THEY'RE OFF: The march towards Germany 2006 took its first step as the U.S. men opened their first training camp of the new year on Saturday, January 4 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Under the watchful eye of a newly re-signed head coach Bruce Arena, 26 players shook off the cobwebs of a long winter break with an intense double session. The morning practice began with an extended warm up, before breaking into small-sided games. The afternoon session featured a fitness evaluation that consisted of players running the farthest distance possible in six minutes. Kansas City Wizards defender Nick Garcia took top honors, completing 1820 meters in the allotted time frame. An 11 v. 11 full field scrimmage completed the first day's work. The team is expected to continue twice-a-day sessions for the next several days.
PERSONNEL UPDATE: The original 27-man complement has seen minor alterations since the roster was announced Dec. 23. The Columbus Crew duo of Brian McBride (loan to Everton) and Kyle Martino (injury) were forced to withdraw. Newly acquired MetroStars defender Eddie Pope, coming off minor knee surgery in October, worked out with the trainers and spent the afternoon in the gym. Meantime, Chicago Fire midfielder Chris Armas elected to continue rehabilitation in New York. Tony Sanneh will return to Germany on Jan. 11, shortly after the arrival of defender Cory Gibbs, who makes his first appearance in a Men's National Team training camp beginning Jan. 9.
CURT ONALFO AND PIERRE BARRIEU JOIN U.S. MNT STAFF IN 2003: Bruce Arena has made two additions to the national team staff since the departure of long-time assistant Dave Sarachan. In addition to Glenn Myernick, Arena has selected former D.C. United defender and assistant coach Curt Onalfo to serve on the national team staff. Onalfo, 33, has served the past three seasons as assistant coach for United. In a nine-year professional career, Onalfo reached the MLS Cup final with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996, and was part of the United team that captured MLS Cup '99. The former University of Virginia standout served as co-captain of the 1992 Olympic Team in Barcelona. Pierre Barrieu joins the national team program as the strength and conditioning coach after filling that responsibility for the USA during the 2002 World Cup and the 2002 Gold Cup. Board certified and holding a Master's Degree in Sports Science from the University of Nancy in France, Barrieu has served as the strength and conditioning coach for UVa's men's soccer team, as well as the men's and women's tennis teams, and as an assistant for the football team. While Barrieu is currently with the team in Bradenton, Onalfo will join the camp beginning Jan. 10.
JAN. 18 MATCH V. CANADA AVAILABLE ON LIMITED PAY-PER-VIEW: Setanta Sports has contracted to broadcast the USA v. Canada friendly on Jan. 18 live on a pay-per-view basis. Currently fans can only order the match via DirecTV for $19.95. The USA's first match of 2003 kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET from Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Fans can also follow the action live online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
THERE'S ONLY ONE ... : While displaying a renewed commitment to returning to the top form which had pundits describing him as the 'most creative attacking player in the U.S.,' Mathis still proceeds in his own unique style. Though the Mohawk has disappeared, the USA's leading scoring in 2002 appeared for the first fitness evaluation sporting snakeskin running shoes. Despite a lot of shaking heads, there was no official comment from the coaching staff. They were, however, pleased with his effort.
CALIFORNIA CONNECTION: The Bradenton group has a distinctive West Coast influence, with 11 players on the 26-man roster listing cities in California as their hometown. Of those 11, five players (Califf, Donovan, Dunseth, McCarty, Victorine) were members of the U.S. Olympic team that finished fourth in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In addition, five players matriculated at UCLA under current L.A. Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid (Bocanegra, Hartman, Rimando, Vagenas, Victorine). To round out the 'Cali connection,' trainer Ivan Pierra comes to the MNT on loan from the Galaxy.
THEY SAID IT: "The young guns showed strong, U-23 style." Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, describing the superior performance of Landon Donovan and Bobby Convey in the fitness evaluations