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Under-17 MNT Arrives in San Jose, Costa Rica, for U-17 World Championship Qualifying

U.S. Under-17 MNT Notes
San Jose, Costa Rica
April 10, 2005

AN EARLY START: The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team began their trip to Costa Rica for the 2005 CONCACAF Under-17 Group A Qualifying Tournament on Saturday (April 9), waking up hours before the sun unleashed its warm rays over IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. The players loaded the team bus in the dark at 5:15 a.m. and despite the lure of bagels for a quick breakfast, the players mostly zonked out or watched the movie “Spider Man” for the four-hour trip across “Alligator Alley” on I-75 to Miami International Airport. At the airport the team unloaded their gear, checked in and after an hour delay made the remaining leg of their trip via air to San Jose, Costa Rica.

EL SALVADOR FIRST: The U.S. will have three days of training before kicking off the 2005 CONCACAF Under-17 Group A Qualifying Tournament against El Salvador on Tuesday, April 12 at 4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET). The U.S. will then face Cuba on Thursday, April 14 at 4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET), before facing host Cost Rica in the final match of the tournament on Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET). All three matches will be played at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia, which is just outside of San Jose. Fans can follow every match on’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

2005 CONCACAF Under-17 Qualifying Tournament
Tuesday, April 12
USA vs. El Salvador 4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET)
Costa Rica vs. Cuba 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET)

Thursday, April 14
USA vs. Cuba 4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET)
Costa Rica vs. El Salvador 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET)

Saturday, April 16
Cuba vs. El Salvador 4:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET)
Costa Rica vs. USA 7 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET)

PERK THE ONLY ’89: U.S. Under-17 head coach Hackworth selected his 18-man roster from the 40 available players in U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 Residency Program based in Bradenton, Fla. All of the players were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, with only backup goalkeeper Brian Perk making the roster from the younger 1989 age group.

KIRK ALL RED, WHITE AND BLUE: Last week, midfielder Quavas Kirk found out he’d be unable to play in the U-17 qualifying tournament after breaking his foot in the team’s final preparation match on April 3, a 4-0 victory over Haiti. The loss was a bit of a blow to the U.S., as Kirk’s workrate and goal-scoring skills will be sorely missed on the left flank. Always a formidable goal-scorer, Kirk had been on fire since being drafted by the LA Galaxy in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft in January, reeling off 16 goals and five assists in just 15 games, including two goals and an assist in the match against Haiti. Despite being forced to the sideline, Kirk has shown an impressive resolve as he continued to be upbeat during the final week of training in Bradenton, the only “blues” coming from his red, white and blue cast on his left foot. Instead of expressing his disappointment on missing out on qualifying, Kirk encouraged his teammates to get the job done without him and is focused on coming back as soon as possible, saying: “I know they can get the job done and get us to Peru. I’ll hopefully be back in about three months and you can bet I’ll be ready for the World Championship.”

GOOD LUCK WISHES: Along with the other Residency players and coaches that stayed behind, the U.S. team received some good luck wishes the past couple days as they get set for the qualifying tournament. After the team’s final practice in Bradenton on Friday (April 8), the team was presented with a banner made by students at the local Anna Maria Elementary, where some of the players recently attended a school assembly to play soccer with the kids. The banner stated “Good Luck in Costa Rica” and every student wrote a short message for the team. Along with the banner, the students took the time to write good luck cards to the players. The players also received some words of encouragement just moments after landing in Costa Rica when the pilot announced over that the team was competing in the qualifying tournament, generating a round of applause from the other passengers.

ALL_ACCESS VIDEO WITH THE U-17s: You’ve been behind the scenes with the full MNT during World Cup qualifying. You got a close up look of the Under-20 Men as they qualified for the FIFA World Youth Championship. Now it’s the U-17s turn to let you into their world as they traverse the difficult qualifying road in the not-so-friendly confines of Costa Rica. In upcoming segments you will get the chance to follow the team from their final practice in Bradenton to their trip to Costa Rica, get an inside look into qualifying from head coach John Hackworth and find out what the U-17s first training session in San Jose was like the day they arrived.

A HOTEL WITH U.S. HISTORY: After a short bus ride from the airport, the U-17s arrived at Melia Cariari Hotel, where they will be staying throughout the qualifying tournament. One of the best resorts in San Jose, the Melia Cariari has hosted three U.S. Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush), two U.S. Secretary of States (Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz), tennis star Jimmy Connors and actor Warren Beatty (we know because the hotel has their pictures on the wall). The hotel includes such amenities as an 18-hole golf course, outdoor pool and hot tub, a small casino and even two macaw parrots that can speak in the lobby . While the players may get the chance to take a dip, they’ve obviously are unable to venture into the small casino and will most likely not have the time to take in nine holes.

FIRST DAY OF TRAINING: After checking in and grabbing lunch, the team piled back on the bus for their first training session in Costa Rica. When the team arrived at Estadio Municipal de Flores, a small field located in a park about 10 minutes from the hotel, some local teenagers who were playing soccer on the basketball court next to the field greeted them. The teenagers’ game stopped for a bit as the bus pulled up and some of the locals waved or said hello to the U.S. players before getting back to their game. The practice lasted about an hour-and-a-half as the players did their best to get their legs back after the day of travel.

OPPONENTS ARRIVING: The U.S. was the first team to arrive at the hotel, which will also house opponents El Salvador and Cuba. El Salvador arrived later on Saturday (April 8) evening, while Cuba is to arrive at the hotel on Sunday.

AVOIDING THE HEAT: When the U.S. players woke up this morning they were welcomed with 85-degree heat, quite similar to what they’ve been used to in Florida. Equipped with air conditioning in their rooms and a reminder at breakfast from team trainer Michael White, the players are camping in their rooms for most of the day to stay cool and trying to stay hydrated. While the pool and sun may be enticing, the players are more than content with a number of channels here picking up soccer games, including Barcelona-Real Madrid on Sunday.

ZIMMERMAN’S DUFF CRUSH: Preston Zimmerman is a tough guy. He’s got the four broken noses to prove it. In fact, he may be one of the most physical forwards that has ever gone through the U.S. Under-17 program, which makes it so humorous to see Zimmerman enthralled in his Pop Star magazine while waiting for the team’s flight to Costa Rica. Similar to Us Weekly, but catered towards teenagers, Pop Star dishes all the latest rumors, photos and interviews with the famous youth in Hollywood. Following in former U-17 member Freddy Adu’s footsteps, Zimmerman proclaimed his crush on Hillary Duff to some of the players in the terminal and was adamant in his argument that Duff was much better looking than Lindsay Lohan (who he likes as well, just not as much as Duff). A few players disputed Zimmerman’s claim, but after awhile gave up the argument figuring they’d never change Zimmerman’s mind.

-- One of the two macaw parrots located in the lobby of the team’s hotel as the players left for their first practice in Costa Rica.