Posted by Jeff Carlisle
PRETORIA, South Africa -- With practices open to the media only for the first 15 minutes, and news conferences usually restricted to manager Bob Bradley and a select player or two, gauging the mood of the U.S. team is often akin to reading tea leaves. Amid the usual platitudes, words are parsed and body language is interpreted for any hint of what the players are really thinking.
So Tuesday's roundtable with a dozen U.S. players made for a more relaxed, informal atmosphere that provides a better indicator of vibe surrounding the team.
A few highlights:
• It's clear that a quiet confidence is building around the U.S. team as it prepares for Saturday's tilt against England. The players know what they're up against. Clint Dempsey looked as if he was ready to step on the field right then. After an outstanding season with Fulham, the U.S. midfielder has every reason to feel upbeat, and that goes for his teammates, as well.
"We have players who have played in big games, play in big leagues, and have had success, so you take that confidence with you," he said.
Midfielder Michael Bradley added, "There's a lot that goes into winning big games, beating big teams. We've done that before, and we're just concentrating now on doing all of those things in training leading up to the game."
• Oguchi Onyewu -- and the rest of his teammates -- tried to convince those in attendance that the defender is ready to go despite not having played a full match in more than seven months.
"I'm physically fit," he said. "It was a progression. The Czech game was my first game back after seven months and, you know, I could have anticipated that not being the greatest outing, but you get better as it goes, and right now I feel fine and ready to start this tournament."
• The U.S. players said they wouldn't try to wind up temperamental English striker Wayne Rooney, who was booked in Monday's 3-0 win over South African club side Platinum Stars for dropping an F-bomb on the referee.
"I don't think [winding Rooney up is] something you continuously try to do because then you're thinking about the wrong things when it comes to on-the-field activities," defender Jay DeMerit said. "Ultimately, you try to make his day difficult, and a guy with as much fire as he has in a competitive way, if you can make those types of personalities have a difficult day, then maybe those types of things come out. That's our job. It's not try to kick him when nobody's looking."