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U.S. Under-20 Head Coach Thomas Rongen Talks About the First U-20 Camp of 2004

How was training at the National Training Center?

"The camp went as expected. The players weren’t in the best game shape, but the whole process of these camps is to identify the eventual 20 players that will represent our players well in qualifying and hopefully the World Cup. This camp basically gives me a reference point. Two years ago, I looked at 80 players before I decided on the last 20 players, so we are on the same schedule."

What do you think you accomplished with this camp?

"I think we were fortunate to look at 24 of the players in camp, plus the Under-18 players and the 80 or so players that were there for the ODP Interregional Event. Overall, we looked at about 120 players in about a weeks time, from 85s, 86s, 87s and even some younger ones. So, this was a very good camp because it gives me a good feel on what I need to do in the next two camps to reach as many quality players that I can."

What was the highlight of the camp?

"We will need to get down to work if we want to continue to improve on our fifth place finish in the World Youth Championship in 2005. There is a lot of talent in this group though and we will just need to become better tactically in terms of understanding how to move as a team. We will teach these players that down the road and I’m not too worried about that. In the games, nobody really lit it up, but then again no one really did so bad they got out of favor with the coaches. It was pretty much the same this time two years ago."

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2004?

"We don’t know the exact dates for qualifying, but we know it is somewhere in the fall. The earlier it comes, the faster we will be deciding on our group of players. In the next camp, we will probably have 20 all new players than this initial group. That will give me a good 45-player base to really start narrowing it down to our top players and find a team that will give us the best chance in qualifying. We will hopefully get to see players like Jonathan Spector, who wasn’t able to be released from Manchester United."

How was training at the National Training Center?

"It was great. Being one of the younger teams there it’s a buzz. You look around and there’s the Olympic team and the full Men’s National Team. It was great to see our players enjoy being there and take the time to watch some of the older guys train and play. I think it gives them an idea of what they need to do to get there and what it means to play for the full team and represent your country at that level."

Did you happen to read Chris Albright’s joke about you in "Jules With the Big Boys?"

"Yeah, I did actually (laughs). A little rip by Mr. Albright. I have some bones to pick with Chris."

Click below to read what MNT Chris Albright said about Rongen during a one-on-one interview with MNT midfielder Ben Olsen conducted by U-18 MNT defender Julian Valentin, in "Jules With the Big Boys."