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Notes from the National Training Center - Jan. 7, 2004

With nine national teams holding training camps this January at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., will provide you with updates on the progress of each team’s camp. All four of the top men’s national teams (MNT, U-23, U-20 and U-18) have been holding practices and scrimmages the past few days in Carson, allowing the men to lead off the first of several updates, called “Notes from the National Training Center.” Read on to hear what Robbie Russell has to say about being in camp for his first time, discover what’s coming up in the next few days, and find out how U-18 MNT player Christian Jimenez got his “call-up” and had the highlight of his young career.

Men's National Team Notes

The U.S. MNT's first training camp of 2004 entered Day Four, as Bruce Arena continued to put the 25-man contingent through twice-a-day session at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on Wednesday. After welcoming the side to California by administering the "beep" test on Sunday - yes, 29-year old Crew defender Frankie Hejduk once again claimed top honors in this fitness evaluation - the typical day has consisted of technical training in the morning, with tactical and fitness work in the afternoon. The team played 11-a-side, full field for the first time on Tuesday, and will line up in a similar fashion this afternoon before taking a well-earned day off Thursday.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Chicago Fire captain Chris Armas entered the training camp fold, arriving in time for the afternoon session on Wednesday. The 31-year old midfielder collected four caps for the MNT in 2003 after recovering from a torn ACL, and now holds 50 all-time appearances for the senior team. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Danny Califf has moved from the training field to the training room, a mildly sprained MCL in his right knee suffered during the December camp not having sufficiently healed to allow for full training. And the MNT has welcomed a "guest coach" to the staff for the January camp, former German international striker Jurgen Klinsmann donning the U.S. kit to assist in training sessions.

WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS?: The players thought they had caught a huge break. Entering the final portion of Tuesday's training sessions, MNT Strength and Conditioning coach Pierre Barrieu had  laid out a running course and was explaining the exercise when Field #1 at the National Training Center suddenly went dark. Hoping for a black out - and a shortened session - the players stood anxiously for a few moments while the problem was diagnosed. Turns out someone had flicked off the light switch, and while the light banks warmed up, the team completed their running exercise and stretching in semi-darkness.

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS SHINE ON RUSSELL: The soccer world has been very good to Robbie Russell, though few people in the United States would know it. Drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy after graduating from Duke University in 2000, Russell chose to broaden his horizons, and his soccer, with a life in the Norwegian First Division.  Meet the newest member of the U.S. MNT pool in an exclusive interview as goes "One-on-One" with Robbie Russell. Click here: /articles/viewArticle.jsp_51057.html

Under-23 MNT Notes

The U.S. Under-23 Men's National team began Olympic Qualifying preparations in earnest this week, head coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick instituting an aggressive two-a-day training program throughout the week. Making use of U.S. MNT strength and conditioning coach Pierre Barrieu, the U-23's kicked off the week with a "beep" test of their own, with Brian Carroll outlasting perennial winner Landon Donovan to finish best amongst both the U-23's and the full national team. The sessions have been designed to complete four objectives: help individual players build strength and stamina after sometimes very lengthy layoffs, build group fitness, attempt to establish a solid base from which to ease the affects of acclimatization once the team travels to high-altitude Guadalajara, and develop a balanced team capable of successfully competing in the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

INJURY REPORT: MetroStars midfielder Ricardo Clark has been hampered by a persistent groin problem and has fallen out of training. With the full MLS season and coming off the USA's quarterfinal finish in the 2003 World Youth Championship, Clark has had little time to rest the ailing groin. U.S. staff physician Bert Mandelbaum will examine him this evening. Ricky Lewis has been carrying a slight knee problem suffered in the December camp, and is set to resume full training tomorrow. Dallas Burn forward Eddie Johnson arrived in California with flu-like symptoms, and has been unable to train.

BACK IN THE FOLD: The team welcomed the return of Assistant Coach Thomas Rongen to the U-23 family, having recently completed the Under-20's quarterfinal run in the 2003 World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates. During Monday night's team meeting, Myernick handed the floor over to Rongen, who regaled the team with stories of the U-20's trials and successes in the tournament. No doubt that experience will be valuable come Feb. 2.

IN THE LAB: With Myernick finally having available his full complement, he has set his sights on finding the best combination of players and tactics. With the likes of DaMarcus Beasley, Conor Casey, Ricardo Clark, Bobby Convey, Landon Donovan and others all in training together for the first time, he has spent the week experimenting with different formations and combinations of players. With six scrimmages on the schedule in the next week, Myernick has a clear idea of what he needs to accomplish before heading to Guadalajara. "We are not going to get hung up on formations," said Myernick. "I'm looking for the best combination of players in the group. One of our strongest attributes is that we have a lot of players with great engines. I want a major component of this team to be our mobility."

Under-20 and Under-18 MNT Notes

The new group of U.S. Under-20s and Under-18s have been in camp since last Friday (Jan. 2), and faired well in the ODP Interregional Event during their first four days at the NTC. With 23 players in camp, the Under-20s split into two teams, with each team playing a half during their three games. Forwards Freddy Adu and Jamie Watson played in different halves, but were both the offensive leaders for the Under-20s. Watson scored two goals, including the game-winner in the team’s first match against Region IV, and a stunning volley into the left-side netting to nab a draw against Region I. Adu notched a goal and an assist to lead the U.S. to a 2-1 victory over Region II. Forwards Rodrigo Hidalgo and Charlie Davies led the way on the 21-player roster, scoring every goal (three each) for the Under-18s during the team’s three games of the ODP Interregional Event, as they won two out of three.

GOING HEAD TO HEAD: Both teams conducted training sessions the past two days as they get ready to face each other tomorrow at the National Training Center. The match is destined to be a hard-fought nail-bitter as each team has 15 former or current U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team players. But the Under-20s might have experience on their side, as thirteen of the players on the roster participated in the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship this past August, including Adu and midfielder Danny Szetela, who were named to the Tournament All-Star Team.

ARENA’S UNEXPECTED CALL UP: He was halfway through practice with the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team on Tuesday evening, when midfielder Christian Jimenez got the call. It couldn’t have been more unexpected for the San Dimas, Calif., native, who is currently in U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., with the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team. Under-17 MNT Head Coach John Ellinger called Jimenez over in the middle of practice and told him to grab his stuff because he was leaving. "I asked him where I was going, but he just told me to grab my stuff and get in the cart (driven by U.S. MNT General Manager Pam Perkins)," Jimenez said. As they pulled away, Ellinger told Jimenez the Men’s National Team was short a player for an intersquad match and he was picked to fill in. Surprised, elated and nervous all at the same time, Jimenez was soon warming up with players he’s looked up to for years. Playing left midfield, Jimenez held his own and was happy with his performance. "I didn’t really lose the ball," he said. Bruce Arena even gave Jimenez a good report, telling the 17-year old he did well at the end of the scrimmage. Jimenez still wasn’t sure why he was chosen to play, but he was excited to have the experience. And the one thing that stuck out in his mind after his call-up – "Those guys are good."