Q & A with Ptah Myers, Sandre Naumoski and Matthew Stewart
The 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Championship is two days away and Ptah Myers, Sandre Naumoski and Matthew Stewart know the feeling well. The trio of veteran players makes up the remaining crew from the U.S. Futsal National Team that participated in the 2008 edition of the tournament, which serves as qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup. The three players took time to speak with ussoccer.com about the qualifying tournament and the team that seeks to earn a ticket to Thailand.
ussoccer.com: You were here in 2008, so you’re a little bit more used to the experience overall. How does that help you prepare for this tournament? What can you share with the other guys?
Ptah Myers: “One of the main things is that the CONCACAF Championship is such a big tournament; to be able to go to the World Cup is big. There’s not necessarily more pressure but it is going to be a little bit more intense because you’re playing in a different country. When we played Guatemala the fans were so loud we couldn’t even hear each other on the floor. You’re a little bit more mentally prepared and when you’re out there you’re always aware of the outside factors and what can go on during the game, and how intense the game is.”
Matthew Stewart: “When we were in the CONCACAF Championship last time we were the younger guys on the team. A lot of those guys had already been in a CONCACAF qualifying tournament and they were part of that team that won the gold. With the experience that we gained from those guys in the last CONCACAF Championship, I think we’ve done a pretty decent job with the younger kids, because this is a whole new team.”
Sandre Naumoski: “I think for me, physically, fitness-wise, and mentally, I feel more prepared. Of course, four years later, I’m a little bit more mature and took care of my body a little bit better, especially in the last year leading up to this event. I think mentally, knowing what to expect plays a big role. I don’t want to be too calm, because I’ve been there before, but at the same time I don’t want to be too anxious to make mistakes. I think the experience is a big part of it.”
ussoccer.com: Have any of the younger guys come to you to ask what it’s like in the stadium or any other questions about qualifying?
PM: “Definitely. There have been a couple of questions, especially from Lucas [Stauffer]. He’s the youngest guy on the team, asking what the whole experience is going to be like. You just have to let him know it’s going to be a huge crowd, and as you’re walking out there you might be a little bit nervous but that’s expected from everyone. It’s kind of funny because as you’re walking out you have the two teams right next to each other so you’re kind of measuring each other up. Sometimes there are some words being said. The good thing is, most of the time we don’t even know what they’re saying, unless you know the language that they speak. We have had a couple questions from the younger guys and the main thing we’ve been telling them is, just go out there and play your game. You’re here for a reason.”
SN: “I would just add that, for us, this is the World Cup. Winning the gold is like winning the gold in the World Cup. Not being a futsal nation, winning in a futsal country is something that we’re going to remember for the rest of our life. It’s one thing we want to communicate to the guys, either that haven’t played or the younger guys: leave it all out there. Otherwise, you’re going to regret it a couple years down the road.”
MS: “I’ll add another thing about the younger players and the team this year. I don’t feel like there’s one clique on this team. Everyone has a lot of respect for each other and I think that goes a long way. I know everyone here enjoys each other’s company and there really isn’t any segregation on this team at all. I think that helps out as well.”
ussoccer.com: It seems like this time around you had more preparation than in years past. There were more camps and more trips like the one to Brazil last year and the one to Guatemala earlier this year. How does that help the team chemistry and help the team come together to focus on the task at hand?
MS: “We had a trip to Manaus, Brazil, about six months ago and that was pretty much a totally different team. I know Coach Tozer was looking to go young and try to bring players in and build for the future, and when you go to Brazil and you play in that tournament with so many good countries in that tournament, you need the experience. I think he realized that. That’s pretty much why we have a different team now. You have a lot of older guys that have a lot of experience, plus you have young guys. This year we have the youngest guy in futsal history. He’s 17 years old.”
PM: “I think one major thing for us is that we play against each other in the MISL. I’ve played against Matt for many, many years. I played with Sunny [Naumoski] for many years in Philadelphia and also with Angel Rivillo. Most of the guys come from the MISL, so we’re constantly battling each other, week in and week out during the season. Just having that competition and having that respect for each other goes a long way. Knowing that the three of us have been here and we kind of know what to expect helps these guys, because what we try to do is try to keep everyone together as much as possible. I think that helps us out a lot.”
SN: “The U.S. National Team doesn’t have any superstars. Like Matt said, there’s a lot of respect between all of us and the trips have really benefitted the chemistry. The more you play together, the more you know each other’s tendencies which builds the chemistry on the team and it’s going to help leading into the tournament. The more time we spend together, the better it is for the team.”
ussoccer.com: How do you feel going into the first game?
SN: “This is the biggest game, Panama. I’m very excited. This is the team that we knocked out of having any opportunity to go play in the World Cup [in 2008] so they’re going come angry and hungry to win. For me, that’s a drive. As long as guys are up for the challenge, we’ll be okay. I’m very excited.”
PM: “Most definitely. I’m very excited. I think that in 2008, we were fortunate enough to qualify but we didn’t win that gold. I think that any time that you don’t accomplish your goal you look back and think about what you could have done, personally, and also as a team. I think that one of the things that Sunny touched on earlier was that physically, I think we’re prepared, and mentally, just having that experience is going to help us a lot. I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge and I think this first game is going to be very important for us.”
MS: “We’re all coaches here and when I have my team and we’re going into a tournament, I always tell them the first game in the tournament is one of the most important games. You always want to start out on the right foot with a win. You go into a tournament and let’s say you lose the first game, now you’re fighting to try to get yourself back into the tournament. I think we’re all on the same page with that. We want to get these points right away. If you win the first one, you’re looking good. If you win the second one, now you have a really good chance. We played Panama in the last CONCACAF Championship and ended up tying. They pretty much sat back on us and just countered us. We played them to see who went on to the World Cup and we sat back and we countered them, so they couldn’t counter us. That worked out.”
SN: “I think, tactically, we’ll be ready as long as we have the right mindset by not thinking we’re better than them or they’re better than us. We just have to play to the best of our abilities and we should get good results. We have the squad.”