BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Tuesday, March 5, 2002) - The U.S. side resumed training yesterday at the University of Alabama - Birmingham after spending all day Sunday flying the friendly skies from Seattle to Alabama. Only 14 players suited up for the 90-minute session, as Gregg Berhalter (hamstring), Jeff Agoos (back), and DaMarcus Beasley (illness) were nursing injuries and unable to participate. The D.C. United duo of Eddie Pope and Richie Williams left to join their club for their midweek FC Champions Cup clash with C.D. Comunicaciones in Guatemala, while Bobby Convey returned to the D.C. area to be examined for an abdominal injury. Chilled in 27-degree weather and under the spotlight of three major television networks, Arena conducted a series of exercises to work on fitness, possession and finishing. As previously planned, the team received a welcome day off today.
OFF TO A FLYING START: 2002 has begun in spectacular fashion for the U.S., even eclipsing the promising beginning of a year ago. Seven matches, five wins, five shutouts and one continental championship. Amazing goals (Beasley v. South Korea, Donovan v. Honduras), game-preserving saves (Keller v. Canada) and MVP performances (McBride v. El Salvador). If a great start forebodes success as it did in 2001, the U.S. can embrace cautious optimism heading into Korea this summer A look at the numbers after seven games:
2001 / 2002
Record 4-2-1 / 5-1-1
GF 8 / 13
GA 5 / 2
SO 3 / 5
ABOUT ECUADOR: Colombian-born Coach Hernan Dario Gomez has called upon a nearly full strength side for Ecuador's ninth meeting against the United States. With scant opportunities to bring his team together and the hopes and expectations of a first-time finalist on his shoulders, Gomez has treated every match as vital. The Ecuadorian players have shown equal commitment, four players choosing to leave their foreign-based clubs and play professionally in Ecuador in order to compete for roster spots. Eight players on this weekend's squad list were part of the side that snatched a 1-0 upset victory against Turkey on Feb. 13 in Breda, Holland, at the home stadium of U.S. midfielder Earnie Stewart. Leading the side in Birmingham is forward Agustin Delgado, the joint leading scorer in South America during the 2002 qualifying campaign with nine goals in 18 matches. Delgado, currently with Southampton in the English Premier League alongside fellow countryman Kleber Chala, is coming off surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Ecuador finished second in CONMEBOL qualifying, ahead of four-time FIFA World Cup champions Brazil.
A VIEW FROM ACROSS THE POND: U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis took center stage on his club's website following the USA's championship-winning performance in the 2002 FC Gold Cup. In a Q&A session, Eddie revealed his view on his chances for making the World Cup roster and the Fulham editors offered a surprisingly candid assessment of Eddie's time at the London club. To read the interview, click: http://www.fulhamfc.co.uk/news/displayNews.asp?id=1465
BAGGAGE CLAIM: Upon arrival at Birmingham Municipal Airport late Sunday evening, the team had a full complement of players but were missing about one third of the baggage. While most of the training gear found its way onto the plane, several players and staff were left without personal luggage. The disappearing act lasted until Monday afternoon, forcing a few unlucky ones to have to beg for extra clothes, shoes, and toothbrushes.
DID YOU KNOW? The goals by Clint Mathis against Honduras last Saturday were his first for the U.S. National Team since scoring the game-winning goal against the same opponent on March 28, 2001 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Matchday 2 of final-round qualifying ... Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley have already amassed 60 appearances together at all levels of the U.S. national teams programs, beginning with the U-17's ... U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller has not lost a match on U.S. soil since Feb. 21, 1998, a 2-0 loss to Holland, a streak spanning over four years and 16 games ...