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Quote Sheet: U.S. U-17 MNT Previews the Match Against North Korea on Saturday


U.S. Head Coach John Hackworth
On facing North Korea in their opening match:
“North Korea is going to be an interesting game for us because we have not been able to really scout them the way that we’ve scouted the other teams. For obvious reasons it is very tough to get information out of North Korea. They haven’t really played outside of North Korea since their qualifying campaign that was back in the spring. But we have seen a couple games on tape and received a couple scouting reports, and we feel like we have a general idea of how they play.”

On what he’s expecting from North Korea:
“I expect North Korea to be extremely organized and very fit. I think they will be defensive oriented and will look to frustrate us over the course of 90 minutes, and probably counter attack when they can by capitalizing on our mistakes. It’s going to be a tactical game, which will be decided on whether we can break them down or they can frustrate us and capitalize on our mistakes.”

How important is the first game:
“We always say the first game is the most important. Not only do you get to see how all of your preparation is coming together, it really determines what you have to do in the next two games. Hopefully, you get three points with a good goal differential and are sitting in a favorable spot going into the second game.”

On all the games during the tournament being played on artificial turf:
“I personally don’t like it that much, but what we’ve related to our players is that everyone is playing on it and no one is getting treated different in terms of the surface that we’re playing on. We have prepared to the best of our ability as we’ve been on it for about a month at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, so I don’t think it is going to surprise us at all. If anything with our preparation, I believe we may have an advantage in that regard.”

On getting out of the group:
“We are not looking any further than North Korea at this point. This is the most important game this team will every play. At the same time, the thing that has driven us and motivated us is that we do want to be a team that can represent the United States with dignity and pride, and hopefully hold up a World Championship trophy on Oct. 2.”

On if they are getting more respect across the world:
“The senior team and what Bruce Arena and his squad have done has really elevated the respect given to the USA around the world. We get treated differently now, and that is something that we’ve noticed over the past couple years. The Under-17 program has had very good results as well, including being the only team to qualify for all 11 world championships at this age level, so we are gaining respect worldwide.”

U.S. Captain Ofori Sarkodie
On being the team leader:
“I think my role right now is to make sure the boys are going into the game with confidence. Make sure we’re going in feeling that we’re prepared and that everything we’ve worked on in the past year will come out and show. We need to stay composed and get a good result.”

On not being familiar with North Korea:
“I think we just need to go out there and play our best game. We have to be focused. We might not know a lot about them, which may be a bit of a disadvantage, but we know a lot about ourselves. We have a lot of good team chemistry and everyone knows their role on the team. I feel if we go out there and everyone does their part it will be a good game, but in the end we can get the result.”

U.S. Midfielder Nikolas Besagno
On how he feels heading into the first game:
“I’m very excited. It’s the first game at the world championship and it is a test for us. This is what we’ve been training for during the past two years. We’re coming in here expecting to do big things and it’s going to be good to get out there and prove what we’re capable of.”

On representing the USA:
“When you put the jersey on it’s just a feeling of pride. I’m representing the entire country and to me that is a big deal, so every time I put on the jersey I think about what this country stands for. I’m one of 20 kids right now representing the country in this tournament and it is definitely a feeling of pride.”

On what he’s expecting from North Korea:
“We’re expecting them to be very fit and work hard, so we need to work harder and take it to them from the first whistle. Hopefully we can score a couple goals and get a victory.”

U.S. Goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner
On how the team is feeling:
“Right now everyone fells pretty relaxed, as well as me. The first game is going to be a tough one, but just like last time two years ago when the U-17s came out and got a 6-1 victory, we feel we can pull out a win. We just have to play our game and we’ll be fine.”

On playing North Korea:
“I think we should base what we do somewhat on what was successful against China, who we played in Florida before we came here. We want to come out the same way against North Korea and put away our chances when we get an opportunity.”

U.S. Midfielder Kyle Nakazawa
On what the team needs to do to be successful:
“The most important thing we need to accomplish in the midfield is to find the ball and find the tempo of the game. North Korea plays very organized defense and we’ll need to change the point of attack and get some penetrating balls into the attack when we have the opportunity.”

On getting a win against North Korea:
“We want to get three points in this first game because it is obviously the most important match for us at this point. If we come out with a win I think it will motivate us even more for our upcoming matches.”

U.S. Midfielder Quavas Kirk:
On what he wants to accomplish in the match:
"I'm just trying to get my job done, whether that means getting serves in or scoring goals. I just want to do what I have to do to win this game."

On North Korea:
"We're expecting a real direct team that will try to go right over the top of us with long balls. And defensively, we will have to try to get behind their backline."

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