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U.S. Under-20s Ready to Roll

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team
2003 FIFA World Youth Championship
Nov. 28, 2003 -- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

IT’S BEEN A LONG WAIT: During the USA’s final practice before their opening match of the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, defender Jordan Stone probably stated what the entire team has probably thinking the past few days: "Let’s just get to the game already!" The U.S. arrived on Sunday evening and have been training for the past six days in preparation for their opening match against Paraguay, which kicks off tomorrow at 5:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET) at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The match will be televised live on Galavision in the Eastern (8:30 a.m.), Central (7:30 a.m.) and Mountain (6:30 a.m.) time zones. In the Pacific Time zone, the match will be televised tape delay, starting at 8:30 a.m. The match can also be followed live via’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The U.S. will then meet Germany on Dec. 2, before finishing group play against South Korea on Dec. 5.
U.S. Under-20 MNT World Youth Championship
Date Opponent Venue Kickoff Television (Galavison)
November 29 Paraguay Abu Dhabi 5:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET 8:30 a.m. ET (live), PT (delayed)
December 2 Germany Abu Dhabi 5:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET 8:30 a.m. ET (live), PT (delayed)
December 5 South Korea Abu Dhabi 8:30 p.m. local / 11:30 a.m. ET 1:30 p.m. ET & PT (delayed)

RELAXING FRIDAY: With the UAE workweek starting on Saturday and ending on Wednesday, Fridays in the Arabic country are similar to Sundays in the United States. For the players, it felt like a Sunday in the states as they took the morning to relax and recuperate before going to their final practice. While some players got treatment for nicks or massages from trainer Steven Jurch, others took naps, read, checked their e-mail or roamed the hotel to pass the time.

FINAL PRACTICE: The U.S Under-20 MNT conducted their final practice this evening at Al-Nahyan Stadium, the site of their first match tomorrow. After a 10-minute warm-up and stretch with assistant coach Cle Kooiman, the players played a game of 10v10 between the 18-yard lines, working on their passing, spacing and movement as a team. Rongen then had the team play a 6v6 half-field game with full-size goals and neutral players on the sidelines and endlines. The players looked sharp as a number of torrid goals were scored during the 25-minute session and the entire team played with an emotional charge that will hopefully carry over into the match against Paraguay.

RONGEN READY: The opening match against Paraguay is finally here for the U.S. If it feels like the team has been waiting eight months for this game, that's because it has. With the tournament originally to be played in April, but later postponed due to the political situation surrounding the region, all 24 teams have had to wait a bit longer for the 14th FIFA World Youth Championship to kickoff. As the U.S. Under-20 MNT gets set to face Paraguay tomorrow at 5:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET) at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, head coach Thomas Rongen talks about their first opponent and what he expects to encounter when they finally take the pitch.


CHEERING SECTION: With 16,000 Americans living abroad in UAE, there’s a good chance there will be pretty large contingent of U.S. fans at the game, especially due to the fact they can get in free. The U.S. Embassy was allocated 500 tickets to give away to Americans living in the country, meaning the players may see the familiar red, white and blue waving in one section tomorrow.

THE BALL IS ROLLING: The World Youth Championship officially kicked off with the opening match against UAE and Slovakia yesterday – which Slovakia won 4-1 – but this evening the tournament got in full swing as five more first round games were played in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. The most intriguing match of the day was Argentina-Spain, which was one of the most anticipated first-round match-ups of the tournament. Climbing onto the bus after practice, the U.S. staff and players clicked on the bus’s television and got the chance to see Argentina score the winning goal in their 2-1 victory over the impressive Spaniards. In other action, Brazil downed Canada 2-0, Burkina Faso topped Panama 1-0, the Czech Republic and Australia drew 1-1, and Mali won a barnburner with Uzbekistan 3-2.

AN INTERESSTING TACTIC?: The usually quiet Armed Forces Officers Club erupted into loud cheers around 11 p.m. last night as players from Burkina Faso began chanting in the wing of the hotel where the U.S. players are staying. At first, the players figured it was Slovakia celebrating their win over UAE in the opening match of the tournament, but after inspection ‘keeper Steve Cronin saw it was Burkina Faso. Why were they chanting? No one knew for sure, but perhaps they were trying to keep their opponents, Panama, in the next day’s match awake to get an edge. While that probably wasn’t the reason, it would have worked as a number of the players said it was quite annoying. The only problem was that Panama is staying in the other wing of the hotel.

FIRST TO 10 WINS: Going into Saturday’s match-up, both the U.S. and Paraguay are sitting with nine wins in the World Youth Championship. The winner, if they don’t tie, will become only the 11th team to have double digit wins in the tournament. Both teams are also playing in their fourth World Youth Championship. Brazil sits atop the win list with 47, having played in every tournament except in 1979.

IS ONE NAMED AFTER HIS DOG?: There are three venues that are being used for tournament matches in Abu Dhabi – Al-Nahyan Stadium, Zayed Sports City Stadium and Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium. They all have ties to the highest leaders of the country. Al-Nahyan Stadium and Zayed Sports City Stadium were named after Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahayan. As you can read, Al-Nahyan Stadium is named after the Sheik’s family name, while Zayad Sports City Stadium is named after his given or birth name. The third stadium, Mohammed Bin Zayed, is named after the Sheik’s second born son.

HOME TO A SOLID TEAM: The 12,000 seat Al-Nahyan stadium is the home of Al Wahda, one of the country’s most famous clubs. Founded when the Emirates Club merged with Abu Dhabi in 1984, the club went from shaky beginnings to one of the most filled trophy cabinets in the ‘90s. They won the Federation Cup in 1995, were league champions in 1998-1999 and won the President’s Cup in 2000.


World Youth Championship Facts:
Games Played
– 24
Wins – 9
Losses – 7
Ties – 6
Goals Scored – 37
Goals Against – 36
Points – 33
Tournaments – 1977, 1979, 1985, 1997, 1999, 2001
Best Finish – 2001 (4th place)

LOOK OUT FOR: Midfielder Edgar Barreto. The Cerro Porteño star and Paraguay U-20 skipper is a veteran of the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Trinidad & Tobago 2001, the South American Youth Championship in Uruguay and this year's Pan American Games.

LOOKING FOR A FAST START: Paraguay will be a dangerous team for the U.S. tomorrow night, as they will most likely be looking to get out fast off the blocks. The Albirojos haven’t won an opening match at the World Youth Championship since 1979, when they downed South Korea 3-0, meaning their last four attempts they’ve walked away with a loss. Even two years ago in Argentina when they reached the Final Four, they struggled in the opener, losing 2-1 to the eventual finalist Ghana.