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U.S. U-20 MNT Prepares to Wrap Up Final 2006 Training Camp in Bradenton, Fla.

U.S. Under-20 MNT
Notes from Bradenton, Fla.
December 21, 2006

ROSTER DECISIONS: U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Thomas Rongen is one step closer to making his decision on the final 20-player roster he will take to Panama for the World Cup qualifying tournament after the team played two games over the past three days against the U.S. Under-17 MNT and the Canada U-20 MNT. There are just two days left in camp, including a final intrasquad scrimmage on Friday, Dec. 22, that may determine the fate of some of the 26 players in camp.

STUDIO 90 PRESENTS – “ROSTER SPOT”: Studio 90,’s popular web show that debuted at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, has branched into an area of international soccer never seen before with “Roster Spot,” a two-part series that goes behind the scenes into the intense selection process for a FIFA World Championship qualifying roster. In “Roster Spot,” follows the real-time story of three players – Andre Akpan, Tony Beltran and Julian Valentin – as they try to make an impression and earn a spot on the USA roster for the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament in Panama in January. Fans will see the decisions and reactions of coaches and players as they happen, from the training ground to the meeting rooms. For the first time ever, fans of U.S. Soccer will see how these difficult decisions are made. Episode one, “Judgment Days,” is now available on and the two-part series will conclude on Saturday, Dec. 30, the same day Rongen announces his final roster.

WINNING HANDILY: The U.S. Under-20s faced their younger counterparts, the U-17 MNT, in two simultaneous 70-minute scrimmages on Monday afternoon before taking on the Canadian Under-20 MNT on Wednesday, winning both games handily. Against Canada, Rongen played two different squads in each half, providing almost all 26 players in camp 45 minutes to help him evaluate which players would make the final qualifying roster. The squad in the first half clearly dominated Canada and Rodrigo Hidalgo and Sal Zizzo scored for the U.S. Rongen made wholesale changes at halftime, and the second 11 struggled in the attack for the final 45 minutes but still managed to deflate Canada’s pressure and hold them to just two off-target shots. On Monday, Rongen split the U-20s into two teams and each faced a different U-17 ’90 squad for a 35-minute half, as head coach John Hackworth also broke up his players into two teams. The U-20s won handily, winning by a combined score of 7-1.

EGGS AND WATER BALLOONS: While the majority of the camp has taken place on the soccer field, the players changed things up one afternoon and headed to the beach, although not to lie out and soak up some rays. The players took part in a number of team building exercises, including a game of tug-of-war, a water balloon “fight” and an egg toss. Broken into teams by position for tug-of-war, the scrappy defenders came out on top with victories over the midfielder-forward mix. In the next activity, all 26 players were given a water balloon and had to try and break their teammates water balloon while guarding their own in a squared-off area that got smaller and smaller as players were knocked out. In the end, two of the players featured in “Roster Spot” – Akpan and Beltran – were the final two standing with Akpan popping Beltran’s balloon for the title. Valentin, the third featured player in “Roster Spot,” also earned a title, his coming in the egg toss as he and his partner Danny Szetela were the only team not to get yolk on their hands.

THE U-20’s “ROOMIES”: When Danny Szetela and Tim Ward first met as 14-year-olds during a U.S. national team camp there’s no way they could have foreseen they’d both be playing professionally for the Columbus Crew, let alone living together. The two U-20 players have forged a strong friendship – which included two years at U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton – and when Ward was traded to the Crew in January of 2006, Szetela opened up his house to his buddy and teammate (with rent being paid, of course). In this exclusive podcast, sat down with the two players last month before the U-20s played Guatemala to talk about what it’s like living together, who’s the better cook and how they helped each other deal with a tough season in Columbus.

QUALIFYING SCHEDULE SET: The U.S. is in Group A of the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament with Guatemala, Haiti and host Panama. The U.S. will open the tournament in Panama City, Panama, against Haiti on Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. ET before taking on Guatemala on Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. ET and will then finish against the hosts on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. ET. Every match will be played at Rommel Fernandez Stadium. The top two teams in the group will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, which will take place from June 30-July 22 across six cities – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Burnaby and Victoria. The U.S. will be attempting to qualify for their sixth straight FIFA U-20 World Cup (formerly FIFA World Youth Championship). The other two of the four CONCACAF berths (not including Canada, which gets an automatic berth as host) will come from Group B, which will occur a month later from Feb. 21-25 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, located on the west coast of Mexico. Competing with the hosts will be Costa Rica, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica.

2007 CONCACAF Final Round Group A Qualifying Schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 17
USA vs. Haiti
Guatemala vs. Panama

Friday, Jan. 19
USA vs. Guatemala
Panama vs. Haiti

Sunday, Jan. 21
Guatemala vs. Haiti
USA vs. Panama

HOLIDAY GIFTS AND NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS: The U-20 players and staff are heading home after this camp to spend the holidays with their families, so we figured we’d ask them what gifts they were hoping to get and if they had any New Year’s resolutions they’d be trying to keep in 2007.