Traveling with the USMNT for three weeks in Brazil
This was conclusion of a year long adventure with Castrol Motor Oil. I was selected as their soccer correspondent after a judged video contest to select the top eight, then votes selected the final four, then an interview with US Soccer, sponsors, and their marketing team to determine who they wanted to represent them.
I was able to take three trips with them before heading off to the World Cup in Brazil. On all the previous trips, we were always accompanied by one of their representatives. To make our life simple, they had us travel with the players families, meaning we would also travel the same schedule as the US players.
We arrived in Natal in pouring rain but did get out and do a city tour. The next day, more rain, but we ventured out to ride Dune Buggies and hit the their famous sands. It was a great time and we even traveled over water by a man powered raft.
The opening game was against Ghana, which the US won 2-1 due to a late goal by John Brooks. The team did lose their star forward Jozy Altidore for the rest of the World Cup due to an injury. The bus ride back to the hotel was bitter sweet as most of Altidore’s family was on our bus. We went to dinner with his brother that evening who told us things didn’t look good, but they did not know the true extent at the time. We would travel to Sao Paolo the next day where the team was based at during their time in Brazil.
We were able to take in the Uruguay-England match while in Sao Paulo. At the hotel, they had set up a large room with movie screen size TVs to watch the other matches. There were also snacks, drinks, and video games. Many of the players would come in and out visiting their family members out of the public eye. The actual players hotel was very heavily guarded at all times and you had to show your US Soccer credentials to even get anywhere near the building. We would only go there typically to pick up tickets, ect.
Before each match, the families would gather to have a safety meeting with US Soccer and they would go over times we were leaving, pre-game meal, bus assignments, parking, and security measures. They took very good care of us and we had people from the State Department traveling with us at all times.
The second match sent us out to the rainforest of Manaus. Christian Ranaldo and Portugal rallied late to salvage a 2-2 tie. After the match we would board a plane to fly right back to Sao Paulo.
We had a couple days in Sao Paulo before traveling to Recife for the final first round match, so we were able to do a tour of the practice fields the US team used during their stay and also played a pickup game of soccer with the families, which was lots of fun.
Flooding rain greeted us in Recife for the final match. The water levels were so bad that the buses could not get through to take us to the match. The hotel acted quickly to get some TVs hooked up and a buffet for everyone to enjoy the match. We were able to get to the airport to travel back to Sao Paulo before heading back to the states the next day.
This was by far my biggest and most amazing win. The sponsor treated us wonderful and we were able to do and see so much. As a soccer fan and sports fan this was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that will be hard to match.