Nov. 18, 2004
HONDURAS COMES FIRST: With the final round of CONCACAF Under-20 qualifying a mere two months away, the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team has arrived in Sunrise, Fla., to conduct a week-long camp where they will play two matches against regional rivals Honduras and Mexico. The U.S. will face Honduras on Friday, Nov. 19, before taking on Mexico on Sunday, Nov. 21, with both matches being played at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Kickoff for each match is at 7 p.m. ET and fans can follow the games live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips. The U.S. matches will be part of doubleheaders as Brazil will play Mexico in the late game at 9 p.m. ET on Friday and Honduras in the early match at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
U-20 MNT Schedule
Date Opponent Kickoff
Nov. 19 Honduras 7 p.m. ET
Nov. 21 Mexico 7 p.m. ET
NCAA TOURNEY HOLDS UP ROSTER: It has taken a few days, but it appears the final roster for the Under-20 MNT’s camp this week is finally set. Then again if the trend continues, just wait a few hours and it will probably change again. The biggest wrench that held up the process of finalizing the roster that will represent the U.S. against Honduras and Mexico was the NCAA Men’s Division I College Cup, which kicks off this weekend. With the brackets not being announced until late on the first day of camp on Monday, head coach Sigi Schmid was handcuffed until then to finalize his roster for at least the match against Honduras on Friday. After the bracket was announced, six college players representing five teams that received a first round bye (Nov. 19 and 20) were then deemed available and able to come into camp and face off against Honduras before returning to their college squad for their second round games. Those six players – Brandon Owens (UCLA), Marvell Wynne (UCLA), Hunter Freeman (Virginia), Patrick Phelan (Wake Forest), Jacob Peterson (Indiana) and Greg Dalby (Notre Dame) – represent five of the top six seeded schools in the tournament. The two other college players on the roster are Nathan Sturgis (Clemson) and Will John (St. Louis), who was just added yesterday as Tim Ward (St. Louis) was unable to attend the camp. Both Sturgis and John will also be available for the Mexico match on Sunday as neither of their college team made the NCAA tournament. With the five college players still alive in the tournament returning to their teams on Saturday, expect two varied starting lineups for the Honduras and Mexico matches.
GAVEN OUT, CAPANO SICK, DENNY DELAYED: The U.S. U-20s will be missing two of their best players when they go up against Honduras and Mexico this weekend. Eddie Gaven of the MetroStars is resting a hernia injury and is not available and Craig Capano of the Chicago Fire was unable to attend the camp despite being on the initial roster after he fell ill and is in the hospital. Capano came down with a virus and has been resting in a Chicago hospital for the past few days. He will be fine in a couple days, but due to the sickness it was decided that Capano would not be able to get back to full health within the allotted time to command the midfield for the U-20s. Another professional, Jay Denny of Stoke City (English first division), was almost lost for the matches as well as he had trouble getting into the U.S. due to a problem with his passport, but he was able to work it out and arrived late on Wednesday.
YOUTH IN RESERVE: With a large majority of the usual college players in the U-20 player pool being unavailable due to games in the NCAA tournament, Schmid had to look elsewhere and went the youth route, snatching up five players from U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program – goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner, defenders Carlos Borja and Ofori Sarkodie, midfielder Ryan Soroka and forward Preston Zimmerman. Schmid also called in another high school-aged player in Robby Rogers from Fairfax, Va. While the majority of the those players are two years younger than their U-20 teammates and are extreme long shots to end up making the qualifying roster in January, they haven’t let up in practice and are looking to make an impact on the games this weekend.
TRAINING CAMP MEMORIES: From press conferences to passing drills and one-on-one conversations with the coaches, the Under-20 Men’s National Team goes through training in Sunrise. To see a photo gallery of training, click here. The gallery takes you through two days of training, including a press conference with midfielder Arturo Alvarez and 15-year-old forward Freddy Adu.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bryant Rueckner (Rancho Cucamunga, Calif.), Quentin Westberg (ESTAC Troyes – France); DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Borja (Anaheim, Calif.), Greg Dalby (Notre Dame), Hunter Freeman (Virginia), Brandon Owens (UCLA), Patrick Phelan (Wake Forest), Robby Rogers (Fairfax Station, Va.), Ofori Sarkodie (Huber Heights, Ohio), Nathan Sturgis (Clemson), Marvell Wynne (UCLA); MIDFIELDERS (7): Arturo Alvarez (San Jose Earthquakes), Nikolas Besagno (Maple Valley, Wash.), Michael Bradley (MetroStars), Jay Denny (Stoke City – England), Guillermo Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Ryan Soroka (Langhorne, Pa.), Danny Szetela (Columbus Crew); FORWARD (4): Freddy Adu (D.C. United), Will John (St. Louis University), Jacob Peterson (Indiana), Preston Zimmerman (Pasco, Wash.).
TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE: Advance tickets are still available for both doubleheaders this weekend. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $20 for kids under the age of 12 ($20 and $10 for one doubleheader) and are available through Complete Ticket Solutions. Groups of 25 or more can get a $2 discount per ticket by calling the box office at 1-877-877-7677. Tickets are also available online at www.tixops.com.
SIGI’S SECOND STINT: The camp and matches will be head coach Sigi Schmid’s first since taking over the Under-20 reigns in late October to replace Thomas Rongen, who moved on to become the head coach of one of the two MLS expansion teams, Chivas USA. While this will be Schmid’s first time with this group of Under-20s, the situation is not foreign to him as he was also the Under-20 coach from 1998-99, leading the U.S. to the Round of 16 at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria. Schmid led the team through a strong performance on the world stage as they finished second in Group E with two victories, a first for the U-20 program, and advanced to the Round of 16. The U.S. opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over England before falling 3-1 to Japan, the eventual runner-up, and then rebounding to defeat Cameroon 3-1 in the critical final group match. Four days later, the U.S. was the only team to score more than one goal on eventual tournament champion Spain, but ended up falling 3-2 in Port Harcourt. Over his two-year span at the helm, Schmid compiled a 32-16-15 overall record with the Under-20s.
FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE: Schmid has brought in three assistant coaches to help him prepare the Under-20s during his first camp, retaining goalkeeping coach Dave Dir, who was also an assistant under Thomas Rongen, while adding John Harkes and Mike Lapper. Harkes and Lapper create a unique environment for the players as they’ve done what every player on the roster hopes to do in the future – play for the full Men’s National Team and make a World Cup roster. Lapper, now the Director of Soccer Business Development for the Columbus Crew, registered 43 caps from 1992-95 for the U.S. as a defender and was part of the 1994 World Cup team, although he did not see action during the tournament. Harkes was one of the most accomplished and popular players to ever put on the U.S. jersey and captain’s armband during his 13-year career from 1987-2000 (he did not have a cap in 1991), in which he played in both the 1990 and 1994 World Cup and compiled 90 caps overall. Harkes started six of seven World Cup matches, only missing the 1994 Round of 16 match against Brazil after he received a questionable yellow card – his second of the tournament – against Romania in the final group match and was forced to sit out against the eventual champions.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: With the varied mix of players in camp, the coaching staff implemented a way for the players to get to know a bit more about each other during every meal. After chowing down on the regular pasta, chicken, rice and fruit, the coaching staff picks two players to stand up in front of the team and say who they are and give a little bit of background about themselves. While the players that have been chosen so far haven’t divulged too much information (basically just name, who they play for and where they are from), it has at the very least helped the new guys coming in the past few days get to know the names of some of the unfamiliar faces. The coaches also requested a different seating arrangement, changing from the four separate round tables to one horseshoe-shaped set-up to allow the players and staff to all sit together.
GROWING PRACTICES: Over the past two days, the Under-20s have conducted three training sessions as they get set to take on Honduras on Friday night. On Tuesday, the U.S. held two practices despite having only 12 players available as none of college players had arrived yet. With the small numbers, the U.S. worked on possession for most of the two sessions, playing five-on-five in a tight area as the goalkeepers worked with Dave Dir. The goalkeepers were then brought into the mix and they played 6v6 on a shortened field with full-size goals, concentrating on creating scoring chances and putting good attempts on goal. By Wednesday, the roster had filled out with the arrival of the college players and they played 11v10 on a full field, before once again playing on a shortened field with full-size goals, this time using “feeders” on the endlines and sidelines. The team will have one more practice this afternoon, which will be a light session concentrating mostly on set plays.
SEEING THE POSSIBILITIES: The U-20 players got the chance to see first-hand how, with a lot of hard work, close they are to their goal of playing for the full Men’s National Team while watching the USA’s match against Jamaica on Wednesday night. They got to see players like Jonathan Spector, Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey – players many of the guys have either played with or against – either start or come on in reserve during the USA’s 1-1 draw. While many of the players watched the game in their rooms, a few ventured down to the lobby to take in the game with the U-20 staff on the big screen TV.
MOCK DRAFT: “I’d take D.J. Countess.” “No way, I’d take Johnny Walker.” “You gotta go for a forward first!” These were just a few of the comments thrown around during dinner on Wednesday night as the players scanned over the MLS players made available for the 2004 MLS Expansion Draft, which will be held on Friday. Hearing the commotion and disagreement, assistant coaches John Harkes and Mike Lapper decided to turn it into a game for the players. The coaches broke up the players into four groups, telling them to study up who they would take as they would have a mock draft sometime in the next few days. The team that ended up being the closest to the actual draft would win a “prize,” what that would be though was kept hush-hush.
A LOOK AT HONDURAS: Honduras will provide the U.S. Under-20s with a good test on Friday night as they begin their final preparations for the CONCACAF Under-20 Final Round Qualifying Tournament in January. The U.S. will not face Honduras during the qualifying tournament, but will be able to get used to the style of play they will see in Group A with Costa Rica, Panama and the winner of the Caribbean Zone Series 1 between Trinidad & Tobago (to be determined in a home-and-home series on Nov. 26 and Dec. 10). Honduras is hosting the other qualifying group (Group B) and will face Mexico, Canada and Jamaica. The top two teams from each group's qualifying competition (taking place in January 2005) will advance to the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship set for the Netherlands from June 10-July 2.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Ahhh….I have a mom."
-- Midfielder Michael Bradley telling about himself in front of the rest of his teammates, something every player has had to do at some point during meals. He was struggling to think of what to say when he blurted this out, causing the rest of the players and staff to break out laughing.
* Despite being the youngest player on the team at 15, Freddy Adu is considered the most experienced player on the Under-20s as he has the most international caps (six). Adu has only one cap this year, but is the only player on the roster that competed with the Under-20s last year during their quarterfinal run in the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
* U.S. U-20s have compiled a 2-4-4 international record this year, snagging both victories here in Sunrise by defeating Jamaica twice in April. The U.S. defeated the Reggae Boyz 1-0 on April 20 and 4-0 two days later.
* Only six players on the U.S. roster were also on the roster for Under-20’s last training camp when they competed in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup in July. The returning players are Arturo Alvarez, Jay Denny, Will John, Nathan Sturgis, Patrick Phelan and Quentin Westberg. During that trip, the U.S. ended up in sixth place after tying all three of their group matches against Demark (2-2), Turkey (0-0), Wales (1-1), before falling to Northern Ireland 2-1.
* Forward Will John tied with Chad Barrett for the most international goals scored (three) for the U-20s in 2004. John found the back of the net twice against Jamaica on April 22 and notched his third goal against Poland on June 26 in the Busan Four Nations International Tournament.
* Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg will be looking for his team-leading eighth cap with Under-20s when the U.S. meets Honduras on Friday.
* While there are five players that are currently in U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program, there are also seven players on the U.S. roster that graduated from the program in the past two years. This past May, Freddy Adu, Nathan Sturgis, and Danny Szetela all received their high school diplomas. In the previous year, Guillermo Gonzalez, Brandon Owens, Michael Bradley and Jacob Peterson all finished their time in Residency.
* Nine players on the U.S. roster will be looking for their first appearance with the U.S. U-20s. Greg Dalby, Marvell Wynne, Carlos Borja, Nik Besagno, Robby Rogers, Bryant Rueckner, Ofori Sarkodie, Ryan Soroka and Preston Zimmerman have yet to set foot on the field for the Under-20s.
U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Sigi Schmid
On the importance of playing these two matches…
“For me this is a very important tournament because it is the first time I will get to see a number of the players and see them together. It is a little bit of a difficult time for us because of the college season in full swing right now there are obviously certain players that are missing and it will be a bit different team than it will be later. We still have a great opportunity to see some of the players and start to work together. So, it’s the first of our building blocks in the final stage of preparation for (the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament) January.”
On the young roster for the USA…
“Our roster is a work in progress. We really appreciate the cooperation of the college coaches who are in the middle of their playoffs and we were able to approach teams that got first round byes and some of those teams allowed us to use players for the Friday night game and then send them back to their respective team on Saturday. That allows us to look at some people defensively that we wanted to look at on Friday night. On Sunday, it becomes a little bit different as we brought in some of the players that are with the U-17 Men’s National Team and we think can compete at the Under-20 level. Some of them will get a very unique opportunity and experience.
On if he thinks they can compete against Mexico with such a young squad…
“My belief is that every time we step on the field we want to find a way to get a result or find a way to succeed. Even though it is going to be a younger team out there on Sunday, we are still going to compete and try and get the result. Hopefully, we will see something very special from the younger players mixed in with the older players.”
On not having Eddie Gaven available…
“Obviously Eddie is a very important piece of this team. He had a long season and played a lot of minutes, so there’s a couple of medical things with him that need to be looked at so that we make sure he’s ready when it comes to the final phase of qualifying in January. What we want to accomplish this weekend is to be able to play somewhat similar to how we want to play when Eddie is here so that the other players get an idea of the flow and the movement and the way we want to attack out of that system. He’s an important part because he can execute things in a way that maybe the player that replaces him can’t, but also the most important thing with the team is to take advantage of the players that you have.”
On Freddy Adu and Arturo Alvarez…
“Freddy is a player that does well running at opponents and that is something we want him to do. Arturo is a player who does well with that ball at his feet, is dangerous in shooting on goal, and dangerous in taking people on and whipping in crosses. We definitely want to play a style that allows us to get the ball to Freddy’s feet, that allows us to get the ball to Arturo’s feet and allows them to use their skill and put their imprint on the game.”
U.S. Forward Freddy Adu
On winning the MLS Cup in his first year with D.C. United…
“It was great. It was awesome. There’s not a lot of people who get the chance to do this at my age. I’m 15 and in my first year in the league I got a championship. What else can you say? It’s unbelievable and hopefully I learned from all those tough games in the playoffs against New England and the MetroStars, and then in the Cup final against Kansas City and I can carry that here (with the U-20s).”
U.S. Midfielder Arturo Alvarez
On playing Honduras and Mexico…
“I think that we are going to come out and try and play our best. Going up against teams like Mexico and Honduras we are trying to get prepared for qualifiers and hopefully the world championship tournament in 2005. We’ll do everything we can to win.”
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