Work in Sports
Hours from kickoff, excitement builds
Midfielder John O'Brien is a key member of the U.S. men's Olympic soccer team, which heads Down Under hoping to do what it has ever done: make it out of the first round alive. O'Brien, 23, left California at age 17 to develop in Ajax Amsterdam's famed youth program. He is now a member of the first team at Ajax and has earned a spot in the full U.S. national team side during World Cup qualifying. Check in with O'Brien on CNNSI.com throughout the Olympics.
As the first game approaches, what's the atmosphere surrounding the team? What's the excitement level?
The excitement is definitely there. Some players are smiling more while others are more serious; it all depends on what's right for the player. Me, I'm smiling, excited that these games can finally get underway. We're opening the games. From here on out, the medal count will be starting and all-day TV coverage of everything that goes on in every event. Sports you normally never watch, and now you're glued to your seat to see if some Spanish guy is going to be able to medal in the equestrian competition. With all the hype and excitement around the Olympics emerge the cynics, too. All in good humor, the local Canberra gift shop sells vulgar and clear anti-Olympic slogans printed on starched white T-shirts for those preferring the swim upstream.
How is the team preparing for the Czech Republic in particular? What would you consider a fair result against the Czechs? What is your prediction for the match?
We've prepared by watching videotape and having the subs line up in the formation the Czechs will most likely play. Not being favored to get out of our group, our trial begins tonight. Four points can sometimes be enough and six usually is, so we are going out there to get a win, but we should be happy with a tie.
What (or who) is it about the U.S. men's Olympic team that could surprise people?
Talent, sacrificing for each other, and enthusiasm could all come out if things go right.
What's the one thing that's made you realize more than anything else that you're actually in Australia?
Friends calling at three in the morning because they didn't realize the time change.
The people here are amazingly friendly and they have that Oz twang that projects a fun-loving and easygoing attitude.