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U.S. Under-17 MNT Notes from Manchester, England

FILLING IN FOR MANCHESTER UNITED: After a bit of a delay leaving Atlanta on Wednesday evening, the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team finally arrived in Manchester, England around 11 a.m. on Thursday. After checking into the hotel downtown, the team piled back onto their bus and conducted their first training session at Littleton training grounds, the usual training site used by Manchester United’s Academy. Even on the excellent pitch, the players struggled to get their legs back after the long flight. Today, the players traveled to another Manchester United training ground - the Cliff Training Center. During the 90-minurte session, the players did some technical word and then played a few games of possession, before finishing with a shortened field game with full-size goals. Check out pictures of the teams first few days in Manchester at the Sights and Sounds section of

MANCHESTER SCHEDULE: While staying in Manchester until Aug. 10, the U-17 MNT will play four World Championship preparation matches against two local youth club teams – Blackburn and Manchester United - and two U-17 national teams - Australia and Nigeria.
U.S. Under-17 MNT Schedule
Date     Opponent                Location (training fields)
Aug. 2  Blackburn                @ Blackburn
Aug. 4  Australia                  @ Everton
Aug. 7  Manchester United   @ Manchester United
Aug. 9  Nigeria                    @ Manchester United

A GOALKEEPER COMES HOME: Being back in Manchester is a homecoming for U.S. Under-17 goalkeepers coach Peter Mellor, as the notorious jokester grew up just 10 minutes from the team’s hotel. Mellor, who also once played for Manchester City, has already told numerous stories of his childhood growing up in the football city to the staff – some of which have been good, and some not so good. Later in the week, look for a feature on about Mellor’s flashbacks to his childhood (we’ll take out the boring stories) and his take on the city now.

JULES' UNDERCOVER JOURNAL: He may not be as cute as E! Entertainment’s Jules Asner, but our own Jules (Julian Valentin) will do his best to serve as your host, providing you with an inside look at the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team during their preparation matches in England, and as they compete in the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland. At 16, the Lancaster, Pa. defender is one of the most vocal players on and off the pitch and every few days will give a rundown of what went on in practice, on the bus, during the meals and on the field during games. He’ll also include (starting in the next journal entry) a special segment where he will keep a keen eye on one particular teammate for a couple days and "uncover" his every move – good or bad – on and off the field. Read it here:

PLAY OF THE DAY: Today’s play of the day during practice comes from a combination of forward Jamie Watson’s foot and midfielder/defender Steven Curfman’s face. While playing with full-sized goals on a shortened field, Corey Ashe crossed a pinpoint pass from the left side to Watson, who was waiting about five-yards beyond the far post. As Curfman sprinted to his left to defend, Watson struck a wicked one-time volley towards the goal. Amazingly, it ended up finding the back of the net. Why amazingly? Because it first found the left side of Curfman’s face making a loud SLAP! As Curfman went down - no doubt with an intense stinging pain - the ball somehow managed to ricochet high off his cheek, curl towards the left post and dribble in.

Watson on the play: "I wanted to laugh, but I felt bad. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to go see if he was all right. I give all the credit to Curfman for the goal." (Editor’s note: He smartly chose the latter, and went to Curfman’s aid.)

Curfman on the play: "It hurt. And the fact that it went in made it hurt even more. Actually, the fact that his shot would have gone out for a throw-in if it hadn’t hit my face, yet went in, really hurt."

ONE-ON-ONE WITH ELLINGER: Two years ago, U-17 MNT coach John Ellinger brought together a group of young men into the U.S. Soccer residnecy program and told them their final goal would be to win a World Championship in 2003. Fast forward to now. With only two weeks before Ellinger's team actually puts its cleats on and strives for that championship, he's still tweaking, tinkering and molding the players to get their best effort. Ellinger talks to about how the team looks and what he's looking to get out of the four preparations matches in England. Read it here:  /articles/viewArticle.jsp_40399.html