USA captain Todd Clever says the pressure of making the World Cup squad is over, and now his team can get down to the business of simply preparing for four must-win games.
"We've worked so hard to be here and make the final cut and people are excited,” said Clever. “Playing for the US team, we don't get to face top international teams all the time, so we have to make the most of it every four years."
The positive for the squad is to have had just about two weeks to work together before worrying about a game.
"We get together and then five or six days later we have a Test match. It hasn't been ideal,” he said, pointing to the need for the team to just have time together without the specter of a game hovering over them. But, he added, “we're coming together better than we have in the past, which is great, but it's a mission just to get 30 guys together in one room."
Now that they’re about to start, said Clever, "we want to start off strong, but it's a huge ask against Ireland. Four short days later we've got Russia. That's going to be a tough game, but it's one that we're picking out to get a victory from, and Italy as well."
In a way it was an official nod to what the players, the coaches, and the fans are thinking. Russia is a true must-win. Ireland and Australia they need to hang in there, and Italy is a wild card. The USA has never beaten Italy, but two wins would guarantee a place in RWC 2015.