Buenas tardes from Havana! As you've read, internet access has been a wee spotty, but we're doing our best to upload photos and audio from Cuba. Just to catch you up to speed, the team arrived late yesterday and a very easy time getting through customs and the airport. The players were all peering out the windows on the ride into the city, trying to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible. We saw a group of kids playing a volleyball game with two two trees as the net posts, but with no nets! Like everything in challenging circumstances, they managed and appeared to be having a blast. The hotel is beautiful and sits across the street from the ocean, which makes for a very picturesque view. We were greeted by a mob scene of reporters representing news organizations from around the world, battling our way through the hotel lobby before holding a press conference with Bob Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu. Obviously everyone is fascinated with the circumstances around this game, but you can tell the players are both excited about the opportunity and focused on getting a win on Saturday.
The reception we have received has been very friendly. Everyone has gone out of their way to make the team feel comfortable, which is normally how the group is treated on the road - at least inside the hotel. There exists a lot of curiosity on both sides, and already there have been some very lively football discussions. What is lacking is any sense of tension.
The other guests are mostly European, particularly from Spain. The hallways here are filled with works of colorful art, and the food has been fantastic. And of course there is the Cuban coffee, which has Frankie Hejduk absolutely thrilled. We swear that guy runs on jet fuel.
And of course there a little challenges. In addition to the internet, the elevators seem to be a bit temperamental. The players who came from Europe are able to use their cell phones, so they have been in touch with folks back home. As usual before a World Cup qualifier, there hasn't been too much time to venture out. In most ways, the players are following the same routine that they would for any away match. Nonetheless, there is clearly a special feeling in the air about getting chance to be in a place that is undiscovered country for most Americans.
The passport check is complete and the pre-game interviews with ESPN are in the bag, so it's time for the team meal. We'll do our best to keep you update on the sights and sounds from Havana...