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U-20 MNT Talks About Wednesday Match vs. Haiti

U.S. U-20 MNT Head Coach Thomas Rongen
On how preparation for the tournament has gone:
“Our preparation in Florida and now here in Panama has been very good. We’ve been happy with all the players’ work ethic and how they’ve conducted themselves in the training sessions. We’re ready to go and are looking forward to our first game against Haiti.”

On dealing with playing in Panama:
“It’s been hot down here in Panama the last few days, but it’s nothing we haven’t come across in Florida, and the temperature will be much cooler at kickoff. The time zone is the same as well, so we didn’t have to worry about that at all. And the biggest thing is that we have all our guys healthy, no one’s injured, so we will be able to start our first 11, which is what we wanted.”

On Haiti:
“We have been preparing for Haiti for a while now and they are a very good opponent. We’ve done some scouting and know that it will be a tough match for us. Then when you add the fact that we are on the road, outside of the U.S., it will be even more difficult. We’ve got three tough games ahead of us and the first one comes with Haiti. We know they will bring their best game and we will need to play well if we want to get a good result.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Tim Ward
On the team’s mindset on the eve of the opening match of qualifying:
“I think the team is feeling pretty good right now. We had really good training sessions the past two days. I think everybody’s ready to go, since we’ve been training together for the about three or four weeks and I think we’re ready for that first game. The first game we need to treat as the most important one and we can’t look past Haiti. I think we just need to stay focused and work hard.”

On the importance of getting a result in the first match:
“I think that’s very important because it can make the rest of qualifying go that much easier for us if we come out with a result in the first game. I think if we just play our game and not let anything else get to us, we should be alright.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Jules Valentin
On expectations for the match vs. Haiti:
“We’re expecting it to be a tough game but it’s something we’re very excited for because we’ve been waiting for it for a very long time. We’ve been working very hard so that we can come out on top at the end of the day.”

On playing at Estadio Rommel Fernandez:
“It’s nice. It’s the full national team’s stadium, so it’s probably the best facility they have. The surface is a little heavy and thick, but it will play to our advantage because it’s big and we should be able to put the ball down and play. The field should suit us, we’re just looking forward to it and we’re excited to play.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Forward Andre Akpan
On his mindset as qualifying gets set to begin:
“The situation with the forwards is kind of shaky because Johann (Smith) just got here, so I’m just getting in the mindset of being ready in case my number is called.”

On the team’s approach to the first game:
“Obviously we want to come out and win the first game because that’s always the key game and we want to make sure we go out there and get a win no matter what.”

On the prospect of earning his first international cap vs. Haiti:
“It would be exciting. Those are the types of things you play for and this is why you play soccer. I’m just excited, if I get my chance, to go out there and play as hard as I can and maybe score a goal. Hopefully this is the start of a long road.”

On the importance of making a statement in the first match:
“It’s extremely important. The team who wins that first game always has the upper hand. If we go in and win that game, we’ll have confidence throughout the tournament. If we win that first game, obviously other teams would be gunning for us, but that puts us in a better position, so it’s very important.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Goalkeeper Chris Seitz
On playing at Panama’s full national team’s stadium:
“It’s going to be nice. It will night time during the game, so it will be under the lights but as far as I can tell it shouldn’t be any issue for us (goalkeepers). I don’t know what we’re expecting crowd-wise, but the stadium itself is nice. I know the national team plays there, so it’s the top of the line here in Panama. The field itself is a bit soft on top so we’ll have to adapt to that and I’ll have to wear studs.”

On what the team must do to get a result vs. Haiti:
“I think we just need to come out with intensity and start the tournament right. We just need to fight that first battle and get a result because, everyone says it but, once you get the first result, it’s a lot easier from there on out to get the next two.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Quavas Kirk
On the team’s approach to the first game of qualifying:
“We want to come out strong in the first game because it’s obviously going to set the tone for the rest of the tournament. If we come out and get those three points, then we’ll be in the driver’s seat so I think we’re going to come out hard and play our best.”

On the importance of playing well to open qualifying:
“It’s very important because if you end up losing or tying, you’re already behind the game because either one of the other two teams could end up winning.”

On what the team must do to get a result vs. Haiti:
“We need to press hard and not give them enough time to turn with the ball and dribble at us. We saw that Jamaica let them do that and Haiti got a lot of chances from it, so we need to press them and see if they’ll cough the ball up for us.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Ofori Sarkodie
On what the team can expect to see from Haiti:
“They play pretty direct, they like to play into their forwards’ feet, they try to get the ball wide and they like to attack 1v1, so we’re expecting a lot of 1v1 battles from the opening whistle.”

On playing at Panama’s full national team’s stadium:
“I think the stadium will hold a good atmosphere. Just getting on the field, getting a bit of a run in the other day, playing a little more high intensity, I think a lot of the players were able to get a feel for the field. The grass was a bit thick but they said it might get cut before the game and there’s a lot of width, which definitely benefits our style of play.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Forward Robbie Rogers
On the team’s mindset on the eve of the opening match of qualifying:
“I think everyone is ready to get started. There’s been so much anticipation and we’ve put in so much hard work that right now we just can’t wait to get started. You can even hear it during meals, guys are like, ‘When is this tournament going to start?’ so there’s a lot of excitement and everyone has been looking forward to this moment.”

On the importance of making a getting a result in the first match:
“It sets the tone of how we’re going to play, so I think this is a very important game. Even the first 15 minutes, we need to set the tone of how we’re going to play the rest of the tournament. I think everyone is prepared, we’re going to bring a high level of energy and everyone is eager to start.”

U.S. U-20 MNT Defender Nathan Sturgis
On what the team must do to get a result vs. Haiti:
“Mentally, I think as long as we come into the game focused, get off to a good start and just worry about ourselves and play how we know we can play, I think we’ll be able to get a result.”

On the importance of getting off to a quick start in the tournament:
“I think it’s very important. With the way the points system is set up, to get three points in the first game is extremely important. Coming out of this game with a result will set us up right for the rest of the tournament.”

On playing at Panama’s full national team’s stadium:
“Compared to the fields we’ve been practicing on, it’s an amazing field. It’s a little different than what we’re used to in the States, but I don’t think it should play too big a role. Hopefully we’ll get a good crowd out there. They will probably be cheering against us, but it will be good just to have a crowd and have that atmosphere. Even if they’re cheering against us, we can still feed off of that energy.”