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U.S. to Face Talented Italian U-21 Side

U.S. FORWARDS VS. ITALIAN TANKS: Sunday's morning training session took place at the military base of the 24th Artillery Regiment just down the street from the team hotel, providing some interesting scenery and some interested spectators for the 2-hour session. After working on the offensive attack in a 10-v-8 situational scrimmage that used only 3/4 of the field, the team's midfielderS and forwards worked on finishing at the south goal, which just happened to be in front of a huge battery of enormous tanks and other military vehicles that went eight rows deep. With a handful of errant shots, it meant that U-23 MNT equipment manager Rob Stelzer and some soldiers on the base were at different points reduced to doing an army crawl under these giant war machines to retreive some of the team's Nike balls.

USA TO FACE TALENTED ITALIAN U-21 SIDE: The Italian Under-21 MNT that the USA will face tomorrow night at G. Celeste Stadium in Messina is an extremely talented one that includes several players that compete in Italy's Serie A. Included on the 20-player roster are midfielder Andrea Pirlo (Milan) and forward Antonio Cassano (Roma), both of whom came on in the second half in the two teams' 0-0 draw yesterday. Head coach Claudio Gentile also called in Serie A players like midfielders Marco Marchionni (Parma) and Enzo Maresca (Juventus) and Emiliano Moretti (Fiorentina). The complete roster is below:
Goalkeepers: Ivan Pelizzoli (Roma), Generoso Rossi (Venezia);
Defenders: Antonio Bocchetti (Napoli), Paolo Cannavaro (Verona Hellas), Paolo Castellini (Torino), Stefano Lucchini (Ternana), Emiliano Moretti (Fiorentina), Samuele Olivi (Salernitana), Cristian Zaccardo (Bologna);
Midfielders: Matteo Brighi (Bologna), Nicola Campedelli (Salernitana), Massimo Donati (Milan), Fabio Gatti (Perugia), Marco Marchionni (Parma), Enzo Maresca (Juventus), Andrea Pirlo (Milan);
Forwards: Emiliano Bonazzoli (Parma), Antonio Cassano (Roma), Vincenzo Laquinta (Udinese), Massimo Maccarone (Empoli).

US-ITALY UNDER-21 MATCH-UP TO BE SEEN LIVE IN STATES, ALSO ON PHILIPS MATCHTRACKER: It was recently announced that tomorrow's match between the U.S. Under-23 MNT (which could at this point similarly be classified as an Under-21 team) and the Italian Under-21 MNT will be broadcast live at 2:45 p.m. ET on RAI International, which is available through a number of satellite subscription services and the DISH Network. Fans can also follow the match online via live updates's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

A TRIP TO "THE CAGE": With a day to go before the big match, the team was fortunate to have an opportunity for an extended training session at G. Celeste Stadium today, home of the Serie C Messina club. The Stadium is quite a unique one that is basically dropped in the middle of a city block, with apartments around it on three of its four sides, with one of the main streets dissecting Messina at its back. The 118 x 72-yard field is completely surrounded by a 12-foot tall plexiglass wall, with the steep incline of the bleachers letting the fans appear almost on top of the field. Although expecting a decent paid crowd of around 10,000 tomorrow night (the stadium seats around 12,000), a couple hundred lucky neighbors of the stadium will be able to watch from the rear balcony of their apartments, which provide a colorful backdrop with clothes hanging out to dry up the entire side of the building.

WORLD-CLASS MEALS CONTINUE FOR TEAM: Steak for lunch, grilled swordfish for dinner, as well as fresh pasta with pomodoro (red sauce), sliced prusciotto and cappucino at every meal, have made the team's mealtimes in Italy a dream for the players, coaches and staff. After a fairly similar buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day at the hotel restaurant back in Funchal, the kitchen staff at the Hotel Royal Palace in Messina has worked hard to provide a special surprise main course at each of the teams four meals since arriving, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the entire U.S. delegation.

TEAM GRACED BY PRESENCE OF VIP LIASON CARLO TRAMATOZZI: Upon arriving at the Rome International Airport on Saturday, the team met up met up with its very connected bilingual liason Carlo Tramotozzi. A VIP and close friend of the Italian Football Federation, the New York-based Tramatozzi  has a wealth of international soccer experience, both as a coach and as an administrator. Tramotozzi served as the Italian team liason for both the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics and was an official guest of the Federation for the 1998 World Cup in France and for Euro 2000. He has also served as the team liason when they visit Italy, including the 1990 World Cup. Coincidentally, as coach of St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y., he guided the East to a 1-0 win over the West in the 1976 Senior Bowl in Orlando, Fla., with his team captain being none other than scrappy, long-haired midfielder Glenn "Mooch" Myernick of Hartwick College. Even more eerie, at the time he was playing at Hartwick, Myernick used to babysit U-23 MNT coordinator Erik Liekoski. "It just goes to show you how small the soccer world can be," said Myernick. "Here I am 25 years later with Carlo and Erik, and this time I'm the one coaching and Erik is babysitting me."

TRACING THEIR ITALIAN ROOTS: Along with Tramotozzi, the U.S. delegation has two people that are of Italian heritage -- team doctor Dan Romanelli and midfielder Kyle Martino. Romanelli, who last name means "little Roman", is a fourth-generation Argentinian, but his great grandfather originally lived in Italy before the family emigrated to Argentina. Martino's grandfather was born in Italy before his great great grandparents moved with the family to New York, before settling in Providence, Rhode Island.

WHAT'S ON THE TELE? With a lot of down time in the afternoon and not too much as far as scenery or sight-seeing around the hotel in Messina, the players have had to rely on television for most of their entertainment. Unfortunately, despite having the Eurosport channel (all soccer, all day) in Funchal, the only soccer (Italian or otherwise) to be seen on TV's in Messina are just highlights. With a surprising absence of soccer, it's been up to Italian-language reruns of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dawson's Creek" and "Family Ties" to fill the void between meals and training. RAI, the Italian national broadcasting network, has done its best to provide game shows like "La Ruola della Fortuna" (their own version of "Wheel of Fortune", complete with an attractive letter-turner a la Vanna White), but when "The Simpsons" or parts of the 2002 Olympics from Salt Lake City are shown, the channel has been quickly changed.

"Do you have any of the cheese without the holes?"
- U.S. U-23 MNT assistant coach Dan "Don't call me Donny" Donigan (the Men's Soccer head coach at Saint Louis University), requesting his favorite provolone cheese although today's lunch especially featured fresh Mozzarella balls and Swiss cheese slices.

"If I want mozzarella cheese, I'll throw a frozen pizza in the oven."
- U.S. Under-23 MNT trainer Scott Piehl (of suburban Aurora, Ill.), who claimed to have never had mozzarella cheese served by itself and was amazed at how tasty it could be when freshly made.