U.S. Under-20 Team Continues to Trickle into Base in Mendoza, Argentina for World Youth Championship
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%LONG DAY(S) OF TRAVEL: When the U.S. team arrived at Hotel Huentala in Mendoza on Sunday night, it ended more than one long day of travel - it ended two long days of travel. U.S. goalkeeper coach Bill Irwin had bragging rights for the longest time traveling, beginning with a flight from Portland at 8:20 a.m. PT on Saturday and not ending until the U.S. bus arrived at the team hotel at 5:30 p.m. local time Sunday night. The U.S. contingent met in Miami International Airport, where 12 players and eight staff caught a 10:30 p.m. flight to Buenos Aires on Saturday night. After a nine-hour flight, the U.S. team arrived in Buenos Aires on Sunday morning a little before 9 a.m. The team gathered their gear upon arrival - minus Kyle Martino's bag, which turned up missing - and caught a bus for a 40-minute ride to a domestic airport in the middle of Buenos Aires. The U.S. team relaxed in the airport, grabbing lunch, playing cards and reading, before boarding the team's final flight of the day, a two-hour trip to Mendoza.
The team arrived in Mendoza, where they were greeted by a number of tournament organizers, as well as a newspaper photographer who was stationed on the airport roof. All 47 bags of the team gear, plus the players' and staff's individual luggage were loaded onto a truck, and the U.S. team boarded its bus and followed a police escort to the team hotel. Martino's bag was recovered.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%U.S. TEAM CONTINUES TO TRICKLE IN: When travel arrangement were being finalized last week, four U.S. players were going to play MLS games on Saturday, and then begin their travel on Sunday and arrive in Mendoza on Monday. But five players arrived on Monday. And Landon Donovan has not yet set foot in South America. Donovan played his MLS match on Saturday, but did not make Sunday's flight to Buenos Aires. Nelson Akwari and Ricky Lewis were scheduled to fly with the majority of the team on Saturday night, but a storm in Texas forced their flight from Houston to Miami to be canceled. The Texas duo flew the following day, joining Bobby Convey, Edson Buddle and DaMarcus Beasley on a Sunday night flight to Argentina. Donovan was scheduled to be on the same flight to Argentina, but had a problem with a connecting flight and is now scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon. Team doctor Brett Barnes also arrived Monday.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%MONDAY MORNING BLUES: Many of the U.S. players struggled to wake up for Monday's breakfast. Part of the reason was the long two days of travel. Another part of the reason was that it was still pitch dark outside at 8:15 am. Two wake-up calls later, the U.S. team was up and at breakfast. Instead of a practice Monday morning, the team went for a walk and stretch to loosen up the tired travel legs. The players were able to get their first glimpse of the impressive Malvinas Argentinas, the stadium where the U.S. will play their three first-round games. The U.S. team stretched out and spent about 90 minutes trying to loosen their legs after the long travel. The Americans traveled in style, with the help of a police escort, that the team bus receives everywhere it goes. The U.S. convoy includes the team bus, a van, a police car and two police motorcycles, which stop traffic at each intersection the bus reaches.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%TRAINING TIME: With 17 of 18 players in Argentina, the U.S, underwent its first training session of the tournament on Monday night. Suhnholz put the team through a 90-minute workout, just hours after Beasley, Buddle, Akwari, Lewis and Convey stepped off the airplane. Buddle looked especially sharp. After stretching out and using the first 25 minutes to get their legs under them, the players broke up into two teams to play a large possession game. A large part of the practice was spent with the field players playing various possession games, while the two U.S. goalkeepers - Doug Warren and D.J Countess - went through the paces with Bill Irwin on the other end of the field. The session ended with the players going through a shooting drill, and Brad Davis nailing a few of his trademark left-footed blasts by Countess. A crowd of 30 locals came out to watch the North Americans in action.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%A LOOK AHEAD: The U.S. is scheduled to train on Tuesday afternoon at 2, the time that the U.S. will kick off its World Youth Championship campaign against China on Sunday. Suhnholz's team will take on a local all-star team on Wednesday, June 13, in a final tune-up before the opener.
The team will continue with one practice a day through Saturday, June 16, and then open the tourney on Sunday.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%NEWSWORTHY: The U.S. players and staff awoke Monday morning to learn that they were front page news. "El Diario Uno de Mendoza", one of the two large papers in Mendoza, ran the headline (translated): "United States Arrives for the Under-20 World Championship" on the front page of the paper. The inside of the newspaper included two photos of the team - one snapped by the rooftop photographer at the airport - an article on the team and an interview with Wolfgang Suhnholz. It was more of the same at Monday afternoon's training session, as photographers and journalists watched the U.S. team go through their first practice in Argentina. A story in "Los Andes", the other large Mendoza paper, will feature a story on the U.S. in Tuesday's edition.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%TAKING TIME TO TRAIN WITH THE PROS: The U.S. squad had just over a week off between the Toulon Festival and the travel day(s) to Argentina. Most of the players returned home to rest and rejuvenate before what will be their biggest international soccer challenge yet. While at home, several of the players trained with local MLS teams. U.S. goalkeeper D.J. Countess spent time training with former UCLA 'keeper Nick Rimando in Miami. Rimando, who has led the Fusion to its best start ever, played with the U.S. Under-20s in the 1999 World Youth Championship. Following is a list of five U.S. Under-20s who trained with MLS teams in their time off:
- D.J. Countess - Miami Fusion
- Brian Carroll - D.C. United
- Alecko Eskandarian - NY/NJ MetroStars
- Doug Warren - Chicago Fire
- Philip Salyer - Dallas Burn
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%UNDER-20s WELL-REPRESENTED AT MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM CAMP: Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey all have full international caps and have made it a common sight to see U.S. youth players called up to the senior team. In Columbus last week, Bruce Arena called in 18 players ahead of the USA's June 7 friendly with Ecuador at Columbus Crew Stadium. U.S. Under-20 forward Conor Casey, who had just returned from Toulon, was called in for his first work with the Men's National Team. Casey trained with the full team for the week, but did not see action in the 0-0 draw with Ecuador. U.S. midfielder Kenny Arena also spent the week training with the Men's National Team in Columbus.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%DONOVAN GOES OUT WITH A BANG: In his last match with the San Jose Earthquakes before leaving for the World Youth Championship, Landon Donovan made sure the 'Quakes won't forget him with a very memorable two-goal performance in a crucial conference win against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. D.C. United's Bobby Convey turned in a solid 90-minute performance on Saturday afternoon, but couldn't help his teammates avoid falling to the Dallas Burn. DaMarcus Beasley and Edson Buddle joined forces in Argentina on Monday, but had one last battle in Chicago on Saturday. Beasley played 90 minutes in the 1-0 Fire win.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%STAT OF THE DAY: Nelson Akwari has played every minute of every international since this crop of Under-20s began playing for Suhnholz in 2000.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"This lacks a little bit of the adventure we had in Nigeria. I miss the soldiers in the trucks with guns and whips."