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U-23 MNT Arrives in Maryland, Trains for Wednesday Night Match

U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team
CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Notes
November 18, 2003 -- Gaithersburg, Md.

USA 6, SKN 0:
The U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team opened their two-game, second round CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying series with a dominating 6-0 win over St. Kitts & Nevis on Saturday night in front of over 7,000 boisterous, flag-waving fans who packed the space both in and around Warner Park in downtown Basseterre for what was billed as the biggest sporting event that the island has ever hosted.  The U.S. was led by the controlling midfield play of Bobby Convey (D.C. United) and Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids), who took turns assisting Eddie Johnson (Dallas Burn) for goals in the 12th and 50th minutes, respectively. Convey, who scored a goal of his own in the 27th minute for a 2-0 halftime lead, speared the relentless U.S. attack and was named Chevy Player of the Match in his debut appearance with the U-23s in 2003. The USA blew the game open late in the second half as they finally started finishing some of the overly abundant chances they created by getting behind a pourous St. Kitts/Nevis back line. Forward Edson Buddle (Columbus Crew) struck for back-to-back goals in the 78th and 81st minutes and second-half sub Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United) added a final strike in the 87th minute as the U.S. wore down the home team for the lopsided final result.

TICKETS STILL ON SALE FOR WEDNESDAY'S RETURN LEG IN GERMANTOWN, MD.: Now down by six goals, St. Kitts & Nevis headed north to the much cooler temperatures of the D.C. area to prepare for the second leg of the series, which will be played on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET at the 3,200-seat Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md. With Saturday's result, they must score seven goals and win by six or more on Wednesday to win on aggregate, with away goals scored being the first tiebreaker. Also working against them is the weather, which is expected to be a chilly 45 degrees magnified by driving rain and thunder. Tickets for the match, which are priced at $15 for reserved and $25 for midfielder reserved, are still on sale at at any Washington-Baltimore-area Ticketmaster outlet (including Hecht's stores), charge by phone [D.C. 202-432-SEAT (7328); Baltimore 410-481-7328; Northern Virginia 703-573-7328; or out-of-state 1-800-551-7328], or at Fans not in attendance can follow the action live via web updates on's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

Following Saturday night's big win, the U.S. team was given a chance to sleep in and went through a light session at the soggy stadium pitch around noon and was treated to a lunch feast of barbecue spare ribs before having the remainder of the day off to rest their bodies and relax around the low-key Papilon Resort, which is located in the cozy and private Frigate Bay on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. A few players headed down the road to the casino to play craps at the luxurious and enormous Marriott St. Kitts, while others got in a game of water volleyball in the pool or took a walk on the beach. Meanwhile, the staff was able to enjoy a driving tour south through the mountains to the tip of the island courtesy of local transportation liason James Bond (who had the name on his license to prove it), who navigated his van through partially-flooded, muddy roads, dodged falling rocks and avoided wandering cattle to visit a few secluded beach spots on the Caribbean side of the island before ending up at Turtle Bay. As an added bonus, he popped in a tape featuring the country stylings of Conway Twitty for his passengers to enjoy on the ride back to the hotel as the sun set.

STUCK IN SAN JUAN (AGAIN): After two staff members and two coaches were left back in San Juan for a night to allow enough seats for the players on Thursday night, the U.S. delegaton again had flight problems that left them with unexpected down time in the beautiful capital of Puerto Rico. The team's 7 a.m. flight from St. Kitts to San Juan was delayed almost 45 minuts as the airline had to remove certain bags in order to come in under the maximum weight for the small, propeller-powered plane. Once on the ground in San Juan, rain and lightning caused the airport to shut down for about 30 minutes, meaning by the time the team and their bags made it through customs, they had missed their flight to Miami. The team luckily was able to arrange for a direct flight to Washington Dulles, but it wasn't until 6:15 p.m., giving everyone some four hours until they had to be back at the airport to check in.  But predictably, instead of venturing out into the cobblestone streets of Old Town, the majority of the team migrated to the duo of McDonald's and Subway. Alas, upon reporting back to the airport, the flight was delayed over an hour, meaning the team didn't get into the D.C. area until past 11 p.m. instead of their original ETA of 4:15 p.m. ET.

The current U.S. U-23 roster features a whopping nine players with ties to the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area.  Besides the five players who play with D.C. United -- midfielders Brian Carroll (Springfield, Va.) and Bobby Convey, forward Alecko Eskandarian, defender David Stokes (Dumfries, Va.) and goalkeeper Doug Warren -- four other players have local connections. Defender Oguchi Onyewu (Olney, Md.) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman (Crofton, Md.) grew up on the Maryland side, midfielder Kyle Martino played collegiate soccer at Univ. of Virginia, and midfielder David Testo plays down the road for the Richmond Kickers of the A-League. In addition, U-23 assistant coach Thomas Rongen coached D.C. United from 1999-2001, guiding the club to its third MLS Cup title in '99.

U.S. Under-23 absentees Landon Donovan (S.J. Earthquakes) and Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire) both contributed directly in their respective team scoring a game-winning goal in overtime to advance to the 2003 MLS Cup, which will be played on Sunday, Nov. 23 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., live on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET. On Friday night, second-half sparkplug Mapp made a 40-yard dash down the right flank all the way to the endline, where he slotted a ball diagonally back across the penalty area. Forward Damani Ralph got a foot on it and sent in toward goal, but Chris Armas made sure of it with a running blast from point-blank range to give Chicago a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution in the 101st minute. One night later, Donovan provided the extra time heroics, running on to a Ronnie Ekelund through ball and squeezing through two Wizards defenders before calmly slotting it past Tony Meola to cap an all-out Earthquakes effort that saw them come back from two defecits to win 3-2 in the second minute of the second 15-minute over time period. The U.S. U-23 coaching staff was able to catch both games live at a popular sports bar & grill only 100 feet down the road from the hotel.

CLARK NOMINATED FOR 2003 MLS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: MLS announced on Monday that MetroStars midfielder Ricardo Clark was named as one of three finalists for its Rookie of the Year award along with Chicago Fire forward Damani Ralph and N.E. Revolution forward Pat Noonan. Despite being a first-year player, the 5'10" Furman University product led the team in minutes with 2,590 and scored three goals while adding an assist, providing a tough, but calming presence at defensive midfield spot and helping the MetroStars to the playoffs. The winner of the award will be named at the MLS Gala Awards Ceremony on Saturday (Nov. 22) at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

: In addition to the U.S. and St. Kitts & Nevis, 10 other CONCACAF teams played the first leg of their respective second round Olympic Qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday. Álvaro Saborío scored four goals for Costa Rica at home in the Estadiu Fello Mexa in Carago as the Ticos topped Guyana 7-0 on Saturday. Also on Saturday, El Salvador’s Josué Galdámez converted an 85th minute penalty for a 1-0 win over Canada in San Salvador. In the final Saturday match-up, Grenada played visiting Trinidad & Tobago to a 1-1 draw at the Grenada National Stadium in St. George’s. On Sunday, Luton Shelton scored a pair of goals for Jamaica at the National Stadium in Kingston in a 2-0 win against Guatemala, while Emil Martinex tallied for Honduras in the third minute to give his side a 1-0 victory over Haiti, which played it’s home leg in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. The second legs of the series will be played later this week with Canada hosting El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago hosting Grenada, Guatemala hosting Jamaica and Honduras hosting Haiti on Wednesday. Costa Rica will travel to play Guyana on Sunday, Nov. 23 in Berbice, Guyana.
Series A
Date            Match-up / Result                            City

Nov. 15      El Salvador 1, Canada 0                   San Salvador             
Nov. 19      El Salvador @ Canada                     Kelowna, Canada
Series B
Date            Match-up / Result                            City
Nov. 16      Honduras 1, Haiti 0                          Miami, Fla.
Nov. 23      Haiti @ Honduras                            Ceiba, Honduras   
Series C (Panama Wins 13-1)
Date            Result                                              City                
Oct. 25        Panama 6, St. Lucia 1                      Panama City, Panama
Oct. 28        Panama 7, St. Lucia 0                      Panama City, Panama
Series D
Date            Match-up / Result                            City
Nov. 15      USA 6, St. Kitts & Nevis 0              Basseterre, St. Kitts             
Nov. 19       St. Kitts & Nevis @ USA               Germantown, Md., USA       
Series E
Date            Match-up / Result                            City
Nov. 15      Grenada 1, Trinidad & Tobago 1      St. George, T&T
Nov. 19       T&T @ Grenada                             St. George, T&T
Series F
Date            Match-up / Result                            City
Nov. 16      Jamaica 2, Guatemala 0                    Kingston, Jamaica                 
Nov. 23      Jamaica @ Guatemala                      San Marcos, Guatemala       
Series G
Date            Match-up / Result                            City

Nov. 15      Costa Rica 7, Guayana 0                  Cartago, Costa Rica
Nov. 19      Guayana @ Costa Rica                    Berbice, Guayana
Series H
(Mexico Advances as Host Nation of Final Round of Olympic Qualifying)

D.C. UNITED ROOKIE "ESKY" LEADS THE WAY: 2003 MLS SuperDraft number one pick Alecko Eskandarian continues to make the most of his time with the U.S. Under-23 MNT, providing a goal and an assist in 33 minutes off the bench in the 6-0 win over St. Kitts/Nevis. "Esky" now has two goals and three assists to lead the team in scoring in 2003. Below are the team's leading scorers for the eight overall games played this year:
Pos. Player                            G    A     Pts.
1.     Alecko Eskandarian       2     3       7
2.     Edson Buddle                3     0       6
3.     David Testo                   2     1       5
4.     Kelly Gray                     2     0       4
        Ed Johnson                    2     0       4
        Nate Jaqua                    2     0       4  

In case you didn't get enough background info on the island of St. Kitts, here are some random "little-known facts" that would make "Cheers" trivia buff Cliff Claven proud:
--Part of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, the island stretches out 23 miles long and is shaped like a whale with a big, long body and a small fin at the southern tip. The capital city of Basseterre (pronounced Bass-teer), which is located in the underbelly of the whale, is a popular port for cruises of the Caribbean.
--As a British colony, natives drive on the opposite side of the road. Speed limit signs do not exist, and seemingly every driver takes advantage of that, often coming within feet of hitting people walking alongside the road.
--The original and official name of the pair of sister islands is St. Christopher & Nevis.
--St. Kitts is the home of "Stone Walls Tropical Boutique," which was ranked as one of the top 100 bars in the world by U.S. News and World Report. The pub is located in the heart of downtown Basseterre on a street called Liverpool Row.
--Islanders convicted of serious crimes are sentenced to death by hanging.
--A popular grill stand on a busy downtown street corner nearby Warner Park boasts "quite possibly the best barbeque chicken in the world."

--Goalkeeper coach Peter Mellor confessed that he is a card-carrying member of the Air Supply fan club, who are known as "Airheads" (naturally)
--Equipment Manager John McDonald used to trade stocks on the floor of Wall Street for about a year and a half and still owns a trading license.
--Midfielder Kyle Martino only gets his hair cut twice a year, preferring to buzz it down short and then let it grow for six months into a shaggy mop before doing it all over again.

STRAIGHT OUTTA AMSTERDAM!!!, PART II: Following his impressive skill display in Fort Lauderdale, U.S. Under-20 MNT head coach / Under-23 assistant coach Thomas Rongen again worked off some extra energy after practice by grabbing a ball and showing off his basketball skills for the players sitting on the bench. But this time, Rongen was put in his place, as Buddle shut him down in a one-on-one post match-up that took place in the home team coaches box at Warner Park. Rongen delivered a triple head fake, but the Columbus Crew forward stayed low with the hand check and thwarted the coach's behind-the-back effort to get around him. 

Rongen: "The locals tell me that, uh, Van Morrison's body is actually down there in that cemetary instead of in the one in Paris."
Staff Member: "Wait. Van Morrison? You mean Jim Morrison."
Rongen: "I don't know, one of the Morrison brothers."
        --Rongen, being called out on his mixing up the living Irish crooner with the deceased Doors frontman as the U-20 head coach played tour guide on a trip around the coast to see the forts and military wall surrounding San Juan

        --MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven, who at 17 years old is the youngest player in camp and whose quiet demeanor has the coaches and staff wondering if he ever actually speaks