Brazil begins US tour against Canada

SEATTLE -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his young daughter posed for pictures and swapped team jerseys with members of the Brazilian team -- the one that plays that other, international kind of football.

Little Mallory Hasselbeck was on her father's home field wearing blue soccer shorts, cleats and Brazil's gold uniform jersey. Dad's NFL No. 8 and "Hasselbeck" were printed in green on the back.

"That's the real deal, right there," a beaming Matt Hasselbeck said Friday, pointing to the jersey he bought at an international soccer online site.

It's also one of the few widely known names appearing on a Brazilian uniform during this two-game tour of the United States for the world's second-ranked team. It begins Saturday night when Brazil plays Canada at Qwest Field.

Soccer fans in the U.S. might find the five-time world champions less dynamic than usual on this eight-day visit. Certainly less recognizable.

Brazil will be without injured star Kaka and star-crossed Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, who don't appear to be coming back to the national team any time soon. Brazil will also be playing together for the first time in months. Most players recently finished professional seasons in Europe and South America.

It's Brazil's first game in Seattle since 1976, when it beat USA League XI in the USA Bicentennial Cup.

Dunga, Brazil's first-time coach and captain of its 1994 World Cup championship team, emphasized his team will be facing the challenges of fatigue and motivation in these U.S. exhibitions. He knows many players might prefer to be with their families following their long pro seasons.

Instead, following Saturday's game, Brazil travels to Foxborough, Mass., to play Venezuela on June 6. Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup resumes June 14 at Paraguay. Then on June 18, Brazil hosts archrival Argentina, the world's top-ranked team.

"These games are absolutely important, because we are reconvening players after a long period of time off," Dunga said of the U.S. tour, through an interpreter.

Kaka had arthroscopic knee surgery last week. The reigning FIFA World Player of the Year emerged from the hospital last weekend saying his doctor told him there was a chance he could play in the qualifiers. Dunga was more cautious Friday.

"Time will say," was all Dunga would offer about Kaka's return.

Brazil still has forward Alexandre Pato, the 18-year-old star who just completed his Italian League season with Milan, plus Robinho of Real Madrid and midfielder Gilberto Silva, back from Arsenal in England's Premier League.

"Unfortunately, Kaka is not with us," Robinho said before Friday's 90-minute practice. "But we know how to work to get ready."

Dunga added more firepower this week by recalling Adriano to the national team for only the second time since the 2006 World Cup. The 26-year-old striker had an impressive six-month stint while on loan from Italy to Sao Paulo in Brazil's professional league.

"He has shown the determination, the willpower, to be on the national team," Dunga said.

Canada is ranked 62nd by FIFA.

"That is a very strong, very disciplined team," Dunga said of the Canadians. "It's going to be a hard match to play. We have to be prepared."

Saturday's match is a huge step for Canada in a reconstruction process aimed at returning to the World Cup for the first time in 24 years, its only appearance. Canada's next World Cup qualifiers are home-and-home games against tiny, lightly regarded St. Vincent and the Grenadines June 15 and 20, the latter game in Montreal.

"I've said in the past the Canadian association needs to step up and play big opponents. You see the United States playing England," said Canada's star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who plays for Houston of MLS.

"It's the right time for us to play these big games. And it doesn't get any bigger than Brazil. This is the way we need to prepare if we stand a chance to qualify for the World Cup in 2010."

The Canadians have a new coach, Dale Mitchell, who has instituted a new, more aggressive style. It's a contrast to the staid, defensive-minded style Canada had used -- mostly unsuccessfully -- for years.

The change is more refreshing than a blast of Canadian winter air to De Rosario. He called the old approach "going out there to get a tie or to not get scored on or get embarrassed too much."

That still could happen against mighty -- though reorganizing and somewhat depleted -- Brazil.

"Hopefully, we don't go out there being in too much awe and watch them play around us," De Rosario said. "Because the next thing you know is we're in awe with five goals in the back of the net."