JAPAN ON THE HORIZON: The U.S. Men's National Team will get their first look at SBC Park on Thursday afternoon when they conduct their final training session in advance of their meeting against fellow FIFA World Cup finalists Japan. Kickoff for the USA's third match of 2006 is set for Friday Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the match live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker. Check back to see who U.S. boss Bruce Arena will put out against the Japanese when the USA's Starting XI is posted one hour before kickoff, exclusively at ussoccer.com.
INJURY UPDATE: Eddie Johnson continues his steady improvement from a calf contusion suffered Jan. 22 against Canada, having participated fully in the last three training sessions. Frankie Hejduk (strained quad), Kyle Martino (strained hamstring) and Santino Quaranta (strained groin) have stayed in Los Angeles for treatment. Nate Jaqua suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the MCL in his left knee Feb. 4 and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks.
PODCAST SCOUTING REPORT - ONALFO ON JAPAN: U.S. Assistant Coach Curt Onalfo is back for the first time in 2006 to give U.S. Soccer fans a chalk-talk on Japan. Onalfo describes the #15 ranked team in the world as aggressive, attacking and surprisingly similar to another team the U.S. is quite familiar with - Mexico. Get the lowdown on the Japanese side coached by former Brazilian star Zico in this exclusive podcast at ussoccer.com.
PODCAST PART TWO - ZAVAGS FILLING THE MIDFIELD HOLE: For Kerry Zavagnin, the road to the U.S. National Team has been a long one. The Kansas City Wizards holding midfielder didn't see significant action in Bruce Arena's scheme until just under the age of 30. While Zavagnin made six appearances in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, when the January 2006 camp roster came out, he was only included as an alternate. Despite the setback, he kept his sights on the future, staying fit and ready in case he got the call. When Pablo Mastroeni went down with a torn quad, that call finally came, and Kerry has made the most of the opportunity, playing 45 minutes against Canada and getting the start in the 5-0 win against Norway. Circumspect, focused and relaxed, Zavagnin spoke with ussoccer.com about what lies ahead.
ALL_ACCESS VIDEO - TRAINING TAPE: Haven't had a chance to check out ussoccer.com's new look and improved video capacity? Here's a great opportunity for fans, coaches and players to see the MNT at work as ussoccer.com takes you inside a training session for two of the more intense exercises in Bruce Arena's arsenal. First, what he calls the 'Near Post-Far Post' drill, a 3v2 attacking exercise that pits two defenders against three attackers trying to get on the end of crosses from the flanks. It's all about timing, service and finishing. Next is the '6v6 Plus Six' drill, with two teams going head-to-head to big goals while the third group serves as neutrals on the outside of the field. It's fast, intense and full of shots and goals. Visit the new Sights and Sounds page at ussoccer.com for all the action.
TWELLMAN ‘TRICK: Taylor Twellman’s three-goal effort against Norway was the ninth hat trick all-time for the U.S. and the first since Eddie Johnson found the net three times after coming on as a reserve on Oct. 12, 2004, against Panama during the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. After not scoring in his first 12 caps, Twellman now has four goals in his last three games as he attempts to secure a spot on the 23-player World Cup roster. Four different players have scored hat tricks for the U.S. since Jan. 27, 2002 (just over four years), while in the previous 33 years, the U.S. had just one (a four-goal game from Joe-Max Moore in 1993).
DONOVAN ONE AWAY FROM THE RECORD BOOKS: With his unselfish pass to Chris Klein that set up the USA’s fifth goal against Norway – a brilliantly taken one, at that – Donovan upped his career assist total with the full team to 21, just one shy of the all-time record held by Cobi Jones. The youngest player in U.S. history to reach 50 caps, Donovan is the only player to be honored as the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of Year in consecutive years (2003-2004).
FOUR FAMILIAR WITH THE AREA: Four players on the U.S. roster spent part of their careers just south of San Francisco, all collecting championship rings as members of the San Jose Earthquakes. Jimmy Conrad and Landon Donovan each picked up their first MLS Cup title in 2001, when Dwayne de Rosario scored in overtime to give San Jose a 2-1 win against Los Angeles at Crew Stadium in Columbus. Two years later, Conrad was gone but Donovan was joined by Brian Ching and Todd Dunivant as the ‘Quakes captured their second trophy in three years, defeating the Chicago Fire 4-2 in Los Angeles.
EJ AND GOOCH 'NEXT' IN ESPN THE MAGAZINE: ESPN The Magazine's annual 'Next' issue hit the newsstands last week, with U.S. National Team upstarts Eddie Johnson and Oguchi Onyewu amongst the featured athletes. Photographers traveled to Brussels to shoot Gooch in the new Nike gear, while EJ took time out from training to travel to Venice Beach for his layout. The 'Next' issue annually features up and coming athletes across the sporting spectrum, with Bobby Convey counted amongst the alumni. This year's cast also includes Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, University of Texas quarterback Vince Young, golfer Michelle Wie and others.
LOOKING BACK ON ‘05: The U.S. posted a 13-3-4 record in 2005, collecting the most victories in team history. The team qualified for its fifth-consecutive World Cup finals in record-breaking fashion, finishing first in the final group for the first time in 71 years while qualifying with three games to spare with the 2-0 win against Mexico on Sept. 3 in Columbus, Ohio. Bruce Arena coached his 100th game for the U.S. on March 19 against Honduras, helping elevate the U.S. to 6th place in the FIFA rankings, its highest ranking ever. Landon Donovan led all scorers with six goals and six assists, but it was Kasey Keller’s eight shutouts in 13 games – including five in the final round of World Cup qualifying – that earned the goalkeeper the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year award.
DOES JANUARY CAMP PREDICT WORLD CUP ROSTER? With four months to go until Germany, much speculation exists about how many ‘spots’ are still open on the roster. The U.S. was in a similar place four years ago, when Arena called 28 players into camp in Mission Viejo to try and whittle down his numbers. The camp roster back then – as now – was almost entirely domestic players, and more than half the group had ten international appearances or fewer. So how did the 2002 group fare? Thirteen of 28 players traveled to Korea for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Of the 13 players who did play in Korea, four began the January camp with 10 caps or less: DaMarcus Beasley (3), Landon Donovan (9), Pablo Mastroeni (2) and Josh Wolff (10).
HERE COMES THE NIKE VAPOR: Gear hounds live for these moments – especially in a World Cup year. It's the time when every player looks to see the newest, coolest and best quality boots, balls and equipment on the market. And Nike certainly doesn't disappoint. In a session on January 28 with Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson at The Home Depot Center, Nike unveiled the new Mercurial Vapor ball and Mercurial Vapor III boot, which are, quite simply, awesome. The Mercurial Vapor ball, which is white and gold and matches the color pattern of the Vapor III:
• Is Fastest off the foot - the new high-tension Vapor Core launches the ball off the foot with more speed, getting the ball from point A to point B faster than any other ball.
• Carries furthest - the ball consistently carries further than any other ball when kicked with the same amount of force.
• Consistent control - the ball is more accurate in a straight line when kicked. Therefore, the Mercurial Vapor more consistently flies to the intended target.
• Enhanced control - best combination of drag & lift to allow players to shape shots (e.g., curving the ball around the wall).
• Twenty players have traveled to San Francisco and are available for selection. Only 18 players will dress for the game Friday, including two goalkeepers. The maximum number of substitutions will be six
• The match against Japan will be just the second meeting between the nations, and the first in the U.S. The only previous meeting came in 1993 when the U.S. fell 3-1 in Tokyo. Overall, the U.S. has an all-time 7-7-5 record vs. Asian Zone teams, including a 2-1-2 record under Arena
• This will be the first appearance for the U.S. MNT in San Francisco in 26 years, and the first-ever soccer match at SBC Park
• Landon Donovan and Eddie Pope are the leading capwinners on the roster (75). The pair have split the captainship duties over the first two matches, with Pope leading the team in the 0-0 draw vs. Canada on Jan. 22, while Donovan wore the armband in the 5-0 win on Jan. 29 against Norway
• Pope tallied his seventh career international goal in the Norway match, getting on the end of a Todd Dunivant cross to the near post to increase the USA’s lead to 4-0 in the 67th minute
• Of the 20 players on the current roster, 10 players have 10 caps or fewer. Bobby Boswell (D.C. United) and Zach Wells (Houston 1836) are the two players still in search of their first cap
• Todd Dunivant made his debut against Norway on Jan. 29 in front of his hometown fans at The Home Depot Center. Nate Jaqua and Ugo Ihemelu also got their first caps that night
• Despite earning his fourth cap for the full national team when the U.S. defeated Norway, the appearance for Kevin Hartman against Norway was his first-ever start in goal. His previous three appearances all came as a second-half substitute
• The five-goal win against Norway was the largest margin of victory for the U.S. against a European team and tied the largest margin of victory ever against a non-CONCACAF team (5-0 vs. China on April 4, 1992). Overall, this was just the 11th time in history the U.S. has won a game by at least five goals
• Matt Reis added his name to the capped list against Canada, becoming the eighth goalkeeper in U.S. history to record a shutout in his inaugural start for the senior team.
• Two players on the roster got new addresses in MLS, with Kansas City sending veteran midfielder Chris Klein to Real Salt Lake for a portion of an allocation and goalkeeper Zach Wells heading to Houston 1836 from the MetroStars
• All but one of the 25 are plying their trade in MLS, with young defender Heath Pearce - who made his debut against Scotland on Nov. 12, 2005 - the lone European representative.
• In addition to having seven players from MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles Galaxy and the New England Revolution, the roster includes 2005 MLS MVP Taylor Twellman. The 25-year-old also claimed two other prestigious awards in a historic season: the Golden Boot for leading the League with 17 goals scored during the regular season and the Most Valuable Player of the 2005 MLS All-Star Game.
• The roster also boasts the 2005 MLS Defender of the Year in Jimmy Conrad, a finalist for Rookie of the Year in Chris Rolfe, and the MLS Humanitarian of the Year in Chris Klein
• Three players on the rosters made the 2005 MLS Best XI – Conrad, Dempsey and Twellman
On the field for the USA
January 29, 2006 – The Home Depot Center, Carson, California– International Friendly
USA 5 Taylor Twellman 5’, 17’, 76’; Eddie Pope 67’; Chris Klein 87
USA: 22-Kevin Hartman; 3-Todd Dunivant, 12-Jimmy Conrad, 23-Eddie Pope (4-Ugo Ihemelu, 83), 2-Frankie Hejduk; 5-Kerry Zavagnin (14-Ben Olsen, 79), 13-Pat Noonan (17-Chris Klein, 77), 8-Clint Dempsey (21-Santino Quaranta, 70), 10-Landon Donovan (capt.);16-Josh Wolff (19-Nate Jaqua, 67), 20-Taylor Twellman (11-Brian Ching, 83)
Subs not used: 24-Matt Reis
Norway: 1-Espen Johnsen; 2-Steinar Pedersen (capt.), 3-Frode Kippe, 4-Brede Hangeland, 5-Erlend Hanstveit (14-Trond Erik Bertelsen, 46); 6-Henning Hauger (17-Alex Valencia, 46), 7-Petter Rudi (16-Magne Hoset, 64), 8-Stian Ohr (18-Epsen Olsen, 46), 9-Tomasz Sokolowski (15-Raymond Kvisvik, 46); 10-Ole Martin Arst, 11-Petter Vaagan Moen
Subs not used: 12-Jan Kjell Larsen, 13-Jarl Andre Storbæk
On the field for Japan
November 16, 2005 – National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – International Friendly
Japan 1 Daisuke Matsui 90’
Japan:Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Makoto Tanaka (Daisuke Matsui, 66), Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, Yuji Nakazawa, Yuichi Komano, Hidetoshi Nakata, Junichi Inamoto (Yuki Abe, 80), Alessandro Santos, Shunsuke Nakamura, Atsushi Yanagisawa, Naohiro Takahara (Masashi Oguro, 79)
Angola:Joao Ricardo, Jacinto, Alex, Jamba, Delgado, Miloy, Figueiredo (Simao, 87), Edson (Santana, 89), Maurito (Flavio, 69), Mendonca (Ze Kalanga, 79), Akwa (Love, 62). Coach, Luis de Oliveira Goncalves
March 14, 1993 - National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – Kirin Cup
Japan 3 Kazuyoshi Miura 36’, 80’; OG 68’
USA 1 Hugo Perez 23’
Japan: Kazuya Maekawa, Satoshi Tsunami, Tetsuya Asano, Takumi Horiike, Masami Ihara, Mitsunori Yoshida, Masahiro Fukuda, Tsuyoshi Kitazawa, Hajime Moriyasu, Kazuyoshi Miura, Takuya Takagi (Masashi Nakayama, 83)
USA: Tony Meola, Fernando Clavijo, Thomas Dooley, Marcelo Balboa, Mike Lapper, Paul Caligiuri, Brian Quinn (Desmond Armstrong, 69), Chris Henderson, Bruce Murray (Cobi Jones, 73), Hugo Pérez, Jean Harbor
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