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U.S. Under-20 MNT World Youth Championship Notes - Nov. 27, 2003

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team
2003 FIFA World Youth Championship
Nov. 27, 2003 -- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

U.S. GAME SCHEDULE: The U.S. is only two days away before it begins Group F play will play on Saturday, Nov. 29 against Paraguay at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Kickoff is at 5:45 p.m. local (8:45 a.m. ET) and 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)

USING THE HOTEL’S AMMENITIES: Head coach Thomas Rongen utilized one of the many extra amenities offered at the hotel this morning as the team held a light practice indoor at the multi-purpose gymnasium located on the ground floor. The players warmed up with a bit of jogging and stretching, before splitting up into three groups of seven for a game of 5v2 keepaway. The players were then free to do as they pleased, allowing some to juggle in groups or take shots on the small goals, while others played ping pong or just took in the staff as they played an entertaining game of tennis soccer against the gymnasium wall. After a good number of games, each staff member had managed to snag at least one victory, but it was Rongen who was crowned champion at the end. The final had come down to Rongen and the always dangerous Cle Kooiman, with Rongen taking the title with a stunner of a header that caught Kooiman flat-footed and unable to get a foot, head, thigh, chest or even toe to.

KNOX HAS LAST LAUGH…SO FAR: When the players woke up this morning, the college guys were clamoring for results from the NCAA Men’s College Soccer Championship games that were played a few hours earlier back in the U.S. Seven out of the eight guys were pumped about the results, except for goalkeeper Ford Williams, who found out his teammates at North Carolina couldn’t get it together and fell 3-0 to Coastal Carolina. One player who was ecstatic was forward Knox Cameron who’s Michigan Wolverines plastered Saint Peter’s 6-2 and moved on to face Notre Dame in the third round. It was a bit of sweet revenge as he was ganged up upon during a gamut of smack talk that spewed between the college players yesterday. It was all in the name of fun, but you just know Knoxy would love to see the Wolverines end up the last ones standing when it is all said and done, forcing his fellow U-20 teammates to eat their words.

I…CAN’T…EAT…ANY…MORE: The U.S. enjoyed an amazing Thanksgiving meal this afternoon as the head hotel chef, Klaus, came through with everything he promised from two large, juicy turkeys to mashed potatoes to apple pie for dessert. Not only did the team receive a taste of home cooking, they got to eat in a secluded banquet hall away from the main dining area where all the teams staying at the hotel are eating. All 33 of the players and staff got to sit like a proper family as well, eating on a lengthy dining room table that filled almost the entire length of the room. At the start of the meal, Rongen took over the carving duties for a bit, putting on a chef’s hat and serving some of the players. Maybe it was due to the excitement of his Wolverines winning or that he just likes turkey, but Knox Cameron was the big eater among the players, filling up his plate three times before his new Nike khakis just couldn’t hold any more.

NOTHING LIKE SOME AMERICAN HOSPITALITY: The U.S. practiced at a field at the American Community School this afternoon in front of about 50 Americans who live in UAE. There were 20 high school teenagers that were extremely excited to see the team as they formed the American Community School’s varsity soccer team. Before the practice, the AMC players got the chance to meet the Under-20s and got together for a group picture. The school is tailored to American students living in Abu Dhabi, but its English classes also attracts Canadians and even some Emiraties. The spectators enjoyed the chance to meet the team and coaches, and said they were excited about going to all three of the USA’s matches in the first round.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD: Finding a large number of Americans in the UAE sounds hard enough (there are actually 16,000 total in the country), but finding one from your hometown in Mississippi sounds extremely difficult. But it wasn’t for Justin Mapp, who hails from Jackson, Mississippi, as one of the American Community School parents watching the players is from the same area and chatted with the Chicago Fire forward for a bit after practice.

AN EXTRAVAGENT OPENING: The U.S. Under-20s joined about 40,000 people who piled into Zayed Sports City Stadium this evening to watch the opening match between host UAE and Slovakia. Before the match, the tournament was kicked off with an opening ceremony that could have matched the opening of an Olympic Games. The ceremony featured an elaborate musical extravaganza that included a light show, singers, dancers, camels, children juggling soccer balls, and it was all topped off with a stunning firework show. The players missed the beginning of the opening ceremonies, but got to watch it on the television on the bus on the way to the stadium, as it was being broadcasted by a local station. They got a bit of a laugh as one of the older jugglers did the "Freddy" – at least something like what Freddy Adu did when he was on "The Tonight Show With David Letterman" a week ago. As he was balancing the ball on his head, he began to take his shirt off, getting his arms out and pushing the shirt up to his neck. Then, he began juggling it with his head and whipped his shirt off. Freddy’s reaction: "That’s easy." But then, the juggler flipped the ball and caught it on the back of his neck and appeared he was going to try to put his shirt back on without knocking it off his neck – the exact stupid-human trick Freddy did on Letterman. We’ll never know if he pulled it off as smoothly as Freddy though, as the station cut away to another shot just as he was getting ready to make the attempt.

LOOKING BACK…LOOKING AHEAD WITH BOBBY CONVEY: U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team attacking midfielder Bobby Convey was designated by head coach Thomas Rongen as the captain not only for his play on the field, but almost more importantly for the immeasurable amount of experience he has garnered over the past few years. Only 19, Convey has already played in an Under-17 World Championship (Trinidad & Tobago ’01), an Under-20 World Championship (Argentina ’01), and was the most capped player for the full Men’s National Team with 15 in 2003. Plus there’s the four years at the professional level with D.C. United, which basically puts Convey near the top in the U.S. among teenagers with big game experience. With two days left before the U.S. meets Paraguay in its first match of the 2003 World Youth Championship, Convey takes a quick look back to Argentina ’01 and forward to the task ahead.


BLATTER SIGHTING: FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has hailed praise on the UAE's efforts in preparing and running this year’s FIFA World Youth Championship, was seen roaming the halls of the teams hotel this afternoon with his team of assistants. It was rumored that the President might make a stop and say hello to the U.S. players during their Thanksgiving meal, but he must not have had a fixin’ for turkey as he never came.



--The entire U.S. team an hour after eating their Thanksgiving meal