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Notes from the National Training Center - Jan. 16, 2004


With nine national teams holding training camps this January at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., ussoccer.com will be providing you with updates on the progress of each team’s camp with "Notes from the National Training Center." The NTC is still bustling as the Men's National Team, Women's National Team and the Under-23 MNT continue their training camps. Below are today's notes.

Men's National Team Notes


CLOSING IN: Less than 48 hours separate the MNT from their first game of 2004, and U.S. Manager Bruce Arena is close to settling on an 18-man roster that will face Denmark on Sunday.  Kickoff for the USA's first match at the Home Depot Center is set for 12:30 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN.  The only guaranteed absences are defender Carey Talley (ankle sprain) and Ben Olsen (tendinitis).  Both forward Josh Wolff and midfielder Chris Armas sat out a session with groin tightness, but have been declared fit to play.  FC Sogndal-based defender Robbie Russell has recovered from an Achilles strain suffered last week and is eligible for selection.  After an intense training camp that kicked off January 4, the team will take its first steps on the HDC turf in their final pre-game training session tomorrow afternoon. Columbus Crew forward Brian McBride, who is coming off of shoulder surgery, was scheduled to arrive on Jan. 15, but was unavailable. 

DANISH DISEMBARK: The Danish national team arrived into the Los Angeles area Wednesday evening, enjoying the warmer climate of Southern California. Coach Morten Olsen traveled with a 20-man roster made up of players from the Danish SuperLigaen, led by 2003 Denmark Player of the Year Morten Wieghorst.  Sunday's match will serve as the start of preparation for the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, a tournament the Danes won in 1992. Denmark, currently the 13th-ranked team in the world, has once again qualified for the 2004 event, and was drawn into Group C along with Italy, Bulgaria and Sweden.  Denmark will take their turn on the stadium field tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.

ONE-ON-ONE WITH 'CELO: Marcelo Balboa had a storied career as a player for both club and country, and now takes his talents to the airwaves in his first gig as the color analyst for a U.S. Men’s National Team game against Denmark this weekend.  During a 12-year highlight-studded international career (who can forget the best “all most” goal in World Cup history in 1994?), Balboa would become the highest scoring defender in U.S. history (13 goals) while registering a third-best 128 caps for the MNT.  With career stops in places from Leon, Mexico to Denver, Colorado, he retired from professional soccer at the end of 2002 and quickly made the leap to the broadcast booth. Recently, ussoccer.com talked with Balboa about the career change, the role of the “pioneers” in U.S. Soccer, and the past, present and future of the sport in this country.
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QUOTE SHEET: U.S. Men's National Team Manager Bruce Arena answered questions from fans and media during ussoccer.com's first live online chat of 2004 this past Wednesday (Jan. 14). Click below to find out Arena's thoughts on the upcoming match against Denmark, his plans for the coming year, and the beginning of the qualifying road to World Cup 2006.

DID HE REALLY TRY THAT?: In the closing exercise of Thursday's training, the team was divided into two groups of 10, with each side having five players at a time playing inside a 30x30 grid.  With only minutes remaining in what had become a furiously competed game, a cross from the right side of goal was seemingly sailing harmlessly over the head of Richard Mulrooney.  Without warning, Mulrooney launched himself into a full bicycle, not getting enough wood on the shot to find the back of the net, but enough to leave a few players and staff almost speechless.  Sadly, Mulrooney's side went on to lose the tournament.


Under-23 MNT Notes

MARSHALL, WINGERT NABBED EARLY BY CREW IN 2004 MLS SUPERDRAFT IN CHARLOTTE: As expected, U.S. U-23 defenders Chad Marshall and Chris Wingert were selected in the early rounds of the 2004 MLS SuperDraft today in Charlotte, N.C. But what was not expected is that they would end up on the same team. Following the ballyhoo of U.S. U-17 and U-20 sensation Freddy Adu's selection as the top pick in the draft by D.C. United, Marshall was selected second overall by the Columbus Crew, who have gone to great lengths to bolster their club in the off-season with three big trades and the selection of arguably the top defender in college.  Wingert, the two-time Big East Defender of the Year, went 12th overall. Former U-20 and current U-23 reserve goalkeeper Steve Cronin was the last pick in the first round (10th overall), staying close to Santa Clara and join camp mate Landon Donovan in San Jose.

DONOVAN WINS CHEVROLET ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD, BRAND NEW TRAILBLAZER:
In a special press conference yesterday at the Stadium Club of The Home Depot Center, U.S. Men's National Team and Under-23 forward Landon Donovan was honored with U.S. Soccer's top honor as the Chevrolet Male Athlete of the Year. Donovan, who received a brand new Chevrolet TrailBlazer (http://www.chevrolet.com/trailblazer/) as his prize, became the first U.S. player to have won the Young Athlete award (doing so in 2000 after being a key contributor on the U.S. Olympic Team and making his full international debut) as a member of one of the Youth National Teams AND the top award as a member of the full National Team.
Click here for the full article and list of other winners:
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U-23s HIT THE TURF IN ADVANCE OF MATCH VS. C.D. AGUILA TONIGHT IN EAST L.A.:
After spending 10 days training on the pristine practice fields at the National Training Center, the U-23s instead headed across the main road yesterday morning (Jan. 15) to feel out Field 5, which features the same FieldTurf surface that they'll be playing on when they meet top El Salvadoran club C.D. Aguila tonight at 8:30 p.m. (PT) at East L.A. College Stadium. The 20,400-seat venue in Monterey Park is set to serve as the site of both the men's and women's Los Angeles city high school soccer championships in the spring. The U-23s will likely face a lively crowd of 8-10,000 fans pulling for Aguila, which is exactly the kind of atmosphere that the coaching staff wanted to create in order to prepare the team for the environment that they'll face in Mexico. Goalkeeper Coach Tim Mulqueen spent last night scouting some footage of the team, which features eight players that regularly play for the full El Salvador Men's National Team. After a team brunch this morning, the team will review select segments of a recent Aguila match before going for a run on nearby Manhattan Beach. After meeting the U-23s tonight, Aguila will stay in L.A. through the week in order to face Denmark on Saturday, Jan. 24 at the L.A. Coliseum. Below is the Aguila roster for the trip:
C.D. Aguila Roster: Juan Gomez, Sergio Munoz, Marvin Benitez, Jorge Rodriguez, Edwin Carranza, Nestor Morales, Kilmar Chicas, Martir Melendez, Pablo Gentile, Rudis Rivera, Luis Alves, Ramon Larrosa, Luis Perla, Jose Salamanca, Ludwin Meraz, Juan Campos, Jose Alcides Hernandez.

U.S. U-23s SUCCUMB TO U.S. MEN 2-0 IN FOURTH AND FINAL SCRIMMAGE AT H.D.C.: In a mixed scrimmage with the U.S. Men's National Team, the U.S. Under-23s were done in by a game-winning goal by two of its own players in the second of three 30-minute periods and then conceded another in the third period to fall 2-0 at The Home Depot Center.  After playing the first period with the U-23s, Donovan and midfielder DaMarcus Beasley switched teams and combined to give the U.S. MNT a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute, with Donovan easily converting the rebound of Beasley's original shot past D.J. Countess. With a vastly different lineup in the third period, the surging U.S. Men dominated the U-23s, scoring an early goal by forward John Wolyniec off an assist from Jeff Cunningham. U-23 goalkeeper Steve Cronin, seeing his first scrimmage action since joining camp, was shelled by an opposition that included a trio of U-23 midfielders (Brad Davis, Kelly Gray and Eddie Gaven) playing for the full team. Cronin, who was pulling double duty from Jan. 11-13 as part of the MLS Combine, faced a whopping nine shots in 30 minutes, making five saves in the losing effort.
U-23 Lineup (1st Period; 4-4-2): Doug Warren; Jose Luis Burciaga, Chad Marshall, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Landon Donovan, Conor Casey, Alecko Eskandarian.
U-23 Lineup (2nd Period; 4-4-2): D.J. Countess; Jose Luis Burciaga, Chad Marshall, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Brian Carroll, Eddie Gaven; Conor Casey, Alecko Eskandarian.
U-23 Lineup (3rd Period; 4-5-1): Steve Cronin; Ricky Lewis, Jose Luis Burciaga, Chad Marshall, Scot Thompson; Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Brian Carroll, Alecko Eskandarian, Conor Casey; David Testo.

WHAT'S AN EIGHT-LETTER WORD FOR "AERIAL BATTLE"?:
 The correct answer? "Dogfight," of course. Prior to the U.S. Under-23s final scrimmage with the U.S. Men's National Team on Wednesday (Jan. 14), crossword puzzle aficionado/expert and U-23 MNT head coach "Mooch" Myernick enlisted the help of almost his entire squad to help him finish the crossword from USA Today's Life section. The team and staff took turns chiming in as Mooch read the clues and gave the number of letter spaces, with half of the players surprising teammates with their quick responses and depth of knowledge and the other half being ribbed about their college education, or lack thereof. The highlight of the unusual locker room down time was when forward Edson Buddle, who appeared to be keeping to himself while listening to his Discman, came out of nowhere and shouted "Dogfight!" from the corner to everyone's surprise. After the laughter died down, Myernick joked that the only "dog" he thought Buddle knew was "Snoop Dogg." Finally, with time ticking down on pre-game warm-ups, Myernick and a few remaining players landed a crucial Across word that triggered a domino effect that saw him easily finish the puzzle.


Women's National Team Notes

"PRE-SEASON" CONTINUES FOR U.S. WOMEN:
The U.S. Women's National Team is treating January as sort of a "pre-season" with the players coming off a 10-week break and with the squad focused on the Olympics in August.  The U.S. players have been working hard to shake off the rust and slowly get themselves back into game shape as head coach April Heinrichs put the team through once-a-day training until yesterday, when the USA practiced in the morning and afternoon, sandwiched around the U.S. Soccer Chevrolet Athletes of the Year press conference at the Home Depot Center.  The U.S. players have also been lifting weights and running through agility drills following the main practice sessions.

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS: The U.S. women wrapped up their Wednesday training quickly to catch the last 30 minutes of the scrimmage between the U.S. Men's National Team and the U-23 Olympic Team.  The U.S. women sat in the sun and enjoyed the end of the match, which featured some fancy dribbling from Columbus Crew forward Jeff Cunningham and some quality goalkeeping from D.J. Countess.  Several players may attend the U-23 match tonight against Aguila of El Salvador at East L.A. Junior College.

"WHO IS THIS RAMPONE?":
Two veteran players entered 2004 with new names as Christie Rampone (formerly Pearce) and Kate Markgraf (formerly Sobrero) chose to go by their married names, from the rosters to the back of their jerseys.  Rampone was married in 2001, but Markgraf tied the knot last October.  U.S. captain Julie Foudy (who kept her maiden name after marrying Ian Sawyers in 1995) was glancing at the team rooming list on the first day of training camp when she asked roommate Tiffany Roberts, "Who is this Rampone?"  Informed it was Pearce, Foudy had a good laugh, but so did her teammates that afternoon at training, when U.S. head coach April Heinrichs was introducing the new players and staff members. Roberts piped in and introduced the former Ms. Pearce.  "Julie Foudy, I'd like you to meet Christie Rampone."

A YEAR TO REMEMBER FOR REDDICK: Defender Cat Reddick topped of a truly amazing year by receiving the U.S. Soccer Chevrolet Young Athlete of the Year award yesterday at a press conference at the Home Depot Center.  Reddick, who will not turn 22 until June, actually started the year on a bad note, tearing the plantar fascia in her foot during a fitness drill (teammates actually heard an audible "pop" and thought she had blown out her soccer cleat) and had to miss the team's trip to China for the Four Nations Tournament.  But in a classic example of, "it's not where you start, it's where you finish," Reddick's foot was healthy by March and she returned to the national team for the Algarve Cup in Portugal. At the tournament she came off the bench in the first three matches, but started the championship game against China, going 90 minutes in the 2-0 win.  It was a performance which perhaps kick-started her amazing year.  Reddick would go on to play in 17 matches for the full national team, starting 12, and also traveled to Brazil and Denmark with the U.S. U-21s, helping the USA win the Nordic Cup.  (She played nine games for the U-21s in 2003).  She played an emotional game in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, a 6-0 U.S. win, and of course, was one of the great stories of the Women's World Cup, coming off the bench to replace the injured Brandi Chastain and start the final five games of the tournament.  She also scored twice in the first round against North Korea, the first defender ever to score twice in a Women's World Cup game for the USA.  She returned to UNC for her senior year after the WWC, helping the Tar Heels to a perfect 27-0-0 record and the NCAA Championship.  She was named First-Team All-American, won the award for the top women's soccer player in the NCAA and the MAC Hermann Trophy, the "Heisman" of women's college soccer.  And during that time, she continued her work towards graduation.

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