ONE TO GO: The U.S. Men's National Team held their final training session of the week Friday afternoon at Hampden Park, spending just over an hour in preparation for their last match of 2005 against Scotland on Saturday afternoon in Glasgow, Scotland. Kickoff for the match is set for 4 p.m. local (11 a.m. ET), and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel. As always, fans can also follow along on usssoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The U.S. starting lineup against Scotland will be announced at ussoccer.com approximately one hour before kickoff.
ALL_ACCESS VIDEO - OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR SPECTOR: Ever since changing from a forward to a defender while with the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team, Jonathan Spector's career has taken off. He was signed by Manchester United before being loaned out to Charlton Athletic, where he now is seeing time in the starting lineup. He has also made the jump to the full Men's National Team, earning two caps while still a teenager. And with positions in the backfield up for grabs - especially at left back - Spec will be looking to make enough of an impression on Bruce Arena to get named to the final 23 for the 2006 World Cup. Opportunity is definitely knocking for Spector. Find out what the 19-year-old Arlington Heights, Ill., native has to say about his early stages with the MNT, the reasoning behind his move to Charlton and his chances of making it to Germany (watch).
ALL_ACCESS VIDEO - OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR ROLFE, PEARCE AND FEILHABER: Three new guys have been brought in for their first full national team camp as Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe, FC Norjaelland defender Heath Pearce and Hamburger SV midfielder Benny Feilhaber all seek their first cap for the U.S. Men under Manager Bruce Arena. Join the three youngsters as they talk about their playing experiences, how they got here and what it means to be a part of the U.S. roster (watch).
PODCASTING TRIPLE DOSE: The Podcasting Center at ussoccer.com has been quite active this week, and is set to get you ready for the Scotland clash with a variety of behind the scenes sound bites.
1) Pre-Game Presser: U.S. Manager Bruce Arena and goalkeeper Kasey Keller addressed the Scottish media in a press conference at the team hotel Thursday afternoon, covering a variety of topics. During the 30-minute session, the press seemed most focused on how the USA has gone from a virtual minnow to a Top 10 in just 20 years, perhaps with an eye towards the recent slide of the Scottish national team. They discussed the importance of the Scotland match, the U.S. team's chances in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and much more (listen).
2) Mooch Scouts Scotland: U.S. Assistant Coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick stepped in to break down the USA's 20th opponent of 2005. Led by boss Walter Smith, the Scottish side is a team in transition, building towards qualifying for the 2008 European Championships. Littered with players from the top leagues in England and Scotland, the Scots are typically strong, rugged and physical. Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher leads a youthful side that Myernick described as full of "pride and passion." He explains why the U.S. chose to play on short notice, the experience of playing at famed Hampden Park and the keys for the U.S. to be successful in Glasgow. It's all here in Mooch's Scotland Scouting Report, exclusively at ussoccer.com
3) Rookies on Cloud Nine: Unexpected doesn't exactly cover it. For the three newest members of the Men's National Team - Benny Feilhaber, Heath Pearce and Chris Rolfe - getting their first call up was unbelievable. All under 21 years of age, the three rookies are getting their first taste of what it's like to play with the best players in the United States as they prepare for the team's upcoming match in Scotland. While it's only been a couple days, the three greenhorns are holding their own and still pinching themselves at dinner to make sure that really was Kasey Keller that just passed the salt. In another exclusive podcast, ussoccer.com corralled the three after dinner one night to talk about their reaction to getting called into camp, what it's like playing with guys they look up to and the possibility of getting their first cap on Saturday (listen).
YOUNG WITNESS OLD FIRM: Several players and staff got the chance to witness one of the truly massive rivalries in all of sports when Celtic hosted Rangers in the Scottish League Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday night. Dubbed "The Old Firm", the battle between the two Glasgow clubs has captured the focus of the city for over 100 years. DaMarcus Beasley, Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen and Santino Quaranta witnessed the spectacle played at legendary Celtic Park in front of over 60,000 fans, and the match proved to be a festival off the field if not an inspiration on it. Fans sang long before kickoff and well after it, despite chilly temperatures and pouring rain. Celtic, the current league leaders, won the match 2-0 and advanced to semifinals, while the loss left Rangers boss Alex McCleish in danger of losing his job. "It was an unbelievable experience being in that atmosphere, and seeing how the support for each team is so passionate," said Quaranta. "It was similar to seeing the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway, but the emotion was so much higher. When Celtic scored, the guy next to me literally had tears in his eyes. It was something I will never forget."
DID IT COUNT OR NOT? U.S. Soccer records list five matches against Scotland, but the Scottish F.A. only lists four. So where's the difference? The "dispute" is over a match played in 1949 in Randall's Island, New York, in which the USA lost 4-0. The SFA chose not to designate this match an 'A' international, meaning players were not credited with caps and the game did not appear in their official records. The question remains: why? The Scottish team was on a tour of the U.S. and Canada, and brought what was clearly a representative team, including many players considered amongst the greatest in Scottish history. On the U.S. side, among the notable names was Walter Bahr, who went on to captain the U.S. for the historic 1-0 win against England in the 1950 World Cup. Even The New York Times reported the match as Scotland vs. United States. We may never know the reason, but our thanks to Colin Jose and the National Soccer Hall of Fame for their research on the mystery.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Scotland will be looking to the future starting Saturday after failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second straight cycle, finishing in third place of UEFA qualifying Group 5 behind Italy and Norway. The Scots posted a 2-1 win away to Norway, while tying Italy 1-1 at Hampden Park, but a devastating home loss to Belarus (1-0) combined with earlier draws against Belarus, Slovania and Moldova provided them with an even 3-3-4 record.
HAMPDEN PARK: Hampden Park is one of the most storied facilities in Britain, and is the National Stadium of Scotland. Opened in the early 1900’s, the stadium hosted a record crowd of 149,415 in 1937 for a Scotland vs. England match. They hosted over 130,000 fans at the 1960 European Cup final, a 7-3 win for Real Madrid against Eintracht Frankfurt. The current stadium capacity is 52,000.
• The U.S. will dress 18 players tomorrow night, with Brian McBride unavailable with a groin injury and Oguchi Onyewu remaining with Standard de Liege in Belgium
• The U.S. has played Scotland five times in their history, holding a lifetime record of just 1-3-1, but hasn’t played in Scotland in 53 years
• The team’s lone match in Scotland came way back on Aug. 30, 1952, when the Scots blanked the U.S. 6-0 in Glasgow
• The teams last met in Washington, D.C., playing to a scoreless draw on May 30, 1998, at RFK Stadium
• Kasey Keller was the starting goalkeeper in that match, the USA’s final preparation match before the 1998 FIFA World Cup
• Keller is the leading capwinner on this roster with 88 international appearances. With 44 shutouts, he is averaging one for every two matches played for the United States, and has amassed 50 career victories
• At the same time, Manchester United goalkeeper Tim Howard is off to a flying start to his international career, posting six shutouts in 14 matches. He marshaled the U.S. to a clean sheet in their last outing, a 2-0 win against Panama in the final match of qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup
• That victory capped a magnificent final round qualifying campaign in which the United States went undefeated at home, with all five victories in the unblemished 5-0-0 record coming by shutout
• PSV midfielder DaMarcus Beasley has had an outstanding year, posting career highs for both goals (4) and assists (4)
• Hannover 96 vice-captain Steve Cherundolo is making his first appearance with the U.S. team since injuring his knee in the USA's 3-1 win against Jamaica on July 16, 2005 in the quarterfinals of the 2005 Gold Cup. He has played in nine matches for the U.S. in 2005, a career high
• Three players on the roster are in search of their first cap - Benny Feilhaber, Heath Pearce and Chris Rolfe. All three are also making their first appearance in a camp with the full team
• At only 18 years of age, Chris Rolfe is the puppy on the 18-man roster, but not by much. Nine players on the roster are 25 years old or younger
• MLS Defender of the Year Jim Conrad has begun to make his mark with the full team, earning seven caps in 2005. After appearing in every one of the USA's matches in their championship run in the 2005 Gold Cup, the Wizards centerback got his first start in World Cup qualifying in the 0-0 draw away to Guatemala on Sept. 7 in Guatemala City
• Through an agreement with Scotland and following FIFA rules, the teams will be allowed a maximum of six substitutions Saturday afternoon
• Under Arena, the U.S. is 1-8-1 in European soil, the lone triumph coming in Plock on March 31, 2004, a 1-0 win against Poland. The losses have included defeats against Brazil, Italy, Germany, and Holland, amongst others
• The United States has already made history in 2005, collecting its highest-ever win total with an overall record of 13-3-3
On the field for the USA
October 12, 2005 – Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass. – FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Final Round, Matchday 10
USA 2 Kyle Martino 51’, Taylor Twellman 57’
PAN: 1-Jaime Penedo; 5-Felipe Baloy, 3-Luis Moreno, 6-Gabriel Gomez, 2-Joel Solanilla; 4-Ubaldo Guardia, 10-Angel Lombardo (19-Gabriel Torres, 62), 7-Jorge Dely Valdes, 8-James Brown (13-Roman Torres, 62), 11-Luis Gallardo (18-Anthony Basile, 62); 9-Julio Dely Valdes (capt.)
Subs not used: 12-Jose Calderon, 17-Edwin Aguilar
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 8-Jonathan Spector, 22-Chad Marshall, 12-Danny Califf, 5-Chris Albright; 16-Brian Carroll, 10-Kyle Martino (13-Ricardo Clark, 68), 2-Clint Dempsey; 21-Santino Quaranta, 20-Taylor Twellman (9-Brian Ching, 74), 19-Justin Mapp (14-Steve Ralston, 58)
Subs not used: 24-Matt Reis, 6-Jay Heaps, 7-Daniel Hernandez, 23-Eddie Pope
On the field for Scotland
October 12, 2005 – Arena Petrol, Celje – FIFA World Cup Qualifier,
Scotland 3 Darren Fletcher 4’, James McFadden 47’, Paul Hartley 83’
SCO: Craig Gordon, Graham Alexander, Christian Dailly, Steven Pressley (Garry O’Connor, 46), Andy Webster, David Weir, Darren Fletcher, Nigel Quashie (Steve Caldwell, 72), Paul Hartley, James McFadden, Kenny Miller (Gary Caldwell, 46)
SLO: Samir Handanovic, Bostjan Cesar, Aleksander Knavs, Matej Mavric (Andrej Pecnik, 25 ; Branko Ilic, 58), Nastja Ceh, Andrej Komac, Robert Koren, Anton Zoglar, Milenko Acimovic, Sebastian Cimirotic, Aleksandar Rodic (Ermin Siljak, 55)
May 30, 1998 – RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. – International Friendly
USA: Kasey Keller; Eddie Pope, Thomas Dooley (capt.), Mike Burns, David Regis; Tab Ramos (Preki Radosavljevic, 56), Joe-Max Moore (Jeff Agoos, 69), Chad Deering, Earnie Stewart (Alexi Lalas , 82); Cobi Jones, Roy Wegerle (Eric Wynalda, 62).
SCO: James Leighton, Colin Calderwood, Colin Hendry (capt.), Thomas Boyd, Christian Dailly, William McKinlay (Craig William Burley, 74), Paul Lambert, John Angus Paul Collins, Thomas Valley (Tosh) McKinlay (Jackie McNamara, 60), Darren Jackson (Darren Jackson, 46), Kevin William Gallacher (Simon Donnelly, 82)