GUATEMALA CITY, (Wednesday, August 20, 2008) -- The Guatemalan media proclaimed the World Cup qualifier tonight against the United States to be "ambiente de fiesta." A fiesta it might be, but Guatemalan security forces are taking no chances.
According to the reliable Prensa Libre newspaper, Estadio Mateo Flores and surrounding environs tonight would be protected by more than 1,200 police officers, 1,000 regular army soldiers, 250 transit police, 180 private security guards, 100 "special forces agents" and at least one anti-riot squad.
When the U.S. team travels around Guatemala City, it is in a caravan not only with a police escort, but with SUVs filled with men armed with automatic weapons.
The U.S. planned training schedule took a beating.
The team was supposed to gather in Miami, Fla., Sunday, have a light training session and then a major one Monday. However, with the approach of Hurricane Felix, the team decided to leave early Monday. By the time the team arrived in Guatemala, it could only manage a light run and some stretching. In a public park.
Yesterday, the team was to train at Estadio Mateo Flores, but while it was en route to the facility, it was closed to preserve the field. After a number of frantic phone calls, the Americans were allowed to use the training grounds of Municipal, the local club.
The field was old and not lighted, so U.S. coach Bob Bradley ran a quick, hour-long practice before darkness set in and the team returned to its hotel.
Several U.S. players have a lot on their minds.
Maurice Edu probably traveled the furthest to get here. He came from Canada by way of Glasgow, Scotland. The Toronto FC midfielder was sold by Major League Soccer to Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League and traveled to Glasgow for a physical and personal contract negotiations.
Edu must wait to see if he is issued a work permit, but the assumption is he will receive one and could be in alongside U.S. teammate DaMarcus Beasley in the Rangers' midfield this weekend.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu is still officially with Standard de Liège in Belgium but, with the transfer window only open for another two weeks, transfer talks are underway with several clubs. "I let rumors be rumors," Onyewu said. "At this point, I am at Standard Liege, and I haven't been transferred yet. My agent is handling things."
Much the same is true with midfielder Michael Bradley. He remains with SC Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie and, despite rumors of big transfer offers from, among others, Monaco of France, no deal has been done.
Striker Landon Donovan and midfielder Eddie Lewis are looking forward to playing for their former U.S.coach Bruce Arena, who was hired this week by the Los Angles Galaxy. Donovan, who was close to Arena when he played for him on the national team, looks forward to renewing the relationship. Lewis, who has left England after a long career overseas, is negotiating with the Galaxy.