At this year’s fifa World Cup in South Africa, Team USA’s four-year tour of duty culminates in an epic series of 90-minute clashes with the planet’s soccer superpowers. But in the one major sport where America is almost always the underdog, there are five secret weapons of shot-stopping, superstar-shackling, goal-plundering mass destruction who are gunning to turn david into goliath.
Benny Feilhaber, 25, midfielder, from Irvine, California, playing in his first World Cup.
Currently resides: Aarhus, Denmark.
Club: AGF Aarhus (Danish First Division).
One thing he’s learned about the Danes: They eat the ugliest foods I’ve ever seen. They have this pork liver. It’s brown and chopped up with a bunch of little balls in it. I’ll never eat it. Birthright: I moved to the U.S. when I was 6, but I was born in Rio. I can samba, but not like you see Ronaldinho doing in games. Hidden on-field talent: My vision—seeing things that aren’t in front of me. Hidden off-field talent: I guarantee I’m the best dancer on the team. World Cup pregame pump-up song: “Champagne Supernova,” by Oasis. Sorry, ladies: My girlfriend came over to visit me in Denmark, and something just really sparked. Now I just know. She’s coming to live with me in six months. If he didn’t play soccer: I’d be an actor. Probably more of a comedic actor, like Jim Carrey. Vanities: The men’s U.S. soccer team is better looking than the women’s. One hundred percent.
Photo: Ring: Digby & Iona.
Tim Howard, 31, goalkeeper from North Brunswick, New Jersey, playing in his second World Cup.
Currently resides: Manchester, England.
Club: Everton (English Premier League).
On-field hidden talent: Some goalkeepers are really sexy with their feet. I have a little sexiness with my feet, but I don’t like to bring it out. If he didn’t play soccer: I got drafted by the Harlem Globetrotters last year! But I would hopefully be in the NBA. Biggest on-field high: Coming from behind to win the Gold Cup against Mexico in ’07. Biggest off-field high: My kids, Alivia and Jacob. I have my daughter’s name tattooed on my ribs, my son’s on my chest. World Cup pregame pump-up song: “Talkin’ Ain’t Walkin’,” by this Memphis rapper, Lil’ Wyte. It’s, like, a me-against-the-world kind of thing. Hardest shot to save: Without a doubt, [Ivory Coast’s] Didier Drogba hits the ball the hardest. He doesn’t finesse anything. Vanities: Some of these guys on the team think they’re playboys. Feilhaber thinks he’s a playboy.
Carlos Bocanegra, 31, defender and U.S. captain from Alta Loma, California, playing in his second World Cup.
Currently resides: Rennes, France.
Club: Stade Rennais (French Ligue 1).
One thing he’s learned about the French: They put green beans, haricots verts, on everything. I like them, but not at every meal. Most universal French phrase: “Putain!” [“Fuck!”] Hidden on-field talent: My sneaky little shirt-grabs. Hidden off-field talent: I’m a Rock Band superstar. World Cup pregame pump-up song: “America’s Sweetheart,” by Fall Out Boy. That one pumps me up. I also like that new Usher tune at the moment [“OMG”]. Relationship status: My girlfriend isn’t into soccer that much, but she’s learning. If he didn’t play soccer: It’d be pretty cool to teach high school history. My favorite period is the Roman times. Just real rugged and manly men. You know, ripping meat apart with their teeth. In the locker room: [U.S. midfielder] Stuart Holden is always talking. He doesn’t shut the hell up, ever. Always talking shit. Just talking to talk. Twitter: There’s an account with my name on it? [@bocanegracarlos] I didn’t know that.
Photo: Bracelets: Giles & Brother and Athlete’s own.
Oguchi Onyewu, 28, defender from Olney, Maryland, playing in his second World Cup.
Currently resides: Milan, Italy.
Club: AC Milan (Italy’s Serie A).
Symbolism: In Nigerian, my name means “God fights my battles.” His employer: I met [AC Milan owner and Italy’s prime minister] Silvio Berlusconi. He’s very passionate about AC Milan. He’s an interesting man. His personal life? That I don’t know about. The Continent: I’ve been playing in Europe for almost a decade now. Every country is the same, just in a different language. World Cup pregame pump-up songs: Some Lil Wayne, some T.I. Biggest on-field high: Getting to the finals of the Confederations Cup [FIFA’s quadrennial international tournament] last year. Biggest off-field high: Every day is a high to me. I’m high on life. Relationship status: Can I plead the Fifth? I plead the Fifth. If he didn’t play soccer: You know, I started college to be a lawyer. Twitter: I do! I don’t tweet about my daily diet or, you know, “It’s sunny outside.” Gotta be something with content.
Jonathan Bornstein, 25, defender from Torrance, California, playing in his first World Cup.
Currently Resides: Los Angeles, California.
Club: Chivas USA (Major League Soccer).
Hidden on-field talent: My versatility. And—I don’t know if people talk about it—my ability to score goals. Hidden off-field talent: Guitar. “Hotel California” by The Eagles is my go-to. It’s the only one I can play and sing at the same time. Pregame pump-up song: “Savior,” by Rise Against. Most memorable goal: In the last minute of our World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica, I scored to tie the game, which eliminated Costa Rica and put Honduras in the World Cup. The president of Honduras offered me a free vacation there. Relationship status: I’m single. I would probably prefer not to date a fan. My ex, she was like, “Soccer?” It must be fate: Megan Fox is on the cover? If I could date anyone, it would be Megan Fox. Hopefully she’s reading this.
Photo: Hat: American Apparel