LAYOVER IN MIAMI: The U.S. Men's National Team is making a brief stop in Miami en route to Trinidad, spending around 36 hours in Southern Florida. Thirteen players from the training camp in Carson arrived in Miami just before midnight Saturday evening, then met up with the European-based contingent for a one-hour training session Sunday afternoon. The team trained at 10 a.m. at the University of Miami, then joined goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who arrived Monday afternoon from Germany, at Miami International Airport. The 23-man squad that is expected to arrive in Port of Spain just after 9 p.m. local time. The U.S. opens play in the final round hexagonal of 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying Feb. 9 against Trinidad & Tobago. Kickoff at the Queen's Park Oval is set for 2:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. local), and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the match live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
EURO UPDATE: Most of the USA's 'euros' were in action over the weekend, collecting mixed results. In England, Carlos Bocanegra went 90 while Brian McBride looked on as Fulham lost their first game of the new year, falling 3-1 to Liverpool. Tim Howard reprised his reserve role as Manchester United topped Birmingham 2-0 to secure the second spot in the EPL, while Brad Friedel's Blackburn Rovers continued their slide in the opposite direction as a 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough leaves Rovers five points above the relegation zone. Eddie Lewis notched an assist on the second goal of a 3-2 win, improving Preston's chance to join the playoff picture, while Bobby Convey was in civilian clothes for Reading's scoreless draw at home against Plymouth. In the Bundesliga, nearly all the U.S. fussballers found themselves on the losing end. Steve Cherundolo and the Hannover defense surrendered three goals for the second straight match, this time in a 3-1 loss to Dortmund. Landon Donovan saw action for the third straight game, entering as a substitute in a 2-0 Leverkusen loss to Bayern Munich that snapped a five-match unbeaten run. Conor Casey wasn't in the team sheet as Mainz were blanked 3-0 by Hertha Berlin, leaving them only one place above the relegation zone. Only Kasey Keller collected points in Germany's top flight, the 3-2 victory keeping Keller unbeaten in three matches since joining Moenchengladbach. Gregg Berhalter captained Energie Cottbus to a 1-1 draw, the side with only one win in their last seven matches. The Dutch-based players fared better, beginning with DaMarcus Beasley. Now with eight goals in all competitions, Beasley started his seventh straight as PSV claimed the top spot in the Eredivisie with a 4-1 win against Roosendaal. Cory Gibbs continues to occupy a spot in the Feyenoord rearguard, his side posting a 7-2 demolishing of De Graafschap to climb to fourth in the table. In the brightest news of the weekend, John O'Brien was fit to join the 18 for only the second time in a year, the joy being tempered by a 2-1 defeat for Ajax. And in France, Bastia's precipitous slide has left the club second from bottom in Le Championnat, with Greg Vanney sitting out his third straight.
ALL_ACCESS - THEY SAID IT: All_Access continues to provide exclusive behind the scenes video as the USA prepares for the opening qualifier against Trinidad. In today's installment, ussoccer.com captured post-training comments from several members of the U.S. contingent. Listen to Cory Gibbs describe the feeling of returning to his home base; Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope outline the tough qualifying road ahead; and Bruce Arena talk Trinidad. Watch the video on the competitions page.
CORNER PICKS IS BACK FOR THE HEXAGONAL: Corner Picks, ussoccer.com's fantasy pick 'em game is back for the final hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Fans can log on to ussoccer.com right now and once again test their prognostication skills with fans from across the United States for every Men’s National Team match, starting with the clash against Trinidad & Tobago. Just log on to ussoccer.com and predict the answers to five Corner Picks questions, one question for each corner flag and a Center Circle bonus question. Participating fans can immediately start earning points toward great prizes that include a Philips FlatTV, a VIP experience for two at a U.S. MNT match in 2006 and other great prizes from U.S. Soccer and Philips.
FRIEDEL RETIRES FROM INTERNATIONAL SOCCER: After a career spanning 13 years (1992-2004) with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Brad Friedel today announced his retirement from international soccer. A veteran of three World Cups, Friedel retires as the second-most capped goalkeeper in U.S. National Team history with 82 appearances, playing more than 7,000 minutes in goal while collecting 27 wins and 24 shutouts. The 6-foot-4 ‘keeper is probably best known for his electrifying performance at the 2002 FIFA World Cup where he started all five matches for the U.S MNT. He became just the second goalkeeper to stop two penalty kicks in the first round and recorded the first shutout in World Cup play in more than 50 years for the U.S. when he blanked Mexico 2-0 to help the U.S. to their first-ever quarterfinal finish. Click here for a statement from Friedel about his retirement, along with remarks from the President of U.S. Soccer Dr. Bob Contigulia and U.S. MNT Manager Bruce Arena. Click here for a Friedel's answers to questions during a conference call earlier today.
THE SHOT HEARD AROUND THE WORLD: No look ahead at a World Cup qualifier in Trinidad would be complete without first looking back at the history-making performance of the U.S. team in 1989. Known simply as the 'shot heard around the world', Paul Caliguiri's game-winning goal against Trinidad on Nov. 19, 1989 catapulted the U.S. to its first World Cup finals in 40 years and launched an unprecedented era of success for the U.S. national team. In U.S. Soccer's Center Circle feature on Caliguiri (January Issue), catch up with the man who's shot changed U.S. Soccer forever. Click here for the feature.
TRINIS FALL TO HAITI IN FINAL TUNEUP: A penalty-kick in the 20th minute gave Haiti a 1-0 victory against T&T in the home team's final tuneup before Wednesday's clash with the United States. The Soca Warriors' lineup included a start by legendary striker Dwight Yorke, the former Manchester United star making his first international appearance since November of 2001. Trinidad had previously defeated Haiti by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3, respectively. The team will remain on the island of Tobago until Wednesday morning before making the short hop to Port of Spain before kickoff.
February 6, 2005 - Shaw Park - Scarborough, Tobago -Friendly
TRI: Shaka Hislop, Marvin Andrews, Derek King, Brent Sancho (Anton Pierre 55), Leslie Fitzpatrick (Carlos Edwards 60), Anthony Rougier (Angus Eve 57), Kenwyne Jones (Devon Lecock 75), Densil Theobald, Stern John (Nigel Pierre 75), Dwight Yorke, Scott Sealy (Cornell Glen 67)
CARNIVAL KICKS OFF: Most everyone has heard of the legendary celebrations of Carnival in Brazil, the annual celebration that takes place seven weeks before Easter. But do you know where the second largest celebration of Carnival takes place? Remarkably, it's the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, with a population of around two million people. As the county's largest holiday by far, the Trinibagodians plan the festivities for an entire year and will take vacation for the entire week. Coincidentally, the U.S. team will arrive in Trinidad at the height of the party, as the two-day festivities kick off today and end at some point tomorrow evening. With street closings, all-night parties, and continuous music festivals, this occasion adds another chapter to the list of the truly unique experiences that make up CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
DID YOU KNOW? Since 1994, the U.S. has played 24 games against Caribbean teams, with only one loss to tarnish their overall record of 15-1-8 during that span. The USA has gone nearly 11.5 years without a defeat to the island nations. The last defeat? A 1-0 loss to Trinidad on Nov. 19, 1994 in Port of Spain.
COMING UP: As the countdown to kickoff rolls on, ussoccer.com will continue to keep you in the loop as the MNT heads into Trinidad. You'll see video of the team's travel to Port of Spain, get a breakdown of the T&T squad in Curt Onalfo's Scouting Report, find out every stat you ever wanted to know as we break down the matchup By the Numbers, and much, much more.
QUOTES FROM ARENA AND POPE:
U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena
On the Trinidad & Tobago National team...
“They are an athletic team. They’ve got a minimum of two good forwards in Stern John and Cornell Glen. I think Dwight Yorke will be in the mix somewhere. Obviously, they have an experienced goalkeeper in Shaka Hislop. Physically they are dominating in the back with defenders like Marvin Andrews. They are playing at home, have been together for two months and have played six or eight games to prepare so I think they’re going to be a handful.”
On the number of points he thinks the U.S. will need to qualify...
“There’s no set number of points. You’re not in until you qualify mathematically. There’s no way to analyze before you go into this last round the number of points you need to get through.”
On the team’s preparations...
“Clearly we were behind the eight ball a little bit. We’ve worked hard to move our domestic players forward. We won’t make any excuses. We’re going to Trinidad to get a result.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Defender Eddie Pope
On the challenges of World Cup Qualifying...
“It’s going to be difficult. You have to deal with the travel, the crowd and the excitement of the other team playing at home. All those things you take into consideration when you go into qualifying. We want to qualify. We are determined. There’s definitely pressure on us. In this round there are no underdogs and no favorites.”