COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: The U.S. team got its first glimpse of the massive stadium in Dortmund on Tuesday afternoon as they conducted their final training session in advance of Wednesday night’s clash with Germany (2:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN2, ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker). Log on to ussoccer.com one hour before kickoff as Manager Bruce Arena will name his Starting XI. A slightly undermanned U.S. side runs up against a desperate German team under a serious microscope less than three months before the FIFA World Cup kicks off June 9 in Munich. Arena held a press conference (listen) following Tuesday’s workout while a handful of U.S. players spoke about the significance of the game for them and the German squad in a field-side mixed zone (listen). More than 30 journalists have traveled from the United States for the match, the USA’s final trip to Europe prior to this summer’s tournament.
TICKETS GO ON SALE WEDNESDAY FOR THREE-GAME SEND-OFF SERIES: Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 22, at 10 a.m. local time for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s three-game Send-Off Series prior to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The series will begin at The Coliseum in Nashville, Tenn., on May 23 vs. Morocco, before continuing to Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 26 vs. Venezuela, presented by Budweiser, and concluding at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on May 28 vs. Latvia. All three matches kick off at 7 p.m. ET live on ESPN2 and taped delay on Telemundo. Fans can follow all three matches live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. Tickets are available at ussoccer.com and all local Ticketmaster outlets. Group tickets for 20 or more are available for each match, as well as on-field seats and a limited number of Ultimate Fan Tickets. More information is available at ussoccer.com or by calling 312-528-1290.
BUNDESLIGA BOYS: Three players on the U.S. roster are already well accustomed to their surroundings, with Berhalter, Cherundolo and Keller all plying their trade in Germany. Cherundolo serves as vice-captain for Hannover, who rode an 11-match unbeaten run to a three-way tie for sixth place in the Bundesliga, holding the edge on the other two sides with a plus-4 goal differential. One of those clubs is Borussia Moenchengladbach, where Keller mans the goal. Keller continues to be the backbone of the 'Gladbach defense in his second year in Germany, posting six shutouts for the season. In the Second Bundesliga, Berhalter wears the captain's armband for an Energie Cottbus side that has only one loss in their last eight matches, climbing to third in the table and inside the promotion zone with eight games remaining. Benny Feilhaber meanwhile, is just getting used to his German surroundings as U.S. Soccer’s 2005 Young Male Athlete of the Year and former U-20 MNT standout joined Hamburg SV this past July. The U.S. roster has two other players with experience in Germany, as both Cory Gibbs (FC St. Pauli) and Taylor Twellman (1860 Munich) have spent time in the Bundesliga.
PRE-WORLD CUP TUNEUP IN GERMANY HAS FAMILIAR RING: The U.S. is playing a World Cup tune-up against Germany for the second-consecutive cycle, having faced the former champions just under four years ago in Rostock. The match, one of three falling on international fixture dates prior to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, took place on March 27, 2002, at the 29,000 seat Ostseestadion. Clint Mathis struck twice for the U.S., but a three-goal spurt in seven minutes in the second half vaulted Germany to a 4-2 victory. Four players on this week's U.S. roster appeared in the match, including three starters.
CONVEY, HAHNEMANN CLOSE IN ON HISTORY: Bobby Convey's strike in the 22nd minute ensured Reading's share of the spoils as the League Championship leaders marched closer to securing a spot in next year's English Premier League action with a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton at Madjeski Stadium on Saturday. Reading remained 16 points ahead of second-place Sheffield United and 20 points ahead of third-place Leeds. With Leeds having eight games remaining and the top two teams automatically gaining promotion to the top flight, Reading are a few precious points from reaching the top division for the first time since the club's inception in 1871. Hahnemann has had a huge hand in Reading’s remarkable success, posting 21 shutouts while surrendering a paltry 25 goals in 29 league matches.
ABOUT THE GERMAN TEAM: Juergen Klinsmann deploys a side loaded with World Cup experience, and one that is hungry to erase the memory of the 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Italy on March 1 in Florence. Nine players on the roster were part of the side that finished in second place in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, led by Golden Ball winner Oliver Kahn. Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Ballack, who scored the goal in Germany’s 1-0 victory against the U.S. in Korea, is the engine of the attack. Striker Miroslav Klose is the danger man in the air, collecting five goals in the 2002 tournament, including a hat trick against Saudi Arabia. Swiss-born striker Oliver Neuville is the other player on the German roster with a goal against the U.S., his coming in the 4-2 win on March 27, 2002, in Rostock.
WHERE ARE WE PLAYING? The USA-Germany game will be played at the largest football stadium in Germany which, depending on who you ask, is either called Westfalenstadion, Signal Iduna Park or FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. Here is a quick history of the stadium's name game. Built originally for use in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the Westfalenstadion was named after the former Prussian province of Westphalia, which is now part of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia. The stadium originally had a capacity of 54,000 and was expanded over the years to its current capacity of 82,932 for Borussia Dortmund home games. Internationally, the stadium seats approximately 67,000. In December of 2005, the stadium's name was changed to Signal Iduna Park, as the insurance company purchased the naming rights for the facility. At the World Cup in June, however, the stadium will be known as FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. So for now, the U.S. is playing Germany at Signal Iduna Park, but should the USA finish in second place in Group E during the tournament, they will be playing their Round of 16 match at FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund. Got it? For a complete guide to all 12 World Cup venues, visit ussoccer.com’s extensive World Cup Travel Resource Center.
TEAMMATES ON ANY OTHER DAY: A couple players who will lineup across the midfield stripe share the same locker room on the weekend as teammates in the Bundesliga. Kasey Keller takes the field at Stadion im Borussia Park along with striker Oliver Neuville and defender Marcell Jansen. Over at Hannover, Steve Cherundolo is paired alongside 6’5” centerback Per Mertesacker. Schalke 04 striker Gerald Asamoah also used to ply his trade in Hannover.
U.S. HITS RECORD-HIGH FIFTH IN FIFA RANKINGS: A little less than three months before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Men’s National Team received their highest ever position in the FIFA World Rankings, moving up one spot to fifth place. The U.S. has not been ranked lower than eighth since breaking back into the Top 10 in March, 2005. The 13-month stretch ties the USA’s longest streak in the Top 10. The U.S. broke into the Top 10 for the first time in August of 2002, after their remarkable quarterfinal run in the 2002 World Cup, staying in the exclusive club until August of 2003. The U.S. has been no lower than 12th place since moving into the Top 10 in 2002.
U.S. MNT TO PLAY JAMAICA ON APRIL 11: The U.S. Men’s National Team will continue its 2006 World Cup preparations with a match against Jamaica on Tuesday, April 11, at SAS Park in Cary, N.C. Kickoff for the game is at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the match live via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. The match will occur just under a month before the team begins to use the Cary facility as their base training camp prior to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The team will begin final preparations for Germany on May 9 in Cary, and will train for approximately two weeks at the facility. While the match is already sold out, a limited number of Ultimate Fan Tickets are still available at ussoccer.com.
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. back on March 19 against Honduras, helping elevate the U.S. to sixth place in the FIFA rankings, at the time, its highest ranking ever. Landon Donovan led all scorers with six goals and six assists, but it was Kasey Keller’s eight shutouts in the 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.
CENTER CIRCLE TRIVIA ANSWER: D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen is the lone U.S. player with a goal against Germany to his credit, his 24th minute strike proving the game-winner as the USA downed Germany 2-0 on July 30, 1999, in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico. The U.S. went on to a third-place finish in the tournament.
THEY SAID IT: “Germany is one of the best teams in the world, and I think people are forgetting that because of one bad result against Italy. When we are realistic, they are one of the favorites to win the World Cup. That’s just how it is.” U.S. defender Gregg Berhalter, commenting on all the negative press the German team has received.
• The U.S. will dress 18 players for the match. The maximum number of substitutions will be six
• The team will sport the new Nike away kits, wearing blue/white/blue. [Order Your New MNT Nike Jersey Now!] Germany will wear their traditional white/black/white home combination
• Landon Donovan (calf strain) and Frankie Hejduk (hamstring strain) were ruled out of the U.S. roster prior to the trip to Germany. Feilhaber was added as a replacement, bringing the roster total to 18 players
• The U.S. holds a 4-0-1 record in 2006, outscoring their opponents 13-2 and posting four shutouts
• The U.S. has played Germany seven times dating back to 1993, with the Germans holding a 5-2-0 lifetime advantage. Most recently, Germany ended the USA’s historic run through the 2002 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 quarterfinal victory on June 21, 2002, in Ulsan, Korea. The U.S. has faced a reunified Germany once before on German soil, a 4-2 loss for the U.S. on March 27, 2002, in Rostock in the USA’s penultimate match prior to selecting their World Cup roster
• Three players on the U.S. roster appeared in the World Cup quarterfinal loss, all as starters: Berhalter, Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope. It was Berhalter’s shot that was cleared off the line by a Torsten Frings hand ball that became the now infamous ‘non-call’
• Kasey Keller is the leading cap winner on the roster with 90 appearances. The reigning U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year has 51 wins and 44 shutouts to his credit (Note: Keller did not receive credit for a shutout in the March 1 win vs. Poland because he split the match with Tim Howard)
• Keller captained the side in the Poland match, while Pope – who is the second most capped player on the roster with 77 appearances – has worn the armband twice this year, against Canada on Jan. 22, and Guatemala on Feb. 19
• At the other end of the spectrum, the recently added Feilhaber is the only player on the roster without a cap.
• Through five matches in 2006, only the Kansas City Wizards duo of Josh Wolff and Kerry Zavagnin along with Real Salt Lake midfielder Chris Klein have appeared in all of the USA’s matches
• Taylor Twellman has scored four goals and tallied three assists in his last three matches for the U.S., recording the USA’s ninth-ever hat trick in the 5-0 victory vs. Norway and assisting on the USA’s lone goal in the 1-0 win against Poland on March 1 in Kaiserslautern
• 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, it marked just the 11th time in history that the U.S. has won a game by at least five goals
• Germany manager Juergen Klinsmann makes his home in Huntington Beach, Calif., much to the chagrin of the German press and fans. The former striker and German legend has been highly criticized for his choice of residence, as well as for adopting many U.S. training methods
On the field for the USA
March 1, 2006 – Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern, Germany – International Friendly
USA 1 Clint Demspey 48’
USA: 18-Kasey Keller (Capt.) (1-Tim Howard, 46); 7-Eddie Lewis, 3-Gregg Berhalter (4-Carlos Bocanegra, 46), 22-Oguchi Onyewu, 6-Steve Cherundolo; 17-DaMarcus Beasley (15-Bobby Convey, 71), 5-Kerry Zavagnin (25-Pablo Mastroeni, 55), 10-Landon Donovan, 8-Clint Dempsey (11-Chris Klein, 89); 13-Taylor Twellman, 9-Eddie Johnson (16-Josh Wolff, 79).
POL: 1-Jerzy Dudek (12-Artur Boruc, 46); 2-Mariusz Jop (20-Tomasz Klos, 83), 4-Marcin Baszczynski, 6-Jacek Bak (Capt.), 14-Michal Zewlakow (3-Tomasz Rzasa, 72); 5-Arkadiusz Radomski (19-Radoslaw Sobolewski, 80), 7-Euzebiuz Smolarek, 8-Jacek Krzynowek, 10-Miroslaw Szymkowiak; 9-Grzegorz Rasiak (16-Kamil Kosowski, 61), 11-Tomasz Frankowski (17-Andrzej Niedzielan, 61).
On the field for Germany
March 1, 2006 – Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy – International Friendly
Italy 4 Gilardino 4', Toni 7', De Rossi 39', Del Piero 57'
Germany 1 Huth 82'
ITA: Buffon, Zaccardo, Nesta (Materazzi 81’), Cannavaro, Grosso, Camoranesi (Pasqual 89’), Pirlo (Barone 74'), De Rossi, Gilardino (Perrotta 64'), Toni, Del Piero (Iaquinta 81'.
GER: Lehmann, Friedrich, Huth, Mertesacker (Metzelder 46'), Lahm, Deisler, Frings (Borowski 68'), Ballack, Schneider (Schweinsteiger 68'), Podolski (Asamoah 46'), Klose
June 21, 2002 – Ulsan Stadium, Ulsan, Korea – 2002 FIFA World Cup, Quarterfinal
Germnay 1 Michael Ballack 39’
USA: Brad Friedel, Frankie Hejduk (Cobi Jones 65'), Gregg Berhalter, Pablo Mastroeni (Earnie Stewart 80'), John O'Brien, Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna [c], Brian McBride (Clint Mathis 58'), Landon Donovan, Tony Sanneh, Eddie Pope.
GER: Oliver Kahn, Thomas Linke, Christian Ziege, Oliver Neuville, (Marco Bode 80'), Dietmar Hamann, Miroslav Klose (Oliver Bierhoff 88'), Michael Ballack, Sebastian Kehl, Bernd Schneider (Jens Jeremies 60'), Christoph Metzelder, Torsten Frings.
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