GETTING ACQUAINTED: The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team strides into day four of their first-ever training camp under new head coach Peter Nowak, hitting the field at The Home Depot Center this morning for the first of two training sessions. All 22 players have been working out in Carson since Sunday in preparation for the team’s trip to China for two matches against the Chinese U-23s, first on Dec. 13 at the Changsha He Long Sports Centre in Changsha, then three days later at the Yue Xiu Shan Stadium in Guangzhou. This is the first gathering of the U-23 MNT since Nowak took the reins in August, and is the first major camp in preparation for the final round action of the 2008 CONCACAF Men’s Under-23 Championship to be held from March 11-23, 2008, in Los Angeles, Tampa and Nashville. The eight-team tournament will send the two finalists to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
U.S. Under 23 Men’s National Team Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7): Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Jon Leathers (Furman University), Mike Randolph (Los Angeles Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Michael Harrington (Kansas City Wizards), Aaron Hohlbein (Kansas City Wizards), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (CD Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS (6): Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Adam Cristman (New England Revolution), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)
SAME SET-UP AS THE BIG BOYS: One thing that is quickly evident is that Peter Nowak intends to continue the uniform approach applied to both the senior team and the U-23's. Besides the change in (most) faces, the camp has mirrored the work of the MNT in this type of scenario, including two-a-day sessions, all meals together as a group, and regeneration activities in the gym. While the players are different, the philosophy in terms of style, hard work, focus, and pride in playing for the national team is clearly going to be a consistent theme.
WELL GROOMED: If the goal of the youth national team programs is to produce players that will continue to rise through the ranks in the international game, a look at the roster for the U-23 camp reveals that the system is getting it right. Consider:
- Eight players were (or currently are in the case of Zac MacMath) members of the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton
- Twelve of 22 players have represented the United States in a world youth championship event.
- Seven players on the squad made their debut at the senior international level in 2007
- Seven players were part of the USA’s quarterfinal run in the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada this past summer
HOUSTON CONNECTIONS: The Lone Star State contributed a small but distinguished contingent to the camp, sending newly crowned MLS Cup champions Stuart Holden and Patrick Ianni from the Houston Dynamo to Carson. Additionally, FC Dallas midfielder and Houston native Arturo Alvarez is going through the paces, fresh off a week-long training stint in France with FC Girondins de Bordeaux. All three were called into the team’s previous gathering in January, with Holden forced to withdraw after a few days with a minor injury. All three players will be hoping to be part of the action when the full team hosts regional rivals Mexico on Feb. 6 at Reliant Stadium.
REAL ROOKIES: In the continuing search for talent, U.S. coach Peter Nowak invited two players to camp who have are experiencing their first-ever exposure to a U.S. national team. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Mike Randolph turned in a solid performance in his first full season with the Galaxy, appearing in 19 games and earning 15 starts. The Chino Hills, Calif., native was a finalist for the USL Division One Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 as a member of the Portland Timbers. Jon Leathers, who is one of two non-professionals on the roster, just finished his fourth and final season at Furman University. A product of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy club the Atlanta Fire, Leathers and Furman reached the second round of the NCAA tournament this year before falling to No. 2 seed Wake Forest. Leathers entered Furman the same year that U.S. international Clint Dempsey left and joined the New England Revolution.
LONG HAUL: The U23’s are about to challenge the full team for miles logged and hours flown on a single trip in 2007. Nearly three weeks after the U.S. returned from the far south having defeated South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup, the U-23s will embark on a nearly 20-hour journey to China. Departing from LAX at 12:40 a.m. on Saturday morning, Air China will haul the team 13 hours to Beijing. After a layover, the team boards a domestic flight for the nearly three hour journey to Changsha. Fortunately, there is a Borders Book Shop across the parking lot from the team hotel here in Cali, so there should be no shortage of reading materials.
HARRINGTON GETTING HITCHED: Kansas City Wizards midfielder Michael Harrington took advantage of his brief break from the season to take care of more important business, proposing one week ago today to girlfriend Katie Miller. The two met while in school at the University of North Carolina, and plan to wed sometime next year when the schedule permits. With the MLS season, CONCACAF qualifying and hopefully the Olympics on tap for 2008, scheduling could be a quite a challenge.
PHOTO SHOP: ussoccer.com's crack photography staff is all over the training camp here in Carson to provide you with the first glimpses of the U23’s preparations for Olympic qualifying. Check back early and often in the sights and sounds section of ussoccer.com to see the latest pics from Carson.