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One-on-One with U-17 Head Coach John Hackworth


On how the team is looking a day before qualifying begins:
“I think every thing is going to plan. We’ve had a couple good training sessions here and the accommodations and food have been very good, so we haven’t had any bumps in the road so to speak. I think the players have been relaxed and comfortable and that is important. Really all our hard work was done long before we ever got here. Our biggest job was to get our players at a level where they can relax and go out on the field, cross the white line and play their best.”

On the loss of midfielder Quavas Kirk:
“Ever since the first day of Residency when the players come in we try to get them to deal with the unexpected. And whenever something happens like that we tell them they just have to deal with it. We know we’re going to have injuries along the way, we know we’re not going to get a call here and there, but we have to be able to deal with it and move on. In this situation with Quavas being hurt, we just said, ‘Hey guys we have 40 guys in Residency and any of you are good enough to play, so whoever gets to that spot will have to come in and do the job. We are completely confident in the players we’ve brought in.”

On midfielder Jeremy Hall, who will most likely fill in for the injured Kirk:
“Jeremy Hall, who has been playing tremendously over the past three months, has only been shut out of the starting line-up because of the play of a Quavas Kirk or a Ryan Soroka. But Jeremy is ready and everyone on the team has complete confidence in him and so do I. He might be the unsung hero that no one has heard about until this tournament. I hope it goes that way for him.”

On playing in front of a hostile crowd:
“I think it goes back to preparation. We are not going to be a favorite. We are always the enemy when we come to Central America and that’s fine. We played against Haiti in our own country in front of 4,000 people (on April 3) and there might have been 15 American fans there. Having the crowd against us is something were used to as we’ve played games all over the world in the last two years so players have dealt with it. Qualifying adds just that much more pressure on top of it because it is for real. There is no second chance, this is it. That’s why it is so important to get these young men relaxed and to just believe in themselves. If they trust in what they do every day, they will be successful.”

On dealing with the pressure of being the only team to qualify for all 10 previous FIFA World Championships:
“Every time I talk to people I get asked about the streak. It is a pressure that is out there. Former Residency players have called me in the past two weeks and said, ‘Keep the streak going, keep the streak going.’ I think qualifying for every world championship is something that a lot of our players take a lot of pride in, especially former Under-17 players. But for this group, this is the first time they have experienced a qualifying tournament. I’ve just told our kids that this is their first time and to just go and execute like you do every day in training, and you don’t have to worry about the streak. It is what it is, but it’s your streak. After this, it can become a part of you, but right now you don’t have to worry about that.”
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