STACK caught up with Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzalez of the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team at a Gatorade event in Hoboken, New Jersey, to pick the players' brains on their training, nutrition and preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
STACK: Can you tell us about some of your physical preparations for this World Cup?
Gonzalez: Some of my physical preparations leading up to the World Cup include the typical on-the-field work, along with gym sessions and other stretching sessions to keep the body loose. [Also] a lot of treatment, to make sure all those nicks and bruises go away. The rest is all on-the-field stuff.
Zusi: I'm a huge believer in hard work paying off. Whether it's in-season or out of season, [I'm] constantly working on building my fitness level, my skill level, whatever it is, to make [my game] better. It's that hard work that in the long run, you'll see pay off.
How important is your physical fitness leading into this World Cup, in particular?
Zusi: As a professional athlete, you're going to be fit. The World Cup is a different level. It's the world stage, and the fitness of all those athletes is a step higher. We've been putting a huge emphasis on our fitness as a team, and individually. We want to be the fittest team in Brazil, simple as that.
Do either of you have any personal goals for Brazil?
Gonzalez: I think it's going to take a team effort to achieve the goals that we want, and in order for that to happen we have to have really good team chemistry. I have to be a really good leader on the field, with a lot of communication. [As for the rest,] I think I'd like to put the team first.
Zusi: I kind of threw personal goals out the window for this World Cup. I'm much more interested in how the team does as a whole. We want to be successful as a team. Whatever my role is, whether it's on the bench or field, I'll do whatever it takes for my team to be successful.
What does it mean to be able to represent your country on this stage?
Gonzalez: It's going to be an amazing experience. It's something I've been working for my whole life, and to finally get the opportunity to step on the field and play against some of the world's top competition is really incredible.
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How has Gatorade helped you on your road to the World Cup?
Zusi: Gatorade has been a big part of our training leading into the World Cup. The amount of emphasis we put on our nutrition and hydration as professional athletes, Gatorade has been there every step of the way.
What sort of advice would you give to an amateur athlete who wants to achieve what you have?
Gonzalez: Worry about the things you can control when you're young. When you're playing at that level, a lot of things can get in your head—"This guy is playing better than me; why isn't the coach starting me?"—things like that. Focus on how you can make yourself better every single day, and everything else will take care of itself. The other thing would be to never give up. Keep on going until you reach your dream.
Zusi: I go back to the hard work. You might practice twice a week with your team, but it's what you do when no one is watching that is going to really push you toward that next level. As I was preaching before, [it's] the hard work paying off in the long run. It certainly has for me.