%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES: The U.S. took to the Saint Louis University practice field Sunday afternoon, 77 hours before they kick off against Jamaica in their first game of the CONCACAF Group A qualifying tournament. The session began with a free warm-up period in which the players spent 15 minutes however they pleased. The U.S. goalkeeping combo of Adam Schuerman and Ford Williams leisurely knocked a ball between them, while Santino Quaranta practiced his penalty kicks and others played 5 v 2 keep-away. After stretching out, the U.S. spent nearly 30 minutes playing an 8 v 8 possession game. Following the fast-paced possession game, the U.S. spent time working on their set pieces. U.S. assistant coach Cam Rast directed the team as the U.S. practiced taking and defending free kicks and corner kicks. Now, the countdown continues until the team gets to take the field and put the last 16 months of preparation to the test.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%EASTER SUNDAY: The U.S. team spent Easter Sunday in St. Louis, with some of the players and staff experiencing their first Easter away from their family. Many of the players attended church services in the morning, before filling up on a lavish Easter buffet for lunch. It wouldn't be Easter without an Easter Bunny, and one was seen hopping around the hotel lobby as the players headed for lunch. After an afternoon training session and dinner, half of the team headed to the nearby theaters to take in a movie.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%ELLINGER ON TOP: U.S. head coach John Ellinger was the most successful coach in the Men's National Team program in the '90s with a 30-8-9 international record and a .723 winning percentage. Ellinger also guided the U.S. Under-17s to a 25-match unbeaten streak that started in August 1998 and ended in the third-place match of the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship with a 0-2 loss to Ghana.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%11 IN, FIVE TO GO: When the CONCACAF Group A qualifying tournament wraps up on April 22, the 12th country will have secured qualification for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship that will take place in Trinidad & Tobago from September 14-30, 2001. The tournament field will be solidified on May 6, with three teams from Europe and the second CONCACAF team booking their tickets. UEFA's three participants will be determined at the European U-16 Championship in England from April 22-May 6. The final qualifier for Trinidad & Tobago 2001 will qualify at the CONCACAF Group B tournament in Honduras from May 2-6. The World Championship draw will take place in Port of Spain, Trinidad on May 9.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%PLAY BALL! On a sunny summer day with near-perfect weather, the U.S. underwent a sport switch Saturday and watched the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros game at Busch Stadium. The Central Division-leading Houston Astros were in town for the second game of the series. Rick Ankiel started on the mound for the Cards, who got off to a hot start with back-to-back Home Runs in the first inning. The Astros came back and won 7-4, sending the St. Louis fans home unhappy, but not the U.S. players, who enjoyed their trip to the ballpark. U.S. goalkeeper coach Peter Mellor, who grew up and began his soccer career in England, struggled to understand baseball, but did catch on to the basics of the game as the game went on. In a friendly challenge, it was established the head coach John Ellinger knew more about cricket than Mellor did baseball.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%WEATHER UPDATE: After a picture perfect day Saturday, the skies opened up Saturday night. Thunder, lightning and rain came late Saturday and early Sunday, but the skies were clear again when the team awoke on Easter. The wind picked up and was a factor during parts of the team's Sunday afternoon practice. As the team was winding down practice on one end of the field, the wind blew over a goal on the other end of the practice field.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%IN MY WORDS: In each update, one of the Under-17 players will tell the stories of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in their own words. Today, the words of...
Height: 6'2" Weight: 165
Birthdate: August 22, 1984
Hometown: Riverside, Calif.
Club Team: Arsenal
It is good to finally be here in qualifying, after what has been almost a year and a half in preparation for most of us. You hear about this moment so much, and I just can't wait to step out there on the field and play. It is going to be great to play for your country and to be able to play in front of your family and others that care about you. It is going to be special. We are expecting to play in front of a pro-American crowd, and it will be amazing to look up into the stands and see all these people cheering for you, your country and your team.
Our first few days here in St. Louis have been good. The team is very focused on what we have to do here. We know we have to get it done here so that we can go on to the Wold Championships in Trinidad & Tobago. We realize that we have to take care of business on the field and that we have to go out there and win the tournament.
We got to go to the St Louis Cardinals game yesterday, and there was a great atmosphere there. We didn't get to see Mark McGwire play, and that was kind of a bummer. The game reminded me of the days when I used to go watch the California Angels play near my house. It was pretty fun, and it was just good to be outside and to be hanging out with the other guys.
I think, all in all, the team is ready for this tournament. We have been through some hectic times in the last few months but I think for the most part we have our head straight and we know what he have to do in St Louis. I think we are going to have three hard fought games, and I hope and pray that we can come out on top.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%STAT OF THE DAY: The U.S. has an all-time record of 23-7-8 in CONCACAF Junior Tournaments. The first three tournaments (1983, 1985 and 1988) were played as Under-16 tournaments before the format was changed to Under-17s in 1991. As Under-17s, the U.S. is 16-5-6 in five tournaments. In those five tournaments, the U.S. has won the tournament only once (1992).
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"Let's go ahead and get this thing started. I'm ready to start this tournament today."