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Sunday, May 23, 2010
Players are ready for some friendlies

PRINCETON, N.J. -- As the U.S. men's national team wrapped up its weeklong training camp and headed for New England on Sunday afternoon, the feelings of the players could be summed up in two words: exhaustion and happiness.

Exhaustion because the players have been pushed to the limit, with 90-minute practices, running and sprinting drills and daily weight lifting sessions. And happiness because the hard-core, boot camp training sessions are over and it's finally time for games -- be them friendlies or not -- to begin.

"That's enough running," forward Jozy Altidore said. "It's time to play."

Captain Carlos Bocanegra said the soccer has been sloppier than the team would like the past couple of days, but given the physical exhaustion most of the players are wrestling with, it's not a surprise.

"We're trying to get sharp now. We're trying to get our legs back," Bocanegra said. "Today was easy. [Monday] will be relaxing. Hopefully after the game the soccer will start coming back and we'll get sharp. That's what we're looking for."

After Sunday's final training session in Princeton, the team headed to East Hartford, Conn., in preparation for Tuesday night's match against the Czech Republic (7:30 p.m. on ESPN).

Bocanegra's surgery

Bocanegra spoke for the first time Sunday about the surgery he underwent May 5 to surgically repair a sports hernia.

Bocanegra said he thought the injury occurred after he was kicked in the knee in a match for his club team and compensated for the pain in his leg by running differently, causing the hernia.

He said the entire procedure took "15 or 20 minutes" and he walked out of the office and was running three days later. U.S. Soccer officials said Sunday the recovery time for such an injury is two weeks. Bocanegra resumed full training with the USMNT on May 19, exactly two weeks after the surgery.

"It wasn't a big thing to me," he said.

Bocanegra said he is "ready to go" if Bradley calls on him for either Tuesday's match against the Czechs or Saturday's against Turkey in Philadelphia.

Dealing with "Deuce"

Only one American found the back of the net during the last World Cup in 2006, and my how life has changed for Clint Dempsey since then.

Back then, he was a budding young star for the New England Revolution, a confident kid from Texas who was perhaps better known for his rap song, "Don't Tread on Me" than he was for anything he had done on the field in international play.

Now, four years later, he's a husband, a father and one of the most important pieces of the U.S. attack. He earned the bronze ball after scoring three goals in last summer's Confederations Cup. And earlier this month, he became the first American to appear in a European Cup final with his club team, Fulham.

At the same time, Dempsey is also one of the most criticized U.S. players for a perceived lack of intensity and consistency.

Earlier this week, sat down with Dempsey to talk about expectations, critics and his goals for the World Cup. Take a listen.