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U.S. Under-23 MNT CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Notes - Jan. 29, 2004

U.S. OPENS WORK WEEK WITH SHARP SESSION: After a well-deserved day off on Sunday, the U-23s picked up where they left off on Monday, cruising through a two-hour session to open the final week of training before the tournament begins on Feb. 2.  The All-ACC team of former Univ. of Virginia forward Alecko Eskandarian and a trio of former UNC Tarheels (defender David Stokes, midfielder Logan Pause and forward David Testo) went 1-0-2 to win a four-team 4 v. 4 (+2) competition to open the session. In the second competition, Team Green (defenders Zak Whitbread, Chris Wingert and Jose Luis Burciaga, midfielders Eddie Gaven and Pause, and forward Ed Johnson) took the 6 v. 6 (+1) title, giving Pause two tourney wins on the day. The highlight of the long session came at the end, as midfielder Brad Davis schooled teammates Bobby Convey and Landon Donovan in the art of the free kick. The Dallas Burn midfielder repeatedly bent the ball over a stationary free kick wall and into the upper corner past goalkeeper Doug Warren to a smattering of "oohs" and "ahhs" from those in attendance, including a group of kids who were trying to steal Nike balls through the fence behind the goal. At one point, U-23 MNT assistant coach Thomas Rongen stood behind the wall and poked his head out between two of the fake players' heads, daring David to hit him. Davis did exactly that, blasting a ball that caused Rongen to rush over to the team medical staff complaining of a broken pinkie finger as the team roared with laughter.

Having failed to recover sufficiently from a sore Achilles tendon that kept him out of the final few days of the team's two-week training camp in Carson, Calif., U-23 forward Edson Buddle (Columbus Crew) was sent back to Ohio on Monday afternoon. Team doctors had hoped that the time between the end of the Carson training camp (Jan. 17) and the first real day of the Guadalajara camp (Jan. 23) would be enough time for him to get over the nagging injury, but after three full days in the current camp in which Buddle couldn't run without pain, the decision was made to replace him on the original 22-player roster. Forward Nate Jaqua (pronounced JAKE-wah) was quickly summoned from Portland, arriving in Guadalajara late Monday night. With Buddle out, the U.S. loses one of its most potent offensive performers as the Crew forward was the team's second leading scorer of 2003 (3 G, 1 A; 7 pts.) and third leading scorer in 2002 (2 G, 2 A; 6 pts.). Jaqua appeared in three games for the U-23s in 2003, scoring both of the team's goals in a pair of 1-1 draws with Russia and Portugal as the USA finished second in the four-team Vale de Tejo Tournament last January.

CONVEY, BEASLEY PACE U-23s IN 2-2 TIE WITH TECOS ON TUESDAY: In their second exhibition of 2004 and their first of two matches against Mexican club teams while in Guadalajara, the U-23s tied Tecos 2-2 at an auxiliary field adjacent to Tecos Stadium on Tuesday (Jan. 27). The U.S. struck first in the match, with Convey running on to a perfect Eskandarian through ball and providing a clinical finish on the breakway in the 13th minute. Tecos quickly struck back minutes later after Whitbread brought down an Pablo Metlich in the box. Powerful forward Sebastian "El Loco" Abreu slotted home the resulting penalty kick past Warren for the equalizer in the 16th minute. The first half had an ugly end, as Donovan reacted poorly to a foul tackle and exchanged shoves with defender Mario Rosales, resulting in the ejection of both players in the 42nd minute. Tecos took the lead in the 53rd minute when Abreu slipped away from defender Nat Borchers in the box, took a ball off his chest and finished from point-blank range past second-half sub D.J. Countess.  Knowing Myernick would make wholesale substitutions around the 60th minute, the U.S. starters pushed to tie the game and got it back to 2-2 in the 57th minute. Marshall played a great ball out of the back to Convey on the right side of midfield, where he quickly turned to see Beasley streaking down the left flank and into the box. Beasley took Convey's pass in stride, touched it out of the reach of the defender and calmly slipped a low diagonal shot past the 'keeper at the far post. [Editor's Note: The Tecos, or owls, of la Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara (U.A.G.) are currently at the top of the recently started Clausura 2004 season with a 2-0-0 record.] Later today, the U-23s will meet the reserves team of Atlas, who just fell to Club America 2-1 last night in front of a huge crowd at Estadio Jalisco last night (Jan. 28) in the second leg of a playoff series to advance to the Copa Libertadores. Below is the lineup:
U-23s (4-4-2): Warren (Countess, 46); Whitbread (Lewis, 61), Marshall (Burciaga, 61), Borchers (Stokes, 61), Wingert (Carroll, 61); Beckerman (Pause, 61), Beasley (Gaven, 61), Davis (Jaqua, 61), Convey (Martino, 61); Donovan (ejected; Testo, 42), Eskandarian (Johnson, 61).

MYERNICK TO PARE FINAL QUALIFYING ROSTER DOWN TO 20 TOMORROW MORNING: U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team head coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick will announce his final 20-player CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying roster tomorrow (Jan. 30) morning, a day ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline. The roster will be unveiled at 10 a.m. ET on, followed by a conference call from 10:30-11:15 a.m. ET in which Myernick and two select U.S. players will discuss the roster and the difficult eight-team tournament, which takes place in Guadalajara, Mexico from Feb. 2-12. U-23 midfielder Bobby Convey, who did triple duty in 2003 with the Under-20s, Under-23s and the full Men's National Team, will also be on the call.

IN THE HUB OF GUADALAJARA: After having spent almost a full week in Mexico's second largest city and the capital of the state of Jalisco, the players have learned that their immediate surroundings are located in one of the hubs of the city. The towering, 22-floor Fiesta American hotel overlooks a huge roundabout that serves as the city's main traffic circle, offering avenues to several nearby towns, including Puerto Vallarta (two hours away) and Tequila (45 minutes away). In the middle of the enormous traffic circle is the city's most famous fountain, which features a bronze statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, and an inscription that translates to "Justice, Wisdom and Strength to this Loyal City." At the feet of Minerva lies a colorful flower bed that forms the date and is changed each day. In this picture, it reads "28 ENE 04" for the 28th de Enero (January) 2004. Located down the street from the team hotel is another famous historical site in the "Los Arcos" monument, which is styled after the Arc de Triumph in Paris, France. Years ago, it marked the western edge of the city and functioned as a symbol of welcome to all visitors. It was built in 1942 by architect Aurelio Aceves to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Guadalajara.

Despite the loss of his brand new $1,100 Tacoma acoustic guitar (was originally reported to the editor as an $800 guitar, but Martino later admitted that he didn't want to come off as a rich boy for having a guitar over a $1,000), Martino has made due with Equipment Manager John McDonald's Yamaha beginner model to entertain teammates and teach songs out of his notebook of guitar chord progressions and tablatures. With leanings toward folk, classic and Southern rock, the Columbus Crew midfielder's favorite artists to emulate are Jack Johnson, Eric Clapton, the Black Crowes, the Allmann Brothers, Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam. Martino, who to other guests in the hotel must look like an overzealous camp counselor travelling from floor to floor to spread his gospel, even bust out a Hootie & the Blowfish tune, but it was met with utter silence by those attending his impromptu Wednesday afternoon class. With his legend growing by the day, teammates who used to play guitar have come out of the woodwork--either they used to play, are have just recently started learing to play. Coincidentally, Martino's new roommate Nate Jaqua is just as adept at the instrument, having been trained in the very difficult and delicate "classical" style of guitar picking as opposed to Martino's semi-rocking strums.

"ADU, ADU, ADU...":
From the moment he stepped off the plane on Thursday night to the moment he walked onto the field for the Tecos scrimmage on Thursday, U-23 midfielder DaMarcus Beasley has been on the receiving end of chants from Mexican fans that are mistaking him for 14-year-old forward Freddy Adu. Although the two look nothing alike, they are both slight in stature and among the lightest players in the U.S. National Team program. Beasley has taken it well, responding back with his own chants of "Adu, Adu, Adu..." anytime it starts up again.
THE SAME OLD PREGUNTAS: Popular interview subjects Donovan, Burciaga, Beasley and Convey have all come away from their routine post-training interviews, or "entravistas," with the same sheepish grin and shaking of the head. Apparently, the only three questions that Mexican journalists have been able to come up with, whether it be in their native Spanish or broken English, are (usually in this order):
1) Are you the best team (in the tournament)?
2) Who will win if you play Mexico?
3) Have you ever thought about playing in Mexico (in La Liga, the top professional league)?
and even:
4) Who is your favorite Mexican National Team player?

TEAM MEAL AT 7:30, OFF TO CHILI'S AT 8: The Chili's outpost in Guadalajara has been a frequent destination of some of the more finicky players who have yet to embrace the hotel's attempts at American food. The veal tenderloin and carne asada went over well, but the kitchen staff is mired in a three-dinner slump, having sent out plastic ham (see quote below), rotisserie chicken and mystery pork as the main course on consecutive nights. After gorging themselves on the rare coach-approved treat of Domino's Pizza on Sunday night, it's taken a 10-minute walk past "Los Arcos" to a huge nearby mall to satisfy their cravings. Meanwhile, staff have hit the mall to enjoy Oscar-nominated blockbusters "El Fin Samauri" ("The Last Samurai") and "El Rio Mystic" ('Mystic River") on Monday and Tuesday nights, respectively.

"Perdi mi cabeza."         
        --Donovan, quoted in all four of Guadalajara's major papers saying he "lost his head" in the altercation that resulted in the red card ejection.
"You could play hoops with this ham."
        --Goalkeeper coach Tim Mulqueen, on the rubber-like qualities of Tuesday night's meat offering