The U.S. U-17 National Team Holds Conference Call Prior to Departing for New Zealand and World Youth Championship
CHICAGO (Tuesday, November 2, 1999) - The U.S. U-17 National Team, one of the most heralded U-17 teams in U.S. Soccer history, will depart on Wednesday (Nov. 3) for Auckland, New Zealand, and the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship. In the tournament's opening round, the U.S. will face host New Zealand, Poland and Uruguay. To preview the USA's involvement in the tournament, Head Coach John Ellinger, forward Landon Donovan, and midfielders DeMarcus Beasley and Kyle Beckerman participated in a one-hour media conference call today. Following are excerpts from the conference call.
Head Coach John Ellinger
On the state of the team: "The team is extremely excited right now. Our preparation has been great; we have made great progress in the last two-and-a-half months. Right now, we are playing very confidant and are eager to get to the first game in New Zealand. All focus now is to play in the opening game on November 10th."
On the team's' style: "I think it is along the lines of what Bruce (Arena) is doing with the men's national team. We have been trying to work on speed of play, pressing (our opponents), and trying to score early."
Asked to comment on opening opponent New Zealand: "We have played them twice, so we are familiar with them. It's a team that plays a 3-5-2 formation; they are defensive and do not tend to play through the midfield. They look to go forward very directly and play to their forwards. They play a destructive style as opposed to a constructive system. Hopefully we can take them to a level where they cannot compete with us."
General comments on the team: "I would say that right now we are definitely on an even keel, both athletically and in soccer terms. We have been together for a long time. Our players have been together with this team for two years now. We matched up well against Mali, and against Ghana played a very good match; we maintained discipline and did not give up much to them."
On the U.S. residency camp: "I think U.S. Soccer is a results-oriented developmental program. We have developed players who can and will compete at the professional level. If you talk to people who know this program, you will understand the professionalism associated with this team. "
On Jordan Cila and Kyle Beckerman: "Jordan's work rate and ability to combine with other players is very good. He holds players off the ball and his physical ability is excellent. Being from Maryland, I have known Kyle for a long time. He plays a huge part on this team; he's an emotional leader and every successful team has someone they can go to when things are not going well. That's what he brings."
Asked about rumors that the MetroStars are interested in him: "It's always nice to be thought of for something like this. You can never rule out something that is as interesting and challenging as that would be."
Asked about the residency program and the pressure to succeed: "Obviously it's great of U.S. Soccer, Nike and IMG to put us in this situation. I think It has been a tremendous experience and while I know we will be judged by our performance in the first three games of the tournament, I think we have already proved ourselves with some of the results we have achieved. I think the team felt pressure to qualify; the reality of not making it (qualifying directly) in Jamaica was one of the things that helped us along. Our goal is to win the first game against New Zealand and then to deal with the next two games as they come. We are confident we can play well and get to the medal round."
On the two goalkeepers, D.J. Countess and Steve Cronin: "It's a unique situation because they are from the same high school. DJ has the physical tools and the international experience. He has worked on his ability to organize the team and also on his mental side. Steve is taller and more physically gifted. He's comfortable in his backup role, and the team feels confidant if Steve has to go into the game. They are both technically sound."
Asked about Poland and Uruguay: "Poland is a strong team defensively. They can lull you to sleep for long periods, but they are lethal finishers. Their finishing is what got them though qualification as the second place in team in Europe. Uruguay is a very technical team. They will play 4-4-2 system. "
Asked about Landon Donovan and Raul Palomares: "Landon has been our most exceptional scorer. He's does a lot more than that though. He's come back from Germany with this new, demanding style and the other players have responded well. Raul is one of our younger players. The thing with him is that he needed to improve his work rate. He's become more stronger and more mature. He plays for Kaiserslautern's A Youth team. For him, it has been quite successful going to Europe."
On Abe Thompson: "Abe played with his club team at the Dallas Cup, which is where we saw him. We invited him in before our trip to El Salvador and from there we invited him into our residency. His strength is his size and pace. We've nicknamed him 'The Beast.' He immediately changes the pace when he enters the game."
Forward Landon Donovan
On playing in Germany: "I think it has been almost exactly what I expected. The meaningfulness of every training and every game is evident. There is money on the line and so players are playing for their livelihood. I think I'm more intense now. The players in Germany have turned me into a more demanding player maybe. I think I have brought that back to the (U.S.) team."
On the difficulties of playing in Germany: "I think this season we haven't played the same team two weeks in a row. The coaches are very good about rewarding players for their performance. You have to give everything you have every day in order to play on Sunday."
Asked if the team is feeling any pressure to succeed: "I think there is a lot of pressure on their team. We have been given a lot, but we have also given a lot to our country and to U.S. Soccer. I just think we are ready and we will be alright."
Commenting on the players in the residency program: "We are pretty much best friends. We blend well as a team. We have different personalities but we blend well together."
Asked about the decision to go to Germany ahead of MLS: "I had a lot of discussions with both MLS and Leverkusen. In the end, going to Germany was the right thing for me at the time. However, I do want to come back (to play) some day."
Midfielder DeMarcus Beasley
On the changes in the USA's system: "We changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3, which makes us more offensive. I would say the wings are wide open for both me and Landon to move up the flanks. It's a good system and we feel very comfortable."
On the residency program: "I feel that in this professional environment you can develop a little quicker. "
Asked if he feels confident in the USA's chances: "I feel very confident. The eleven players we have on the field can get it done. We have a saying in the team... 'We respect everyone, but fear no one.'"
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman
Asked about the team's level of confidence: "I think we're confident but not too confident. We know that the World Cup will be a lot different than anything we've experienced. We are confident that we can win it."
Asked what he has learned since joining the team: "We play a lot faster. In international (competition) you have to play the ball quickly or you are going to get cracked. The intensity on the field in incredible; there is much more passion."