commitment Mr. De Niro brought was unwavering. When I started to work with him, the plan was not to try to have him imitate a fighter, but to develop him as a fighter and let him take it from there for the performance.”
De Niro undertook cardiovascular and strength training, changed his diet and lost more than 35 pounds. He was in a gym every morning at 5:00 a.m. training for an hour, followed by 45 minutes of boxing in the months before he started filming “Grudge Match.”
“Bob’s a terrific trainer,” De Niro says of Sale. “Sly’s worked with him for a long time so I knew he could get me into shape for the movie.” The actor also worked with his own personal trainer, Dan Harvey, “trying to get the weight down. It was grueling but I think we succeeded.”
Stunt Coordinator Kevin Scott offers, “For two men in their 60s to physically commit to spending eight to nine hours throwing punches, physically fighting under hot lights in a scorching arena as they had to in the fight scene, was amazing. People may say, ‘Well, it’s not a real fight,’ but it’s just as demanding in a different way—the body mechanics, retaining all the fight moves and repetitive takes. Additionally, there are hundreds of people standing around and the clock is ticking, so there’s a lot of mental duress and scrutiny. That raises the stakes, too.”
For Stallone, preparing to enter the ring after seven years required changing his diet and workout routine. He cut almost all carbohydrates to shed pounds and went on a diet of 95 percent protein, increasing cardio exercises with strength training to develop lean muscle mass. Stallone also did exercises to bulk up his neck while letting his shoulders and upper arm muscles shrink so he and De Niro would appear to be in the same fighting class.
“Bobby is lighter than I am, so I had to come down to 168 pounds. I’ve not been there since 1981,” Stallone says. “For me that’s really thin. I mean thin.”
Incorporating fight styles that reflect the character’s personalities and their age, director Segal says after all the training and choreography, story-wise it all boils down to this- “It all culminates with this fight where they are stripped down to nothing but their boxing gloves, shoes and shorts, and they have to get in there, face each other and resolve a conflict that’s been eating at them for three decades.”
Collaborating with Segal behind the scenes are: Academy Award-winning cinematographer Dean Semler (“Dances With Wolves,” “Apocalypto”); production designer Wynn Thomas (“Cinderella Man”); costume designer Mary Vogt (“Men in Black 3”); and editor William Kerr (“Bridesmaids”). The music is by Trevor Rabin.
“Bull Durham”, one of the best sports movies of all-time, will premiere as a musical in September 2014 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.
The 1988 romantic comedy, directed by Ron Shelton the film was adapted from his Oscar-nominated screenplay. The story follows veteran catcher “Crash” Davis’ experiences after being acquired to prepare the North Carolina Durham Bulls’ undisciplined rookie pitcher, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) for the season. A complicated romantic triangle develops when team groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) applies her distinct views of the sport.
Kip Fagan, known for his Off Broadway stagings of Jesse Eisenberg’s plays “Asuncion” and “The Revisionist”, will direct the Bull Durham musical, with Joshua Bergasse (NBC’s “Smash”) handling choreography. Casting and production schedule will be announced at a later date.
The results of the FIFA 2014 World Cup draw for its quadrennial event, to be held in Brazil next summer, poses some serious challenges to the American squad in more ways than one.
Their group is among the most difficult. It includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Ghana has eliminated the United States in the last two World Cups. They face one of the early favorites in Germany who beat USA in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. And in facing Portugal, one of Europe’s top teams with one of the greatest players in the world, the Americans are looking at another challenge.
In an effort to advance to the second round, the USA squad have the hardest travel schedule which includes having to play Portugal in a steamy rainforest. The Americans will have logged nearly 9,000 miles after they complete group play.
Bringing a wealth of personal World Cup experience as a player and coach, Jurgen Klinsmann has worked diligently in preparing his squad for such tough conditions.
One of the things Coach Klinsmann has done is deepen a historically thin roster, one with the quality to last the entire month of the 32-team tournament should they continue to advance. Also the talent is simply better. There is less reliance on a major star like Landon Donovan. Look for younger names to emerge on the global stage like Donovan’s MLS LA Galaxy teammate, Omar Gonzalez.
With most players coming off intense 10-month schedules, Klinsmann, whose team won a record 16 games in 2013, won the CONCACAF Gold Cup and finished first in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament, has to avoid player burnout. Therefore, the balance between rest and work is critical to make sure players are physically and mentally ready to play at their best in the World Cup. At the same time playing some friendlies against top seeds in the months and weeks before the tournament are crucial to overall preparation.
It will be imperative that the US really brings their A+ game in their opener against Ghana because historically a minimum of four points is required for a team to advance to the next round. And in the “Group of Death”, anything short of at least one point in the opener will make the U.S. team’s challenge even greater.
In a group that includes a three-time World Cup champion as well as the team that has ended their last two World Cup runs, I can’t think of a better coach that can orchestrate that challenge for the U.S. than Klinsmann.
· BRA Brazil