The Red, White and Blue
On a positive note I got to play my first game for the USA last month. It was great to finally get the call. It was after a game against Charlton and I was sitting around when I got a call from my manager.
My first thought was to wonder if I'd done something wrong, but he said, "I have got this fax through, and it's from the U.S. team and they want you to come in for camp in a few weeks. So happy for you, it's about time, you deserve it." It was a short simple call, but one that every player who ever takes the field dreams about.
I was so excited just to get back to the States and into camp, but in training early in the week before I was due to leave, I was doing defensive drills and slipped on the soft ground.
I felt my groin tense up, but I played on. By the middle of training I couldn't run anymore, so I went in to see the trainers. I know my body pretty well and I was nervous. I got a scan that day and when the trainer called me that night he had bad news. He said I had a grade two tear which would require a two to three week recovery time.
I was even more nervous now. I was supposed to leave for my first call up in just less than a week! I hadn't been seriously injured all season and the week before I leave for my first national team camp, I pull a muscle. Go figure.
Earlier in the season when I'd tweaked my ankle, one of the trainers told me to eat lots of pineapple, mixed seeds and ginger. All have a natural anti-inflammatory. In the first few days of an injury, you can't really take medicines and such because the muscle is still bleeding internally, so only natural medicines are effective.
For the second time this season, I was having so much pineapple and seeds that I was turning yellow and growing a beak.
A few days later I went for another scan and the tear had gone from a grade two to a grade one in a matter of three days! The doctor at the hospital said he had never seen such an improvement. Thank you Mother Nature. Grade one injures usually take just a week to cure, so I was on track to make the camp -- the only caveat being that I'd need to ask if the U.S. team would let me sit out of practice for the first two days, after which I'd be fine.
I had a few conversations with Bob Bradley and since we had two games during the ten days, he said I could still come in and train as soon as I could. I was going to get on that plane no matter what.
Going into my first camp injured I was a little bit nervous. I was concerned if the muscle didn't heal and what the other players were going to think when I showed up as the new guy and didn't even train.
The first few days in camp I tried to keep my head down and make sure I got my leg right. Bob Bradley calmed me as well by letting me know there was no pressure to hurry up and get back. He told me he knew the situation, not to worry and that I should take my time and make sure it's OK.
The trainers were great as well, and to get made fun of from the likes of Taylor Twellman and some of the others made me realize that we've all been in that situation before, so it made it much easier.
It was later in the week when I finally trained, so I knew I probably wouldn't have a chance to get on the field for the game against Ecuador, but I was happy just to be back to 100 percent and out there sweating in the Florida sun with the rest of the guys.
The rest of the week was great, I got to know a lot of the guys and the game against Ecuador was a fantastic result, winning 3-1. I sat on the bench with the team but didn't dress. It was great to watch the first game though because it gave me a little bit more of an idea of how they play at the international level.
Following the Ecuador game we went to Dallas and trained for a few more days to prepare for Guatemala. Oguchi Onyewu, one of the other center backs, had gone back to his club team in England, so I knew I would probably start. Before the game, it was business as usual, trying to find out about our opponents and the forwards I would be marking.
Jimmy Conrad, who I would team with at the back, told me a few things about the guy we would be marking, but stressed that the most important thing for me was to go out and enjoy it. I had worked too hard not to.
The occasion didn't really hit me until the national anthem started. With all of us lined up, hands on hearts, the star spangled banner rang out, and chills went down my spine. It was definitely chills of excitement and pride because playing for your country is the highest honor you can get in the sport. It means everything to put on the Red, White, and Blue because you are representing your country, your home, and everything that it represents. It was a great honor for me and everyone who has been with me for this journey.
The game could have gone a little better. They sat with all 11 players behind the ball and held out for a 0-0 draw. We had a few chances to put the game away but it wasn't to be, and they seldom tested our defense, so I was a little disappointed. After the game our captain Landon Donovan said it wasn't good enough, that we should be beating teams like that if we want to get U.S. soccer to where it should be, and he couldn't be more right. But all in all it was a great occasion and a proud moment. Hopefully it won't be my last.