U-20 Men's National Team Blog
Saturday, July 14 @ 6 p.m.
Dinner back at the team hotel was expectedly solemn tonight. Obviously everyone is disappointed that it all ended so suddenly after so many great things were happening with this team. Tonight everyone will figure out where they have to go from here, and flights will be booked for tomorrow. Of course everyone is sad to be leaving, and all of the players really are close friends, but it will be interesting to see where everyone goes from here, and if they can use their experience in Canada to catapult their careers.
Saturday, July 14 @ 1 p.m.
For a first look at today's starting lineup, look no further. The same starting 11 that beat Poland will begin the game for the USA:
Tony Beltran - Nate Sturgis - Jules Valentin - Anthony Wallace
Michael Bradley - Freddy Adu - Danny Szetela
Sal Zizzo - Josmer Altidore - Robbie Rogers
Stay tuned and we'll see you after the match!
Saturday, July 14 @ 11 a.m.
The feel of the team this morning is reminiscent of the feel before the Brazil game. A quiet confidence, focused but relaxed, and generally ready to do whatever it takes to beat Austria. This morning's meal was a pretty funny combination of breakfast foods (french toast, bacon, eggs) and the usual pre-game foods (pasta, chicken, salmon, etc.). Interesting, but like we said: whatever it takes.
Friday, July 13 @ 5:30 p.m.
Since arriving in Toronto, discussions have arrived about whether the CN tower that dominates the city's skyline is the tallest building in North America. The Chicagoans thought for sure that the Sears Tower was taller, and rumor had it that the CN Tower tour people were claiming that it was the tallest structure in the world. To end the debate: http://encarta.msn.com/media_701500839/The_Tallest_Buildings_in_North_America.html
Friday, July 13 @ 12:30 p.m.
We have been holding back on mentioning it, but we have to say that the food in this hotel is hands down better than any of the other four hotels we have stayed at on this trip. The meat is great, the chicken, the pasta dishes... good desserts. This place has it all. And our top waitress has attended every game that has been played in Toronto. Now that is what we call dedicated to her patrons.
Thursday, July 12 @ 10 p.m.
Some craziness in the Portugal-Chile game tonight, with three red cards shown in second-half stoppage time. Three?? Wow, pretty crazy. And CONCACAF will be well-represented in the quarterfinals as Mexico topped Congo tonight, 3-0. Congo probably didn't deserve to lose the game by that much, but Mexico played well nonetheless.
Thursday, July 12 @ 7 p.m.
A really cool thunderstorm just rolled over our hotel, with awesome lightening strikes over the water. Amazingly, all of the boats that were out just stayed out. Is that allowed? Isn't that a cardinal rule of boating?? We didn't see anyone get struck though, so that's good. Also, the quick, hard rain gave way to a beautiful rainbow over the skyline.
Thursday, July 12 @ 4 p.m.
After a light session this morning, the team was given the afternoon off to explore the island that we can see from our hotel, Centre Island. It's a huge island across the harbor that the team took a ferry too. Once we crossed the water we walked around for a bit exploring, checking out everything from a farm to an amusement park to theaters and restaurants. Who knew there was a whole new world just across the water? From here it doesn't look like much, but it was huge. The players all came back within a couple of hours, a big group came back early to catch the new Harry Potter movie, and now it's time to study Austria.
Thursday, July 12 @ 1 a.m.
It seems that our game wasn't the only one to require extra time, nor were we the only come-from-behind victory. In four exciting Round of 16 matches tonight, all were decided by a goal or less, three went into overtime and one went to penalty kicks. Our Group D opponent, Brazil, had a two-goal lead slip away before eventually losing in extra time to Spain. Japan also let a two-goal lead get away against the Czech Republic before falling in penalty kicks. Seems like the intensity of this tournament has picked up, doesn't it??
Wednesday, July 11 @ 10:30 p.m.
Well, it wasn't a beautiful game, but if there is a way to win, this team will find it. This time it took guys and determination over anything else, and when the dust settled we were heading to the quarterfinals!! The team is obviously happy to be advancing, but not satisfied. For a short time last night, the players were able to enjoy the win with their families and friends, but tomorrow morning it will be back to business as the team gets set to face Austria in the round of eight.
Wednesday, July 11 @ 6:30 p.m.
It may or may not come as a surprise to see a couple of changes in tonight's starting lineup, and we're going to be the first to give them to you:
Tony Beltran - Jules Valentin - Nate Sturgis - Anthony Wallace
Danny Szetela - Michael Bradley
Robbie Rogers - Freddy Adu - Sal Zizzo
That's right, unforunately, as some have speculated, starting goalkeeper Chris Seitz is injured and Brian Perk will get the nod. The team knows how good Perk is, and now he gets a chance to prove it to everyone else. Seitz is handling himself like the true professional he is, as it was a game-day decision as to whether he'd be able to go tonight.
Wednesday, July 11 @ 4 p.m.
Those watching the game tonight might notice a subtle hairstyle change. Ofori changed the design of his braids a couple days ago, and they look good. Apparently his cousin is nice enough to do them for him, spending at least two-two and a half hours each time. Some of the other guys think he will just get sick of doing that and shave it off, but in the mean time he is rocking the braids.
Wednesday, July 11 @ 11 a.m.
After breakfast the team went through its traditional game day walk and stretch, this time along the shores of the lake. It is quite windy today, but as of right now the sun is shining and there are a lot of boats out on the water, which is a good sign.
Tuesday, July 10 @ 9:30 p.m.
Earlier in the week, several members of the team and staff happened to catch something unique on television... floor hockey. Seriously. No skates, not even rollerblades. Just grown men running around in sneakers playing hockey with a ball. Not only was this on television, but there were also announcers! We know the people here love hockey, but wow. Anyway, as it turns out, the local floor hockey team (the "Marleys") plays in the same complex as our stadium in Toronto. We are proud to share facilities with the Marleys.
Tuesday, July 10 @ 7:30 p.m.
Today on the way to practice we noticed that there was a band practicing in the parking lot. It looked small for a marching band, but as we got closer we noticed that the members were way too old for high school, and that they were wearing kilts and practicing bagpipes... what? It was about 10 people just dressed up and playing the bagpipes in an otherwise empty parking lot.
Tuesday, July 10 @ 3 p.m.
Just had a session where the team watched game tape of Uruguay. They went through the usual breaking down of key players and plays, trying to learn as much as they can about their Round of 16 opponent. There was a special surprise in the video - the cameraman caught about 7 seconds of one of the Uruguay coaches picking his nose on the bench. Obviously that was one of the game highlights that the players studied in the session. If that doesn't get them ready to play, what will?
Tuesday, July 10 @ 12 p.m.
Can you judge a person by the type of cell phone they use? Some people prefer smaller phones that fit nicely in their pockets. Others like more durable phones that might last longer. And still others, usually those who are addicted to text messaging, like full keyboards and big screens. Some of the players have giant phones with complete internet access and instant messaging. Many have the full keyboards for quick texting, instant messaging and emailing. Who would even want to be that available all the time??
Monday, July 9 @ 10 p.m.
It was great to see another soccer-specific stadium during tonight's training at the National Soccer Stadium here in Toronto. Of course it's brand new, so it's quite a change from the facilities in Montreal and Ottawa. But we are starting to realize just how spoiled we were with the lack of weather in Olympic Stadium's dome. After getting wet yesterday, we narrowly missed a storm after this evening's practice.. It was one of those summer storms that you can feel coming because it's so humid, but we were thankful that we got out of there when we did. Another team was just coming on as we were leaving and we're not sure if they even got in a full session.
Monday, July 9 @ 6:30 p.m.
Just arriving at practice, and as the bus was pulling into the stadium, we realized that we were actually on the track for the Grand Prix race that was in town just the day before. It was pretty cool to go by the grand stands, but very hard to imagine how cars are able to navigate through the narrow track so fast. Obviously they are not built for buses, but it felt a lot smaller than it looks on television.
Monday, July 9 @ 3 p.m.
Well, we just played our first (and second)-ever game of Wii, and we can see how it can become so addicting. Anthony Wallace and Josmer tried to teach us tennis, and it didn't go well. We took Wally to the fifth set, before he broke out his A game. I don't think anyone has beaten Amaechi's streak of 24-straight games, but everyone has excuses about why they can't.
Monday, July 9 @ 12 p.m.
So, like we said, we are looking out over Lake Ontario from most of the sleeping rooms the training/Wii rooms. What we just learned was that we're in the direct path of the airport, meaning that planes are flying by very close to the water and causing a stir from those looking out the window. The players tried desperately to find a view of the south side of the Lake, so they could make sure the plane wasn't going to crash (it was that low). We couldn't find a window that faced the right way, but we're confident that the plane landed safely at the airport as planned.
Sunday, July 8 @ 10:20 p.m.
Final match of video game tennis is ending right now after another fun-filled day in the training room. We’re told Josmer knocked Amaechi off his 24-game undefeated pedestal earlier, marking that as the biggest upset in the past 24 hours. We got some footage of Ward, Bradley, Valentin and Adu playing this evening, and we may have caught a comment about Freddy getting hit with a golf ball (remember the golf ball incident in May). Look for it in a possible Extra Time in Studio 90’s next episode which will preview the U-20s Round of 16 match.
Sunday, July 8 @ 10:05 p.m.
Josmer Altidore was all smiles before heading to bed as he watched his Red Bull teammates pull out a 1-0 victory over Colorado. Watching online, he was sweating out the final moments and seriously questioning the referee’s decision of seven minutes of extra time. When Jacob Peterson hit the post, the U-20 forward almost jumped off his bed and then wondered out loud what Bruce Arena would have said had that one slipped in. Something like, “Are you kidding me!? Seven minutes of extra time!?” (Add your own Bruce-like voice).
Sunday, July 8 @ 10 p.m.
Well, with Canada's loss to Congo tonight, we're officially set to play Uruguay. Pretty amazing we're getting the South Americans as there was only a 1 in 15 chance. It's a shame to see the host country not advancing, as that always makes the tournament more exciting when the home team is involved. The highlight of the game (and maybe the tournament) for Canada was a heroic performance in goal by midfielder Jonathon Beaulieu-Bourgault, who was forced to make a couple of saves after Asmir Begovic was sent off in the 73rd minute. He looked tiny in Begovic's jersey and gloves, but his performance was impressive. Hopefully some of the home fans will be swayed toward the U.S.
Sunday, July 8 @ 8 p.m.
Ofori Sarkodie just took advantage of his heritage. The pot roast at dinner was delicious, and apparently Ofori missed his opportunity and didn't get any before it ran out. It's okay though, because Ofori is an African prince - his maternal grandmother was a Queen Mother in the Ashanti tribe of Ghana, and somehow as the second-born son, Ofori is officially a prince. So, like any prince would do, he just ordered more meat and had a slave (us) deliver it to his room when it was ready. Wow, the things we do for the players...
Sunday, July 8 @ 7:45 p.m.
Right as dinner started tonight, Thomas threw a bit of a curve ball at the guys asking them to go around and give one word that describes the team. Twenty-one players and twenty-one different answers, including ‘desire,’ ‘fight,’ ‘family,’ ‘heart,’ ‘friendship,’ ‘confidence’ and…ah, not sure we can repeat one of the answers, but a synonym is courage and it rhymes with ‘halls.’
Sunday, July 8 @ 6:49 p.m.
Got a little wet at practice this evening as the rains came rolling through Toronto all day. Not sure if it was the weather, but tons of little bugs out today at the field and they definitely weren’t shy as they took every opportunity to jump on your feet, legs, arms, back and head. The guys went through the paces despite the slippery conditions and annoying pests. With their next match in the knockout phase the ended practice a bit different by taking penalty kicks for the first time since arriving in Canada. A few saves from the ‘keepers, but overall the guys were on target. Here’s to hoping it’s the same on Wednesday. Actually, here’s to hoping we win without the penalties.
Sunday, July 8 @ 1:50 p.m.
Talk about an orderly group. After lunch the team had a short video program and without a word from the coaches, the players got up, walked out of the dining room and into the video room down the hall, and took their seats while waiting for the coaches to follow. The video session was short as Rongen showed a handful of things from the Brazil match, including one clip that lightened up the otherwise serious session. To the delight of the players who erupted in laughter, Mulqueen had cued up the moment where Jozy tripped over his own feet while trying to save a ball from going over the endline in the second half. He even put it in slow-mo and also showed a close-up shot of where you see him grimacing as he pulled himself off the turf. Considering he tallied both goals for the team in the match we don’t think Jozy was too embarrassed as he just laughed along with the group.
Sunday, July 8 @ 12:45 p.m.
Watching the game against Brazil and there’s something we’d like everyone to know – how to correctly pronounce Sal Zizzo’s last name. For the record, it’s pronounced ZEE-zoh, not ZIZ-oh. Now, we don’t blame the announcers who have been getting it wrong as even some of his closest friends were in the dark. While we were in Venezuela, former UCLA teammate Benny Feilhaber was singing the praises of Sal while watching the Poland highlights, saying, “How good is ZIZ-oh.” We told him it was ZEE-zoh, but he didn’t exactly believe because, he said, everyone at school called him ZIZ-oh. Sal told us he just doesn’t really correct anyone, so everyone jus assumes it’s ZIZ-oh. Well, since Sal won’t be it, we’ll do it for him. From this day forth, let it be known that it is ZEE-zoh.
Sunday, July 8 @ 12:25 p.m.
We’ve been telling you the guys are getting in a lot of Wii time in the training room, and today’s no different as Ofori Sarkodie and Brian Perk just started a game when we went in to grab a Gatorade. O4E (how great is it he can write his name like that?) must be getting a bit bored because he was playing in just a towel. His choice of attire made things a bit more difficult for him as he had one hand clasped to the towel so he didn’t end up “streaking the court” after one of his backhands.
Sunday, July 8 @ 10:05 a.m.
Over eggs and oatmeal this morning, the coaches and staff were trying to figure out just who we might face in our next game. And after adding X, subtracting Y and dividing by Z, we think we’ve finally figured it out…or as close as we can at this point. Cutting through the math, we can tell you it will be either Costa Rica or Uruguay. We can also tell you there’s a 75 percent chance it will be Costa Rica, and only a 25 percent chance it will be Uruguay. The final games in Group A and C tonight will determine who we meet in the Round of 16. So, who do we prefer? The consensus was it really didn’t matter, but it’s always tricky playing a team from your own confederation as they already know so much about you.
Sunday, July 8 @ 10 a.m.
Getting ready for some weights and fitness this morning, and those of us on the "dock side" of the hotel have a beautiful view of Lake Ontario, and some pretty big boats. This morning we were treated to a scenic thunderstorm through the bay windows. It didn't last long, but it was pretty cool to see the lightening out over the water, and the boats having to come back to the dock.
Saturday, July 7 @ 7 p.m.
Just arrived in Toronto and wow is this hotel nice. We are feeling pretty big time here (flat screen TVs in every room!), and hoping to be here for a few games. The bus ride here was about 4 hours long and we stopped halfway at a rest stop. At the shop, Amaechi Igwe accidentally bought what is probably the worst-tasting candy ever, and then tried to trick as many people as possible into eating a lot of it. He was pretty successful, and the consensus was that Canadian candy just doesn't stack up.
Saturday, July 7 @ 12 p.m.
Today is both a travel day and a recovery day. The guys who played last night did a light regeneration session at the hotel gym, while the rest of the players had a work out at a local college. Then it's time for lunch and then packing up the bus to head to Toronto. We're very happy to be going to Toronto, and leaving the Irish dancers behind.
Friday, July 6 @ 11 p.m.
What a game. Beat Brazil? Check. Win the tournament's toughest group? Check. The team had the night free to celebrate with their parents, get treatments for some bumps and bruises and mostly just enjoyed the night. Tomorrow the team will travel to Toronto to begin preparation for the knock-out phase, but in the mean time, the night is ours to enjoy.
Friday, July 6 @ 6:30 p.m.
As usual, it was a quiet ride to the stadium tonight, as the players all had their headphones on for the short trip to Frank-Clair Stadium. Argentina is leading North Korea in the first match of the double header in Ottawa, but we'll go ahead and give you a sneak peek at tonight's U.S. starters:
Tony Beltran - Ofori Sarkodie - Nathan Sturgis - Anthony Wallace
Michael Bradley - Danny Szetela - Freddy Adu
Robbie Rogers - Jozy Altidore - Sal Zizzo
More from Ottawa after the game.
Friday, July 6 @ 1 p.m.
We could not have asked for better weather here in Ottawa so far. The team took a nice walk to stretch their legs out and the sun is shining bright, it's not too hot and it's not windy. We're actually starting to enjoy being outside compared to staying inside all the time at Olympic Stadium. We can only hope that tonight's atmosphere is close to what we had in Montreal, and the results are at least as good for the USA.
Friday, July 6 @ 11 a.m.
We found out this morning that tonight's game will air live on ESPN, along with ESPNU and Galavision. The players and staff were very excited, as more of their friends and families who couldn't be here can see their boys on television. Of course you can always follow along on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker at 7:45 p.m. ET.
Thursday, July 5 @ 10 p.m.
We can always tell it's the night before a game with this team. Practice and dinner were all business tonight, and the team caught the end of the senior team in Copa America. The players spoke highly of the guys who got some great big time experience in Venezuela, regardless of the results. After dinner it was off to the massage table for some, and to bed for others. The team knows what could be at stake tomorrow against Brazil and we think they're ready.
Thursday, July 5 @ 5:30 p.m.
We were just down in the lobby, and even though we've been trying to block them out since we got here yesterday, the hotel is booked solid with an Irish dance competition in town. The four teams are all staying here, but you would hardly notice them with the curly-haired girls and their loud shoes running around all day. The elevators are full of girls of all ages wearing tiaras and makeup, practicing their moves. If you've ever seen Irish dancing, you know that it's not very quiet. We hope the competition is over today (okay, that sounds mean, so we hope everyone gets to be a winner).
Thursday, July 5 @ 2 p.m.
With a later practice time this evening, the players caught up on some sleep after yesterday's travel day. Even though breakfast was a little later this morning, many still went back to bed for a nap. It's actually amazing how many of the players nap during the day, even if they get a full night's sleep the night before. The Wii statistics are being posted in the training room as the non-nappers are infatuated with the games. Danny Szetela claims to be the tennis champion.
Wednesday, July 4 @ 8 p.m.
Being away from home for such a long period of time can be difficult, and for some of us, it was our first Fourth of July outside the country. While it wasn't quite the same as a family BBQ or a trip to the beach, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkens invited the team to the annual bar-b-que he hosts at his residence. There were about 2,000 people there, and while the weather left something to be desired, it was a fun excursion for the team as well as a chance to talk about American soccer and have conversations with people we wouldn't ordinarily get to talk with. Some of us (mostly the staff) ate too much as we found everything from hamburgers to crab cakes. Overall, a good time and a unique experience for the team. After some well wishes for Friday's game, it was back to the hotel for a brief meeting and some R&R.
Wednesday, July 4 @ 5 p.m.
We are just getting settled into the host hotel in downtown Ottawa, and I think everyone was excited for a change of scenery. We had a great time in Monteal, and worked with some excellent people, but a change is good for us. On the bus some of the players played cards while other slept (or tried to sleep over the screams coming from the cards players). We will have to adjust to actual weather here, as the dome spoiled us a bit and we stopped paying attention to what was going on outside, but it is a bit rainy here this evening. Hopefully things will clear up by tomorrow and it won't even be an issue.
Wednesday, July 4 @ 9:30 a.m.
A special shout-out to the the staff who stitched up Jules Valentin last night in the locker room during the game. Those who watched the game saw plenty of blood coming from a cut under his eye after a collision in the first half. Our team doctor had assistance from equiptment manager Andrew Dessert during the stitching process, and we have to say, they did a mighty fine job on Jules' face. He looks like a boxer this morning, with stitches still in place and a bit of a black eye. Very intimidating. We know he'll heal nicely, but in the mean time hopefully Brazil will be as intimidated as we are.
Tuesday, July 3 @ 9:15 p.m.
What a game! The team is obviously happy with tonight's result against a good Poland squad, and happy to be on top of Group D. It was all smiles in the locker room and on the bus, and the team will get to enjoy its victory for about 45 minutes. That's when the team will have a meeting with the coaches who stayed to watch Brazil's (pending) victory over South Korea and who will deliver a scouting report to the team tonight. Then it's back to business tomorrow to get ready for Friday's game against Brazil, which could determine first place in the group.
Tuesday, July 3 @ 4 p.m.
Arrived at the stadium and it's all business with the team. Our police escort was more efficient than the last one (these guys let us run red lights!), while the guys were quietly listening to their music. Now that we're all comfortable with the stadium and the atmosphere, things should go smoothly today behind the scenes, and we hope that will transfer to the pitch. Want a sneak peek at the starters for today? We'll give them to you:
Beltran - Sturgis - Valentin - Wallace
Szetela - Bradley
Zizzo - Adu - Rogers
We'll see you after the game.
Tuesday, July 3 @ 11 a.m.
It's a quiet morning in the hotel as the players are going through their pre-game routines. Danny and Nathan are watching what has become the team's official movie for getting fired up: 300. Others are watching Wimbledon, and would probably impress you with their knowledge of the players. A lot of the guys really know what they're talking about, or at least are good at faking it.
Monday, July 2 @ 9 p.m.
After another competitive practice at Olympic Stadium, it looks like the team is ready to go against Poland tomorrow night. The players ate some good carbs as they watched the senior team in Copa America. Bob Bradley's family went to the best soccer restaurant in Montreal (or so we've heard) to catch the game, as they are in town supporting Michael. It's interesting to see the players and coaches learn from the senior team, as much of the Copa roster is made up of former youth players and teammates of the MLS players. It's really a sense of community between the teams.
Monday, July 2 @ 12 p.m.
Getting ready for lunch and the boys seem to have taken up a new past time - shaving each other's heads. Danny Szetela got rid of what was his signature mohawk, and Jules Valentin lost what had become fairly long curly hair. For those watching the game tomorrow, prepare to see a different look from those two.
Sunday, July 1 @ 10 p.m.
Focus has definitely shifted from Korea to Poland. This morning those who played yesterday went through regeneration this morning, just trying to get their legs back from a physically challenging game. Tonight after dinner with friends and family, it was back to business at the team watched film of Poland and began to mentally prepare for Tuesday's game. Tomorrow the team will be back at Olympic Stadium, site of the match against the team who sits atop Group D.
Sunday, July 1 @ 5 p.m.
Just got back from a really nice lunch with the players and their friends and families. It was great to see all of the players with their parents, siblings and some grandparents. It's so nice to see so many family members who were able to travel to be with their respective players. USSF President Sunil Gulati hosted the event in Old Montreal, which reminded many of Paris.
Sunday, July 1 @ 9:30 a.m.
After breakfast we learned Danny Szetela's 16th minute goal yesterday was the Top Play on SportsCenter last night! Anchor John Buccigross, predictably, took advantage of the opportunity to make fun of Danny's mohawk, but Danny is used to that by now. (We get a "SportsCentre" here in Montreal, which is kind of a hybrid of Canada's TSN and ESPN. SportsCentre tends to cover a lot of the Canadian Football League and hockey here, but it is the same general format as what we have in the U.S.)
Saturday, June 30 @ 10 p.m.
Well, the dust has settled on the 1-1 draw with South Korea and the team is happy to have gotten a point out of a game that could have seen the Koreans pull off the second upset of Group D. The South Korean side threw everything they had at the U.S., but the Chris Seitz and the defense had an answer for almost everything. The players are getting massages and a few treatments, while the coaching staff starts to watch film of both our game and the Brazil vs. Poland match from earlier in the day. Yesterday was a great day to be Polish, but we think we can rain on their World Cup parade on Tuesday.
Saturday, June 30 @ 2 p.m.
The team had a meeting after lunch today to discuss a few key parts to the game, but also to remind everyone that this is what athletes thrive on. Thomas Rongen read some quotes that came directly from players in various article about how much it means to them to be apart of this team. We then watched a highlight tape that included every player either making a big play or gutting out a fitness drill in practice, and was interlaced with movie quotes and songs. USSF President Sunil Gulati arrived in Montreal this morning and was also a part of the meeting. The bus leaves in just an hour and the team is ready to roll.
Saturday, June 30 @ 10 a.m.
After the most important meal of the day, the team went through their traditional game-day walk and stretch near the hotel. It's hard to believe that after all of this preparation, not just over the past two weeks, but for two years, that the opening game is just hours away...
Friday, June 29 @ 7:30 p.m.
Just finished the all important night-before-the-game dinner, and the team has some time to spend with their families before hitting the hay. Others are getting tuned up with massages or taking care of some nagging soreness. Another sharp practice today at Olympic Stadium has the team feeling quietly confident and ready for South Korea. Even though we've been practicing there for a few days, it is hard to imagine how loud Olympic Stadium will be once it's actually filled.
Friday, June 29 @ 1:30 p.m.
Friends and family of the players and staff are trickling into Montreal. Some of the families arrived last night with more on their way today. We're expecting a pretty good fan base at this afternoon's training with about 15 family members heading to Olympic Stadium to watch their sons, brothers, grandsons, boyfriends etc. as much as possible. Otherwise, everyone on the team is focused on South Korea. Though relaxed, there has been a different air about the team today as match day lingers.
Thursday, June 28 @ 11:30 p.m.
Well, we thought we were going to get to watch a huge upset as we caught the USA - Argentina Copa America game after dinner. We were wrong, but it was good to see what the younger guys on the squad could do. The U-20s are still confident in the senior team to do well at the tournament.
Also, check out the latest entry in Jules' Journal, the first since the team's arrival in Montreal.
Thursday, June 28 @ 12 p.m.
We just got back from a ceremony at City Hall in downtown Montreal, where players and officials from each team in Group D were invited to sign the Golden Book. When important events go on in the city, important people from the event come to City Hall to sign the book and meet some government officials. We brought Preston Zimmerman and Andre Akpan to the event, and expect to see their faces a lot all over Canada as the press couldn't get enough of the two American forwards. They made us sign the book too, even after trying to convince them of just how unimportant we are. It was a nice event though, and it provided some great views of the city as well as the opportunity to meet the American consolate.
Wednesday, June 27 @ 9 p.m.
After a double session today, the guys are just getting back from dinner and trying to relax. The players (okay, and some of the staff) got ahold of a squishy ball and bat thanks to Catherine, our videographer. We don't have the floor completely to ourselves, but we essentially have the run of the place and the players took advantage by playing full innings by the elevators. Nate Sturgis and assistant coach Dave Dir showed off pretty good pitching arms, but it was Brian Perk and Sal Zizzo who were the last men standing. They played a full game, three outs apiece for nine innings. Home runs were balls that got past the pitcher and down the hallway. We did not stay awake for the final score.
Tuesday, June 26 @ 9:30 p.m.
We have safely arrived and are settling into our hotel in downtown Montreal - the hotel that is hosting all of Group D. After some rearrangement of rooms to make everyone happy, the team enjoyed their first FIFA meal. Already the atmosphere is different. The team is dressed alike. The food is different. We're in the big city. In the airport people gazed at the team in their travel suits... some wished us good luck and some predicted losses for us, but everyone knew who we were and what we were here for.
To dive deeper into the rearrangement of rooms: Assistant coaches Brian Maissonneuve and Tim Mulqueen are usually roomates on these trips, but thanks to FIFA, they were able to get their own rooms for the duration of the World Cup. Great news, right? Not to those two. They declined their own rooms so they could bunk up together. They're claiming it has to do with karma.
And by now everyone knows that Preston Zimmerman will be arriving tonight to replace the injured Johann Smith. Despite being excited for Preston to get here, we sure wish the circumstances were different.
Tuesday, June 26 @ 10:30 a.m.
Well it's a travel day for us as we will be boarding a plane to Montreal this afternoon. The team is going through very light fitness this morning and then will pack their brand new Nike bags and hit the road after lunch. The team will arrive at the hotel in downtown Montreal this evening and begin training on Wednesday. We know the atmosphere will probably be different once we get there, so it will be time to really focus on the task at hand: winning the World Cup.
Monday, June 25 @ 10 p.m.
UCLA teammates/roomates, and roomates on most Under-20 trips they take together, Sal Zizzo and Tony Beltran are pretty close. They are currently in their room watching movies... two different movies on their laptops. Sal is watching the Usual Suspects while Tony is watching Robin Hood... the Disney version. The one where Robin Hood is a fox. Their most creative activity, however, is Hide-and-Seek. You might be asking how that is creative. They play hide-and-seek in their room by blocking out all sources of light. One person stands outside for one minute while the other hides in a pitch black room. There is music playing so you can't hear the person breathing. The "seeker" then comes into the room and tries to find the "hider" with no light and no sound. Sal once hid on top of the entertainment center, and Tony's best spot was under the mattress. Good wholesome fun with those two. Wow.
Sunday, June 24 @ 8 p.m.
Congratulations to the Men's National Team for once again beating Mexico and successfully defending their Gold Cup title this afternoon. We watched the game en espanol in the hotel bar (don't worry, no drinking was involved). It seemed fitting, as it seemed that a lot of Spanish was being spoken at Soldier Field anyway. Anyway, we were happy to see Landon put away another PK, and for 2005 FIFA Under-20 World Cup star Benny Feilhaber get the game-winner. Good stuff - Congratulations guys!
Sunday, June 24 @ 1 p.m.
We just got back from lunch, and remember when we talked about the various groups at the hotel this weekend? The deck right outside our meal room had been transformed into a dance floor for a Sikh wedding. The colorful reception was beautiful, but the music was awfully... loud. Not great ambiance for what is a light day for most of the guys. The players who played 90 minutes yesterday went through some regeneration, while the others participated in a light session at a local indoor club. The team will come together to watch the Men's National Team take on (and beat) Mexico shortly, once they finish their film session.
Saturday, June 23 @ 10:30 p.m.
After a cameo in a team meeting from Clint Mathis, the guys are gathered around a couple of computers catching up on the night's Major League Soccer games. Dax is watching his team, F.C. Dallas take on Colorado; Nate Sturgis is watching his new team, Real Salt Lake take the lead over D.C. United and look for their first win. This hotel is apparently the place to be in North Jersey, as every convention in town seems to be staying here. The following groups are joining us in the lobby tonight: a "hair and nails" convention, a huge bus load of people who just arrived, the Muppet Brigade (whatever that is), a quincenera in the ballroom, as well as the Under-15s and Under-17s who are in town until tomorrow. There must be an awesome group rate here.
Saturday, June 23 @ 7 p.m.
It was a quiet ride back to the hotel from Giants Stadium after a satisfying win over Chile. After the players did some press and spent some time with their families, the players were introduced at halftime of the women's game before heading out to get dinner and meet with Trevor Moawad, the team's psychologist. Our friend Ida, the wonderful employee of the Double Tree that we mentioned earlier was here to greet the team with congratulations and extended the guys' curfew two hours! Thanks Ida!
Friday, June 22 @ 10:45 p.m.
Where in the world is Michael Bradley? To end the discussion, he is in Somerset, N.J. with his Under-20 teammates. Michael arrived this evening and joined the team for a late meal. Introductions were made with Jozy, Gabe and some of the new staff members, while the players who were in residency with Michael greeted him enthusiastically. The latest arrival will suit up for tomorrow's game, but probably won't see much action. Regardless of the circumstances, the team and the coaches are excited to have him around.
Friday, June 22 @ 8:30 p.m.
While the players were in the midst of a photo shoot (which was awesome by the way), the coaches and select staff members took on the staff of the Under-15 team on the basketball courts. According to the U-20 staff, they "completely dominated" the U-15 guys. Regardless of what happened, it has to have been better basketball than the players displayed the other day. And, thankfully, no injuries were reported (we were worried).
Friday, June 22 @ 5:00 p.m.
Today we trained at Giants Stadium to get accustomed to the atmosphere, which, needless to say, is slightly different from the club where we've spent the past week. The stadium looks even bigger when it's completely empty, and there is a nice echo. The players seem excited about playing in such a big stadium, and training today was sharp and competitive. Coaches think that goalkeeper Brian Perk should retire after some of the amazing saves he had today (don't worry, he has no plans to retire anytime soon). Assistant coach Tim Mulqueen showed off his old stomping grounds, and his turnpike exits (people from Jersey love their exits!). Check out this afternoon's edition of Jules' Journal for more tidbits from the trip to East Rutherford.
Friday, June 22 @ 11 a.m.
Yesterday afternoon and evening the players and staff tried something new: taking some time off. After lunch, some of the players with family close by spent some quality time with them, but most of the team and staff hopped on a train into New York City. Some of the staff went for sushi (which was fabulous) and noticed that one of the staff members was wearing a U.S. Soccer crest on his apron. After going back into the kitchen, we found out that two of the chefs were huge soccer fans, and had taken a crest from an old shirt and transferred it to their aprons so they could wear it every day! We loved their food, and loved their support. And, for the record, all of the players and staff made it back to the hotel in one piece.
Thursday, June 21 @ 2:00 p.m.
For the players, it was just another hot practice on the turf this morning. For the staff, it was a morning spent in the high grass. Armed with a big stick in case of snakes, team equiptment manager Andrew Dessert was up to his waist in the weeds behind one of the goals during a particularly difficult shooting drill. Apparently the net behind the goal wasn't sufficient in containing the shots that went far into the weeds, seemingly gone forever. Thankfully Andrew was had high socks for just such an occaision. No sign of snakes, and we did a tick check, but there was no way we were going in there. Most of the staff generally doubles as ball shaggers during training, but Andrew really took one for the team today.
Wednesday, June 20 @ 9:50 p.m.
This afternoon's training pitched the Under-20s against the Under-15s that are here sharing our hotel for a camp. The game turned out as one would expect (and hope), but the U-15s did well against the big guys. It's hard to believe that so many of the U-20s were apart of that program just a few years ago. The teams separated for dinner, but came back together for a sort of panel discussion about life as either a pro or college soccer player. Some great interaction between the teams as the U-15s raised some important questions and it seemed that both teams came away feeling like part of the same program.
Wednesday, June 20 @ 1:43 p.m. ET
The players and coaches are currently in a film session, going over some past wins and losses as they look ahead to Chile, and then to South Korea. We were a little bit worried about the sanity of assistant coach Tim Mulqueen as he prepared the film session. After going through two hard drives and two trips to the local office supply store, Tim was preparing to look for work at McDonald's. Thanks to our trusty videographers, however, we were able to get everything running smoothly, and talk Tim out of running away. He is a New Jersey native, so he knows his way around these parts, but this team would be a little too quiet without him.
Tuesday, June 19 @ 11 p.m. ET
We were just handed the first edition in the return of Jules' Journal, a insider's look at training camp from a player's perspective. Jules Valentin, defender and senior at Wake Forest, will be checking in throughout the pre-World Cup camp as well as the team's journey in Canada, providing unique analysis of what really happens when the team is together. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, June 19 @ 9:30 p.m. ET
A few hours post-dinner and the guys are settling into their relaxation routines. A few of the guys are gathered in the lobby playing poker, while others settle in to watch television or movies. The highlight of being down in the lobby is, of course, people watching. The Under-15 Boys came in after a win in a scrimmage and the women's team was gathered to go catch a movie. Perhaps the highlight of the lobby is one of the friendliest women we have ever met - an employee of the hotel. She makes a very loud point to smile at every single person who passes by (even people that don't smile back). She even extended the curfew that she put us on until 11 p.m. since the younger guys won! We're still not supposed to be on our cell phones after 10 p.m., but when we think about it, it's really for our own good.
Tuesday, June 19 @ 3 p.m. ET
We just got back from a video shoot that involved all of the players. When this team says they have chemistry, they mean it. While this is a great quality that will help them succeed at the World Cup, it makes it VERY DIFFICULT to get through a shoot. All the players had to do was say their name and club on camera, and even that was hard because of the inside jokes and cameraderie going on. We know, we know.... team chemistry is a good thing! We just knew that being in studio was keeping us from other important things..... like blogging.
Tuesday, June 19 @ 11:15 a.m. ET
The team took advantage of our surroundings and ran through a fairly relaxed fitness session this morning on the grounds of the hotel. Some of the cross training included a work out in the outdoor pool and some time shooting hoops on the basketball courts. The team will get back to the soccer field this afternoon, but everyone seemed to enjoy the break from the training facility. The best players on the court: Chris Seitz and Anthony Wallace. The worst: Johann Smith, who seems to have forgotten about other sports since he moved to England.
Monday, June 18 @ 9 p.m. ET
With the exception of Michael Bradley, who is still helping the senior MNT in their quest to repeat as Gold Cup Champions, all the players are in and accounted for in New Jersey. Freddy Adu, Chris Seitz and Nathan Sturgis are currently working on a light fitness session after a long day of flying, arriving from L.A. during dinner. A couple of the guys are on a Wal-Mart run trying to find an attachment for a Wii machine. Most of the other guys are relaxing in their rooms or down in the lobby trying to find internet (internet problems seem to be a trend with this team). Two tough sessions on a hot day tend to lead to a quiet night.
Monday, June 18 @ 4 p.m. ET
We haven't mentioned it yet, but it has been much more difficult to pick out Columbus teammates/roomates Danny Szetela and Tim Ward, who are both sporting new 'dos. Szetela shed his golden locks for a mohawk - yes we said mohawk, not faux hawk. Ward has rid himself of his longer blonde hair as well in favor of a closer cut. Some of you may have gotten a peak of their new styles during Saturday's Crew game, but be prepare for two completely different looks from the players.
Monday, June 18 @ 12:30 p.m. ET
All we can say about the first official training session, outdoors on turf, is that New Jersey is hot! We tried to take the temperature of the turf, but the thermometer broke after it got to 106 degrees. The guys drank a lot of water, but they also used it to soak their feet to keep them from burning. After a lively session, the players and moved over to a beautiful grass field for the cool down.... without their shoes on. Their shoes were still so hot that it was a better option to remove them and run a lap in just socks.
Post-practice, team cordinator Alfonso Cerda hopped on the back of a four-wheeler being driven by... a 9-year-old girl?? Only in New Jersey. Don't worry he came away unharmed.
Sunday, June 17 @ 9:00 p.m. ET
Our first night in New Jersey is going smoothly ... well, with the exception of forgetting to pick up assistant coach Dave Dir for practice, that is. I mean how do we forget Dir? Geez. We think our mad dash to avoid the crazed kids forced us to take a head count. All was restored though, as we went back to the hotel to pick him up, but we have to admit, we did feel a little bad for leaving him behind. He'll get over it. The Columbus Crew contingent arrived in time for dinner tonight, with the rest of the Major League Soccer clan coming in tomorrow from L.A., where Real Salt Lake’s Freddy Adu and Chris Seitz are taking on Nathan Sturgis and the Galaxy as we write (Ouch, 3-1 in favor of LA...c'mon RSL send off Freddy and Seitz on the right note!). U.S. Soccer has literally taken over the hotel as the Under-15 boys training camp and the Women’s National Team are settling in tonight as well. Don't forget...the Women’s team will be a part of a double-header with the Under-20s on Saturday at Giant’s Stadium.
Sunday, June 17 @ 4:45 p.m. ET
Ahhh...our first of many blogs as the U-20s get set for the World Cup. Where to start? Well, this story is as good as any. This afternoon when we left for practice there was a large contingent of kids at the hotel for some kind of convention and when they saw the eight U.S. players heading to tonight's first practice, they went berserk, fanatical, animalistic, loopy, chicken-with-head-cut-off crazy. It was nuts. And when they found out Freddy was on the team, it went up a notch higher. “Where’s Freddy!” “We want Freddy!” “We love Freddy!” Thankfully, Freddy isn’t here yet. You might think we’re joking about how crazy it was, but we literally had kids chasing our fans and pounding on the windows as we drove away. Mind you, we’re in the middle of NOWHERE. One of the strangest sights we’ve seen in some time. And we are hoping they are not staying at the hotel.