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Q & A With Preston Zimmerman and U-17 Captain Ofori Sarkodie

As the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team gets ready to kick off 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship qualifying, took some time to sit down with U-17 forward Preston Zimmerman and U-17 captain Ofori Sarkodie to see what the team has to say about world championship qualifying.

Forward Preston Zimmerman

On playing in front of fans that will most likely be cheering against them:
“I’m excited for it. I hope the crowd is really bad and against us because I feed off that. It gives us motivation to win even more when every one is against you. It makes you even happier when you score a goal or get a good tackle. The fans will do what they can to throw us off, but as a team I think we play better when the crowd is going crazy and they’re all against us. It just gets us ready to go.”

On how the team is looking:
“I think we’re looking really good. We all have our own duties and we understand what they are. I think we have the chance to do really, really well against El Salvador. Everyone is playing well and as long as we work the ball around, get crosses in and do other stuff like that, we should be fine. There are no doubts in my mind or anybody else’s mind that we are going to be successful.”

On what his goal is for the tournament:
“My goal is to be a big physical presence and be a target man for the team. I want to get in the box, get on the end of things and score goals. I want to set the pace early and absolutely dominate the guy marking me. My goal is to win every ball up in the air and win that one-v-one battle with the center back.”

Captain Ofori Sarkodie

On what the team needs to do to be successful:
“We know we have to talk a lot. We have to stay organized throughout the entire game. For us there will probably be room for our outside backs and we’ll utilize that with Kevin (Alston) and Amaechi (Igwe) getting forward. On the defensive end, we need to make sure guys are tracking their man back. Eric Lichaj and I, as the center backs, will need to get that organized.”

On how the defensive has been playing:
“From a defensive standpoint, I think we’ve been solid for quite a bit of time and just now we are starting to feed off each other and that is starting to increase everyone’s game. In our last game against Haiti, they came out strong and had a couple shots on goal and it took us a little time to find our rhythm. From that point on though, we just caught fire. We were playing off each other and players were getting forward.”

On dealing with the unexpected:
“I think that goes back to Bradenton and our training. Everyone knows their role and the communication we've established really helps that out. If we’re talking, we can deal with changes because we’ve talked about different scenarios that can happen during the game. As long as we organized and continue to talk I think it will make it very difficult for teams to break through our defense.”

On the team’s defensive goals:
“I think obviously a shutout is something everyone would like because points matter with goal differential. But as a team our main focus right now is El Salvador and getting a win. Goal differential is going to matter, but in the end it’s that ‘W’ that really matters. From then on we want to get a win against Cuba, and then Costa Rica to give us a chance to win a world championship.”

On the pressure of trying to keep the qualifying streak alive:
“As for the streak, everyone realizes that every team has qualified. For us it’s really not pressure, it’s more of a challenge and something we want to succeed in doing. Every team qualifying is more of an incentive for us to go out there and represent our country well.”