Monday, July 11, 2011

Team USA preparing for ‘toughest opponent’ despite lack of rest

Written by Will Frasure, USA Football

Baseball and basketball players compete in games on an almost daily basis. For the U.S. Men’s National team in football, players are adjusting to that pace, which is common to football played overseas.

Team USA has played two games in four days during group play of the IFAF Senior World Championship in Austria, leaving little time for recovery and recuperation between contests. A third one – the biggest one yet – is Tuesday vs. Mexico.

The players are trying to counter the scarce time off with a variety of methods.

“A lot of ice and water treatment,” running back Nate Kmic said about what he’s been doing to recover. “This tournament is a grind with three games in six days. People are trying to stay off their feet as much as possible and get in the pool to stretch out. Anything to get ready for the next game.”

Kmic, who has 183 receiving yards from his running back position, will have to recover quickly, but the victories by wide margins over Australia and Germany have allowed Team USA rotate its players.

Quarterback Cody Hawkins, who has thrown for 356 yards in the two games, said this is why he and others should be back to full form by the time Team USA plays Mexico on Tuesday. Kickoff is 1 p.m. EST
“It has been tough playing so many games,” Hawkins said. “Luckily for me, our defense has been taking care of business and I haven’t played in the second half of the last two games. My body feels nice, but for a lot of these guys it feels like two-a-day practices.

“Playing games back-to-back-to-back, you barely have time to take a deep breath and relax.”

The team will need to be fully rehabilitated for its next contest. Team Mexico poses the biggest challenge yet for Team USA in group play. Mexico is 2-0 after beating both Australia (65-0) and Germany (22-15). The opening win against the Germans came after Mexico trailed, 15-12, at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“Mexico without a doubt is the best team we will face so far,” Hawkins said.

Size, speed and experience are what most concern the United States about Mexico. Hawkins has been impressed with the speed of Team Mexico’s skill players. He also mentioned how most of Team Mexico played at competitive colleges in their home country.

“We know that Mexico is going to be a tough game,” head coach Mel Tjeerdsma said.  “Mexico is very talented, and they play hard. We are going to have a real challenge.”

Tjeersdma mentioned Jonathon Barrera as a player to watch out for on Mexico. The running back has been a dual threat with his running and pass-catching. The tandem of Barrera and Jose Reyes has been a huge factor during Mexico’s first two wins.

Even without much rest and the possibility of their toughest opponent looming, Hawkins and the rest of Team USA haven’t forgotten about their top task: to take home a championship.

“We came to win gold,” Hawkins said. “No one wants to finish second. It is America’s game, and we take a lot of pride in that.”

What Team USA game highlights...>

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