U.S. U-20 WOMEN ARRIVE IN BRAZIL, PREPARE FOR FOUR MATCHES: The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the morning of April 14 after an overnight flight from Miami, where the team met after their domestic legs (photos). Only 16 of the 17 U.S. players on the roster for this trip made the flight, as midfielder Allie Long is still awaiting the resolution of some passport issues before joining the squad. After a little more than an hour bus ride from the airport to the team hotel, the young Americans found themselves in an entirely new world, departing from the bustling city of Rio, to the placid mountain town of Teresopolis. The winding drive to Teresopolis, about 45 miles northeast of Rio, was as scenic as it comes, with rolling forests, dense jungle and massive sheer, rocky cliffs, topped with swirling hats of fog. The U.S. team had its first training at 4 p.m. at the Brazilian National Team Training Center, also known as “Granja Comary.” The training center is tucked at the base of the mountains, adjacent to a lake and set in a wealthy community of Teresopolis. It features five full-sized fields and a more beautiful setting to play soccer is unlikely to be found. This is the first trip abroad for this group of U-20s, although two more trips are scheduled for Europe before the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship is held in Russia from Aug. 17 – Sept. 3.
STRETCHING THE LEGS: The USA hit the field in Brazil for the first time on Friday afternoon as dusk approached, creating perfect soccer weather, warm, but not too hot, with a light breeze that cooled, but wasn’t cold. The players warmed up with some functional training, before working on set plays in a game setting and playing a spirited small-sided match. For much of the match, a premium was placed on who could pull off the most Ginga, the Portuguese word for how Brazilian soccer players perform magic with the ball and their bodies (as they say, when in Brazil, do as the Brazilians do). The USA trained on an adjacent field to the full Brazilian Women’s National Team, which is just finishing up a training camp, as well as the Canadian U-20s and the Brazilian U-20s, making for quite a bit of women’s soccer at Granja Comary.
SHE DOESN'T BOCK DOWN: Hailing from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Brittany Bock is what they call a “hammer.” The boys on Saturday Night Live would love her almost as much as Mike Ditka. The rugged defensive midfielder for the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team is not afraid to put her body on the line to win a ball, and usually, the opponent comes out worse for wear. The rising sophomore at Notre Dame is in Teresopolis, Brazil, for a series of matches against the Brazilian and Canadian U-20 teams. She shook off the jet leg to answer 11 Questions for ussoccer.com, ranging from her style of play, to the Chicago White Sox and why U.S. defender Carrie Dew would be lost without her.
SLIGHT SCHEDULE CHANGE: There was a possibility that the U.S. U-20s would play a fifth game against a Brazilian women’s club team, but the team will now play only the four matches, two against Brazil’s U-20s and two against Canada’s U-20s, plenty of action for a 10-day span. The three-team competition will be played in a tournament format, with the standard three points for a win, one for a tie and zero for a loss. The winner of the six-game competition will be presented the Ricardo Teixeira Cup, named after the President of the Brazilian Soccer Federation. U.S. head coach Tim Schulz will treat the competition like group play at a tournament, hoping to get full points from all four games and win the simulated “group,” as well as the tournament, as preparations for the world championship continue to intensify.
U.S. U-20 WNT Game Schedule – Teresopolis, Brazil
April 15-24, 2006
Ricardo Teixeira Cup
(All matches in Teresopolis at Brazilian National Team Training Center)
April 15 USA U-20 vs. Canada U-20
April 17 Brazil U-20 vs. Canada U-20
April 19 USA U-20 vs. Brazil U-20
April 22 Brazil U-20 vs. Canada U-20
April 23 Canada U-20 vs. USA U-20
April 24 Brazil U-20 vs. USA U-20
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Ironically, the two youngest players on the U.S. roster, 17-year-olds Kelly O’Hara and Tobin Heath, are making their third trip to Brazil in the past three years. The two players also went with the U.S. U-16s and U-17s, but both trips were to Sao Paulo, long the center of women’s soccer in Brazil. The two world travelers were happy to get a trip to Rio for a change of pace.
USA AWAITS U-20 FINAL DRAW ON APRIL 22: The USA, and all the other qualifiers, will find out their first round opponents in the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship on April 22 as the Final Draw is held in Moscow. A total of 16 teams will compete for the first U-20 world title, made up of host Russia, Brazil and Argentina, three teams from Asia (which is currently holding its qualifying), two teams from Africa, recent qualifier New Zealand, France, Germany, Switzerland and Finland, as well as the USA, Canada and Mexico. The African qualifiers will not be completed until May at the earliest, meaning Africa 1 and Africa 2 will go into the pots in Moscow. During the 2004 FIFA U-19 World Championship, the USA drew two confederation champions in the first round in South Korea and Spain, as well as this year’s hosts Russia. With Spain failing to qualify, the USA likely will be placed in a different group than Russia, and with South Korea not yet qualified, the Americans could get three different opponents this time around. The 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship will take place at four stadiums in Moscow (Dinamo, Lokomotiv, Shelkovo and Torpedo) and at one in St. Petersburg (Petrovsky).
2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship Berths
Confederation - Teams
Asia - 3
Africa - 2
CONCACAF - USA, Canada, Mexico
South America - Brazil, Argentina
Oceania - New Zealand
Europe - Germany, France, Finland and Switzerland
Host - Russia
LOPEZ, RODRIGUEZ BACK IN THE STATES: The USA will play without two of its top players in defender Stephanie Lopez and forward Amy Rodriguez, both veterans of the U.S. team that competed in the 2004 FIFA U-19 World Championship. Both could not come to Brazil due to school commitments. Lopez and Rodriguez, the only two players in the U-20 pool with caps at the senior level, should both play key roles in the USA’s quest for the World Championship come August. Both were on the USA’s 2006 Algarve Cup roster in Portugal, where Rodriguez came off the bench in three matches and Lopez got her first career start, playing 90 minutes in the 4-1 victory vs. France.
ODD SIGHTING OF THE DAY IN BRAZIL: As the USA was returning from practice, they pulled behind a sort of open air bus. Hanging off the side were two guys in human-sized costumes of Barney and SpongBob SquarePants.
STAT OF NOTE: The U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team has played 27 matches so far this year against women’s teams. The USA has scored 86 goals in those games and allowed 31. Jessica Rostedt leads the USA with 15 goals. Her forward line running mate Lauren Cheney has 14 goals and midfielder Danesha Adams has 10.
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