A ‘hat trick’ of notes from this morning’s USMNT practice

A very rare event is about to happen here in Salt Lake City – the U.S. men’s national soccer team is going to play the only team that has defeated them in qualifying.

Kyle Beckerman trains as part of USMNT practice on Monday.

Kyle Beckerman trains as part of USMNT practice on Monday.

The experience this morning at Rio Tinto was tight, controlled and fairly short – nothing more should be expected from a team in the midst of World Cup Qualifying.

Occasionally, my friends and I play pick-up soccer in Cottonwood Heights. Last Saturday, they wanted to know if there were any open practices leading up to the match so they could see the team. The easy answer is no, but there are a few things fans should know before heading to Rio Tinto Tuesday night.

Pep rally Monday night at The Depot

Jurgen Klinsmann, Nick Rimando, Jermaine Jones, perhaps Fabian Johnson and perhaps one other player will make an appearance at The Depot, located at the Gateway Mall, to interact with fans.

Before the players arrive, those who show will have the chance to play in a FIFA ’13 XBOX competition, matches of short-sided street soccer, and a myriad of other fun activities. It all goes down at 5 p.m. today, though Klinsmann and his players will show around 7 p.m. It should be a good time.

If you can’t come, the team will hold their own version of ‘Carnaval Real’ tomorrow afternoon before the game. That also starts at 5 p.m., and it’s in the same place – the RioT’s east lawn.

Three cheers for Nick Rimando

There’s a lot to be said about the guy who knows his role and fills it. Rimando does that for the USMNT. An unspeakably horrible tragedy will have to occur for him to get any playing time on Tuesday — he’s the third string ‘keeper behind Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, but he brings, as his teammates say, a calming, veteran presence to the bench.

U.S. Soccer produced this mini-featurette about Rimando RSL fans should enjoy.

Don’t worry, RSL fans. Rimando will likely take the field wearing the stars and bars at the RioT this summer during the Gold Cup matches in July.

Grant Wahl and Jurgen Klinsmann likes Rio Tinto’s grass turf

Given the popularity of (American) football and the economy of field turf, it’s no surprise that fake grass is everywhere, including Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, the home of both Seattle Sounders FC and the Seattle Seahawks.

Jurgen Klinsmann addresses the media following practice on Monday

Jurgen Klinsmann addresses the media following practice on Monday

To facilitate the World Cup qualifying match, the grounds crew installed a temporary natural surface over the turf. So, in essence, they were playing on two layers of grass — one real, one fake. According to most soccer writers, the surface was awkward at best and and dreadful at worst.

Not this week. The RioT’s natural grass field should be a breath of fresh air for the national team, and some prominent members of the soccer media world have taken notice. Grant Wahl of SI.com wrote this on Friday:

The Seattle atmosphere was tremendous. The field, not so much. This was the 86th U.S. men’s national team game I have attended in person and I have never seen a qualifying crowd so forceful and vocal in its support of the American players. … There’s a reason U.S. Soccer chose to stage this game here — 40,847 fans showed up, the seventh-largest home qualifying crowd in U.S. history — and Seattleites have every right to be proud of the culture they have created. But was it worth it to install such a subpar temporary grass surface for the game? I’m not so sure. Players were slipping from the start, and there was also the risk of a serious injury, which thankfully didn’t happen. After a wild snowstorm in the U.S. first home hex game in Denver and the embarrassing field in Seattle, it’ll be great from a soccer perspective to move to Real Salt Lake’s excellent grass field in Sandy, Utah, next Tuesday (unless there’s an unexpected plague of locusts).

Furthermore, Klinsmann seems to like the soccer culture in Utah that RSL has spent nearly a decade developing, comparing it to the crowds in Seattle.

“We know this is a very passionate crowd,” Klinsmann said, “they love soccer here in Salt Lake and what happens with Real Salt Lake similar to the Sounders is just wonderful. It shows how strong MLS has become, how strong soccer has become in this country. It’s more proof of it, and therefore we can’t wait to start that game.”

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