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QandA With Sigi Schmid About the Final Camp of 2004

Having been hired in late October, Sigi Schmid has only had about two months to start his selection process for the 18 players he will select for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team at the CONCACAF U-20 Qualifying Tournament, which will be at The Home Depot Center from January 12-16, 2005. With less than a month to go and 30 players currently in camp – the U-20s final camp before he chooses his final roster – Schmid sat down with and talked about what challenges he’s faced with the limited time available to choose his squad, how the players are looking in camp and what he’s hoping to get out of this final week to help him make his decision. You took over in late October as head coach of the Under-20s and have only had a couple months to really look closely at the pool of players available for the qualifying tournament in January. Talk a little about that process and how it has been going.

Sigi Schmid: “The short amount of time has made it difficult. In order to properly evaluate a player you need to see him on a number of occasions, not just see them once, whether that is seeing them play in their professional or collegiate environment, or in a training camp environment. I haven’t really been able to do that part of it. I’ve had to rely on the nucleus that (former head coach) Thomas Rongen had developed, which I have faith in. We can use that nucleus, but on the same token there are still other players that I have seen and other people have recommended that we also felt we needed to look at. This close to qualification we would usually not have this large a group into a training camp, but because of the timing of the situation we’ve really had to make it a little bit of a hybrid of what it would have been.” How has the transition been for that nucleus of players former head coach Thomas Rongen to your style of coaching?

SS: “The transition I think has been good, especially being able to keep assistant coach Dave Dir involved. He was with the last Under-20 group with Thomas and this group, which gives them some continuity. He's sort of the stabilizing point here for me. He’s able to tell me about the players and tell me if what a certain guy has done before, is this normal, what he’s doing better. He gives me a very good frame of reference. Every coach does things a little bit differently, but it’s probably nothing drastic. Maybe just the way you express yourself or try and get your point across is a little bit different, so it may take the players a bit of an adjustment to get used to it. Due to the change in coaches though, everybody’s ears kind of open up a bit and everyone perks up, which is a benefit sometimes of coming in as a new coach to any team. Everyone sort of feels the coach’s decisions are open again.” You’ve brought in a few new players into “the nucleus” including Marvell Wynne, Ely Allen, Benny Fielhaber and others. How do you feel they’ve done so far?

SS: “I thought Marvell did well for us his first time in during the November camp in Florida. Being in Southern California I’ve had the benefit of seeing him play a number of times at the youth level and in college. The other new players you have to see how they adapt and how they do. The thing is when the less experienced guys are in a camp for their first time I observe for the first couple of days, but I don’t make that my final decision. Some guys take time to settle their nerves. You want to see how they react to the group situation as once they become comfortable players play a lot differently. We sort of have to work through that process with them.” How do you feel the team is coming along in the time since you’ve taken over?

SS: “I always judge by how I feel. Right now I feel happy. So, if I feel happy that means I’m happy with what they’ve done in training. I think the trainings have been competitive, and I’ve think they’ve put forth a good effort. Of course, you can never know for sure until you put them in game situation and you see how they react. We are still missing some key players in Eddie Gaven and Jonathan Spector, who are obviously very important cogs to this team. But overall, I’ve been very happy with what I’ve seen from a skill level and about the team’s physical presence or bite to win duels on a consistent basis, which was something Thomas told me he was somewhat concerned with. When you have players like Freddy Adu and Eddie Gaven, you need players that are going to win the ball back for them so they can do their thing, and I think we’ve been able to find some guys that have that attitude.” Is there anything in particular you will be looking to get out of the players from camp?

SS: “What we want to get out of camp this week is really a three-fold process. We want to establish within the week of training and the games how we want to play as a team, that is a very important part of it. Secondly, we want to replicate the three-game rhythm we are going to face in qualifying to see how certain guys hold up to the physical aspect of that three-game series. Thirdly, near the end of the camp we want to establish a physical basis for the guys because the turnaround is short over the holidays as qualifying is around the corner and fitness is something that is a concern with me. The players in MLS have had time off and college players have been done for awhile as well, and we need to establish that base.” What exactly will you be doing to make sure the team is as fit as possible when they come back in January?

SS: “Pierre Barrieu, the strength and conditioning coach for the full Men’s National Team, will be coming in to do some testing and, based on what he sees, give certain individuals certain tasks to perform over the holidays. Hopefully, in that short period of time it will enhance that certain aspect of their game, whether it is quickness, endurance, or strength before they come back in January.”