IN FULL SWING: The U.S. Men's National Team opened training camp yesterday under the cool grey skies of the Pacific Northwest, as 14 players participated in a light training session at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Bruce Arena led the side through a mild one-hour session, giving the team the opportunity to recover from travel across America and from Europe. After a 20-minute warmup, the group broke up into a possession game. Despite fatigue, the game took on the competitive intensity typical of a national team training session. Practice ended with a 6 v. 6 game to goal, DaMarcus Beasley nodding home the golden-goal game-winner for the Gold team. The U.S. resumes training at 10 a.m. today.
LATE CHECK-IN: Four players from the U.S. contingent will arrive to the Northwest a little later than their teammates. John O'Brien arrived into Portland yesterday evening, after Ajax lost their second road match of the season Sunday, falling 2-0 to league leaders PSV Eindhoven. Columbus Crew forward Brian McBride joins the team early this afternoon, but not in time to participate in training. Washington-native Kasey Keller travels across the Atlantic all day Tuesday, having played in Tottenham's 1-0 injury time loss to Bolton on Monday evening. San Jose forward Landon Donovan will be the last to join the party, as the Earthquakes will contest the second leg of their Round of 16 series against CSD Municipal of Guatemala in the 2003 CONCACAF Champions Cup on March 26 at Spartan Stadium. Donovan is expected to meet the team in Seattle on Thursday.
SEE YOU IN SEATTLE: Just five days remain before the United States hosts Venezuela at Seattle Seahawks Stadium on Saturday, March 29 in Seattle. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the match online at ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The U.S. and Venezuela will battle for only the second time in their history, and for the first-ever international soccer match at "The Hawk". Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $70 are still on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, at the Seahawks Stadium ticket office, by phone (Seattle 206-628-0888; Tacoma 253-627-8497), and on-line at www.ussoccer.com. Groups of 20 or more can order through U.S. Soccer at 312-528-1290.
FAMILY REUNION: There were plenty of warm smiles and hugs at the airport yesterday as several members of the 2002 World Cup team joined up for the first time since departing the JW Marriott Hotel in Seoul in the wee hours of the morning on June 22, 2002. Earnie Stewart, Brian McBride, Frankie Hedjuk, John O'Brien, Kasey Keller and Eddie Pope look to play their first match for the MNT since Korea. Meanwhile, the player returning from the longest absence is Birmingham City-based forward Jovan Kirovski, who has not appeared for the senior team since the 4-2 loss to Germany on March 27, 2002.
SNEAK PEEK: Training on the Nike campus certainly has its advantages. In addition to practicing at an excellent facility, the players and staff will get the chance to view Nike's specially-designed Retro Jersey which will be worn in a U.S. MNT match later this year. The Retro Jersey is part of a year-long series of events designed to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the United States Soccer Federation. Most important to the team, of course, is the opportunity to shop at Nike's famous "Employee Store." Yes, real men shop, too.
FLASHBACK: For a few of the veteran players, returning to Portland sparks memories of one of the most exciting moments in U.S. Soccer history. Kasey Keller, Eddie Pope, and Earnie Stewart were all starters for the USA in their crucial World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on September 7, 1997. Tied for third place with El Salvador after five games and two points behind Costa Rica, the U.S. desperately needed a win to keep pace. Before a sold-out crowd of 27,369 fans at Portland's Civic Stadium, Tab Ramos unleashed a 25-yard blast in the 78th minute to lift the United States to a 1-0 win that would eventually propel them to their third straight World Cup finals appearance.
THEY SAID IT: "That was one of the best crowds I've ever heard since playing for the national team. If they do it again, we'll try to get another four." U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, describing the crowd in Seattle for the USA's 4-0 win against Honduras on March 2, 2002.