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Quote Sheet: U.S. U-23 MNT Head Coach Peter Nowak and Captain Sacha Kljestan Talk to the Chinese Press

U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team head coach Peter Nowak and captain Sacha Kljestan talked to about 30 Chinese media in a press conference before the team's first match of a two-game tour in Changsha, China.

U.S. Under-23 head coach Peter Nowak:
“I would like to thank all the people who have organized this trip for us to the great city of Changsha. We are very impressed with the hospitality and the reception we have received. The training facilities and the hotel are outstanding. We are very comfortable, and we are looking forward to the game Thursday night. This is the first stage of our preparations for Olympic qualifying, so this is an important opportunity for our group.”

On what he knows about the Chinese Olympic Team:
“We played against the Chinese national team in June in San Jose. There were a couple of members of the Olympic team playing with them. Our captain Sacha Kljestan also played in that game. We know that many of the players have experience with the full national team, so we expect a very difficult game.”

On what has happened with the group since they failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympics:
“There has been a rebuilding process after we didn’t qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games. We knew that it would take time to get our team together. Many of the players who will be involved in the qualifiers in March are here with us. We also have members of our team that play in Europe that couldn’t attend this camp, but we hope they will be available in March. The group is very promising. As I said, this is the first part of the process for us and we will continue to look at all options. We really believe that we will be back here in China next August for the Olympic Games in Beijing.”

On his approach to dealing with players:
“I think the most important thing as a coach is to see the team perspective, but also knowing how to talk to individual players. Some of them need to be rewarded, and some of them need to be reminded. We have just started the selection process. It’s important to have good communication between the players and the staff. You always want to know what is in a player’s mind, and to observe how they act and how they train. Our players also like to know what I am thinking about their work. This team has come together well in the last couple weeks. I’m very impressed with their work ethic and how they train. I think we have made significant progress, but as I always say, the games will verify everything.”

On why Freddy Adu is not in China:
“We have been talking to every member of the Under-23 team, along with their coaches, general managers and team presidents to let them know that we are going to respect their needs. We truly hope to have our players when the qualifiers start in March. In Freddy’s case, his team is still playing in the Champions League. Also, the Portuguese league is still in the middle of the season. As much as we want to have him here in our camp, it wasn’t possible to bring him here.”

On what he hopes to get out of this match:
“One of our goals in these two matches is to get to know each other a little bit better. We chose to come to China not only for good competition, but to get a taste for what the environment would be like during the Olympics. I will not predict the results, but it will be a good test for these young players to see how they will perform under the pressure of playing against the host nation in a difficult environment. For sure, the players would like present themselves in the best way possible as they compete for spots on the roster.”

“Sometimes the tactics aren’t the most important thing at this stage in the process. I expect our players to show the staff that they have the ability to play at the highest level. I think this experience will benefit us down the road when we attempt to qualify for the Olympics.”

U.S. Under-23 captain Sacha Kljestan
On his impressions of the Chinese team:
“I played against the full Chinese team back in June. Although we won that game, they are a difficult team to play against. Usually they are a very organized team and pretty physical, so we know that coming into these games. We’re sure it’s going to be tough playing against China in Changsha with a large crowd supporting them. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

On whether he thinks the women of Hunan are cute:
(Laughs) “Everyone that we have been around in Changsha has been very nice and very lovely to us. They have treated us very well. As for the rest, I can’t answer that question! (everyone laughs)

On whether they will play 100 percent in the match knowing that they might face China in next year’s Olympics:
“As a player, you will always give 100 percent on the field. Not only because we are using this game as experience to get ready for the qualifiers, but because a lot of guys are still trying to prove to the coach why we should be here and that we should be part of the qualifying team. We’re all fighting for a spot on the team. If we are to make it to the Olympics and are joined with China again, that just means that we will know each other a little bit better. All the best teams in the world know how each other play. What matters is what they do on the day (of the game).”