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Quote Sheet: U-20 MNT vs. Haiti Post-Game Comments

U.S. U-20 MNT Head Coach Thomas Rongen
On if he feels the U.S. is already half-way through to the U-20 World Cup:
“No I don’t, although I think we all realize that, in tournament play, the first game is very important and it puts us clearly in a good position. There are still two very important matches to be played and our focus now is on Guatemala. We understand that each game will become tougher and tougher for us, so we’re satisfied with the result, but we’ve got a lot of hard work still ahead of us.”

On if the U.S. played up to its abilities vs. Haiti:
“I wasn’t happy with our first 20 minutes which is to be expected. They’re young players, there’s some nerves and I didn’t think we played our game. We did well in the last 20 minutes of the first half when we got two goals that were important. Then we started off the second half well, but then didn’t finish off the game as well as I would have liked. We need to focus on being able to play quality football for 90 minutes and not just 50 or 60 minutes which we did today because against a good opponent, which both Guatemala and Panama are, we could get punished. The result was good, but we can still play better in my opinion.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Forward Andre Akpan
On what he was thinking before the game, knowing he would be earning his first cap:
“It was exciting, maybe a little nervous, but more exciting than anything else. I just wanted to go out there and have some impact on the game which I did I guess.”

On where this hat-trick ranks among other performances throughout his career:
“With it being my first cap with the Under-20 National Team, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in soccer. I can’t think of another game I’ve had that will stand out like this one. I’ve had hat-tricks before, but not in a game this important.”

On his second goal of the match:
“It was a corner kick and I went to the far post and Danny (Szetela) crossed to the far post. The ‘keeper was stuck in the middle of the goal so I tried to just tap it in the near post. It hit the inside of the post and kind of dribbled across the goal line.”

On his first goal of the match, also his first career international goal:
“Wally (Anthony Wallace) looked up and the ‘keeper was in that area where it’s a little tricky for him. I got to the ball before he did and just got a little touch on it and it was enough to get it over him and it went in.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Midfielder Danny Szetela
On the team’s approach to the next two games:
“We need to step it up. With Guatemala, we played them twice already and they’re going to want to get back at us and for them, this (during World Cup qualifying) is the perfect opportunity to do that. We just need to have a good practice tomorrow and be ready to play on Friday night.”

On Andre Akpan’s second goal which came from his corner kick:
“Well actually, Jules (Valentin) tried to claim it so he’s trying to take my assist away. But in all seriousness, it’s not even about the assist, it’s just about getting goals. It’s difficult hitting corner kicks from that side because we have very little space but I tried my best and I guess that ball got in behind the goalie and Andre just put it away.”

On if the team started the game how they had hoped to:
“It was a little slow at the beginning, but after 10 to15 minutes, the momentum picked up for us and we started moving the ball and creating chances. In the beginning, we just tried to loft the ball in over their defense and the goalie was picking it up, but then we started moving the ball around, getting our wide guys involved, putting some crosses in and we got some goals that way.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Midfielder Anthony Wallace
On the opening game of qualifying:
“With the opening game of qualifying, everyone had the jitters and I think everyone could tell, even off the field. It took everyone a little bit to get into the flow of the game, but I think after that we started to gel more as a team and we started to see some things happen.”

On his goal:
“It was just a run from midfield into the box, and I was just there at the right time for Andre to dummy it and I just placed it in.”

On moving forward in the next two games:
“I think we just need to keep this in our head that to keep progressing as a team we need to build on tonight and play our best for a full 90 minutes.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Quavas Kirk
On the importance of getting three points vs. Haiti:
“It’s huge. Right now we’re in the driver’s seat because Panama and Guatemala just tied so we’re the only team with three points.”

On facing Guatemala in their second match:
“I think it’s going to be a really tough game because they know us and obviously we know them. The last time we played them, we were actually down and had to come back to beat them, so they’re a pretty tough team, a hard-nosed team, so it should be a good game.”

On playing his first game at right back:
“It wasn’t all that bad, but I was a little nervous because I’ve never played the position and it was such a big arena to make my debut.”