U.S. Under-17 head coach JOHN ELLINGER
"Obviously we're very ecstatic as far as advancing to the second round. We felt that in our opening performance against South Korea, we did everything we wanted to do. We had played against Korea in a tournament in early June in Busan, Korea, and didn't fare so well. So, having a familiar opponent, I felt, helped us in preparing for our opening match in Finland. Offensively, I didn't quite expect the explosion that we got, but we were looking for a positive result out of that and felt we played really well. In the second match against Sierra Leone, we faced a very good team with a great deal of speed and ability on the ball. We felt we could put them under pressure defensively more than we did. I was a little disappointed that we didn't come out of a defensive posture more than we did, and we had to rely on counter-attacking possibilities. I felt we could have done more and put them under pressure like we did against South Korea. In the third match against Spain, obviously the yellow card situation with Freddy Adu had an impact on that game. That being the case, the other forward, Jamie Watson, was left stranded up there by himself for great stretches of the game. I did make a switch halfway through in putting Eddie Gavin in that role and moving Memo Gonzalez back, but it didn't add a whole lot of of punch for us. In the second half when we were a man up, putting Corey Ashe in and then Freddy gave us a boost, but then the second goal took a lot of the sting out of us. We're disappointed in giving up two own goals in the tournament, but we've scored eight goals and given up four, we came in second place and we advanced to the quarterfinals where we face Brazil. We're obviously very excited about that, and hopefully we get a positive result on Sunday."
On what he has seen of the style of the Brazilian team:
"It's pretty much more or less what you've seen on TV. We've had a coach who has scouted them for three games, so we have some of their tendencies. Their outside defenders are the keys to their attacking. If you're going to be successful against Brazil, you have to deal with those two players. They have some very skillful forwards that started out against Cameroon missing their chances, but then started making them, winning 5-0 against Portugal and 3-0 against Yemen. They are a dangerous, extremely talented team and we know we have our hands full."
On the decision to play Danny Szetela ahead of Brian Grazier:
"The move with Danny over Brian basically has to do with the play of Danny Szetela as we got closer and closer to the opening of the World Cup. Danny gained a lot of confidence by serving as captain of our Under-16 team, one in Italy and one in England over the last summer, and bringing it back to the Under-17 program. He just raised his level of play, and raised it so high that we had to put him on the field. Sometimes it's sad for a player like Brian, who has worked very hard and
played so many games for us. He's played in all three games so far, but Danny's play leading up to the tournament was stellar. That's the main logic behind that."
On whether it is a realistic possibility that some of his players will make the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team:
"It's a very real possibility. This is my third cycle with the Under-17's. In 1999, being involved with Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, and also Nelson Akwari, all of those players had the opportunity to be involved in the Pan Am Games. DaMarcus and Landon were on the Under-23 Olympic qualifying team in Hershey, Penn., and then Landon went on to make the roster for the Olympics. Based on the players' development from this point on, and that means professional development and how they fare with other youth national teams in the buildup to qualifying and the Olympics, it's a very real possibility."
On the importance of these tournaments for the development of our youth players:
"Because of the player development system in our country, which is definitely getting better, and residency has helped that considerably, it's still not where the rest of the world is with youth programs and reserve team systems. Playing in the World Championship is a big opportunity to show themselves in front of a world audience, and maybe some professional opportunities come out of it. I think the big picture is it helps our players develop. It helps them deal with playing under pressure in a world event. We take a great deal of satisfaction seeing our players move onto other youth national teams and successful pro careers."
On how he ranks this team compared to the previous U-17 teams he's coached:
"It's not an easy question. There has been some great individual talent on all three teams. If you look at the roster in 1999, almost all of the starters are playing professionally, with the exception of one or two players. With the second group, you have seven players who, within a couple of months after the event was over, were all playing professionally -- Guys like Eddie Johnson and Santino Quaranta, even one of the reserves, David Johnson, who is playing for Willem II in Holland. Even on this team, we have three players who have signed pro contracts, and I suspect one more pretty soon. Talent-wise, I think the players always get better. Tactically we need to get sharper, but I think the rest of the world is moving along at the same pace. Technically, every group has been better than the one before it. I'm just extremely excited because in all my years as a coach, I have never been able to get to the second round after two games."
On Adu's role with the U-17 team this year:
"Obviously Freddy has played a big part in getting us to where we are. He's an impact player, no question about it. He lights our fire when he gets the ball. He's very electric on the ball. He's the kind of player who has the ability to combine with other players, sees things on the field that some other players don't see, yet at any moment he can do it himself and win the game for you. I think the partnership that he and Jamie have developed over the past few months has been invaluable to our team. Take one of them off the field, and it's going to hurt us."
On the attention being paid to the team by professional scouts, and if it has been a distraction:
"I know there are a great deal of scouts. There is a big batch of them from the Premiership. Actually, they are staying in the same hotel as our Friends and Family Program in Helsinki. They haven't dealt with our players on a one-on-one basis at all. They've been very respectful of the fact that players are involved in a tournament, and have allowed them to focus."
U.S. Under-17 forward FREDDY ADU
On what he expects from Brazil on Sunday:
"I know nothing about Brazil right now. We've seen a couple of their games on TV. You can't really judge the way they play based on what you see on TV, because in Guatemala we saw a couple teams on TV that to us didn't look very good, but we when we got out on the field, they were a lot better than we thought. It's Brazil. We know they are going to be very skillful, and we just have to be prepared for it."
On how all the attention he's gotten in the World Championship has affected him:
"All the attention is great, but I'm not worried about it or anything. When we step on the field, some of the other teams know who I am, but going into a game. I can't even think about that. I just have to be able to cope with the hacking and all that stuff, and just keep playing. Most teams feel like they can get into your head, by shoving you, talking trash and all that stuff. I've grown up a lot in the last two years, and I've learned to deal with that stuff. I just go into every game and try to play my game. There's nothing you can do about, especially if the referee is not going to protect you. Hopefully they do, but if not I just keep playing."
On whether his plans to go pro have been expedited by playing in the World Championship:
"If there's something that's changing, I don't know about. I'm just playing right now. I'm glad I don't know about it. I don't want distractions outside of the game to bother me. Not everyone gets a chance to play in the World Championship. So I couldn't tell you. I have no clue. I'm sure I'll find out after the World Championships."
On how much physical play he has had to endure from teams in this tournament:
"First off, when teams know who you are it definitely makes it hard to play. To become a great player, you have to deal with that stuff. I set a goal for myself that I want to become one of the best players, and in order for me to achieve that goal, I'm going to have to deal with it. You go out on the field, and teams try to get into your head. They hit you, they kick at your ankles, they push, and they talk trash. They call you names in their own languages. I don't want to say what they say -- I'm sure you already know -- but I just smile about it. The only way to get them back is to score, and let your game do the talking."
On the importance of education in his decision-making process:
"I am going to graduate this year. After I graduate, I want to go pro as soon as I can. Graduating high school is very important to me. My mom wouldn't let me go anywhere until I finish high school. I think it's a good decision. Whatever my mom says is right. I had already skipped a couple grades before I went to Bradenton, and we take an accelerated school program in Bradenton, so I'll graduate in late May."
U.S. Under-17 forward JAMIE WATSON
On what he expects from Brazil on Sunday:
"We haven't played a South American team yet in the tournament. You never know what to expect from a team like Brazil, because they are very skillful and they know how to play soccer very well. We expect it's going to be a very good game. We're going to be prepared to put our best team out there, and give our best performance. I feel that the matchup against them is going to be a tough one, but we will come out a lot stronger than we did in the last game. We're going to prepare very well physically and mentally for this game."
On what the experience has been like playing with Adu:
"It's been a great experience. It's taught me a lot about myself as a player. It makes my job a lot easier, because we work so well together. Like Coach said, over the last two months, we've kind of exploded, and the chemistry we have on and off the field helps us to know where each other is and what we are thinking. I stick up for Freddy sometimes when starts getting beat up. You go over and make sure when he's on the ground no one's trying to kick him. I know he would do the same thing for me. He's the type of player who can win a game for us himself, or he can turn around and help by putting someone else into a chance to score. If you're going to stop him one way, he's going to beat you another way. He's a Houdini-type player. That's the best way to describe him."