U.S. Under-20s Men's National Team Visits Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence Prior to Beginning CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%VISIT WITH ROYALTY: Less than 24 hours before the team kicks off against Guatemala, the U.S. joined their three CONCACAF rivals at a reception hosted by the Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday on Saturday night. The team was greeted at the Prime Minister's residence by Panday himself, who shook the hand of each member of the team and delegation as the teams entered the grounds. The impressive estate includes a golf green, complete with sand bunker, large trees that were decorated for the occasion with hanging lights, and a swimming pool filled with red, white and black balloons (Trinidad & Tobago's colors). The four competing teams were joined at the reception by the West Indies youth cricket team, who recently won the world youth cricket championship in England. The crowd was addressed by five speakers, including FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President Jack Warner and Prime Minister Panday.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue3=%FINAL TRAINING SESSION BEFORE OPENER: The U.S. held their final training session Saturday morning before the opener against Guatemala on Sunday. The team loosened up playing a keep away game in which the players were allowed to use their hands, and consequently the game looked more like basketball than soccer. The team then broke up into four groups of four for two games that focused on one-touch juggling. The team of Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Brad Davis and Ricky Lewis walked away with the first game with a score of 15 that doubled the second-place score of seven. The second match involved heading the ball, and the group of Conor Casey, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Martino and Nelson Akwari won before the rest of the practice was spent on set pieces and restarts.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%LOOK AHEAD TO GUATEMALA: Guatemala qualified for the final round of CONCACAF qualifying by virtue of their third-place finish at the UNCAF Championships in December, 2000. After winning their Central American qualifying group with a victory against Honduras and a draw with El Salvador, Guatemala fell to Costa Rica on penalties in the semifinals. Guatemala rebounded from the semifinals to top Panama with a Johnny Leonardo goal four minutes into overtime of the 3rd place match against Panama. Leonardo's golden goal punched the team's ticket to Trinidad & Tobago, where they will have a chance to seek revenge for their semifinal UNCAF penalty kick loss to Costa Rica.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%U.S. vs. GUATEMALA - A LOOK TO THE PAST: The United States has not faced Guatemala in the CONCACAF Youth Tournament since May 5, 1990, when the U.S. topped host nation Guatemala 4-1. The U.S. has posted six wins in seven matches against Guatemala, falling only in the first match-up on April 6, 1964. The U.S. has won the last six matches and has outscored Guatemala 15-7 in the seven matches.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%TEAM'S FIRST TRIP TO THE DR. JOAO HAVELANGE CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE: The U.S. team visited the Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence for the first time Friday, and most of the team was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the field. All six of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament games are being played at the Centre of Excellence. The U.S. conducted a 90-minute training session on the filed Friday afternoon, working on finishing and getting used to knocking the ball around on the less-than-perfect surface. "The stadium field is not bad and it is not the greatest, but it is a field we can definitely play on," U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said. "It is not Crew Stadium or the ARCO Olympic Training Center, but we can move the ball and still play our game there."
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%DONOVAN, THE ROOKIE: With all of his international experience, it is hard to fathom that tomorrow's match will be Landon Donovan's first international appearance at the Under-20 level. Donovan has only played three matches with the Under-20s, all in the last two weeks, but he still has four goals and two assists. In 1999 Landon Donovan made his debut at the Under-23 level at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, and he made his full Men's National Team debut in October, 2000. He has been successful at every level, and his recent form with the 20s suggests that this level will be no different. In three matches with the Men's National Team he has one goal and two assists, while he has compiled five goals in 15 internationals with the Under-23 squad.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%TAKE TWO: With the kick-off to the tournament looming, Wolfgang Suhnholz and his coaching staff used Friday to take the team through two training sessions. The morning session took place at St. Anthony's College, and the team played in front of an audience of about 60 students who looked on, while other students played their own games of soccer. It made for an interesting contrast, as two separate games were being played less than 50 yards apart. One game played by the students in their school uniforms kicking and chasing a tattered ball, while the U.S. team worked on finishing and went through a relatively light workout in the hot sun.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%WAKING UP SUNDAY: The team will sleep in Sunday morning and will go through a light walk through and stretch in the early afternoon after breakfast. Some of the staff will head to the stadium early to watch the tournament opener between Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%EATING & SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMIES: The U.S. and Costa Rica have been sharing the Cascadia Hotel since both arrived Wednesday, but the teams have now been joined by another CONCACAF foe. Guatemala arrived Friday and all three teams are now sharing the Cascadia, and at any moment of the day at least one member of one team can be found in the lobby. The three teams have drawn media into the hotel with writers and photographers milling about the lobby throughout the day.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%ARENA AND MARTINO'S CAVALIERS LOSE, SUHNHOLZ'S LONGHORNS KNOCKED OUT: The team hotel may be lacking some amenities, but it is definitely first-class in terms of television. With satellite television, the TVs have been put to use during the team's downtime, especially now that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is underway. A few players have been noticeably quiet of late, including Kenny Arena, Kyle Martino and Brian Carroll. Arena and Martino's Cavaliers fell to Gonzaga Friday, and Carroll's Demon Deacons were dealt a 16-point loss by Butler. Head coach Wolfgang Suhnholz, who resides in Austin, had dreamed of a Texas run to the final, but the Longhorns were knocked out in the first round. The UCLA backline trio of Nelson Akwari, DJ Countess and Alexander Yi had no problems holding their heads high Saturday after the Bruins put on a dominating display in the second round.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%TRINIDAD: SPORTING CAPITAL? Trinidad is a sports hot bed, or at least it will be in the next week. On Saturday the West Indies and South Africa begin a five-day cricket test at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Oval is located less than 15 minutes from the U.S. hotel, and is passed on the way to the team's training site at St. Anthony's College. The test is the 50th international test played at the Oval and the first day of the test was played in front of a sellout crowd of more than 25,000. U.S. goalkeeper coach Bill Irwin followed cricket while growing up in Britain and is hoping to make it to the third day of the test Monday afternoon.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%STAT OF THE DAY: If the United States finishes in the top two of the four teams in Group B of the CONCACAF Youth Tournament, they will advance to the FIFA World Youth Championship. The USA played in the 1997 and 1999 World Youth Championship, finishing 15th and 11th, respectively. If the U.S. finishes in the top two in Trinidad, it will mark the first time that the U.S. has ever advanced to three consecutive World Youth Championships.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"We wish all the teams competing in the football competition good luck and may the best team win. And of course, our team is the best team."