Go on tour with the big-time bands and you’ll find a team of tireless experts that works behind the scenes to make sure that everything is perfect when the group steps on stage to perform for their legion of fans, from setting up the lighting and sound, to tuning instruments, to the organization of the food and travel. As the “team behind the team,” the members of that dedicated staff are the most important people you’ve never heard of.
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The U.S. Men’s National Team deploys a similar group, each having different responsibilities but working towards the same goal. To give you a glimpse, ussoccer.com went behind the scenes with MNT Equipment Manager Jesse Bignami (left above) and Team Administrator Jon Fleishman (right) to document three different phases of their work behind a successful 10-day gathering.
Photos: John Dorton and Mike Janosz / ISI Photos
On March 9, MNT Equipment Manager Jesse Bignami and Team Administrator Jon Fleishman are putting the finishing touches on a large shipment of gear that will go from its home at the National Training Center in Carson, Calif., to the MNT hotel in San Jose.
For Fleishman, it means packing up approximately nine cases that contain everything he needs to setup a mobile office at the team hotel, while Bignami works with the MNT medical staff to gather all of their equipment as well as the large amount of player gear needed to go on the road.
The MNT kit man packs up the usual items such as boots, balls, jerseys, goalkeeper gloves, casual wear, massage tables, and medical equipment. There’s also some more eccentric items, like a heat press, boot stretcher, power adapters for foreign countries, and even the game balls that will be used by our opponent on the road.
In total, he estimates they ship about 100 different trunks and cases to San Jose that add up to almost 10,000 pounds.
“We almost always are shipping prior to the roster being announced and we don’t have a home stadium, so we basically have to bring everything we need to be self-sufficient anywhere in the world,” Bignami told ussoccer.com “That’s different than any club team who travels 48 hours before a game. Jon has nine trunks that are basically his mobile office. All the medical stuff we travel with accounts for the fact that we obviously don’t have a fully equipped training room when we show up in a hotel. There’s a lot to consider.”
As he’s packing, Bignami keeps a meticulous list, tracking everything that goes onto the shipment truck.
After three long days of packing, the two see the shipment off to San Jose where they’ll collect it eight days later.
Flash forward to March 17 where Bignami and Fleishman are joined by MNT Assistant Equipment Manager Mike Zawlocki and other staff to begin setting things up at the team hotel before players and coaching staff arrive two days later.Read more
Sebastian Lletget had a dream start to Friday’s crucial World Cup Qualifying clash vs. Honduras, tapping home a rebound on Christian Pulisic’s shot to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.
Moments after the goal, the 24-year-old’s World Cup Qualifying debut went from joy to pain – quite literally – due to a late, hard tackle from Éver Alvarado in the 15th minute.
While the Honduras midfielder was shown a yellow card for the challenge, Lletget was forced out of the match minutes later and is now feeling the long-lasting effects after the LA Galaxy announced Tuesday that the midfielder sustained a Lisfranc injury.
The U.S. Soccer and LA Galaxy medical teams, headed by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Rachel Triche, determined that Lletget will require surgery next week when the swelling comes down.
Lletget will be sidelined for the next 4-6 months.
Get well soon, Sebastian. We’re behind you all the way.Read more
After two tough losses to begin the Final Round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying back in November, the U.S. Men’s National Team came into Friday’s home match against Honduras with a simple message:
By the 54th minute, they had peppered six goals in the back of the net and rode that score line to the final whistle, setting a record for the largest margin of victory in the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying since CONCACAF adopted the current format in advance of the 1998 tournament.
The victory not only provided a boost of confidence, but coming after a bitter 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica in November, it also served as a reminder to the rest of the region what the U.S. was capable of all along.
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“I think it’s a statement game for sure,” said veteran MNT defender Geoff Cameron. “I don’t think we expected to win 6-0, but I think we just overall finished amazing tonight. Every opportunity we had we finished, and that’s very clinical. I think overall we pressured the ball and made it difficult. It was a great all-around game for everybody. We knew it was a big game for us. It was a must win and we took advantage of that.”
As Cameron points out, the MNT was efficient going forward, converting six of their eight shots on goal. In defense, Tim Howard made four saves while the MNT midfield and back line often frustrated the Honduras attack. The U.S. has yet to surrender a goal during Arena’s current tenure, posting three straight shutouts.
“It’s three points,” said U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “It’s the first step in terms of getting ourselves back in a good position in the table. We’ve waited a long time for tonight, especially given the way the two games went in November. I thought across the board, every guy stepped on the field tonight with the right mentality, ready to give everything to make sure we walked off the field with three points.”
Having begun the day at the bottom of the six-team Hexagonal, the U.S. jumped up to fourth place by the end of the night thanks to the win and other results around the region. Now they head south to Panama in search of a result on the road that can push them even higher.
“We can build off tonight and we know it’s going to be a tough game down in Panama,” said Cameron. “We’re not expecting to win 6-0 like we did tonight, but we know it’s wide open now with the results that happened. We know if we take care of business in Panama, we can climb the table and get back to where we belong.”
Bradley added, “I think tonight’s a good first step in terms of re-establishing a lot of things for our group in terms of who we are and what we’re about. We move on and get ourselves ready for Panama where we want to get three more.”Read more