Q & A with U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach Keith Tozer
U.S. Futsal National Team head coach Keith Tozer has named the 14-player roster that he will lead at the 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Championship. Tozer has been at the helm of the Futsal National Team since 1996 and has led the team to three FIFA Futsal World Cups. He took some time to speak with ussoccer.com about the group of players he has chosen to vie for one of CONCACAF’s four berths to the World Cup in Thailand later this year.
Can you speak a little bit about the roster that you’ve chosen and players’ experience? What do the veterans contribute and what do the new players
Keith Tozer: “I think the players that we put together, what they all have in common is they’re a pretty fit team and we felt that because we’re not a strong futsal nation as far as professional leagues, we felt that our fitness would be something that would carry us through. Especially playing three games in three days. The bottom line is, I think we’re a very fit team, a strong team and a team that is physically prepared. A lot of these players come from professional teams in the Major Indoor Soccer League. They have won championships in Baltimore, they have won championships in Milwaukee, they have won championships in a lot of the other cities they come from, so I think their professional pedigree will also help in this tournament as we carry on and run through it.
“The thing I like most about this team is that even though we are a young futsal team, we continue to improve each and every practice and each and every game. That was very evident in this last trip that we just had to Guatemala.”
How did the last trip to Guatemala help your team prepare for what it can expect during the tournament, where they will be facing the top nations in
KT: “I think, just like any sport, preseason is really important to get the team together but you really don’t know what you have to work on until you actually play an opponent. That’s what we found out when we were in Guatemala two weeks ago. We played four games in six days. We also trained during those matches and each game brought a different set of issues that we needed to address and take care of. It was so beneficial for us to go down and play those games, and not only to go play the games but to actually go down into the city that the CONCACAF Championship is going to be in, to actually play a game where the CONCACAF games are going to be played at, it was extremely beneficial for us.”
What do expect from your opponents? What do you know about the teams you’ll be facing?
KT: “Like any World Cup championship or any qualifier, in group play, your first game is probably the most important. Panama we played in the 2008 qualifiers and we did win that game. They have an extremely good goalkeeper. They’re very athletic. They’re very fast. They look to counter attack. They have a new coach, a Cuban coach, so they’re going to be very organized. That’s going to be an extremely tough opponent. Then we play the winner of Canada vs. El Salvador. What is good about that is that we’ll be able to watch both of their preliminary qualification matches in Guatemala prior to the CONCACAF tournament starting, so we’ll be able to scout them and see which players they’re going to play. Then we go to the gold medal winners. Guatemala was the 2008 champ. They’ve done great in years past because of the professional futsal league they have created in the past six or seven years. Of course we won the gold medal in 2004 and it was something that hurt us last time, not winning it. That game, hopefully, will be for where you sit in the qualification. We’re in a tough group and we’ll take each game at a time.”
Is there anything in particular you’re telling the players as far as mental or physical preparation, so they can be ready in a week and a half?
KT: “This is the first time in futsal history that the United States team has had a fitness coach. Aidan Byrne came on board during the last couple trips, the one in Los Angeles and the last one in Guatemala. We’ve been using the Polar Team 2 program. The players are monitored on a daily basis throughout the United States while they’re doing the program. That’s why I’m very positive about the fitness level that we’re at right now. I think that has been a big boost for us. I think just coming together as many times as we have recently is another positive. Our goalkeeping, Danny Waltman and Boris Pardo, are two great goalkeepers from the Major Indoor Soccer League and will continue that hopefully down there. I think we’re up for the challenge.”