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U.S. U-23 Men's National Team Notes from Mexico

HOLA, GUADALAJARA!: The U.S. Under-23 MNT players and staff gathered  in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport late Sunday morning before departing for a direct flight at 2:35 p.m. to Guadalajara via Mexicana Airlines. Located about 2.5 hours northwest of Mexico City and four hours up the Pacific Coast from the beaches of Acapulco, Guadalajara is the second largest city in all of Mexico, boasting approximately four million residents. After settling in Sunday night at the elegant Hotel Presidente Intercontinental, the U.S. team went through a lengthy practice Monday morning at the Los Olivos training facility, an impressive 6-field oasis smack in the middle of an "unsavory" neighborhood (case in point--the team bus was momentarily stopped when a woman walking across the street decided to stop in the middle of the road and do a handstand and hold it for about four seconds as her son looked on with glee). Los Olivos is the official practice site of Mexican pro clubs Toluca and Cuhatlan, as well as the Mexican National Teams when they are in the city. On Tuesday, the team will have a one-hour training session at Tres de Marzo at 7 p.m. after a light jog in the morning. After originally being scheduled for the city of Leon at 8 p.m., Wednesday's match will be played at 7 p.m. (CT) in Guadalajara at Estadio Tres de Marzo, which has a capacity of 22,000. The game is expected to be televised locally, but will be competing with the Liga Mexicana All-Star Game, which will feature Mexican players vs. the Rest of the World (a la past MLS All-Star Games) and be broadcast live from Monterrey.

MARTINO, E. JOHNSON INJURED IN MLS ACTION, REPLACED BY TESTO, MAPP: After the original 18-man roster was announced on Friday, two changes had to be made as two key players went down with injuries during Saturday night's MLS action. Columbus Crew playmaker Kyle Martino suffered a groin pull, while Dallas Burn forward Eddie Johnson pulled a hamstring. Replacing them on the trip roster are Chicago Fire midfielders Justin Mapp, whose participating in just his second U-23 camp, and midfielder David Testo of the A-League's Richmond Kickers. With these changes, 14 of the 18 players on the final roster compete in Major League Soccer, with only defenders Oguchi Onyewu (FC Metz -- France), Alex Yi (Royal Antwerp -- Belgium), and Chris Wingert (St. John's University) and Testo not playing in the Div. I domestic league. Below is the final 18-man U.S. roster, listed by position with pro club or college in parantheses:
Goalkeepers (2): D.J. Countess (Dallas Burn), Doug Warren (D.C. United);
Defenders (6): Kelly Gray (Chicago Fire), Ricky Lewis (L.A. Galaxy), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Metz -- France), David Stokes (D.C. United), Chris Wingert (St. John’s University), Alexander Yi (Royal Antwerp FC -- Belgium);
Midfielders (7): DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire), Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids), Brian Carroll (D.C. United), Ricardo Clark (MetroStars), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Logan Pause (Chicago Fire), David Testo (Richmond Kickers);
Forwards (3): Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes), Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United), Nate Jaqua (Chicago Fire).

PLAYIN' WITH THE BIG BOYS: A total of six players on the roster for Wednesday's U-23 battle -- two from the U.S. and four from Mexico -- made their respective team's final 18-man roster for the highly-anticipated "Revancha en la Cancha" last Thursday between the full Men's National Teams of the USA and Mexico in Houston. Both Landon Donovan (San Jose Earthquakes) and DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire) started and played a full 90 minutes as the U.S. recovered from a sluggish first half to even out play in the second and battle to a 0-0 draw in front of 69,582 fans at immense Reliant Stadium. Donovan and Beasley both figured in good scoring chances, with the Chicago Fire midfielder edging his long-time U.S. teammate for Chevrolet Man of the Match honors. On the opposing side, crafty forward Adolfo Bautista started and played 82 minutes, making an impact on several dangerous scoring chances, turning defenders with sharp cutback moves and firing a bicycle kick from about 10 yards out that was saved by U.S. MNT goalkeeper Tim Howard. Midfielder Alberto Medina entered the match in the 59th minute to replace Omar Bravo, while goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona and midfielder Eduardo Rergis were left on the bench after Lavolpe made all five of his available substitutions by the 82nd minute.

MEXICO U-23 MNT ROSTER: Below is Mexico's final 20-man roster, listed by position with pro club or college in parantheses:
Goalkeepers (2): José de Jesús Corona (Atlas)*, Cirilo Saucedo (León);
Defenders (4): Leonel Olmedo (San Luis), Jaime Duran Gómez (Atlas), Hugo Sánchez (Tigres), Fasto Pinto (Pachuca);
Midfielders (10): Cosme Castro (Puebla), Jose Joel González (Atlante), Joel Adrián Huiqui Andrade (Cruz Azul), Diego Ramírez (Atlante), Juan Jose de la Cruz (Atlas), Juan Pablo García (Atlas), Alberto Medina (Guadalajara)*, Christian de la Mora (Cihuatlan), Miguel Andoni Hernández (Tecos), Eduardo Rergis (Atlante)*;
Forwards (4): Adolfo Bautista (Morelia)*, Ismael Iñiguez (Monarcas), Ismael Rodríguez  (Monterrey), Juan Alberto Esquivel (Atlas).
*made the final roster for the full Mexico MNT for May 8 match versus USA in Houston

PRESSURE ON LAVOLPE EXTENDS TO "SUB-23" SIDE AS PAN-AM GAMES NEAR: The recent results of the full Mexico MNT under new head coach Manuel Lavolpe, a 1-1-3 record and only two goals scored in 2003, have created additional pressure for the fiery Argentine that has trickled down to the Under-23 MNT, which he also coaches. Having only mustered a draw against the USA's "A" side, he will surely be expected to produce a win, or at least goals, in the match-up with the U.S. Under-23 squad. Wednesday's match is part of Mexico's ongoing preparation for the 2003 Pan American Games, which will are scheduled for August 1-17 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Mexico will be trying to defend the gold medal that they won in 1999, having beaten the U.S. 4-0 on August 4 in the semifinals and then grabbing the gold  two days later on August 6. [Editor's Note: After claiming the bronze medal in 1999 with a 2-1 win over Mexico, the U.S. has elected not to compete in the 2003 version due to scheduling conflicts with the MLS season.]  The Mexico U-23s have gathered for four brief training camps in 2003 prior to this week, but have played in just one international, a 1-0 loss to Colombia on April 16.
Date: Event (Result)
Feb. 17-19: Training Camp
March 3-5: Training Camp-
March 31-Apr. 2: Training Camp
Apr. 14-17: Training Camp
Apr. 16: vs. Colombia (0-1 L)
May 14: vs. USA               

U.S. U-23s GATHER FOR JUST SECOND TIME IN 2003: The U.S. U-23s have gathered just once prior in 2003, posting a 1-1-3 record on a two-week trip to Portugal in January. The U.S. was 1-1-1 in a three-game series against reserve teams from the Portuguese First Division before posting a pair of hard-fought 1-1 draws with Portugal and Russia as part of the Vale de Tejo International Tournament.  After beating Russia 4-1 in penalties, the U.S. fell 4-1 in the PK shootout to the host nation to finish second in the four-team tournament. After taking 2001 off following the 2000 Olympics, the new class of U-23s gathered in January 2002 and went on to post a 6-2-2 overall record, including a 1-2-2 mark in internationals. Forward Alecko Eskandarian, who won the 2002 M.A.C. Hermann Award as the nation's top Div. I player, led the team in scoring with seven goals and two assists for 16 points.
2003 Results
Date: Final Score (U.S. Goal Scorers)
Jan. 14: Sporting Lisbon 3, U.S. 1 (Rota)
Jan. 15: Benfica 0, U.S. 0
Jan. 16: U.S. 2, Santarem Select 0 (Testo, Gray)
Jan. 21: Russia 1, U.S. 1 - U.S. 4-1 PKs (Jaqua)
Jan. 23: Portugal 1, U.S. 1 - Portugal 4-1 PKs (Jaqua)

CONCACAF OLYMPIC QUALIFYING APPROACHES IN NOVEMBER: The U.S. Under-23 MNT will begin qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in November, as they enter the tournament in the second round and will face the winner of a first-round match-up between the tiny nations of St. Kitts & Neves and Dominica, who will meet in a home-and-home series in September and October. Meanwhile, Mexico has earned a bye straight to the eight-team final round of qualification as the host nation for the event. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are set to take place in Mexico from February 2-12, 2004, with the two finalists earning autmatic berths to Athens 2004. In 2000 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa., the U.S. posted a 2-1-1 record and finished second behind Honduras for a ticket to Sydney.

DONOVAN BACK IN U-23 FOLD FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2000: Wednesday’s match versus Mexico will mark the first time that 21-year-old forward Landon Donovan has appeared with the U.S. Under-23 squad since the Fall of 2000 in Sydney, Australia. Donovan was a key member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team that exceeded expectations and advanced all the way to the medal round of the 16-team, Under-23 level tournament. After watching from the bench as the U.S. fought to draw the Czech Republic 2-2 and Cameroon 1-1 in the team's first two matches in Canberra, Donovan made the most of his Olympic debut, coming off the bench in the and scored the clinching goal in the 88th minute of a 3-1 win over Kuwait in Melbourne. The insurance goal helped the U.S. not only advance to the second round for the first time in history, but win Group C with a 1-0-2 record. Donovan went on to come off the bench in the USA's final three matches -- a 2-2 T (5-4 PKs) with Japan in Adelaide, then losses to Spain (3-1) and Chile (2-0) in Syndey -- as the team finished a best ever fourth place.

FELIZ CUMPLEANOS: Three U.S. U-23 players will celebrate their birthdays this month, with two coming in a span of four days. MetroStars midfielder Ricardo Clark just turned 20 on Saturday, while Onyewu becomes legal today with his 21st birthday.  As of now, there's no word on whether the U.S. Soccer staff will employ a mariachi band or have the kitchen staff make some special flan for the occasion. DaMarcus Beasley will hit the same milestone later in the month on May 24.

UN POQUITO: Not surprisingly, Landon Donovan has been the interviewee of choice with the Mexican media so far, but it's not just because he put himself on the international soccer map last summer with two goals in the 2002 World Cup and played in the full MNT match in Houston just five days ago. In reality, it's because he's the only player that can speak more than "un poquito" (translation: a very little bit) of Espanol. The fluent Spanish speaker has already been sought out by both Televisa and TV Azteca, the two major national networks in Mexico, in the first day alone. As for the rest of the team, they're just proud of themselves to be able to spit out words or phrases like "gracias," "bueno"/"no bueno," and "esta bien" that they remember from high school Spanish class.

COMING TOMORROW: To get you reaquainted with the U.S. Under-23 MNT, we'll provide a breakdown of how they've all fared in the pro ranks so far in their young careers, whether it be in MLS or overseas. Also, we'll feature quotes from various players on what the USA-Mexico rivalry means to them, no matter what the age level in which the border battle occurs.