HOT U.S., HONDURAS TEAMS FACE OFF IN FIRST MATCH IN SEATTLE SINCE 1994: Safeco Field, or "The Safe" to locals, will be the setting for a match between two teams that are playing well and posting impressive results so far this year. The U.S. Men's National Team, 4-1-1 in 2002, is coming off an undefeated stretch of games on the way to winning the 2002 FC Gold Cup in L.A. in January, as well as a solid performance in a 1-0 loss to a powerful Italy team in Sicily. Although they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2002 World Cup as a member of the CONCACAF region (Costa Rica, Mexico and USA advanced out of the six-team final round in 2001), Honduras is coming off a year in which they were named FIFA's World Team of the Year for 2001. In January, Honduras traveled to Hong Kong, where they shocked World Cup finalist Slovenia 5-1 in the opening game of the Carlsberg Cup, before downing a Hong Kong Select team 1-0 three days later to win the four-team tournament. Forward Saul Martinez scored an impressive five goals in the two games, and will lead a young Honduras team against an almost entirely MLS/domestic-based U.S. squad. The U.S. holds a 3-2-3 all-time record versus the Central American side, having split a pair of World Cup qualifiers in their last two meetings in 2001.
HONDURAS BRINGS TALENTED MIX OF YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE TO SEATTLE: Honduras head coach Ernesto Luzardo has brought in a relatively young 18-man roster for Saturday's friendly, with an obvious eye toward re-building the team for qualification for the 2006 World Cup after just missing out on qualifying for the 2002 World Cup last year. The roster feature 13 players with 10 caps or less, with 14 of the 18 players coming from the country's domestic professional league. Also, consider that the combined number of caps from the Honduras group of six midfielders is exactly equal to that of just one U.S. player -- midfielder Cobi Jones (150 caps). Leading the roster is forward Saul Martinez (14 caps / 7 goals), who scored five goals in the team's first two games of 2002, as well as veterans Milton Nunez and Jose Luis Pineda, who lead the team with 46 caps each. Most of the team arrived in Seattle Wednesday night, and trained yesterday at Seattle University. Martinez and Danilo Turcios arrived this morning, with Nunez arriving tonight and Oscar Bonilla not joining the team until tomorrow morning. The team will train and conduct their first interviews with the Seattle media today after the U.S. practice at Safeco Field. The following is the complete 18-player roster for Honduras (with club in parentheses): GOALKEEPERS: Victor Coello (Marathon), Ricardo Canales (Victoria); DEFENDERS: Oscar Bonilla (Bella Vista -- Uruguay), Rony Morales (Platense), Junior Izaguirre (Motagua), Limberth Perez (Universidad), David Carcamo (Real Espana), Sergio Mendoza (Real Espana), Jaime Rosales; MIDFIELDERS: Edgar Alvarez (Platense), Jose Luis Pineda (Olimpia), Danilo Turcios (Defensor Sporting -- Uruguay), Robel Bernardez (Motagua), Cesar Obando (Motagua); FORWARDS: Jerry Palacios (Olimpia), Saul Martinez (Nacional -- Uruguay), Milton Nunez (Comunicaciones -- Guatemala), Christian Martinez (Victoria).
WELL-TRAVELED JONES ARRIVES YESTERDAY TO COMPLETE CAMP ROSTER: Midfielder Cobi Jones was the last player from the 20-man U.S. roster to arrive into Seattle when he showed up yesterday just before lunch after a nine-hour travel day that began at the Los Angeles Galaxy's pre-season training camp in Chile, included a stopover in Dallas, and ended at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport. Jones, who recently reached the rare 150-cap mark in the team's 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the final of FC Gold Cup 2002, promptly grabbed a bite to eat and proved to be the media savvy veteran that he is by doing a 30-minute sit-down interview before taking a well-deserved nap in his room.
ARENA NO STRANGER TO SEATTLE AREA, STATE OF WASHINGTON: U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena has several ties to the Seattle area and the state of Washington. In fact, Arena's first head coaching job in soccer was at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., in 1976. Arena also played professionally for the Tacoma Tides of the American Soccer League, before a brief training stint with the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League that same year. It was also in 1976 that Bruce married Phyllis at a nice summer wedding in July in Tacoma. From there, Arena then switched coasts, heading to Virginia, where he would eventually make his home in Fairfax. Arena had an extended tenure as the head coach at the University of Virginia from 1978-1995, leading the Cavaliers to five national championships and eight ACC titles. The 50-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., would then go on to build another dynasty at nearby D.C. United, helping them win the first two championships in Major League Soccer history in 1996 and '97 before being tapped by U.S. Soccer as the Men's National Team head coach following the 1998 World Cup. In addition to Arena and Lacey, Wash., native Kasey Keller, two staff members -- athletic trainers Bruce Snell and Dave Andrews -- both reside in Seattle.
U.S. MEN TOP SOUNDERS/TIMBERS SELECT TEAM 1-0 IN SCRIMMAGE AT UNIV. OF WASHINGTON: The U.S. Men's National Team dominated a select team made up of players from the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers of the A-League (Second division professional league), but could only muster a 1-0 win in a full, 90-minute scrimmage at the University of Washington soccer field on a cold Wednesday night. Veteran defender Jeff Agoos provided the lone strike, rushing through a crowded penalty area to crack home a rebound of a Clint Mathis shot that was saved by goalkeeper Matt Napoleon (a former member of the U.S. Under-23 MNT) to give the U.S. the game winner in the 33rd minute. The U.S. team, which made eight substitutions at halftime, attacked throughout and registered 18 shots and earned nine corner kicks, but couldn't add another score in the second half. The defense held the select team to just one shot, with Keller and second-half sub Tim Howard not needing to make a single save for the entire match.
SIGHTS, SOUNDS OF SEATTLE KEEP TEAM BUSY ON AFTERNOON OFF: After a chilly morning training session and lunch at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers, the team had Thursday afternoon off to check out the sights and sounds of a very scenic Seattle. With the hotel stuck smack in the middle of downtown, there was an endless supply of shopping, including a Niketown directly across the street, for players and staff. Just steps from one of the 8,000 Starbucks just in the downtown grid, more than a few players picked up that essential Cappuccino before setting out on the 5-block walk to First Avenue, the main drag thru downtown. While some hit the Public Market for some ever-popular fish-catching, others hopped in cabs to make the short trip to the Space Needle and the adjacent Experience Music Project (EMP), described by a local as both "an upscale Hard Rock Cafe" and a "hip (Rock-n-Roll) Hall of Fame."
"I THOUGHT IT RAINED IN SEATTLE...?": Five days and counting in Seattle, and still no rain. Not exactly a reason to call the folks at "Ripley's Believe It or Not?", but after four full days in the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Men's National Team has yet to experience the typical rain and clouds that normally blanket the city. While the winter cold has reared its ugly head on occasion, the weather has been sunny and fairly mild for the team as they've prepared for Saturday's friendly, prompting locals to keep reminding the team how lucky they have been. As for tomorrow's game, it should be clear and the roof at Safeco Field is expected to remain open for the match.
WITH HONEYMOON OVER, IT'S BACK TO STELLAR 2002 SEASON FOR MCBRIDE: Just recently returning from his honeymoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it's back to what is already a standout season for U.S. MNT forward Brian McBride. McBride was named the Most Outstanding Player and Top Goal Scorer for his four goals on the way to the FC Gold Cup 2002 championship. After scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Cuba in the opening round, the 29-year-old, 6'1" forward exploded for a hat trick in the team's 4-0 quarterfinal win over El Salvador. Not only was the hat trick the first multiple-goal game for a U.S. player since 1993, but it increased the Arlington Heights, Ill.-native's career international goals total to 18, moving him past teammate Earnie Stewart and into fourth place on the all-time U.S. MNT goals scored list. Coming off the Gold Cup, McBride went straight into final arrangements for his Feb. 16 wedding to Dina in Chicago, which meant he missed the USA'a unique match with Italy in Sicily on Feb. 13. But after a little over a week in the Caribbean, McBride is back and looking sharper than ever as 2002 is shaping up to be a banner year for the Columbus Crew forward.
NIKE TO UNVEIL REVOLUTIONARY "COOL MOTION" U.S. WORLD CUP JERSEYS, OTHER "VAPOR" GEAR AT SAFECO PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY: The U.S. Men’s National Team will wear their revolutionary new 2002 World Cup jerseys in action for the first time when they take the field against Honduras on Saturday, March 2. Nike spent considerable time developing the lightweight jerseys, as the 2002 World Cup will be played during the monsoon season from May 31-June 30 in Korea and Japan. The new "Cool Motion" jersey, along with "Mercurial Vapor" boot/cleat and the "Geo Merlin Vapor" match ball will be unveiled at a press conference at SAFECO Field today at 12 p.m. PT, just prior to the team's training session on the new stadium pitch at 1 p.m.
"PRIMED FOR THE CUP" AIRS ON FOX SPORTS WORLD: U.S. Soccer fans had a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. Men’s National Team with Fox Sports World’s “Primed For the Cup”, which aired last night. The 30-minute “Primed For the Cup” focused on the team’s recent trip to Italy, where they fell 0-1 to the Italians in one of the MNT’s better performances against one of the top teams in the world. “Primed For the Cup” contained off-the-field footage from the team’s trip to Italy and show some of the team’s candid moments in the days ahead of the midweek friendly against Italy. The show also featured interviews with Bruce Arena, select players, representatives from Nike (who spoke about the technology behind the new uniforms and other soccer equipment), as well as cameos by MNT Equipment Manager Aaron Barrett and MNT Trainer Dave Andrews.