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U.S. MNT Blog: So long from Frisco


The U.S. Men's National Team returns to action with a pair of March friendlies vs. Ecuador and Guatemala. ussoccer.com's blog team takes you inside camp for an exclusive perspective.

Wednesday, March 28 @ 11:48 p.m. ET:
Safe to say their was a little frustration in the locker room post game. Not the result everyone would have hoped for, but the talk from the veterans centered on what must be learned from the experience, particularly for the younger players. If you think about it, nine of the 14 players who stepped on the field for the U.S. had five or fewer overall caps. Guatemala gave them a good glimpse of what they can expect to see in future CONCACAF games. Game balls were signed for first cappers Jay DeMerit and Frank Simek, and some e-mail and phone numbers were exchanged. Perhaps one thing to take away from the scene was how the group - to a man - found the result unacceptable. You could see that they would have been relished the chance to get back on the field today and erase the memory of the performance if they could . While the result wasn't there on the field, in the locker room there was a group of 20 players and coaches who have clearly established a bond. And that's what we'll take away as the fellowship breaks up until the end of May. It's gonna a be a heck of a ride ...

Wednesday, March 28 @ 2:18 p.m. CT:
Dear Diary,

What a hectic four days it’s been! First the Landon Donovan show rolled through Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, leaving behind three highlight reel goals, one record set and another on the verge of being broken. No rest for the weary though, as we had an early departure for Dallas on Monday morning.

Coffee and o.j. helped ensure that everyone made it to the airport, but as it turns out not everything did. Our team gear - and I mean ALL of our team gear – got held up. As we sat in the hotel waiting for crates to show up so training could go on, the sky went from blue to grey to black, and a gentle little ‘shower’ ensued. While bags trickled in, Bob, Kasey and Landon spoke to a rearranged meeting with the press while the staff scurried to prepare an impromptu session.

Who knew that a hotel ballroom could make for such a useful training ground? Wouldn’t exactly call it Dancing with the Stars, but it got the job done. Tuesday promised to be a long day since training wasn’t until 4:30 p.m. Fortunately there is a rather large mall connected to the hotel, so the boys were able to get out and about.

Kenny Cooper got up bright and early for a photo shoot with The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, while most of the group decided to pass on the optional breakfast.

As the team luggage continued to arrive (boots and balls, hooray!), LD geared up for his hit on The Hotlist on ESPNews. Of course, ‘gearing up’ in this case meant calling the studio hotline five minutes before air time. Weird watching him pace the room and talk on the phone and have his disembodied voice coming through the t.v. in the background.

By now his roomie, Brian Ching, was on his way back to Houston to get ready for the CCC semi against Pachuca.

The trip to Pizza Hut Park took less time than expected, so the team caught the last couple minutes of the U-20’s session as they got ready for the match against Haiti’s full team that will be aired tonight live on MatchACCESS at ussoccer.com.

The ESPN tandem of Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda were there to witness the 75-minute session, where Bob laid out the starting XI. People are definitely going to have their curiosity indulged on this one.

The players came off the field raving about the surface at the stadium. One player who asked not to be identified said it may be the best field he has ever played on.

There was the usual mixed zone with reporters at the end, but our favorite time was watching Studio 90 host Neil Buethe conduct the live post-training interviews. Due to certain logistical challenges in the building, the only convenient place to do these interviews was at midfield, pretty much smack in the middle of where the entire team was changing their shoes and walking to the bus. The Jimmy Conrad bit was only a small portion of the heckling, abuse, target practice and other distractions hurled at Neil. Gotta admit – he showed a lot of poise.

The team hustled to get back to the hotel for dinner and a meeting, and as the bus pulled up the last of the crates from Tampa were sitting in the lobby. I’m no mathematician, but that seems like a long trip.

Nothing exciting to report about dinner, unless you’re big into fajitas, and then it was early to bed in anticipation of yet another long day leading up to the 8 p.m. kickoff.

Today is certainly living up to its billing. The schedule for a day like today is pretty standard: Wake up. Eat. Find something to do. Eat. Find something else to do. Eat. Some guys have taken refuge at the Corner Bakery, others have family in town, but it’s mostly been hurry up and wait.

It’s about time for the last meal, and the equipment truck is heading off to the stadium so Ryan can get the locker room all set with the new uni’s. I heard people liked the all blue on TV on Sunday; there’s a little twist coming in tonight’s kit.

I hope we get another win tonight against Guatemala – they’ve never beaten us in the U.S., no reason to start now, and that we’ll have some exciting stories emerge out in Frisco. I can’t believe I’m about to say this – I’m actually hungry again.

Saturday, March 24 @ 6:18 p.m. ET
A lot of celebs milling around the hotel. There's a celebrity golf outing going on nearby, and this is home base. For the baseball fans, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer and New York Mets great Tommy John have been spotted, as well as Ace Young of 2006 /American Idol /fame. Taylor Twellman is excited about all of them ...

Saturday, March 24 @ 4:21 p.m. ET
Lots of things going on around the team's first and only training session at Raymond James Stadium. The ESPN crew of Dave O'Brien, Eric Wynalda and Allen Hopkins - Bruce Arena arrives tomorrow - were on hand to observe and sit down with Bob to get some inside scoop. Also in attendance were five members of the Rhein Fire - the NFL Europe team based in Dusseldorf - to catch up the other footballer from their home town, Kasey Keller. You'll see it in all_access soon, but imagine a 6'5", 320 pound D-lineman taking penalty kicks against Kasey. In the interests of full disclosure, two guys who had never kicked a soccer ball in their lives hit side netting on their first attempts. Remarkably, Kasey took it well, especially since a dozen or so German media outlets got it on camera. A host of local media were on hand to get final thoughts from Bob, Landon, and the newcomers in Jay, Frank and Benny. After training, the players got a chance to meet and sign autographs for members of the Tampa Power Soccer Team. Power soccer is an adaptive form of soccer designed specifically for individuals in motorized wheelchairs that carries the same laws and principals as outdoor soccer. The stadium looks great, more than 27,00 tickets told, the forecast is for sunny skies, and the boys are ready to go ...

Friday, March 23 @ 1:48 p.m. ET:
Sorry for not catching up sooner, folks. You know how it is - a training session here, a meeting there - and next you know, the day is shot and you have to think of something to write about. And as some of you have kindly pointed out, not everything we write is Shakespeare ... or interesting ... or grammatically correct. So, a quick recap: Thursday's training session got pretty intense, and saw Jay DeMerit go through a full session. One thing we can tell you - he's not 5'9", as listed in several sources. More like 6'0", pushing 6'1". Researchers from Gatorade were on hand for some secret product testing. No, we aren't going to scoop them - we've signed legal papers. That night the team was on their own for dinner, and the group fanned out across the area. Fred's in Sarasota got high marks in particular, as well as Gio's in Bradenton.
Friday is travel day, so it's a bit of a shortened schedule. The training session went about 75 minutes, which included a 10 v. 10 shadow session and then a 7 v. 7 game to big goals. Things have gotten increasingly sharper throughout the week. Looks like we're in for a good game this weekend. Ticket sales have shot past 25,000, so things are shaping up for it to be a special brunchtime affair on Sunday. Oh, look at the time.
Bus is leaving in 10 minutes. See you in Tampa...

Thursday, March 22 @ 4:28 p.m. ET:
Quote of the Day (from another goalkeeper, no less) - "It's been a little odd after the World Cup because we had so many really experienced, well-respected players who have retired. Now it's a very new team. There's still some household names on the team, but back then they didn't have to lead. When I'm sitting in the background and I'm looking at Claudio or Brian or Eddie Pope, it's easy for me because they lead; I just jump on their coat tails. I just had to play my part on the team.

"But with those guys gone, the likes of myself and others have to take on that role. There's going to be times when these younger, inexperienced players are going to look up to somebody. They're not going to have to lead; they are just going to have to follow ... When we get to tournaments like the Gold Cup and Copa America, the true leaders are going to have to stand up and be accounted for."

- U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, on the evolution of leadership on the national team

Thursday, March 22 @ 9:38 a.m. ET
More than one player - as in several - asked for us to find out before training who got eliminated from 'American Idol'. Remarkably in touch with mainstream society, or just strange and disturbing? We'll let you the readers decide.

Thursday, March 22 @ 8:18 a.m. ET:
A first-hand account of this morning’s journey to and from breakfast as written by the driver, Mr. Jimmy Conrad:

My alarm went off...again…so I put on my clothes, grabbed the keys, and headed to the parking lot. My 12-passenger maroon van with tinted windows loaded up and off to breakfast we went. I sped through the short cut, a back alley behind a grocery store, and Catfish Carl, T-bag, and Sven dared me to tag a helpless shopping cart with our big-ass bumper. When I swerved towards the target and barely missed, I got met with a number of expletives that indicated I am quite the coward. But what do they know? Sniff, sniff. I’ll show them.

On our way back from the land of eggs, bacon, and orange juice I was determined to prove that I wasn’t scared. So I put aside reason and common sense to make sure that the shopping cart was going down! We came around the corner and I stepped on the gas to let my passengers know I was serious. The blue plastic square with wheels came into sight and I lined up my plan of attack. As the van got close, some ducks waddled in front of my peer-pressured goal, but I was in it to win it so I continued my rate of speed. I was within striking distance and from the back of the van I heard the Catfish, T-bag, and Sven yell, “Watch out for the ducks! Please don’t hurt them!”

I jerked the steering wheel, averted the threat to avian lives, turned around, smiled, and said in an effeminate voice, “Watch out for the ducks!”

What a bunch of $%@!?# …

(Editor’s note: this account largely resembles the truth, while some of Mr. Conrad’s descriptions of speed and courage may be a bit exaggerated. But the ducks were real.)

Wednesday, March 21 @ 4:39 p.m. ET:
Benny Feilhaber just left our room; the last interview of the day as we collect a bunch of video for you, the fan. Soon you’ll be able to check out a piece on Benny, Jay DeMerit and Frank Simek, the zero-cap fellas on the roster, so keep checking ussoccer.com. Before the former UCLA Bruin left, he checked his email on our computer and then noticed the 2007 Fan Survey button on ussoccer.com (it’s our homepage of course…is it not yours!?). He asked, we explained and next thing we know he’s taking the survey. Is this a ploy to get fans to fill it out? Could be, but it’s not. Benny almost made us blush telling us how much he loves the site and truly wanted to fill it out, and we can prove it. When he finished the 33 questions in the survey he looked over at us and said, “Thirty-three? No way. That’s my jersey number and my favorite number.” We can’t make this stuff up…well, we can, but we didn’t. Oh, and we found a small flaw in the execution of the survey. If you click on the survey link from the launch page and then keep the launch page open behind the actual survey display page, you have a way to cheat on question 24. We’re not giving it away, but we bet you can figure it out. Also funny to see Benny choose “Professional matches” for the question that asks what type of soccer matches he attends…ummm…you think!? [TAKE THE SURVEY]

Wednesday, March 21 @ 1:08 p.m. ET:
Quote of the Day
- "I hear people saying that because Bob used to work for Bruce that he is a clone. That could not be farther from the truth. You can clearly see from training sessions, meetings, and everything else that Bob is putting his own stamp on this team."
- Kasey Keller

Wednesday, March 21 @ 9:20 a.m. ET:

If you look closely later this afternoon, you’ll notice something different about the photos from today’s training. Catch it and send us an e-mail at centercircle@ussoccer.org. If you choose to play, remember to please give your answer in the form of a question.

Wednesday, March 21 @ 8:05 a.m. ET
With the Boston Red Sox in town for a spring training game against Pittsburgh (we had tickets, but the schedule got in the way - pesky training ...), it seemed like a good time to remind folks of Taylor Twellman’s baseball connections. For those of you who have followed Taylor's career closely, you may remember that he earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland as a shortstop. Despite giving up college baseball to focus on soccer, he was nonetheless offered a contract by the Kansas City Royals. His grandfather, Jim Delsing, had a 10-year career in the Majors, and is most remembered for having been the pinch runner for 3' 7"-tall Eddie Gaedel on August 19, 1951 as a member of the St. Louis Browns.

Tuesday, March 20 @ 3:28 p.m. ET
Players are using their down time wisely between sessions. A couple are trying to shed their "English tan" by sitting poolside; Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Kasey Keller are talking EPL shop; several are being interviewed by Neil Buethe of Studio 90 fame for upcoming all_access features, and the rest... well, let's just say there are a lot of 'Do Not Disturb' signs hanging from doorknobs.

Tuesday, March 20 @ 12:18 p.m. ET
A rather intense session as the effects of travel seem to be wearing off quickly. After a 25-minute warm up, the attackers went for a crossing and finishing exercise while the defenders and holding midfielders worked on shape and closing down space. From there, it was 10 v. 10 on a shortened field with goals scored by dribbling over the endline. The goalkeepers were added for 30 minutes of 11 v. 11 - again on a small field. While it's too early for scouting reports, the play was pretty sharp for a group still getting their legs under them from some long distance hauls. And one thing you notice straight away - these guys really enjoy getting after it. The group had 15 minutes of free time at the end, spent by most getting back to taking shots on goal. U-17 head coach John Hackworth and assistant Brian Maissoneuve took in the action, as did a few local reporters and camera crews.

Tuesday, March 20 @ 8:46 a.m. ET 
The merry band traveling to breakfast has grown to near capacity now that the second wave of players have arrived. It also means that it's musical chairs in the breakfast room. Kasey Keller earned the dubious distinction of longest travel day of the group, experiencing several delays before finally arriving at the team hotel just past midnight. It's always interesting to see guys meet for the first time. You wonder what a guy like Frank Simek is thinking when he hears 'Hi, I'm Kasey.' Not that he should be in awe or anything, but Kasey was taking part in his first of four World Cup tournaments in 1990, when Simek was five-years-old.

Monday, March 19 @ 7:15 p.m. ET
Benny Feilhaber has made it in, too. Sounds like Benny had the worst of the travel nightmares as he was delayed basically a day. He was supposed to arrive on Sunday, but just got in this afternoon/early evening. Despite the horrendous delay, Benny seems to be in good spirits. Two things we noticed were different from the his U-20 days - shorter hair and a new tattoo. If our memory serves us correct, Benny cut the fro early into his move to Hamburg in 2005, but the tattoo is fairly new. Running down the inside of his left arm, the tattoo is a latin phrase that means...well, we actually forget what it means. He told us a few weeks ago, but the memory bank isn't working well this morning. Don't worry, we'll find out.  

Monday, March 29 @ 3:35 p.m. ET
Starting to see more familiar faces as guys filter in. Well, two to be exact. Eddie Johnson and Jimmy Conrad make their first appearance at lunch, arriving straight from Argentina where the K.C. Wizards were holding their preseason camp.

Monday, March 19 @ 10:08 a.m. ET
Guys are warming up for the first session. Jay DeMerit is carrying a mild groin strain and is sitting out training. Looks like he'll be back on track by Wednesday. If you didn't catch our podcast with Jay, check it out. His is truly a fascinating story. Otherwise, everyone else is good to go. Bill Ward from Tampa Tribune is down collecting advance material. Look for his first article on Wednesday.

Monday, March 19 @ 9:50 a.m. ET
As always, the players will have some downtime during the camp, so Clint Dempsey and Justin Mapp were already making plans on the way to the first training session to do some fishing – bass fishing to be exact. Only two problems: 1) where to actually do it, and 2) where to get some fishing poles. There are actually quite a bit of small bodies of water around that might be the answer to the first question, but fish aren’t the only thing one might encounter as the alligators like to hang out in the ponds, marshes and swamps (trust us, we’ve seen them around the fields we’re practicing at). As for the fishing poles…well, there are probably plenty of places to rent, but the two could always try the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer route with a wooden stick.

Monday, March 19 @ 7:15 a.m. ET
Been a long time since we've woken up in a place at this hour and it is still dark out. Bummer.

Sunday, March 18 @ 6:20 p.m. ET
The guys are gradually filing in. The MLS guys are quite fit indeed - and Taylor Twellman's hair is a lot blonder. Perhaps it was the pre-season trips to Bermuda and Cancun. The Euros are looking a bit weary but happy to be here. Steve Cherundolo was the first to check in; Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jonathan Spector weren't far behind. We happen to be sharing a hotel with Toronto FC, who head off tomorrow. Nice reunion for Cherundolo and former Hannover teammate Conor Casey.

Sunday, March 18 @ 4 p.m. ET
Ryan Maxfield - the team equipment manager - has once again loaded down the group with great casual gear from Nike. Guys get a full package of t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, socks, and anything else you can think of every time they come into camp. We're predicting it's the charcoal grey windbreaker that will get top billing. If you happen to be cruising around Bradenton and spot half a dozen guys wearing the same pumpkin orange t-shirt, you're on to something. Oh, and we've seen the new third jersey. But we're sworn to secrecy...

Sunday, March 18 @ 12:48 p.m. ET
It's been over two years since the national team has been in Bradenton, and already we've found one major improvement. A local sports bar called Cherry's has a huge soccer fan for an owner, which means we can watch any game coming into the U.S. Today we got to watch Tim shutout Arsenal (very good) and Gooch not shutout Charlton (not so good.). FA Cup replays Monday night for the England boys, CONMEBOL U-17 qualifying for Hackworth & Co. on Tuesday ... man, it's about time.

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