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MNT Summer Blog: One Last Game


Blog Index:

Week 1: May 27 - June 2
Week 2: June 3 - June 9
Week 3: June 10 - June 16
Week 4: June 17 - June 23
Week 5: June 24 - June 30
Week 6: July 1 - July 8
 


Friday, July 6 @ 11:28 a.m.
Believe it or not, by the time you read this most of the team will be nearing touchdown on the continental United States. The bus for the airport in Barquisimeto left at 4 a.m., with the charter wheels up at 5:30. A 40-minute flight to Caracas, and the first players and coaches were on the 8:45 a.m. to Atlanta. There's a full slate of games in MLS this weekend, and many of the Copa America vets will be suiting up for their sides.

We've had quite a journey together these past six weeks, you of the MNT Summer Blog faithful. Plenty of highs and lows, some (hopefully) interesting facts, a few guest bloggers, loads of e-mails, and the little behind-the-scenes details that help paint a picture of what it's like on the road for the Men's National Team. In many ways it was mission accomplished, highlighted by hoisting the Gold Cup trophy in our own back yard in Chicago. Venezuela brought different results despite a lot of quality efforts. All in all, these six weeks presented a task unlike any other taken on by the national team before. In 28 days the team played in nine confederation championship matches spanning two continents, from Los Angeles to Boston, Chicago to Maracaibo. For the first time in their history, the U.S. went a perfect 6-0 in the Gold Cup, achieving their first ever come from behind win against Mexico to capture their fourth Gold Cup title and a berth in the 2009 Confederation's Cup in South Africa. Since the team convened in Los Angeles on May 27, there have been 40 different players on three rosters. Between the Gold Cup and Copa America, 24 players got their first taste of competition in a confederation championship. During the past seven months, the coaching staff has gotten to see a plethora of players in a variety of circumstances, accumulating a 10-3-1 record along the way and putting themselves in an excellent position to full understanding of the status of the player pool. It’s been a great ride so far, and it’s only going to get better. And if you keep reading, we'll keep writing...

Thursday, July 5 @ 5:28 p.m.
On this, Venezuela's Independence Day, here is the USA's starting XI against Colombia for their final match of the tournament.

Brad Guzan gets his first start in goal, and will anchor a defensive unit that sees several changes to the quarter. Drew Moor reprises his role as the right back, with a central pairing of Bobby Boswell and captain Danny Califf. Heath Pearce replaces Jonathan Bornstein at left back. In the midfield, Ricardo Clark and Kyle Beckerman hold down the fort in the center of the park, while Justin Mapp and Sacha Kljestan will be the
two-way players on the left and right flank, respectively. Up top, it's Eddie Johnson partnering with Herculez Gomez.

Thursday, July 5 @ 3:48 p.m.
It's a gorgeous afternoon in Barquisimeto. Stadium is sold out, we are playing the first-ever game in what will be the future home of the local club. The coach of Colombia is under heavy pressure from the media and fans because of high expectations for his team prior to the tournament. There were will be a few new faces in both lineups, but each side is after a victory and vindication. Moral to the story: it's a great day for football.

Thursday, July 5 @ 11:18 a.m.
Obviously there is a lot of disappointment after last night's results ended the team's chances of advancing. Nonetheless, the game-day routine is well underway and the clear message from the coaching staff is that this team wants to leave Venezuela with a positive result. No question the situation presents a mental challenge, but it's all part of the experience.

Wednesday, July 4 @ 4:55 p.m.
We just arrived at the El Stadio Metropolitano de Lara, site of tomorrow’s match against Columbia here in Barquisimeto. A fantastic venue, minus one thing: it’s not finished. Driving into the stadium, we literally passed hundreds of construction workers outside and inside, and while we type we can hear hammers hammering and drills drilling due to those workers who are scattered all over the place putting…well, we were going to say finishing touches on the stadium, but that’s just not happening. It appears the majority of the planned 39,275 seats are in place, but there are numerous other areas that are glaringly unfinished (it definitely doesn’t look like the picture shown in the tournament brochure). There are supposed to be overhangs on all four sides of the stadium, but there are only two built (and those aren’t even 100 percent done). Elevators at this moment don’t work. Lots of bolts, screws, wiring and other objects sticking out of wall. We could go on, but you get the picture. Despite all of its short comings, though, the stadium has great potential. The field is pristine and the players were all saying this is the best stadium of the three we’ve played in during the tournament. It has a definite European feel with no track around the stadium allowing the fans to be right on top of the action and even includes 20 cushy individual bench seats for the coaches and substitutes. Locker rooms are excellent, with wooden panel lockers, a sauna, an office for the coaches and even a room for the equipment manager. And, look at that, they just turned on the scoreboard…so at least we know that works.

Tuesday, July 3 @ 10:58 p.m.
Not so good a result in the Venezuela-Uruguay match. From the looks of it, those teams could have played 900 minutes and not shown a desire to go forward. The lifeless 0-0 draw gave each team the point they needed, Venezuela winning Group A and Uruguay qualifying for the knockout phase. So much for hospitality. It now falls to the results in Group B, and fans, we're going to have to suck it up for one day big time. That's right - we have to root for Mexico.
C'mon amigos, si se puede!

Tuesday, July 3 @ 10:58 p.m. 
Not so good a result in the Venezuela-Uruguay match.  From the looks of it, those teams could have played 900 minutes and not shown a desire to go forward. The lifeless 0-0 draw gave each team the point they needed, Venezuela winning Group A and Uruguay qualifying for the knockout phase. So much for hospitality. It now falls to the results in Group B, and fans, we're going to have to suck it up for one day big time.  That's right - we have to root for Mexico. C'mon amigos, si se puede!
 
Tuesday, July 3 @ 8:41 p.m.
Huge result for us in the Peru-Bolivia game. Claudio Pizarro scored the equalizer for Peru in the 84th minute, salvaging a 2-2 draw for Peru and a ticket to the quarterfinals.  Had
Bolivia won, Peru would have been assured the third place spot in Group A, at the very least equal on points with Uruguay but holding vastly superior goal differential.  At this stage, a Uruguay loss to Venezuela would leave them with three points and at least a minus-3 goal differential, meaning a 2-0 win against Colombia for the U.S. would all but guarantee passage to the next round.  Hope that makes sense.  Meantime, come on vinotintos!

Tuesday, July 3 @ 8:05 p.m.
Bob and the rest of the team were once again unable to catch the U.S. Under-20’s match against Poland on TV here in Venezuela this evening, but we were able to download the goals right after the game and brought our computer down for all to enjoy at dinner. The laptop made a couple rounds, with the first stop being the coaches’ table before moving on for some of the players that were interested in seeing just how the U.S. tallied six. Some dropped jaws when they saw a couple of the well-struck goals by Freddy Adu and Danny Szetela. Talking about the 6-1 victory, Eddie Gaven, who played with both Adu and Szetela in the last U-20 World Cup, simply stated, “It’s awesome.” That it is Eddie.

Tuesday, July 3 @ 4:35 p.m.
Traveling for this long there’s always the problem of trying to wear clean clothes every day. The team is supplied with a load of Nike gear, but after a week, you start to notice the shirts you’ve worn for days at a time might be a bit funky. There’s obviously laundry at times (thanks Jesse!) but usually when they roll out of bed the players just do the smell test – give it a sniff and if it doesn’t make your head jerk back in disgust, put it on. With the limited supply to choose from guys also tend to end up wearing the same thing, and after awhile they want to change it up. Well, that’s wear the free handouts come in handy. In Maracaibo we got a great orange shirt from the hotel, but even that got to be pretty popular within the group. Today, there were a few guys standing out from the crowd on the flight as Jimmy Conrad was sporting his free Copa America t-shirt, Heath Pearce the Copa America hat and the best of the bunch was Eddie Johnson rocking the brown hat we also got from the hotel in Maracaibo. We’re pretty sure Eddie was the only one who didn’t leave it at the hotel, but we must say the guy can pull off almost anything and look good – even free ugly brown hotel hats. When we arrived to the hotel here in Baraquisimeto there was another free t-shirt (this one red) laid out on the bed for each member of the team. Within 15 seconds, Heath Pearce was seen wearing his.

On a side note, undoubtedly the best dressed member of our traveling entourage is assistant coach Peter Nowak. Today he was in his traditional travel day outfit: Jeans and black sport coat, black dress shoes and dark (like really dark) designer sunglasses. In true movie star fashion, Peter hates having the camera’s turned on him but when dressed to impress how can the flashbulbs stay away?

Tuesday, July 3 @ 3:38 p.m.
We are now ensconced in Barquisimeto, and had something at lunch today that we haven't seen anywhere since we arrived - cold cuts! Sub rolls, pickles, ketchup and mustard, the works! When you've been away from home for this long, little things mean a lot. The hotel is great, with spacious rooms and some great views of the area. It's a light day for the team, with a regeneration session scheduled for later this afternoon. You can still sense the frustration from last night's result, but the group is pressing on and focusing on Colombia. There's still a decent chance this game is going to mean something beyond getting more experience, and for sure the coaching staff will have the  players prepared.

Tuesday, July 3 @ 2:35 p.m.
After landing in Barquisimeto, members of the staff along instituted the assembly line system on the tarmac and had the plane unloaded in less than 20 minutes. For those that have been following the blog closely, such a streamlined moving of our gear was truly unprecedented. It was due in large part to the help that we received from the Venezuelan troops whose level of Propel has reached record heights. When we let them know that we were giving away a few cases of Propel and Gatorade Rain they jumped right in. 

Tuesday, July 3 @ 10:59 a.m.
From the desk of Jimmy Conrad:

To the powers that be at U.S. Soccer:

It has come to my attention that a tiny band of rogue whippersnappers have been disparaging the fine work of my colleague and friend Neil Buethe. Having those small minds criticize Neil's outstanding performance is like poop telling vomit it stinks. But I digress. Neil is nothing but pure class, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. A diamond in the rough. A saint amongst sinners. An Oreo DoubleStuff in a world of plum nut fruitcakes. So I'm here to shout from the highest mountain top (or the second floor of our hotel): Let the word go forth from this time and place that if Neil goes, I go!

Tuesday, July 3 @ 10:28 a.m.
It's hurry up and wait time here in Barinas as the charter plane has yet to arrive. The team came downstairs a half hour ago to take pictures and sign autographs for the hotel staff who have been extraordinarily kind and helpful. Who knew there would be so many camera phones? Lots of smiles and thank you's in two languages, then back upstairs to wait for word on departure time. Could be worse. Our equipment manager and trainer have been at the airport since 8 a.m. waiting...

Monday, July 2 @ 7:40 p.m.
Listened in on a small bit of Bob's halftime speech. All we caught was him telling the guys they were doing well pushing forward and to keep it up as Paraguay could be getting tired.  

Monday, July 2 @ 5:30 p.m.
Just arrived at the stadium, but for a moment it was touch and go on whether we’d actually get in. The stadium here in Barinas is brand new and they built garages for the team buses to pull into, but they obviously should have made the entrance a bit larger as our driver had a heck of time trying to maneuver the tight turn and small opening. So what was the driver’s solution? Well, go in backwards of course. With some help from the security personal outside the driver only scrapped the inside of the garage wall once with the back right corner, leaving a nice red streak for all that pass through to remember the U.S. played the first game ever at Football Stadium Agustin Tovar (nicknamed “La Carolina, by the way…why? We have no idea).

Monday, July 2 @ 5:10 p.m.
Made our way up to our seat in the press tribune, and now we are deaf. There’s a pre-game extravaganza going on and they have the speakers turned up way, way too loud. Sitting near to our videographer, Mark, as he sets up the camera to film the match and he can not hear a single thing we’re saying from two feet away. Lots going on that you’d expect in a pre-game show, just on a smaller scale than you typically see in the States. Well, in terms of the production that is, but if you’re talking just singers, this one blows anything in the U.S. out of the water. At the Super Bowl or other events you have a handful of singers sharing the load, but here, well it’s just one after another. They keep popping out of the center tunnel, and its guys, girls, kids, parrots…OK, not parrots, but Guaky, the tournament mascot, was on the field. We counted and there were a total of 36 people that came out to sing (just sing, we’re not counting the dancers!). The crowd loves it, and from what we here, there were about 5,000 people here about three hours ago. The stadium is 90 percent full now (capacity about 25,000), and we’re still an hour out. The locals are muy entusiasmados. As we finish this entry, they have started doing the wave. What an atmosphere.

Monday, July 2 @ 5:28 p.m.
The USA's lineup for the Paraguay showdown is in, with Bob Bradley making two changes to the starting XI that took on Argentina in Maracaibo. Kasey Keller returns to man the nets, having captained the U.S. to a 2-0 win in their last meeting against Paraguay in 2003 in Columbus. Drew Moor slots into the right back spot, becoming the 50th different player to earn a cap in 13 games for the United States in 2007. The rest of the back line remains unchanged, with Jay DeMerit and Jimmy Conrad pairing in the middle and Jonathan Bornstein patrolling the left.  In midfield, Ricardo Clark and Benny Feilhaber mind the middle of the park, while Ben Olsen handles the right and Sacha Kljestan moves in to replace Justin Mapp on the left. Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson will handle the attacking duties up top. Bornstein and Feilhaber each earn their 10th cap this year, becoming the first U.S. player since Claudio Reyna in 1994 to make at least 10 appearances in his first calendar year with the full team. Also, Moor is the 16th player to earn his first cap this year, the most since 1992 when players including Thomas Dooley, Mike Burns, Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel and assistant coach Mike Sorber debuted.

Monday, July 2 @ 3:38 p.m.
We were sitting in the restaurant for our pre-game meal, and team GM Pam Perkins noticed that there were a group of people across the street from the hotel who appeared to be sporting U.S. soccer gear. As the police were shooing them away, we made it outside in time to find out the gang of five were Americans who had traveled down to Venezuela just to support the U.S. team. There were guys from all across the country, from Sacramento to D.C., Dallas to Minneapolis. They met online, and have been crashing in hotels together, scaring up tickets, and hitting the adventure sports scene while hopping from city to city. The group was rewarded for their efforts when Bob Bradley walked across the street past security to introduce himself and thank them for their support. Clearly these guys are die-hard U.S. Soccer fans, and while the team spends its time sequestered in a hotel and without a whole lot of people cheering them on, it's nice to see U.S. fans whose passion for the sport measures up to anyone's in the world. Have fun tonight guys. We'll be looking for you.

Monday, July 2 @ 12:28 p.m.
While you have read many times how tedious game days can be, today is particularly quiet since the Governor of Barinas has declared July 2 to be a state holiday in honor of the USA-Paraguay match. This is the biggest sporting event that Barinas has ever hosted. The town is completely shut down and the stadium sold-out. Even the five v. five field across the street from the hotel is empty. Perhaps the coaches are up for a little staff game ...

Meantime, check out today's Studio 90. Despite being named, the named author of this blog denies being the source of any of Mr. Conrad's information.

Monday, July 2 @ 9:08 a.m. 
Coming to you live from inside the match commissioner's meeting for tonight's game. Got a tour of the facility first, where you can smell the fresh paint and they are literally still rolling out the carpet. The stadium looks great so far. The design is similiar to European stadiums with a center tunnel and the locker rooms on either side. The grass is in good shape, and the field is surrounded by a track. We have been told now that the USA is the 'A' team for the match, which affects little details like bench location and which team walks to shake the hands of the other team during the pre-game ceremony. Other agenda items include jersey colors, match timelines (which are almost the exact same all over the world), bus departure schedules, and other organizational items that help make the event run smoothly and let the teams - and the fans- just focus on the game.

Sunday, July 1 @ 8:50 p.m.
And the Xbox is out. We set it up in our training room and immediately dove into FIFA 07. The first game saw Reading take on European Cup finalists Liverpool. Though U.S. MNT player Bobby Convery was red carded early on for a heinous challenge on Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard (we think that his leg was broken due to the appearance of an ambulance icon after the tackle), Reading was spurred on by the stunning goalkeeping play of Marcus Hahnemann, who made a number of improbable saves en route to keeping a clean sheet. In another game, former champion Taylor Twellman saw his crown threatened, but managed to eek out a victory in PKs over one of our videographers. Later on, while the team awaited a massive pizza order from the restaurant downstairs, Kasey Keller took his turn to fire up Burnout Revenge. Needless to say, Kasey immediately took to the prospect of wreaking havoc on the road and knocked out a good three hours on the game with Jonathan Bornstein as his driving advisor.

Sunday, July 1 @ 4:15 p.m.
Far be it from the MNT Summer Blog to critique the high-culture world of painting, but we have to point out the art selection in our otherwise lovely hotel. In our dining room, canvases portraying horses frolicking were placed side by side with an equally large canvas of a naked woman posing with an alligator...yes, you read that correctly. And it's not just in our meal room as we're surrounded by nakes women (never thought we'd ever get to write that and mean it). Walking up the stairs, one is treated to a series of acrylic paintings depicting the silhouettes of undressed ladies. At the top of the stairs: a gigantic naked woman, surrounded by naked children, while in the background there is an oil well. Pretty bizarre. But maybe, after a few days of contemplation in the hotel, the greater significance of this body of artwork will dawn upon us.

Sunday, July 1 @ 2:45 p.m.
We checked into our hotel, and immediately went to the meal room, anxious for a new dining room setting and we we’re not disappointed - but not due to the food. As we walked in, the sweet sounds of Foreigner blared over the speaker system, which galvanized Jimmy Conrad into his own rendition of “I Want to Know What Love Is” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9OGfBGOCpk). Meanwhile, the food spread was great with a specific shout out going to the fruit platters delivered at the end of the meal. Eating mangoes is a tough endeavor, and one has to ask: “does the effort of peeling such a fickle fruit outweigh the satisfaction gleaned from its consumption?” Well, when the mangoes are peeled for you, this is not something you have to even think about – you just eat them. And they were great. As we filtered out of the dining room to get our luggage, the radio came back with an equally fine tune in Scorpions’ “Winds of Change,”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5muLIq9PqUk ) which Peter Nowak could be heard whistling while he carried his suitcase up the stairs.

Sunday, July 1 @ 3:10 p.m.
Our transfer to Barinas is complete, and we only had a few minor bumps along the way. The flight was delayed for about 45 minutes while the plane was re-loaded with gear.  Apparently, we travel with a lot of stuff and they needed to redistribute the weight so we could actually take off. Once we landed, one thing that got a bit lighter were the cases of Gatorade as they were appropriated by some airport workers during the packing process. Our equipment manager Jesse Bignami and David Lagow caught the Venezuelans red-handed. Guess they didn't like all the flavors as there were numerous bottles out with just a few sips gone. We would of giving you some if you just asked! Earlier we said it was going to be an hour flight, but it wasn't even half that long as it was only 25 minutes of air time before we touched down in Barinas.  The bus ride to the hotel rivaled the duration of the bus ride in Grenada back in '05. Anyone remember that from the all_access videos? Let us refresh your memory.  It was short. The team is all settled in, and while the rooms are nice and cool, there are a couple things absent you would normally find: phones and clocks. No thanks, fans. We'll figure out our own wake-up calls.

Sunday, July 1 @ 9:45 a.m.
The hallway here at the hotel is cluttered with bags upon bags as we're getting ready to leave for Barinas today, sight of our next match. Everyone had to have their bags out by 8:30 a.m., giving the hotel staff enough time to transport everything down to the truck. We'll be taking a charter to Barinas, only about an hour flight from Maracaibo, before settling in for lunch and then heading out for our final practice before we face Paraguay tomorrow. We hear the stadium in Barinas isn't even finished yet, but I guess we'll soon find out.

Saturday, June 30 @ 8:15 p.m.
Venezuela just defeated Peru, 2-0, in the fourth match of Group A. Not a great result for us, but at this point you can’t really look at the standings too much. The game started during our dinner, and there were a few less hotel staff members serving us food and snagging our dirty plates. Although, we didn’t really put two and two together until we heard a large cheer coming from the kitchen area when Venezuela scored their first goal. While it may make our goal of advancing to the second round tougher, it’s always great to see the hosts do well. Makes the atmosphere around the tournament that much better. By the way, if you didn’t see it, that no-call penalty for Venezuela in game one was made up for with a no-call penalty against them in this match.

Saturday, June 30 @ 5:15 p.m.
The U-20 MNT just kicked off and a few of the players and staff are keeping a close eye on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker to follow the action. Head coach Bob Bradley is actually in our room right now, intentley reading the updates to find out how Michael and the rest of the team is doing against South Korea. We all know MatchTracker can be agonizing to watch, but you have to admit it's better than nothing. Especially when you're stuck in Venezuela and there's no option to catch it on TV. Don't think Maracaibo has ESPNU. Bob told us he's used to it now as he routinely got up a 5 a.m. to catch Michael's matches for Heerenveen on the Internet.

Saturday, June 30 @ 9:48 a.m.
Here is today's edition of "what would you choose?" As we mentioned before, the door on the team bus is a sign that translated says 'maximum speed 90 km', or about 56 mph. Not particularly fast, especially for rides that can take 40 minutes even on a highway. And you know players can get a bit restless. Problem is, the rather loud beeping alarm is continuing every time the bus exceeds 90 kilometers per hour. It's driving us crazy. So, what would you choose? Get to training faster, or avoid ear-piercing alarm. (The answer is avoid ear-piercing alarm)

Friday, June 29 @ 11:35 p.m.
Just a quick note: American referee Baldomero Toledo will take charge of the Uruguay/Bolivia match in San Cristobal tomorrow at 6:30 pm local time. The game will surely have some fireworks (no, seriously, there have been some at every game thus far) as both teams look for a result to help their chances of qualification from Group A. If Uruguay loses, they will be almost surely eliminated from the tournament while if Bolivia wins, they’ll almost surely guarantee their passage to the quarterfinals.

Friday, June 29 @ 9:48 p.m.
Since tomorrow there will be a Center Circle one-on-one with Jonathan Bornstein for your listening and reading pleasure, we thought we would jump back into a trivia question with this nugget.  The next match Mr. Bornstein plays in this year will be his 10th appearance for the MNT in 2007.  Only a handful of players have hit double digits in caps in their first calendar year with the full team.  Who was the last player to accomplish that feat?  Hint - it happened in the 90's. Be the first to get it right, and we might give you a shout-out in the next Studio 90 (and no, the shout-out won't be by host Neil Buethe, it will be way cooler than that).

Friday, June 29 @ 2:50 p.m.
All of these three blogs are about things that happened yesterday, and their all about the same person, but let us tell you, they’re all worth posting. Enjoy.

We almost had another guest move onto our floor yesterday here at the hotel. Well, not just any guest, but the legend himself, Diego Maradona. The hotel had a mix-up and tried to provide him with an open room on our floor, but when the man who scored “The Goal of the Century” and is considered as a God by some (and probably every Argentinean) got off the elevator, he was told by our security officers that he couldn’t step onto the floor as only U.S. players and staff were allowed. Lets just say that didn’t go over so well. Even after some of the guards informed the security officer of who he was (do you know who this is??), Maradona was sent back down to the front desk. All was worked out as the Boca Juniors legend was provided a room on a different floor, although, it was also a floor where some of our coaches and staff are located, and wouldn’t you know it, our trainer Anthony Slater had to give up his room for Maradona. It may have been a small nuisance, but as Slater put it, “whatever, it’s a great story I’ll have for the rest of my life.”

Maradona was also at the U.S.-Argentina match last night, causing a commotion on a scale few of us have ever seen. As he walked towards the VIP section of the stadium, fans erupted, forgetting the game that was about to kickoff and instead, whipping out their cameras and phones to take a picture of him in his classic Argentina No. 10 jersey. As he moved towards his seat, we soon realized he was going to be in our section and, along with his entourage, he ended up sitting four rows behind us. Now, we’ll admit it was pretty damn cool, but talk about annoying. We were sitting in the front row of the section along with assistant coach Peter Nowak and with the game just moments from kicking off everyone in the section ahead of us was standing up and facing us as they tried to take pictures of Diego, essentially blocking our view of the field. Pretty comical scene as Peter was all concentration, going over his prepared notes for the game, while every single person around him – including the security officers – were looking the other direction, waving at and photographing Maradona. Now that’s concentration. A few polite requests (and a few stern ones) and finally the crowd started to slowly disperse and turn their attention back to the pitch. Although, we have to admit, we snapped a couple of photos of Diego with our camera phone at the end of the game. And you know what, he doesn't look too bad.

And one final Maradona comment. After the game, the team waited at the bottom of the hotel for the two elevators, but it seemed only one was working. The one on the left had gone up and down twice, while the other elevator on the right had yet to reach the bottom floor to take people up. Someone made the joke that it was now Maradona’s “private” elevator. Well, a minute later, it finally made its way down, and guess who got off. Yep, Diego. He saw the remaining U.S. players waiting, nodded hello and walked out to … ah, go have cranberry juice and watch a movie to celebrate the Argentina win.

Friday, June 29 @ 2:30 p.m.
Riding back on the bus from training this morning and got to talking to Dan Califf and Bobby Boswell about their travel experiences with soccer.  In addition to his club career in Europe, Dan has been to several countries in Africa representing the U.S., including Egypt and Nigeria for the U-17 and U-20 World Youth Championships. Bobby spent a month in South Africa with his U-15 youth team coached by Steve Wegerle.  Steve is the brother of former U.S. international Roy Wegerle, and is a native South African. Bobby had some really eye-opening moments both on and off the field, but his most vivid memory is of seeing packs of penguins walking down the street.  Penguins in South Africa - who knew?  It's fascinating to hear these stories and comprehend the vast amount of opportunities for U.S. players these days to get exposure to the sport all over the world.  We've come a long way.

By the way, the conversation started because we were discussing the USA's schedule for the remainder of the year, which still has one more game to be added...

Friday, June 29 @ 1:45 p.m.
Back from lunch and we got a juicy bit of information that will no doubt start rumors swirling on soccer blogs across the world. An unnamed U.S. player told us that after the game against Argentina, he was talking with an unnamed Argentina player who told him that he’s looking into a possible move to the MLS. (Sorry, we can't tell you who the players is, even though we'd love to, but that's the job of all those great soccer reporters out there or something.) So, is this unnamed player coming, or was he just making conversation? Let the speculation begin!

Friday, June 29 @ 10: 45 a.m.
We've got some catching up to do after a hectic post-match against Argentina. We'll dive into it in just a sec, but we can tell you right now the players broke up into starters and non-starters for today's workout. The non-starters headed to train at 9:30, while the rest headed downstairs to do some bike work and a dip in the pool. Now, to the first of a few things about last night that we'll share with you. Eddie Johnson and Jay DeMerit, our players who were randomly selected for drug testing, arrived back at the hotel much later than the rest of the team.  As they entered the lobby, Eddie could be seen with an Argentina jersey, which he traded for after the game, draped over his shoulder. We asked him who it was and it was #11 Carlos Tevez’. Turns out that Eddie didn’t even have to ask for the West Ham United forward’s jersey: Carlos came up to Eddie at halftime, and asked him if they could trade after the game. That it makes it pretty easy, right? Instead of sprinting at the end of the game trying to find the person you most want to trade with, you’ve already got it sorted out when the final whistle blows.

Thursday, June 28 @ 5:40 p.m.
Here's something cool we just heard about that is going on back in the USA: a weekend tour of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup trophy to three soccer hot spots in Chicago. Check it out. Tonight the trophy is at Ginger's Ale House (voted Best Soccer Bar in ussoccer.com's annual Best of U.S. Soccer voting four straight years) as fans enjoy the USA-Argentina game. From Friday to Saturday, the trophy will be on display at NIKETOWN Chicago, and on Sunday night it will be at Toyota Park enjoying the Fire-Rapids game. I hope Neil Buethe knows the trophy is out hitting the Chicago nightlife without him. He will be crushed. They seemed so close. CHECK IT OUT.

Thursday, June 28 @ 3:08 p.m.
Folks, we're accustomed to reading things written about the players, coaches, etc., etc., that may be lacking at times in accuracy. No problema - we make mistakes too! Then you come across one like this that just leaves you scratching your head. This from our friends at goal.com:

Idyllic Vacation
This being international football, politics couldn’t disappear entirely.
Due to the fractious relationship between the governments of the United States and Venezuela—remember, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has called US president George Bush “satan” — the U.S. team has opted to stay in Aruba, a nearby island owned by the Netherlands. Surrounded by security, they will take the 25-minute flight to Maracaibo in the early afternoon, and fly back immediately following the game.

Now, perhaps we're just saddened that for the last four days that ussoccer.com has provided blogs, videos, photos, features, game notes and everything else we can think of from our time here in MARACAIBO and some people just haven't been paying attention to our labors. Or it could be that we just wish like hell we got to vacation in Aruba. In either case, with the massive global coverage of this event, and in particular how the U.S. is being treated in Venezuela (very well, in case you were curious), how can you mess up this one?

Sure, the distance between the two countries is like driving from Maryland to Virginia through Washington, D.C., but we're pretty sure it's a totally different stamp in the passport. Just one more reason to make sure you are checking out ussoccer.com to make sure you're getting the latest lowdown ...

Thursday, June 28 @ 1:00 p.m.
Going through our centercircle email account (centercircle@ussoccer.org) and we’d like to say thanks to everyone who’s writing in. We wish we could respond to everyone, but it’s pretty consuming and we don’t have too much free time. Although, we do now, so we thought we’d share some of what’s been dropped into our inbox.

  • First, people have been clamoring for a new audio podcast from Benny and Sacha, so if you don’t know there’s a brand new one up right now. As good as ever, you can hear it right here. Also, email the guys at bennyandsacha@ussoccer.org
  • We received a number of thoughts on what we should nickname the stadium we’re playing in tonight, Estadio Jose Panchencho Romero. Here’s a quick list with who provided the possible nickname in parentheses: Estadio JoPaRo (Philip Croft), The Patch or JoPaRo Park (Brian Willett), P.E.R.J. (Jordan Johnson), The JoRo or Estadio JoRo (Nick Taylor), The Joe or El Jose (Ben Likar) and Jo Pa Stadium (Pam Amaral, who must be a Penn State fan).
  • Thanks to everyone who sent in Gold Cup photos, but we should have specified to send in just one! We were a bit overloaded with photos and it slowed down our email. If we have time, we’ll put together a photo gallery – just don’t hold us to it! We’re busy!
  • Matthew Daley asks about the plush parrots we blogged about earlier (which we haven’t received yet!), wondering where he can get one. Sorry, Matt we’re not sure, but if we find out we’ll let you know.
  • And, lastly, we got another email from the supposed Lyndsey Schaefer who earlier wrote in about the tautness of Taylor Twellmans’ jersey (later it was discovered to be Jimmy Conrad). Looks like Jimmy still isn’t giving up the gag as we received this email the day we left for Venezuela, with the subject line “Not Jimmy Conrad’s Wife”:

To Whom it May Concern:
 
I wanted to clarify that I am indeed a real person, who is coincidentally named Lyndsey and hails from California, but is NOT Jimmy Conrad's wife. I wrote the question about Twellman's jersey, and didn't want Conrad to get all the credit! I am a long-time supporter of the U.S. National Team and the L.A. Galaxy. My favorite player is Landon Donovan, who also coincidentally, wears adult-sized kits. I'm just sayin'...
 
Cheers!
Lyndsey Schaefer

Right, Jimmy…right. We still need to get a response from Taylor on this one.

Thursday, June 28 @ 12:45 p.m.
Guys finished eating lunch and most went back to the room to relax. A few, including Eddie Johnson, Heath Pearce and Bobby Boswell, did venture over to the mall which is literally 20 steps away from the hotel. We’ll get a report from them on their experience and any purchases they may have made when they get back.

Thursday, June 28 @ 10: 30 a.m.
Game day. That means it’s pretty quiet around here. Guys had the option of breakfast this morning, with some digging in on the eggs and pancakes, and others taking the time to get an assured good nights rest. Since there’s not much to talk about right now, we’re going to take you back to something we meant to mention yesterday after the press conference we held here at the hotel. About 20 media showed up to talk to Bob, Jimmy, Benny (Olsen, that is) and Sacha. Literally, two minutes into the press conference a reporter’s cell phone goes off. Annoying as always, but not surprising. A few minutes later, another one goes off. A bit more time goes by, and then another cell phone. By the fourth one – all before we’re seven minutes in by the way – we’re all pretty much in amazement. Sure, we admit we forgot to say our normal “remember to please turn off all cell phones” before starting the press conference, but you’d think after the first interruption, let alone the fourth, all the reporters would check their phones and turn ‘em off. No dice. At this point, it’s comical. In our head we’re taking bets on who will be next, and there aren’t many people left. And then we hear it; the ring that topped them all:

“ribbet…ribbet…ribbet.”

That’s right, a frog ring. So where’s the croaking coming from? None other than the pocket of U.S. reporter Jeff Carlisle in the front row. Best part, he’s struggling to pull it out of the front left pocket of his jeans, fumbling as he can’t slip his hand in (guess tight jeans are the look in Venezuela, huh Jeff?). After about four ribbets, he’s finally able to slip it out and turn it off. We’re betting it’ll be an incident he’ll never live down, especially since the team has given Jeff a new nickname -- “Frogger.” All in good fun, Jeff. Oh, and if you want to hear for yourself, well, you’re in luck as it was caught all on tape. Listen to it here.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 9:30 p.m.
Mexico just buried their second goal against Brazil and you could hear the surprised reaction from the players in their rooms and in the training room. What is going on here? Looks like the U.S. riled up Mexico to come out strong against Brazil. Which reminds us, we received this little nugget from Amy Kettle late on Sunday:

Exactly one year ago today at the World Cup, Maxi Rodriguez scored that amazing golazo against Mexico to secure Argentina's spot in the quarterfinals.  Rodriguez's goal was the game-winner.  Final result: 2-1.

Fast forward to today: Feilhaber scores golazo against Mexico to secure the Gold Cup.  Feilhaber's goal was the game-winner.  Final result: 2-1.

June 24 is not Mexico's day.

Good stuff Amy. Thanks. Although, right now 45 minutes in, maybe June 27 is Mexico's day.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 9:10 p.m.
After dinner, Ben Olsen came by the equipment room with the handful of black socks he received in the casual gear distribution. “I need white socks,” he exclaimed. “I’m thirty. Black socks don’t work anymore. Those are for the young guys, the hipsters – like Bobby Boswell.” The MNT Summer Blog was unaware that switching sock colors was contingent on age, but apparently it is. The question is, will the more mature, shall we say, part of our staff follow Ben’s lead?

Wednesday, June 27 @ 8:15 p.m.
Think we're getting parrots. Not real parrots, but soft, cuddly ones (so much better!). Confused? Well, the mascot for the 2007 Copa America is a red, blue and yellow parrot and when we just came up from dinner there were some hotel employees hanging out in the hallway with bags full of the stuffed mascot. We overhear that it's a gift from the Mayor's office. Wonder how many guys will be nestled up with the parrot in their arms when they fall asleep tonight?

Wednesday, June 27 @ 7:10 p.m.
Got back from training and had one of the worst elevator rides we can remember in a while. Crammed into the tiny elevator were Eddie Johnson, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Heath Pearce, Marvell Wynne, a few staff members and then the guy who made the ride so horrendous, Mr. Brad Guzan. Everyone was made more uncomfortable because we also had a bunch of equipment with us, including a bag of balls, a Gatorade jug, Gatorade water bottles, training sticks, etc. We all get in, the player's floor number is pressed, but we move up only one floor as it stops and the doors open ... with no one there waiting to get on. Groans resonate throughout the elevator, with everyone knowing that stop would make the trip a seemingly unbearable 10 seconds longer. So what happened next? The elevator stopped on the second floor as well! More frustrated groans. And then we see it - Guzano had leaned against the elevator buttons and pushed all of them, from floor 1 to 12, like a little kid riding his first elevator at a hotel and wanting to see all the buttons light up. Well, lets just say everyone was less than pleased and Brad took some verbal jabs about his IQ level. He didn't enjoy the ribbing, but at least the next floor would be our stop and that's it, and right? Wrong. Just before getting to our floor, somehow the buttons had all cleared except for the top floor. We go all the way up before coming all the way down to the correct floor. About one extra minute of crushing Guzan, with nowhere for the 'keeper to hide. It was brutal.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 6:40 p.m.
Is it weird to say we want to go hang out in a cemetery?  We'll just assume that it is.  Nonetheless,  we pass a burial ground every day going to training that looks both decrepit and  beautiful.  The marble coffins rest  above ground, a sea of different shades of white framed by a series of brick honeycombs. It appears ancient and lonely, like you would be passing through a history untold.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 4:40 p.m.
We just arrived at the training facility and some of the guys jumped into the dugout to slip off their sandals or runners and put on their cleats. Little did they know they had a friend hanging out nearby as a two-foot long iguana was hanging out in the shade. The little bugger was pretty bold, making his way up to the bench, coming just inches away from a pair of Nike sandals (we'll provide a pic later). We’re literally sitting just a few feet away from it…(do these things bite? Ah, our security officer just told us they do. And that they taste like chicken. This guy would know, trust us. We are moving away…slowly…slowly…) After a little bit of picture taking and a couple of miss-hit soccer balls coming to close for comfort, 'Iggy' took off for the safer pastures across the parking lot. Good thing, too, because he wouldn’t want to have to deal with the gigantic Juergen Sommer if he came back to get his sandals.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 4:08 pm
Our first blog from the team bus in Venezuela! Two things we have learned on the ride so far: a) no matter what corner of the world, traffic at rush hour stinks, b) you never fully get used to a helicopter escort. Players passing the 45-minute trip by watching the dipping and darting manuevers by the chopper with more than one guy saying "man that guy is close." It's no lie as you can literally hear the it fly over the bus. The other noise we keep hearing periodically is the annoying "beep, beep, beep" from the front of the bus when we get over 90 km/h which as the monitor says ia the velocidad maxima permitida ... driver turn the alarm off!!

 
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William R. Brownfield. © U.S. Soccer
Photo Gallery
Wednesday, June 27 @ 1:18 p.m.
The team had a special guest at lunch today as Ambassador William R. Brownfield stopped by lunch to give a message of support to the U.S. team. Ambassador Brownfield will be attending the game tomorrow night, and he has a new U.S. jersey with his name on it to wear with pride.

Wednesday, June 27 @ 12:15 p.m.
Here's a crazy stat that will be current for at least 30 more hours with our daunting challenge against Argentina ahead. The U.S. Men's National Team has not lost a game in more than a year. And guess what? Neither has the U.S. Women's National Team. That's an absolutely unbelievable streak of 35 games!!! The men, as you know if you are a loyal reader of this blog, are 10-0-1 in 2007 under Bob Bradley. The women are on a 43-game unbeaten streak, with 24 of those games coming in the last 12 months. So, add it up people. U.S. Soccer is 31-0-4 in the past 365 days of full Men's and Women's National Team games.

Tuesday, June 26 @ 10:15 p.m.
Copa America 2007 began tonight and the MNT Summer Blog took the opportunity to join coaches and staff in venturing down the block to the Yacht Club to take in tonight’s second game between hosts Venezuela and Bolivia. In what we saw of the first game, Peru looked impressive, and make sure to YouTube the second goal of the game by Jose Paolo Guerrero – it was a rocket. As we settled into our seats the crowd was filing in for the second game, which was the main attraction. The game was good, and the atmosphere was raucous. We shared a table with some very accommodating Venezuelans, who informed us that the main person to watch on their team was No. 18, Juan Arango, a box-to-box midfielder who plays overseas at RCD Mallorca. Sure enough, Arango had the assist for the first goal and the crowd went wild. The game finished 2-2, and though the home crowd was disappointed by a late no-call on a penalty, they went home knowing that one point means they’ll surely be in it come the final day of the group stage. As for our party, we went back to our hotel glad that we had taken the opportunity to sample some of Maracaibo’s culture and ready for tomorrow’s packed day of training and game preparations. Copa America begins!

Tuesday, June 26 @ 5:28 p.m.
Not surprisingly, the airwaves have been filled with futbol for the last several hours as the 2007 Copa America kicks off tonight with the opening match between Uruguay and Peru. As we write, a correspondent in Maracaibo is giving a live update about the Argentina-U.S. game. Mostly, they are talking about Argentina, who are the heavy tournament favorites since bringing a full strength side to Venezuela. Near as we can tell, they did mention that our team arrived last night and that they don't know much about us. Nevertheless, the country is brimming with excitement as the hosts face Bolivia in the second game of the evening. Venezuela is the last of the ten South American nations to host the oldest national team competition in the world, and has high expectations despite a lack of success in tournament history- their only win in the competition came in 1967! For a nation more famous for baseball than soccer, it will be fascinating to see how the people embrace one of the biggest championships in the world.

Tuesday, June 26 @ 10:42 a.m.
Our video department here is stoked to point out that today our YouTube page has been killing it, ranking around No. 64 among viewed pages on the popular video site Tuesday morning. The U.S. MNT Celebration video has been tabbed as the "Editor's pick" for the sports category (Check it Out), and as of this post has racked up 13,500 views. After we've posted videos on ussoccer.com, we'll then post them on YouTube if you want to check them out there. Thanks goes out to our Vice President of Posting YouTube Videos/Colgate Raider/Intern Matt for finding stuff to file and DVDs to copy while he waits for the videos to upload.  

Tuesday, June 26 @ 8:35 a.m.
After arriving in darkness, we were welcomed to our first view of the Maracaibo skyline and Maracaibo Lake from the penthouse floor where we had breakfast this morning. From that many floors up, the view was pretty spectacular and not what everyone was envisioning when we ate our first meal late last night. The lake, which flows into the Gulf of Venezuela, looks enticing from the hotel, but not everyone is sold on taking a dip. When asked at breakfast about the lake, Taylor Twellman’s response was, “Yea, you could go in, but you also might get eaten by an anaconda.” The players dived into a splendor of morning treats as our Venezuelan hosts have so far been providing us with excellent meals. Laid out before us was everything from the normal old corn flakes to our very own chef preparing omelets, and in between a plate of succulent fruit (pineapple, watermelon, papaya…oh, papaya) that was a definite highlight. Sounds like a great meal…especially if it were to be your last in the odd occurrence anyone actually did run across any anacondas. 

Tuesday, June 26 @ 1:35 a.m.
We’ve been meaning to ask this earlier, but later is better than never: Are any fans heading down here to Venezuela to take in the USA’s matches in Copa America?? If so, we’d love to hear what your experience is like from the travel, to the games to any other interesting happenstances that you might come across during your time in South America. And it would be great if you let us share them right here in the MNT Summer Blog. In a way, you’d be like a U.S. MNT correspondent, giving us the behind-the-scenes look of what a true soccer fan goes through to cheer on their country. Whether you’re already here or heading down in a day or two to catch the Argentina match, email us at centercirlce@ussoccer.org and we can figure out a way to keep in touch during the tournament to share your experiences to the world (well, the world of ussoccer.com visitors!).

Tuesday, June 26 @ 1:15 a.m.
People tend to complain about traveling. The endless security lines. The bad food on the plane. Getting stuck in the middle seat. But, one of the things worst problems about air travel: lost luggage. (Ummm…come to think of it, with the charter, we didn’t have to deal with any of that today). Either way, we’ve all stood at the luggage carousel staring at those draping black leather straps, secretly hoping and begging for your bag to appear. Well, we’re betting at some point tonight (and, technically, this morning) our equipment manager, Jesse Bignami, may have been hoping the opposite. Only because he knows what’s coming once the bags gets to the hotel. Now, he would never want to lose any of the equipment, but maybe if they just got misplaced…if only for a few hours to let him catch his breath. Sorry, Jesse, no such luck as the equipment truck showed up directly behind the team bus here at the hotel, which meant the job of lugging, separating and unpacking was about to begin. At least he did have some help from the hotel bellhops and team trainers.

Here are just a few of the highlights (or as Jesse might say, lowlights):

-- Considering the truck included all the players’ and staff’s personal bags, all the training room equipment and all the MNT gear, we were well into triple digits. And that’s not including all the Gatorade drinks and energy bars, bottled water and other goodies. Let’s just say the truck was packed and once we unloaded it at the hotel, it looked like a garage sale gone bad.

-- General Manager Pam Perkins has been with U.S. Soccer for quite a while, which means she knows the players and staff pretty well, and that skill was put to the test when the players’ individual bags were being separated before they were brought upstairs. There were some bags without tags on them, but with a quick look at the contents inside, Pam was able to decipher who owned the bag, all from a pair of shoes, a unique t-shirt or some ripped jeans. An impressive skill to watch first hand.

-- So, how does Jesse determine what is in what bag considering they all look like the exact same black duffel bag? Well, each bag is marked by number, and impressively Jesse knew exactly what was in each bag just by that number (up to around 45). OK, maybe not every bag, but for the most part, he barely had to open them up and look inside. Again, an impressive skill to watch first hand.

-- Lastly, if a ball explodes when a player kicks one in practice tomorrow, you can blame it on trainer Anthony Slater. To help out Jesse, he pumped up the balls and had to guess on whether he was hitting the required 12 psi because the gauge was broken on the pump. A few times he went a bit over. Did we say a bit? We meant way, way over ... a bunch of times.  Fortunately, someone was checking his guesses with a separate gauge and letting out any extra air. Lets just hope we caught them all.

Monday, June 25 @ 9:45 p.m.
The U.S. MNT has been all around the world and while all corners of the globe are different in their own ways, there remains one universal constant: motorcycle cops. No matter what the culture, location or weather in the country, one is sure to see policemen on motorcycles, and Venezuela is no different. About 35 of them escorted us to the hotel in what was arguably one of the Top 5 most efficient police barricade of all time. Along the way we saw the Estadio José Pachencho Romero (um… abbreviation ideas or nicknames anybody?) where we’ll be opening the tournament on Thursday night. The stadium looks good and ready, and is decorated with banners and various colors to celebrate the upcoming tournament. In addition to our first round game and others, the…still haven’t thought of something to call this stadium…will host the final on July 15.

Monday, June 25 @ 9:15 p.m.
Long, long, travel day but we’re safe and sound at our headquarters in Maracaibo Venezuela. After training, we headed back to our hotel in Chicago to pack our stuff quickly and depart. We were a little late for our flight, but it was a charter, so no problem. Walking to our gate, the concessions stands along the way were completely raided: Chex Mix of all kinds and Twizzlers proved to be favorites. Though in the end we received probably the most food ever distributed on a single plane ride. Traveling with 35 people in a plane built for 160 meant that there were going to be leftovers. Here’s what the menu looked like: PBJ sandwiches to start out, followed by a pasta dinner, followed by ham and cheese sandwich, followed by brownies and coffee. We finished the Chex Mix and Twizzlers anyhow. Only complaint: if you charter a plane, you should clearly be able to pick the movies that are shown. After we landed, we went through customs without a hitch, and then jumped in our bus to make the trip to the hotel.

Monday, June 25 @ 5:42 p.m.
Here is a classy response from a Mexican fan. Deep down, we all know that most of the fans of the USA and Mexico truly respect each other. And here is the proof...

"I am a Mexican soccer fan and I just want to congratulate the American soccer team for their victory over Mexico. You have no idea how terrible it is for us Mexicans to be defeated by Americans in our favorite sport for
8 consecutive years, including a match in a World Cup, really, but I am sick and tired of some of my fellow Mexicans who can't accept that fact and insulted the Americans and everyone's common sense by insisting on arguing that we are better than you in soccer. With sorrow but dignity we must admit the fact that right now you played better than us, you defeated us, you are the just champions of the Gold Cup and you have the rigth to call yourselves the giant of the Concacaf, and we Mexicans have nothing to do but to congratulate you, give you the honor and respect that you have earned playing good soccer in the field and work hard to defeat you
next time. I am sure that many Mexicans think that way and we hope to win in the next game with you, we really really hope so, as I also hope that Mexico or the U.S. beat Germany or Argentina in the future and continue to progress in this beatufull sport. Please send this message to Landon Donovan and the rest of your players so they know, as I hope they do, that many, many Mexicans give them the respect and appreciation that they deserve, even so we hope to beat you next time!!!"

Monday, June 25 @ 10:48 a.m.
While the Copa group gets its first training session in this morning, U.S. Soccer's building of Adam Furtak and Greg Sordyl came over from Soccer House to drop off cases of Gatorade and other items heading with the team to Venezuela. They were also picking up several crates, and one shiny new Gold Cup trophy that will take it's place alongside the 2002 and 2005 trophies that reside in the main hall of the Federation. Well, not so shiny after yesterday's celebration, but Adam and Greg will take care of that too!. In any case, a family of tourists were walking by the hotel when the trophy was getting loaded into the van, and were pretty psyched to see it up close. Being good tourists, they had their cameras handy. Bet they didn't expect to get that shot from their visit to Chicago!

 

So, it got us thinking. We witnessed all of the crazy celebrations on the field after the game, particularly when the guys were making merry with Sam's Army. There's got to be some great photos of that, right?

Email us your best snapshots from yesterday's superb victory to centercircle@ussoccer.org and we'll put together a photo gallery for the site.

Monday, June 25 @ 8:35 a.m.
You have to love Oswaldo Sanchez. (And by "love" we mean, "you have to love the bully in every teen angst movie that eventually gets what's coming to him." Think William Zabka in The Karate Kid and James Spader in Pretty in Pink.)

Did everyone catch Oswaldo blowing kisses to Landon before his penalty kick? "Oswaldo, that's like trying to ice Adam Vinatieri on a 23-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter ... indoors ... in a preseason game!" It ain't going to work. Landon predictably waited to see what Sanchez was going to do (he didn't dive) and then stuck a perfectly taken shot into the upper right part of the goal.

Of course, the last time we saw Oswaldo on the field against the U.S. he was trying to "sweep the leg" of Eddie Johnson after EJ had the audacity to run toward Landon to celebrate a goal in the USA's (ahem) "2-0" win in February.

Anyway, the point on Oswald is this: in six games, he has a lifetime record against the USA of 1-4-1, which is really not too good. He is almost 34-years-old and is clearly on the downward side of a career that will best be remembered internationally for abject failure against his arch-rival. Sad really. (And by "sad" we mean, not so much.)

Monday, June 25 @ 7:06 a.m.
A few final thoughts on the USA v. Mexico rivalry.

  • "Dos a uno." Having had a night to reflect, we think that could be just as catchy as "dos a cero."
  • For those of you keeping score at home, the last time the Mexican's actually topped the USA in any kind of FIFA "A" level competition (including the team's two-game splits in World Cup qualifying, all won by the USA on aggregate) was the final of the 1998 Gold Cup. Wow. Unless the stars align in the 2007 Copa America and the two team's meet again (and we know how that went in 1995), Mexico’s next chance to end their decade-long “losing” streak to the U.S. will be at the 2009 Gold Cup and in 2009 World Cup qualifying.
  • The USA is now 8-0-1 in nine home games against Mexico this decade, outscoring their rival 15-1. Mexico's goal on Sunday did manage to end their goalless streak in the U.S. at 797 minutes across 10 games.
  • Since 1990, the U.S. is 12-7-7 in 26 games against Mexico, which includes a dominating 11-3-5 record in the United States (and a 1-0-1 record in neutral venues).
  • Sunday’s victory also marked the first time the U.S. had ever come-from-behind to defeat their arch-rivals.

Sunday, June 24 @ 7:08 p.m.
The gears have started to change quickly for the trip to South America. While Gooch was heading out the door for a flight home, in walk Charlie Davies, Lee Nguyen and Heath Pearce as the Copa America roster additions make their way to Chicago for the charter flight tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24 @ 6:48 p.m.
Obviously some very excited and proud players in the locker room tonight. Lots of champagne flying, and even the return of the Frankie Hejduk celebration dance! Many great moments, but one good one in particular ... Bob had been waiting for 25 minutes to do the post-game press conference, so he decided to take a quick shower and change his clothes. Unbeknownst to Bob - but beknownst to everyone else - the guys hadn't had their 'moment' with the coach. So as Bob comes out of the coaches' locker room in a clean polo and shorts, out comes the Gatorade jug full of ice water. You've all seen what it looks when the coach gets doused, and it forced yet another quick change while the press were waiting. Meantime, they come up with some very creative uses of the Gold Cup trophy (when not on loan to Studio 90). There was plenty of singing on the bus ride back, and we obviously passed several car loads full of Mexican fans on our way out of the stadium and on to Lake Shore Drive, so they got a good look at the trophy up close. Back at the hotel, there were dozens of fans waiting to congratulate the team, including some very important former members of the national team. Brian McBride and his wife have been around for the past few days, and former assistant coach Dave Sarachan and his family came to congratulate their old friend Bob Bradley. All in all, a very, very satisfying moment.

And we don't think that our new friends from 311 will mind, but 'amber is the color of your energy' morphed into 'Gold is the color of our new trophy WHOA.'

We're less than 24 hours away from taking off for Venezuela. Should be an interesting ride...

Sunday, June 24 @ 12:58 p.m.
The eleven men who will defend the USA's Gold Cup title today against Mexico have been revealed. Tim Howard returns in goal, with Jonathan Spector replacing the suspended Frankie Hejduk and teaming up with Oguchi Onyewu, team captain Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein. In the center of the park, Benny Feilhaber rejoins the starting group to partner with Pablo Mastroeni. DaMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan make up three quarters of the front four in attack, with Brian Ching earning his first start of the tournament to fill out the group.

Saturday, June 23 @ 9:38 p.m.
As the team sat down for a meeting, Jay DeMerit told a quick story: Apparently after dinner, a group of autograph hunters pulled aside some of the players to get signatures. As Jay was walking out of the meal room, one of them called: “Hey Frankie, can you sign this please?” Well, there’s no chance that Jay is getting mistaken for Frankie Hejduk, but as he tells it there has been more than one occasion now that has he been presumed to be Frankie Simek. Jay said nothing, but signed the photos anyways – in Frankie’s name. With Jay was his buddy Morris, who was also asked to sign a photo. He obliged, signing the picture with the name “MORRIS” in big letters. As he handed it back, the autograph hunter’s thrill at making a quick buck on eBay turned to confusion: “Wait,” he asks Morris as the two walk away, “so which player are you?” Good times.

After the meeting, a few of us returned to the meal room where Eddie Johnson had brought his 18-month old daughter Zoë in to say hello. At first, Zoë was a bit shy but that only lasted about two minutes. Pretty soon she was off and running around the room. Needless to say Zoë is incredibly adorable, so much so that our amazing general manager Pam, who is normally up to her neck in work the day before a game, was immediately distracted and took an unprecedented 15-minute break to play with Zoë. There was no chance that Eddie’s calls of “Night night!” were going to be successful, and the last that us in the meal room saw of Zoë (and Pam for that matter) was her running down the hall.

Saturday, June 23 @ 6:08 p.m.
Today's press conference was mostly conducted in Spanish - Landon and Pablo are obviously fluent and favorites of the Latino press , and even Bob Bradley got into the act by answering a question en Español! Nonetheless, this was Bob's statement on reaching the final:

"We're very excited. We feel that the work we have put in throughout this year has paid off in terms of giving us the opportunity to defend our Gold Cup title. Championship games are what players work hard for in their careers, and in these moments you expect that the team will come together and deliver a strong performance. We certainly have respect for Mexico, but we believe in ourselves. We're excited and ready for an excellent match."

Saturday, June 23 @ 5:08 p.m.
CONCACAF has announced the All Tournament Team for the 2007 Gold Cup, and two U.S. players made the Best XI. Frankie Hejduk, who scored the opening goal in the 2-1 semifinal win against Canada, and Pablo Mastroeni were selected by the Technical Study Group. Mastroeni, who arguably could have been named Sierra Mist Man of the Match in the semifinal, has been a dominating presence in the center of the park. Both DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan picked up honorable mentions. The Best XI:

Goalkeeper: Franck Grandel (GLP)

Defenders: Felipe Baloy (PAN), Richard Hastings (CAN, Frankie Hejduk (USA), Carlos Salcido (MEX)

Midfielders: Walter Centeno (CRC), Julian DeGuzman (CAN), Pablo Mastroeni (USA), Pavel Pardo(MEX),

Forwards: Carlos Pavón (HON),Blas Perez (PAN)

That is a mighty nice birch walking stick that Rachel Smith is holding (check out the June 22 AM blog).
© Courtesy of Rachel Smith / U.S. Soccer

Saturday, June 23 @ 2:18 p.m.
The lunchroom was graced by the presence of a special guest today. The reigning Miss USA, Rachel Smith, stopped by the team’s dining room to say hello and wish good luck to the guys. Ms. Smith, of course, looked stunning and it was amazing how quickly the lunchroom went from raucous goofing around to complete silence and attentiveness. As already documented earlier, Rachel has become a huge fan of the U.S. MNT recently (which also means she’s probably an equally huge fan of the MNT Summer blog!) and was excited to tell the guys that she’ll be at the game tomorrow. While some of the players had to head to the other side of the hotel for a press conference, others stuck around afterwards to chat with Rachel. In the process, DaMarcus Beasley finally fulfilled a childhood dream by donning the Miss USA sash and snapping some photos.

Saturday, June 23 @ 1:28 p.m.
A few fans found their way to the team's closed session this morning, and while they weren't able to watch training, they did stick around for some autographs. One young lady had waited for an hour to get Taylor's signature on a jersey, and then realized after he had got on the bus that she forgot to take a photo. Taylor, who had settled into his seat in the back, climbed over a few players and jumped back off the bus to take the picture. The girl was clearly excited, telling Taylor that he is "her hero". So if you're reading this, send us the shot at centercircle@ussoccer.org

Saturday, June 23 @ 8:30 a.m.
Please don't make us feel guiltier than we already do for not keeping up with our entries yesterday!  We hate to disappoint you - particularly our pal Jen Atler in LA, who works her tail off for U.S. Soccer and checks in on us every day - but yesterday was a total blur thanks to post game updates, the Copa America roster announcement, training, preparing for a special event at today's press conference, and one more thing... what was it again?  Oh yes, getting ready to play against our biggest rival with a Gold Cup championship on the line in front of a sold-out crowd in the Federation's backyard.  If it's any consolation, we've got some great USA-Mexico rivalry info on the way today, including series history stats, the "facts of a rivalry", a recap of our last match against Mexico this past February, and also a special Kasey Keller edition of /By The Numbers./

So after all that, we think Jen would understand that yesterday was a tough day to keep you all in the loop. Come to think of it, Jen would have got all that stuff done AND posted six blog entries.  Now we feel even guiltier ...

Friday, June 22 @ 9:50 a.m.
Impressive stat from our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau: Iain Hume's goal in the 75th minute snapped Canada's goalless streak against the U.S. at 705 minutes - the longest shutout streak by the U.S. against any opponent in team history.

Friday, June 22 @ 9:15 a.m.
I'm sure some of the guys on the team would love to meet our guest blogger today: Rachel Smith, the reigning Miss USA 2007. You might remember this story from last month. Rachel was competing in the Miss Universe competition in Mexico and was routinely boo'ed every time her name was mentioned and every time she walked out on the stage. Despite a slip late in the competition, she still made it to the final five and learned a secret that only a select few in the U.S. Soccer world know. Just how difficult it is to compete in some of the hostile environments our team faces on the road.

Rachel reached out to U.S. Soccer a few days ago and is doing media interviews and appearances this week in which she will be telling everyone she can about the U.S. Men's National Team and their efforts to bring home the Gold Cup this Sunday against Mexico.

Here is a note from Rachel.

June 22, 2007

Dear U.S. Men's National Soccer Team,

For as long as I can remember, professional basketball has been my all-time favorite spectator sport due to my own personal love for playing the game. However, due to a recent personal experience, I have discovered that I now have a new favorite professional sport: Soccer!

During this past May, I represented the USA at the 56th Annual Miss Universe Competition in Mexico City. It was a great honor and pleasure for me to compete at this international level, but along with that privilege came a bit of adversity.

Aside from a highly publicized graceful “fall” in front of a television audience of nearly a billion people, I felt the wrath of some of the hometown crowd and was consistently “booed” whenever “USA” was called out. I received many calls and letters of support afterwards, many from U.S. National Team fans.

As an amateur athlete, I appreciate the skill and stamina required to play at the top of your sport for 90-plus minutes on the field. But now I have a greater appreciation for your team and what you must endure when you compete in hostile environments while representing our country.

I also want to make my supporters aware of the similar, and often worse, conditions you experience almost every time you head out onto the field.

Congratulations on making it to the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals! I want to make sure you know I am rooting for and supporting each one of you. As someone who can relate to you at this time, I am the newest recruit to “Sam’s Army” and I will be cheering absolutely the loudest for you.

GO USA!

Your new #1 fan,

Rachel Smith
Miss USA 2007

Thanks, Rachel! Hopefully we will see you at the game!

Friday, June 21 @ 12:21 a.m.
Just got back from today’s late game at Soldier Field and thought to share a few observations:

• First, prior to our game, Steve Nash was seen in the bowels of the stadium speaking to some of the Canadian players. As most of you have probably figured out, Steve’s brother Martin is No. 16 for Canada and played defensive midfield for the Maple Leafs tonight. It is interesting to think what would have happened if Steve followed the path of his brother and played soccer. Judging from this clip though - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXoiEDs_a0E - he probably could have stepped out there tonight.

• Sighted in the USA section tonight was former MNT and Fulham forward Brian McBride. We didn’t get a chance to speak to Brian, but he looked to be enjoying the game with his wife Dina, and even found time to sign autographs for a few younger fans (curiously, many of the young supporters were in Mexico kits…go figure).

Moved up to a suite on the top level for the second game to do some scouting, and shared our space with the part of the Guadeloupe squad who weren’t suited up for tonight’s match. The guys from the French department (as it’s called) seemed to be enjoying themselves in Chicago: the digital cameras were out as they snapped pictures of themselves at Soldier Feld wearing Bulls’ and White Sox caps no less. Random side note: did you know that Guadaloupe’s currency is the Euro? So much for the MNT Summer Blog’s vacation plans. Thanks, exchange rate.

Finally, if tonight’s reception was any indicator, Mexico striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco will find quite a loud home away from home when he starts playing with his new club the Chicago Fire. Blanco got what was by far the loudest reception of any of the Mexican players. Those fans coupled with the Fire’s already raucous Section 8 will make the environment at Bridgeview pretty exciting come July.

Thursday, June 21 @ 5:06 p.m.
The starting sheet has been handed in to the match commissioner, and it's time to take a look at the USA's XI for the semifinal showdown with Canada. Only two changes to the U.S. lineup that defeated Panama 2-1 in the quarterfinals, one marking a major milestone in U.S. Soccer history. Kasey Keller, the USA's all-time leader in wins, shutouts, and just about every other record for goalkeepers, earns his 100th cap for the United States tonight, tying the mark for goalkeepers set by Tony Meola. He anchors a defensive group unchanged from the last match, the back four lining up from left to right as Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Frankie Hejduk. Michael Bradley and Pablo once again Mastroeni patrol the center of the park, while Landon Donovan, just two goals shy of the all-time Gold Cup scoring record, roams the right and DaMarcus Beasley assumes his normal role on the left. Eddie Johnson makes second start of the tournament, partnering with roommate Clint Dempsey.

Keller holds a 2-0-1 lifetime record against Canada, with a 0.00 GAA during 300 combined minutes of action. He blanked the Canadians in the 2-0 win during Gold Cup group play in 2005, and also kept a clean sheet in their first meeting of final round qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, a 3-0 win on March 16, 1997 in Palo Alto, Calif. His most memorable performance, however, came in the semifinal of the 2002 edition of the Gold Cup. The U.S. won 4-2 in penalties after a 0-0 draw in regulation and extra time, Keller earning the shutout in regulation and making two stellar saves in the penalties.

Thursday, June 21 @ 3:08 p.m.
Typical game day, which is to say not a whole lot going on. The team is finishing their last meeting, ticket envelopes are getting stuffed, and the equipment truck is long gone for the stadium. Hopefully you've been plowing through the pre-game notes so you will be fully prepared for tonight's broadcast. But in case you haven't, here's a few of our favorite nuggets:

• With the 2-1 win against Panama, the United States advanced to the semifinals for the eighth time in nine previous Gold Cup tournaments and improved their record to 11-4-4 in the knockout rounds of the Gold Cup

• Heading into Thursday’s encounter, the U.S. holds an 11-8-9 advantage in the lifetime series with Canada that dates back to 1925. The U.S. has not lost a match to their northern neighbors since 1985, a 12-match unbeaten run that includes a 6-0-6 record and six straight shutouts

• Carlos Bocanegra tallied his first-ever international goal in the 4-0 win against Canada on Jan. 18, 2003. Steve Ralston also scored his first that day

. 500 anyone? It may not sound like much, but for the first time since 1937, a span of 70 years, the U.S. Men's National Team's all-time record stands at .500 or better. With head coach Bob Bradley currently on an
8-0-1 unbeaten streak through nine games in 2007, the USA's record currently stands at 189 wins, 189 losses and 111 ties in 489 official games. Amazingly, the U.S. bottomed out at 55 games below .500 just 12 short years ago with a 1-0 loss to Sweden back on August, 16, 1995 (88-143-70). That’s a pretty impressive climb back to .500 in a span of just 188 games.

Be sure to check back one hour before kickoff to find the Starting XI for tonight's all-important semifinal showdown with Canada

Wednesday, June 20 @ 8:51 p.m.
When team chiropractor George Billauer is in the house, his dance card quickly gets filled. Seems players love a good "back crack." Right now he's got Kasey Keller on the table with Tim Howard, Pablo Mastroeni and Michael Bradley waiting excitedly in line. We are not that excited about watching this ...

Wednesday, June 20 @ 6:38 p.m.
This came in the inbox from Nick Hexum, SA Martinez, Tim Mahoney, P-Nut and Chad Sexton. Together, they are known as the band 311…

We'd like to send a thanks and a good luck out to the US Men's National Team. We read on your recent team blog, that our song "Amber" has become a bit of a team anthem. That's great to hear. Congrats on your recent victories. We wish you guys the best in your games ahead.

Thanks for taking the time to write fellas. And good luck on the tour (appropriately named "Summer Unity Tour") that kicks off tomorrow night in Tucson. We'll make a DVD of the game for you.

Wednesday, June 20 @ 3:38 p.m. -

Dear taxi-cab riding citizens of Chicago,

We are reaching out to you in hopes that you can help us find two very important members of our family that have gone missing and are nowhere to be found - Landon's boots. They were last seen in a taxi just outside of Gate 14 at Soldier Field, where Landon left them on his way to a press conference. The boots are navy blue with a large white swoosh on the side and Donovan written just below the top edge. They are size nine, and can normally be found streaking towards a goal or pounding the the heck out of a soccer ball. They respond to intelligence, grace and speed. If any of you should run across these boots, please write to us at centercircle@ussoccer.org so they can be reunited with their family.

(oh yes, this really happened.)

Wednesday, June 20 @ 10:58 a.m.
Team unity is one the most crucial elements of a squad, especially in a tournament like the Gold Cup. As Bob Bradley will certainly attest to, having the team thinking on the same page and working towards a common goal is of primary importance to a coach. The latest show of team solidarity has come through…wait for it …everybody getting the same song stuck in their head. The slightly ignominious distinction of unofficial team song goes to 311 for their song “Amber.” For those who remember the song (and for those who don’t, catch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy1twy2p_8w), you will surely recall the catchy chorus that begins with a spirited “Whoa,” followed by “Amber is the color of your energy,” another “Whoa,” and then goes into other lyrics that no one seems to know. See, that’s the thing about getting a song stuck in your head: factual correctness is completely unimportant. For instance, we don’t think a single person on the team or staff knows what words come after that second “Whoa.” But that’s totally irrelevant, and what matters is that at any team meal, training session, bus ride, or anything else, you’ll hear somebody singing “Whoa,” and then everybody else catches on. By all accounts, the phenomenon was started by - you guessed it - Frankie Hejduk. It quickly spread to Landon Donovan, then Taylor Twellman got caught in the web. Then it was everybody. Cynics will say that the fad was dead when Peter Nowak was overheard singing “whoa” while blazing through dessert line in search of cheesecake, sort of like when you come home and your Dad is trying to wear the same clothes as you and is listening to your iPod. Nonetheless, the song persists, so thank you 311 for providing the unofficial anthem of the U.S. MNT’s 2007 Gold Cup.

Tuesday, June 19 @ 9:18 p.m.
Time for the payoff, folks.  We posed a trivia question last night about the USA's last meeting with Canada in the semifinals of the Gold Cup, a 4-2 win for the U.S. in penalties after a 0-0 draw in regulation and extra time.  The U.S. went on to win the 2002 title, launching the run up to quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.  In any case, we asked which six players on the current roster played in that match, of those which five started, and finally who is the only one to have taken and scored a penalty.
Well, the responses came fast and furious, and most were ... not so correct.  Appreciate the effort, though. The winner is one Mr. Donald Ricker, who correctly submitted the following:

The players were Donovan, Beasley, Keller, Bocanegra, Hejduk, and Mastroeni. The starters were Donovan, Keller, Hedjuk, Bocanegra, and Mastroeni, and the goal was scared by Donovan

[Editor's Note: We left the spelling mistake on purpose. You'll see why later]

Special mention goes to Ben Herald, whose entry came in with an earlier time stamp than Donald's....but it was BEFORE we posted the blog, so we're figuring his set time is off. Plus he misspelled DaMarcus as Demarcus.  Also a 'most unlucky' shutout goes to the poor fan who goes by tallyhoaliho, as he just missed out because he accidentally sent his first email to the wrong address, actually writing "If I lose by two minutes I'm going to be pissed since I sent it to centercirle@ussoccer.og...." Tough luck, tallyhoaliho.

If you readers recall, we said that the winner would personally hear back from one of us.  Well, Donald did.  And here's the e-mail response he got:

Donald,

First off, congratulations!  My guess is that you just looked online and didn't really remember what happened;  nevertheless, a job well done.  My most vivid memory of that game was the goalkeeper for Canada having a blinder.  I obviously remember making my penalty and us winning the game.  I'm pretty sure that was my first PK for the national team, and needless to say I've never been more nervous to take one in my life!!!  Let's hope we get the win on Thursday, but if it goes another 120 minutes I'll be ready to step up and drain another one ...

Thanks for supporting the team.  We really, really appreciate it.

All the best,

Landon


Tuesday, June 19 @ 7:38 p.m.
It's been a long time since there was a performance worthy of a standing ovation during a team meeting, but Peter Nowak got a rousing round of applause tonight at dinner by telling  what one man described as a 'top five all-time joke.'  It started with .. wait, what's that coming around the corner at lightning speed?  Uh oh, it's the censors!  Sorry folks. Guess this one stays between us...

Tuesday, June 19 @ 6:18 p.m. - Set your TiVos to ESPNews for tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3:20 p.m. ET when Tim Howard will talk Gold Cup and all things soccer live on The Hot List.

Tuesday, June 19 @ 11:48 a.m.
In our own version of the Chicago Scene, here is where some players on the U.S. Men's National Team were spotted having dinner out on the town last night:

Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hejduk, Kasey Keller, and Pablo Mastroeni put down some sashimi at the clubby Sushi Samba. Benny Feilhaber took Jonathan Bornstein, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, and Michael Parkhurst back to his roots at the Brazilian churrascaria Fogo de Chao. Oguchi Onyewu hit the hip Rockit Lounge, while Tim Howard did seafood at the glitzy Blue Water Grill. Finally, Landon Donovan sampled the fantastic cold and hot tapas at the always hopping Cafe Iberico.

Monday, June 18 @ 10:08 p.m.
Back by popular demand, it's trivia time! Not sure what is more troubling: that we get so excited about doing this or the fact that we are scouring record books this late at night. Again.

But we know you appreciate the challenge, so here goes...

The USA and Canada met in the semifinals of the 2002 edition of the Gold Cup, going a scoreless 120 minutes before the good guys advanced after winning 4-2 in penalties. The U.S. outshot their northern neighbors 36-10 but were thwarted by a career-defining performance from goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld. By now, you trivia fans know the drill. Name the six players on the current roster who played in that match, and the five of those six that were starters. The money ball: Only one of those players took and scored a penalty - who is he?

Write us at centercircle@ussoccer.org with the answer, and the first person to submit the correct response will hear from one of us personally.

 

Monday, June 18 @ 5:55 p.m.
Stat of the day.

.500 anyone? It may not sound like much, but for the first time since 1937, a span of 70 years, the U.S. Men's National Team's all-time record stands at .500 or better. With head coach Bob Bradley currently on an
8-0-1 unbeaten streak through nine games in 2007, the USA's record currently stands at 189 wins, 189 losses and 111 ties in 489 official games. Amazingly, the U.S. bottomed out at 55 games below .500 just 12 short years ago with a 1-0 loss to Sweden back on August, 16, 1995 (88-143-70). Pretty impressive climb back to .500 in a span of just 188 games.

Monday, June 18 @ 4:08 p.m.
Talk about worlds colliding. The hotel had two events scheduled both simultaneously and on the same floor. U.S. Soccer's team lunch - and a big fashion show of some kind. Imagine 22 soccer players walking through a lobby full of runway models. Needless to say, the discussions around the lunch tables were a bit more animated than usual ...

Monday, June 18 @ 12:18 p.m. - BREAKING NEWS!
CHICAGO (June 18, 2007) - Sources have revealed to ussoccer.com that the now infamous fan e-mail questioning the size and fit of Taylor Twellman's game jersey was secretly written and submitted by U.S. national team defender Jimmy Conrad. The item, which appeared in an earlier blog entry on the website suggested that Taylor was wearing a "Youth Large" and was purposefully trying to show off his body. The crafty defender authored the controversial e-mail under the pen name Lyndsey. Documents reveal that Jimmy's beautiful wife is named Lyndsey, and hails from California. When told of Conrad's deception, Twellman simply smiled and replied "It's on." Attempts to reach Mr. Conrad were never made.

Monday, June 18 @ 9:08 a.m.
People do anything to pass the time on the road, but one particularly popular pastime for this team is crossword puzzles. On any given day, random newspapers are strewn about the meal room (everybody has their preferred puzzle, you see) and guys are huddled over the section that they’ve ripped out. Everybody has their own way of doing a crossword, whether it is alone or with another teammate, with or without the aid of external sources (see Wikipedia), etc. Those who stayed after breakfast today were privy to Frankie Hejduk’s surefire method for completing a tough crossword puzzle: asking Kasey Keller and Steve Ralston. As Kasey and Steve were both working on their own puzzles, Frankie kept picking the perfect time to jump in. “Yo, Kase, what’d you get for 58?” “Four letters? Mire. M-I-R-E.” Pause for a few seconds. “Really, how about 26 down?” “Hmmm … Pact.”

Hey, whatever gets you over the finish line, right?

Monday, June 18 @ 8:41 a.m.
All quiet in the training room as the rhythm of a training day starts to hum along. With breakfast over, players start to wander in to collect training gear, get ankles taped - here comes Michael Parkhurst and Jonathan Spector - and overall get accustomed to the little details of a new environment: room where the equipment is kept, what exit to use to board the bus, how to connect to the internet. As we speak, things are heating up in here. Time to get out of the way...

Sunday, June 17 @ 7:18 p.m.
How about those Guadeloupeans? This has been one of the most unpredictable Gold Cups in history, and the tiny French Department continues on its improbable run. Perhaps this is what CONCACAF had in mind when they chose not to have any guest teams in the tournament this year. And for all of you wishing to sound sophisticated at the water cooler tomorrow, it's pronounced GWAH-deh-LOOP

Sunday, June 17 @ 5:40 p.m.
Well, we just landed at O'Hare, and more than a few guys were blessing Mother Earth upon touchdown. About 30 minutes into the flight and much of the group well into snoozeville, there occurred what could best be described as a bit of bump. Well, it felt more like something slammed into the side of the plane. The incident snapped everyone awake and left a few hearts pounding. Famed ussoccer.com podcast host Benny Feilhaber looked a little pale for the duration of the flight. But the rest of the way was uneventful, and then the group got to experience some of Chicago's famed unpredictable traffic as we slowly crawled towards the city to set up shop.

Saturday, June 16 @ 9:48 p.m.
All of you fans that follow the all_access videos religiously have probably noticed a different style to the post-match recaps. Some of you have even written to ask "Why aren't you giving us the highlights?" Short answer: we're not allowed. So instead, we're presenting interviews that you can't see anywhere else - unless you were sitting outside the meal room at our hotel. In continuing our legacy of giving you the scoop as much as we can, here's some tidbits from inside the locker room:

  • First, we arrived at the stadium in time to watch almost all of the second half of the Canada-Guatemala game from inside the locker room. Obviously there are a lot of familiar faces out there, particularly Dwayne DeRosario. Landon and Ching were watching their buddy carefully
  • Frankie's consumption of copious amounts of coffee are well documented. Normally the staff brings a carafe of the leaded stuff on the bus so he can get started as soon as we arrive. But with a coffee shop on the premises, we thought we had it covered. Not so! To the rescue came two members of the stadium stuff, who hustled down Route 1 in Foxborough to the closest Dunkin Donuts to scare up some espresso. Brian and David - well done... 
  • Speaking of Frankie, in this tournament he has developed a policy of writing quotes from his favorite singer, Bob Marley, up on the message board in the locker room
  • The team huddle right before they head to the field is always a galvanizing moment. No matter how many times you've been there, hearing the call for 'USA on three' with 30 hands in together still gives you goose bumps 
  • Winning 'Man of the Match' earns a player the privilege of receiving a trophy in the post-match press conference. Landon was last night's recipient, as voted by the media, and for whatever reason they chose to bring him into the room directly from the field. First time we've had a player do the presser in full uniform, including boots
  • The Revs trio of Parkhurst, Ralston and Twellman slipped into the stands to watch their team's 3-3 draw against Columbus.

Saturday, June 16 @ 8:58 p.m.
Well, the great news is we are packing for Chicago.  The slightly bad news is that we have to do it right now.  The teams' equipment and personal bags are being driven overnight to ensure they arrive in advance of the group, so everything has to be in the equipment room in ... two minutes.  We'll catch up later.  Meantime, you can read the post-match report here http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_884745.html

Saturday, June 16 @ 3:15 p.m.
The USA line-up in Guatemala is in and it looks an awful lot like the team that took the field in the opener against Guatemala. In goal is Tim Howard, with the back four lining up from left to right as Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Frankie Hejduk. The midfield features Michael Bradley, Pablo Mastroeni, DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan. The forwards are Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey. The one change from that line-up against Guatemala is Mastroeni in for Feilhaber.

Saturday, June 16 @ 12:58 p.m.
Folks, we get a lot of great questions sent in from fans around the world. Some are very technical soccer questions, some are about rules, still others about decisions that the coaches have made. We certainly appreciate the passion and commitment. Have to admit, this one from Lyndsey in Long Beach took us quite by surprise:

Kudos to the boys for last night's win. More importantly, I was wondering if you could shed some light on the matter of Taylor Twellman's jersey. That [thing] was tight! And by tight, I don't mean cool. It was nipple city out there for Mr. Twellman. I looked at the other players, including those with muscular physiques such as Gooch, and sure, his sleeves were tight on his arms, but nowhere near the second skin look modeled by Twellman. Did they run out of jerseys or something, and Twellman had to wear a Youth Large from the gift shop?

We would try to answer if we could stop laughing so hard...

Friday, June 15 @ 8:18 p.m.
While the players and coaches are in their pre-game meeting, we'll catch you up on the day's activities. And what a day it was. After a couple of cold and windy June afternoons, the sun came splashing back out to shine on the final training session prior to tomorrow's quarterfinal. There's no question that the atmosphere in the group has shifted gears - once you hit the knockout phase, you're playing for keeps. It's just a bit more electric - on the field, in the meals, etc. Speaking of, the afternoon session lasted just over an hour and followed a familiar pattern of working on shape and re-starts. There was an added component, however, thanks to the aforementioned knockout element: penalty kicks. All 22 players in camp are healthy and hoping to get picked. We'll be back with you tomorrow to let you know who will be on the 18-man game-day roster.

Friday, June 15 @ 1:33 p.m.
DaMarcus Beasley asked if he could borrow the laptop to make this statement to the fans:
"I've heard a lot of rumors out there about me leaving the U.S. camp during the Gold Cup to pursue a possible transfer, and I felt like I needed to clear things up. First of all, I want all the fans to know that I am 100 percent focused on helping our team defend the Gold Cup title. We have played well so far, and I think the best is still yet to come for the U.S. team. But to set the record straight, I haven't signed with any team, nor has there been any deal reached with a club. It's true that Rangers are interested, as well as several other teams, but at this point nothing is set in stone. I am still a PSV player, and we will worry about my club situation after the Gold Cup. Right now, it's time to get ready for training."

Thursday, June 14 @ 2:23 p.m
What got us inspired, you ask?  Going through our history versus Panama, we came across an all_access feature that showed highlights of the 3-0 qualifying win in Panama City.  Hard core fans will know exactly where we are going with this.  While the U.S. was protecting a 1-0 lead, Kasey Keller put together possibly the best sequence of saves in U.S. Soccer history.  In a span of about five seconds, he made three point-blank stops that were simply out of this world.  Mind you, this is coming off the spectacular saves he had made against Costa Rica four days earlier.  There's a reason why this guy holds just about every record there is for goalkeepers in this country. Click here and then watch the USA-Panama Post-Game reaction video.

Thursday, June 14 @ 2:22 p.m.
We're feeling inspired, so let's dive right in with the Panama trivia.  The last three meetings between the teams have been in official competitions: two World Cup qualifiers and the 2005 Gold Cup final.  There is only one U.S. player - who happens to be on this roster - that appeared in all three of those matches. If you need a refresher, the dates are as follows:

Date                  Competition                 Result                   Location
June 8, 2005   World Cup qualifier     3:0 W                    Panama City, Panama
July 24, 2005   2005 Gold Cup final   0:0 T (3-1 pen)    East Rutherford, N.J.
Oct. 12, 2005   World Cup qualifier    2:0 W                     Foxborough, Mass.

Keep in mind, these were three very different rosters based on the circumstances.  In June of 2005, the U.S. was just hitting the halfway point of 2006 qualifying, and points were at a premium.  The Gold Cup roster of that summer, which came smack in the middle of both qualifying and preseason in Europe, had a different flavor to it.  The final encounter came after the U.S. had already booked a ticket to Germany and fell three days before the end of the MLS regular season.  Write us at centercircle@ussoccer.org and impress the heck out of us by getting this one right.

Thursday, June 14 @ 12:48 a.m.
After the baseball game, it was a short cab ride for some of the coaching staff to Roggie’s Bar – a consistent Best Soccer Bar finalist in ussoccer.com's annual Best of U.S. Soccer voting - to catch the Mexico v. Panama match and get some early scouting in on their quarterfinal opponent. Not your typical soccer bar, Roggie’s came through big time with quality TVs, pretty decent food (we recommend the chicken fingers and the cheeseburger club), and an epic 80’s playlist on the jukebox. After the first game had ended 5-0 for Honduras, we knew that either Mexico or Panama would be the opponent Saturday afternoon at Foxborough. Between TV switching, we happened to miss the starting XI for the second game, but some snappy text messaging from the mother of our videographer Mark had us up to speed. Hey, it’s a team sport. Thanks, Mrs. Liskevych! The text message precipitated a lengthy debate concerning the merits of predictive text messaging systems such as iTap and T9. And no, they were not missing the game. One goal, two red cards, three posts, and 90 minutes later, our quarterfinal date with Panama was set. The staff grabbed taxis back to the hotel already with a pile of notes in hand as the preparations kick into another level. Meantime, we think we know who is getting our vote for Best Soccer Bar next year.

Wednesday, June 13 @ 9:18 p.m.
Not too much tonight in the way of “official” team business, so players and staff took the opportunity to get out of the hotel and around the city for some fun times. First stop was Fenway Park, where the visiting Colorado Rockies were in town to play Boston’s beloved Red Sox. No complaints about the seats in Section 22 or the stadium (one of the USA’s great sporting venues), but the weather was a disaster. Low 50’s and windy? In mid-June? We didn’t exactly have our stadium jackets packed. Another light moment arrived with the Fenway Park jumbotron announcing Michael Bradley’s birthday - the big 15. Yeah, not the same person we were all thinking of. No. 6 is young, but not that young. So if the ‘other’ Michael Bradley is reading this, then Happy Birthday from the US MNT Summer Blog.

Wednesday, June 13 @ 7:15 p.m.
The new FIFA rankings came out today, and the U.S. has moved up 13 spots to No. 16 in the world. With the exception of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who shot up 20 spots to No. 28, the U.S. and Norway (up 13 spots to 36) are the biggest upward movers in the top 50.  The USA has taken over Mexico as the top team in CONCACAF, as the Tricolores fell six spots down to No. 26.  Looks like the people at FIFA are paying attention to the Gold Cup results. No, we don’t think this means that we'll be the favorites vs. No. 31 Colombia during Copa America, but it is nice to feel recognized for recent success.

Wednesday, June 13 @ 2:08 p.m.
Pretty light session this morning, typical for day after game. The starters warmed up for 20 minutes before heading into the gym for a regeneration session. Incidentally, if you are wondering what exactly 'regeneration' is, stay tuned for an upcoming all_access feature that will give you the low down on this rather interesting process. But we digress. Those that didn't play were involved in a possession game followed by an exercise to a big goal. With reduced numbers, the staff needed to add an extra neutral player, so making his debut in the red jersey was none other than Bob Bradley. We will forego the observations on his playing abilities since it could be viewed as self-serving (sucking up, so to speak...). Benny Feilhaber, Carlos Bocanegra, and Jonathan Spector spent time with the print press, while Kasey Keller habló español with Univision for a profile that will air this evening. The team has dinner on their own, and a bunch of guys will be diving into ballpark dogs at Fenway Park as the Red Sox host the Colorado Rockies. Don't worry, your bloggers will be all over it ...

Wednesday, June 13 @ 10:15 a.m.
There were a number of interesting statistical developments that came out of the USA's first round Gold Cup sweep:

  • Seemingly out of nowhere, Tim Howard has now won a record seven consecutive starts for the U.S. Men's National Team (and has won eight straight games overall, including a victory against Poland on March 1, 2006, as second-half substitute). Howard's active streak began with 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama on Oct. 12, 2005. (The previous longest goalkeeper winning streak belonged to Kasey Keller in six straight starts between May 16, 2002, and July 19, 2003.)
  • Landon Donovan is not only the USA's all-time point leader now, having amassed 87 career points (two better than previous leader Eric Wynalda) he also has tied Wynalda with a USA-best 9 career goals in Gold Cup play. He is also just three goals behind him for the all-time USA lead of 34.
  • On the milestone front, Kasey Keller is sitting on 99 career caps, and amazingly, Landon Donovan is not far behind, picking up his 91st career cap against El Salvador.
  • And finally, DaMarcus Beasley now has six career Gold Cup goals (1 in 2002, 3 in 2005 and 2 in 2007) and is now fourth all-time for the USA in that category (behind Donovan and Wynalda with 9, and Brian McBride with 8).

Based on the different combinations of results and tie breakers, it is possible that Cuba, Honduras, Mexico or Panama could be the USA's opponent in the quarterfinal round. Tonight's matches are Cuba-Honduras at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Mexico-Panama at 9 p.m. Should be a great finish to group play, so tune in. You can bet we will be ...

Wednesday, June 13 @ 8:59 a.m.
As has become customary since Sunday, the discussion at the coaches' table at breakfast focused on who our quarterfinal opponent might be. At varying times there have been calculators, newspapers, backs of napkins, and other tools employed to figure out the answer. Today's conclusion is the same that is has been every day: could be anyone. To be more precise, anyone from Group C.

Tuesday, June 12 @ 10:08 p.m.
Needless to say, it was a pretty satisfying bus ride home.  Other than it took almost an hour.  A few singalongs led by Frankie and Pablo, and some boxed meals consumed by hungry starters. All in all, a very pleased bunch.  Of course, they were already looking ahead to the quarterfinals, and the meeting after the late dinner confirmed where the focus lay.  Still, the group allowed themselves amount to enjoy a job well done....

Tuesday, June 12 @ 8:10 p.m. ET
Went and talked to the fellas next door to get their take on the game during halftime. They were joking about how Beasley's shot actually unded up in the net. "It was like a change-up by a pitcher," joked Boca. No jokes about Beasley's second shot that skied well over the bar...think they've all been there, done that. Also some discussion on who they thought might come on. Consensus was Landon would get a break, if not at halftime, then soon in the second half. They also figured we'd see Dempsey take a breather sometime in this upcoming 45.

 


Tuesday, June 12 @ 7:50 p.m. ET
If you're watching at home, not sure you saw the extra curricular activity before the teams got in the locker room. The El Salvador players were surrounding the officiating crew to complain about the penalty kick and wouldn't let them get off the field. What looked like CONCACAF officials were pulling them apart, and we mean literally pulling them apart. Finally, things looked to get dispersed when No. 11 for El Salvador must have had one more nice thing to say about the referee's performance in the first half, as he was given the amarillo. 

Tuesday, June 12 @ 7:15 p.m. ET
Yes, we're even blogging during the game...it never stops. In the 10th minute as we write this (Bradley just got his yellow card). We're up in a booth with Peter Nowak and Mark (one of our vidoegraphers). Mark is shooting the game so the coaches can break it down later tonight, while Peter is getting the birds-eye view and communicating with Sorber on the bench. There are a few other staff in here with us, but in the suite to our left are the players that didn't suit up for the game -- Boca, EJ, Dukes and Ralston. There's one other person as well, someone who's much better looking than the rest -- Steve's wife, Rachel. Guys didn't have many options in the suite's fridge, and no one was willing to open the champagne bottle that said "Save for the Playoffs" on it, for a multitude of reasons. They did get some grub though as a box of pizza from the press area magically grew legs and made it's way into the suite (pretty good except for the crust). Anyway, guys are comfortable, but can tell their itching a bit to be on the field. Always tough to sit and watch, but at least the guys are doing it in a leather seat rather than an aluminum bench.

Tuesday, June 12 @ 6 p.m. ET
Bob Bradley has unveiled his starter's for the USA's Group B finale in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday night. The line-up is similar in formation to the USA's 4-3-2-1 formation from the 4-1 victory against China on June 2.

With Tim Howard in goal, the backline sees Jonathan Bornstein at left back, and Jonathan Spector starting at right back (three days after his left back appearance against Trinidad & Tobago). The center backs are Oguchi Onyewu (back from a one-game red-card suspension) and Michael Parkhurst (starting again after his first ever USA apperance on Saturday).

Pablo Mastroeni returns to the USA midfield after a three-game suspension that spanned almost a year following his World Cup red card against Italy. Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber also take up their now familiar positions in the midfield (with Feilhaber starting his third game in six days).

The attack force features DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan on the wings, and Clint Dempsey up top.

--------------- Dempsey ----------------
--- Beasley ----------------- Donovan ---
---- Feilhaber -- Mastroeni -- Bradley ---
Bornstein -- Parkhurst -- Onyewu -- Spector

USA Bench: Ching, Clark, Twellman, Keller, Mapp, DeMerit, Simek

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 @ 5:11 p.m. 
Kudos to the Massachusetts State Police for helping us navigate some seriously bad traffic on 95. So if you’re reading this on your Blackberry, wave to the bus.

Tuesday, June 12 @ 3:15 p.m.
Just got our first guess at tonight's starting XI. We'll see how close you are Mr. David Burks (we're not giving anything away yet!)

F: Donovan -- Ching
M: Mapp – Feilhaber – Mastro -- Dempsey
D: Bornstein – Boca – Gooch -- Simek
GK: Howard

Tuesday, June 12 @ 10:45 a.m.
We received a bunch of responses to our trivia question from the other day and we appreciate you taking the time to write in, so a special thanks to: 

Amy Kettle, David Landry, Scott Viar, Matt Bowman, Chris LeGates, Mike Lott, Jay Goppingen, Richard Arnold, Matt Rogers, Joey Mice, Joshua Gass, Corey Schurman, Young Kim, David Coleman, Julie Kumar and Rory Gregg.

They all got the trivia right (including the movie line – “Back to School” was the answer by the way). Nice job U.S. MNT fans. Nobody can say you don’t know your soccer trivia. Oh, and Corey, you don’t really win anything (besides getting your name in the blog!!), but didn’t hurt to ask.

We also wanted to respond to a few other inquires we've received in our centercirlce@ussoccer.org inbox:

-- Sorry Matt (not Rogers or Bowman from above), we don’t think we’re going to have Landon provide his thoughts on the Paris Hilton saga since he’s “a big Hollywood star.” But I’m sure his teammates will get a kick out the fact you think he’s such a star.

-- Thanks to Prairie Rose Clayton for informing us that not only is there Taylor Twellman item on the bill of fare at Sonsie (check the blog entry on June 10), we can also head into Cambridge and “pay a visit to Chez Henri just on the northern edge of Harvard Square, where you can order a Bocanegra for dessert.” (Easy ladies…don’t all rush down there at once.)

-- And finally, we’d like to thank Francisco Irby for this bit of inspiration:
Many people - group together action - believe - become one mind - no mind.  Then - anything is possible.  Everything is no problem, no problem, no problem.

Once we figure that out, we'll make sure to write it on the locker room dry-erase board for the players before the game tonight.

Monday, June 11 @ 6:48 p.m. -

Peter Nowak had it right when he said that Mondays are no fun for anyone. Just thought we'd throw that in there. Much shorter trip to training, which turned out to be a more intense pre-game session than usual. For obvious reasons we can't say much more than that, although we did have a group of local coaches observing as part of their continuing education program for the coaching license. See the benefits of getting a coaching license from U.S. Soccer? You get an inside look at the USA's best and brightest. On the bus  ride back, we caught a glimpse of a little league game. Of course, former University of Maryland baseball player Taylor Twellman was the most excited. We think he was even calling the pitches! The kid we saw had a nice at bat, although he didn't take too many cuts. So if you were playing on the orange team around dinner time tonight, nice work boys ...


Monday, June 10 @ 4:18 p.m.
Busy afternoon with the Fourth Estate. Look for a couple big features tomorrow - including a video on ussoccer.com - on the return of Clint Dempsey to New England after his departure to Fulham earlier this year. Pablo, Landon and Mike Sorber handled the spanish-speaking duties with Univision and TeleFutura, and Bob Bradley spent some quality time with Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. Here was a little locker room material from Landon: Asked what the goal for the third group game is, Landon responded: "We're here to win the game. We're not here to try and get a point to win the group. We're here to win the game, period. I don't want to tie El Salvador. I want to beat El Salvador."

Sunday, June 10 @ 11:38 p.m.
OK folks, it's trivia time again! Or time for us to actually sleep, but we're rolling ...

The last time the U.S. and El Salvador faced off was a semifinal round World Cup qualifier on Oct. 9, 2004 at the Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador (was it really that long?). Five players on the current U.S. roster appeared in the 2-0 U.S. victory, four as starters. So, we have only one question - in 27 parts (C'mon, movie quote buffs. That's a good one...) The first question is, can you name all five? Question #2: One player on this roster scored that day - who was he? Question numero tres: There are three players total on the roster that have recorded goals against El Salvador in their career. Quienes son? Write to us at centercircle@ussoccer.org, where we will be really impressed ... if you pull out the movie quote ...

Sunday, June 10 @ 8:53 p.m.
First of all, in the category of stopping to smell the roses, today was absolutely gorgeous in Boston.  Clear, sunny skies with a majestic view of the Charles River and the Boston skyline made for a simply dazzling backdrop for the activities.  Tired from travel or not, one couldn't help but admire the surroundings.  Speaking of admiration, for all of you Taylor Twellman fans who haven't quite found the right way to pay homage, look no further then Sonsie on Newbury where there is an item on the bill of fare named in his honor.

Sunday, June 10 @ 6:15 p.m.
How about those results in Group C?  First a heavily favored Mexico falls 2-1 in a match that includes a missed penalty by Honduras, a converted penalty by Cuahtemoc Blanco followed by a red card for the fiery forward, and then an 89th minute game-winner for the Catrachos.  Add in a wild 2-2 draw between Panama and Cuba, and you got yourself one wide open group.  To recap, Panama sits in first place with four points, Mexico and Honduras each have three and Cuba gets one point for the tie.  With Mexico-Panama and Honduras-Cuba slated for the final matchday of the preliminary phase, this quartet is going down to the wire. And for those of you doing trying to do math - how fitting that we are staying near MIT, because at this point the permutations are copious - one the possibilities involves the USA finishing in first place and Mexico finishing in third.  B1 versus C3 in  the quarterfinals in Foxborough... how do you like the sound of that?

Sunday, June 10 @ 6:08 p.m.
The bus driver that took the team to the afternoon training session gave new meaning to the term 'Harvard Square'.  With the training site only a few miles away, we managed to take a route that took us through all of Cambridge and back past our team hotel.  The scenic route turned the travel time into approximately 35 minutes before the players disembarked to lace up their runners.  Do you know in what manner fans in most other parts of the world audibly express their displeasure for a referee?  Well, there was a symphony of that as we cruised past the hotel for the second time.  The session itself was pretty casual, with 25 minutes of light running and stretching before a game of 5 v. 2 for the non-starters. A few players used the free time to work on free kicks at the end, with Benny Feilhaber bravely serving as goalkeeper and making a few dandy saves to boot.  On the injury front, Eddie Johnson continues to improve, and remains listed as day-to-day.

Saturday, June 10 @ 12:45 p.m.
We continue Jay's story (did you forget??) before we take a nap as training is at 4 p.m. If you don't remember Part II, go back to Sunday, June 3 @ 11:41 p.m. We're calling this entry, "Sleep...Anywhere." Enjoy:

You might have been wondering why, knowing the car wouldn’t start again, would Jay and his friend leave that auto shop. Well, the plan was to at least get out of the city, stay in a hotel and move on. They figured that was still the best plan – at least they’d get away from all the traffic.

They drive about an hour out of the city and stop in a small town, happy to get out of the city, and knowing it would be as good as any place to crash for the night and then get the car fixed in the morning. Pulling into a hotel, they notice there are classic cars filling out the parking lot. Fitting right in with the ’69 Camaro, they start talking to some of the people in the lobby and find out there’s a car show in town. This means one thing: no vacancy. The person at the front desk tells them there’s not a single hotel within 40 miles.

With a broken down car and no hotel room, Jay and his friend are stuck. So what does the professional footballer, who just spent a year playing in maybe the best league in the world, do? Well, sleep in the car of course.

They push the seats up and do their best to get comfortable, but it’s a struggle. Around 3 a.m., they decide to try and sneak into the hotel. With no one visible at the front desk, they sneak by and walk into one of the nearby banquet rooms. No bed, but at least they can stretch out. Crashing on the floor, they get only a couple hours sleep as they’re woken up by the kitchen staff getting ready to put together the room for a group breakfast. They need a new spot…

Jay’s friend sneaks out to search for a place and comes back with an idea: the sauna. They figure it’s perfect. It’s got a door, so no one can see you, there are benches to lie down on and best of all…it’s not on. They slip into the workout room and into the sauna. Ahhh…sleep once again.

Final Part IV still to come…



Saturday, June 10 @ 10:15 a.m.
Red-eye flights are fun. Or not at all. Well, anyway we're here and checked our centercircle mail and we received a handful of emails from people telling us about their experiences at the first two games at the HDC. They told us about everything from where they sat, how they celebrated the U.S. goals, what they ate and even how a bat entertained them for part of the game (no, seriously...). Click here to read some of the entries.

Saturday, June 9 @ 9:58 p.m.
No rest for the weary as we sit at gate 49A at LAX bound for Boston. Post-game routine involved another regeneration session in the gym. Landon and Justin Mapp were the hot items in the mixed zone, and then it was off to the hotel to pack up the rest of the gear and say goodbye to Manhattan Beach. Michael Parkhurst delivered the requisite first cap speech on the bus ride to the airport. He thank third assistant Jesse Bignami for the opportunity to get a start (Editor's note: if you don't get this joke, scroll down. Way down ...). The group is stocking up on water and reading material as we wait for boarding. Overall, a pretty successful visit to the left coast. Now on to Beantown ...


Saturday, June 9 @ 1:03 p.m. PT
The line-up is in. Kasey Keller in goal, collecting his 99th career cap. The backline is Frank Simek, Jay DeMerit, Michael Parkhurst (first-ever cap) and Jonathan Spector. Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark, side-by-side in the midfield, with Steve Ralston on the right flank and Justin Mapp on the left. Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson up front. That's 10 new starters from Thursday night, which is what you have to do in a tournament with games separated by a mere 40 hours.

Saturday, June 9 @ 9:58 a.m.
Meal room is filling up. A bit of an awkward time for a pre-game meal, but the boys look pretty focused - on their food. According to the team podiatrist - just seeing if you're following along, doc - Jay DeMerit looks more like a chemistry professor than a soccer player. It's the glasses. The first round of equipment is leaving for Boston before the game, so all of the personal bags for the group have to be in the lobby by 11 a.m. Speaking of time, check back here at 1 p.m. PT to get the first look at the Starting XI. For a preview of today's match, check out our award-winning pre-game notes. You'll find out, among other things, the answer to last night's trivia question.

Friday, June 8 @ 8:15 p.m.
Sitting at dinner we were talking about the last time we played T&T in the Gold Cup back in '96, and it made us think of this trivia nugget: What two people sitting in the meal room this evening for dinner were part of the USA's starting XI during the last meeting against T&T in Gold Cup? This isn't a trick question (a bit tough, but not tricky), and there was no one in the room that you wouldn't assume would be there -- for example, local Californian Paul Caligiuri did not happen to stop by for chicken and pasta.

Friday, June 8 @ 5:45 p.m
As we busily prepare the research for tomorrow afternoon's match against T&T, we came across this remarkable stat: With the appearances of Frankie Hejduk and Steve Ralston against Guatemala, there are now 44 players with at least one cap in 2007 (26 domestic and 18 foreign-based) over the first six games, and 12 have made their debut appearance for the U.S.  Think about that folks. If you do the numbers over six games and include both starting and reserve spots available, that adds up to 98 possible appearances for players.   Don't think there is any question that the coaching staff has done an extremely thorough job during the last six months in getting a good solid grasp of what our player pool is all about.

Friday, June 8 @ 5:15 p.m.
We mentioned this just before the game, but thought we'd remind everyone that if you went to last night's victory over Guatemala, write us and let us know what it was like. Did you sit with other American fans, or we're you stuck next to a group of Guatemalans? How did you celebrate Dempsey's goal? What did you eat? Did you tailgate before? Did you stay for the second match? We want to know, so write us at centercircle@ussoccer.org.

Friday, June 8 @ 5:08 p.m.
Got our first Pablo Mastroeni sighting, the Rapids defender arriving this afternoon following his side's 2-1 loss to Houston on Thursday night.  Saw him with Brian Ching, so clearly no hard feelings.  Pablo must sit out the T&T match to complete his three-match suspension following the 1-1 draw against Italy in the 2006 World Cup.

Friday, June 8 @ 1:45 p.m.
Guys split up this morning for workouts, with the starters against Guatemala doing a bit of regeneration, while the rest of the squad going through a light training at the HDC. Everyone was back for lunch, and the chefs didn’t even know it, but they provided Clint Dempsey with a fitting reward for scoring the game-winning goal against Guatemala last night with a large slab of ribs intermixed with the usual offerings. The resident expert on barbeque ribs, "Duece" was definitely giddy and up for seconds (we didn’t see thirds), so you know they were up to his standards.

Friday, June 8 @ 12:48 p.m.
You ever play that fun car game called 'do you think we can make it?' That would be when the light indicating that you are nearly out of gas comes on, and you decide to play chicken with your car to see just how long it can run on fumes? Imagine that game, then add in that you are driving six players from the national team on a major highway on the way to training. And of course, the guys are egging you on because they don't want to stop. Trust me, if you want to go down in team history, running out of gas on the 405 would be the perfect way to do it. Well, we made it to training with a huge sigh of relief. Of course, they wanted to do the same thing on the way home. Nice try, Benny. Not happening.

Friday, June 8 @ 8:52 a.m.
In last night's second match, El Salvador pulled out a 2-1 win against a depleted T&T with a goal in the 81st minute. While the Soca Warriors fought bravely, it was probably a just result.  Here's the crib notes match report:

June 7, 2007
The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
2007 Gold Cup

El Salvador    2  
(Ramon Sanchez 38’, Dennos Alas 81’)
T &T             1  
(Silvio Spann 8’)

SLV: 1- Juan Gomez, 2- Leonel Guevara, 5- Jose Henriquez, 18- Alexander Escobar, 19- Alfredo Pacheco, 7- Victor Hugo, 8- Carlos Menjivar (14- Ramon Sanchez 9’), 17- Dennis Alas, 21- Eliseo Quintanilla, 11- Ronald Cerritos, 16- Cesar Larios (23- Jose Martinez 64’)

TRI: 21- Jan Michael Williams, 5- Keyeno Thomas, 6- Thomas Nickcolson, 17- Seon Power, 20- Anthony Noriega, 2- Romauld Aguillera, 15- Andrei Pacheco, 16- Silvio Spann (8- Kerry Baptiste 73’), 18- Densill Theobald, 12- Gary Glasgow (11- Andre Toussaint 67’), 14- Darryl Roberts (9- Errol Mc Farlane 84’)

So, with the first matches in the books it’s El Salvador who sits a top Group B.  Here’s how the tie breakers work in the preliminary phase:

1. head-to-head
2. goal differential
3. goals for


Thursday, June 7 @ 6:45 p.m.
We'll get to some stuff on the game itself later, but just wanted to mention some stuff before kickoff. Our Studio 90 crew was doing a fan version of the "Back 4 Quiz," walking around the stadium and putting the MNT diehards to the test. How'd they do? Well, lets just say no one got every question right, but then again none of the guests we've ever had on the Studio 90 have left without a blemish, so don't feel bad. We concentrated on the Gold Cup and asked what CONCACAF stands for (this one no one got...), whether Guadaloupe is a country or not (some new it was not...but explaining what it is was tougher), what countries have won the Gold Cup (one or two knew this one), how many times the U.S. has won the GC (less than we thought knew it) and asked people to spell Feilhaber, Hejduk and Onyewu (lets just put it this way, people with one of those three player's jersey on didn't even get it right). Overall, a pretty funny piece that will be going up on ussoccer.com soon (Friday's the target) as part of the fisrt episode of Studio 90: Summer Tour. From now until the end of the Under-20 World Cup, look for the Summer Tour to pop up every so often on the site.  

Thursday, June 7 @ 4:08 p.m.
On the bus to the stadium, and did a quick survey of how the players are spending the time. Many headphones on, as you can imagine. Some of the highlights of the playlists:

Benny Feilhaber - Here in your arms by Hellogoodbye
Jonathan Spector - The All American Rejects
Jay DeMerit - Just a day by Feeder

Frankie has his customary large coffee in hand, and a few guys have their eyes closed. It's pretty calm and pretty focused...

Thursday, June 7 @ 2:39 p.m.
Team just ate lunch (guess what, there was pasta and chicken, what a surprise) and are now currently in their final pre-game meeting as they begin the final countdown towards their opening match of the Gold Cup against Guatemala. We're heard there are a few tickets left...not many, but a few, so if you're looking to catch our boys live head to The Home Depot Center for the 6 p.m. kickoff. And if you do go, or are already planning on going, well, we want to hear from you. Send us your best blog-style recap of your experience at tonight's game. We'll take it short, long, funny, dull (well, maybe not dull), anything you got, we'll take. We figure we've been telling you so much about what's going on from this side, it might be interesting for others to hear what our best and most loyal fans are doing to catch the Gold Cup Fever! Send your entries to centercircle@ussoccer.org.

Thursday, June 7 @ 8:18 a.m.
Once again, most guys chose not to exercise the option on breakfast this morning. We saw Brian Ching and Frankie Hejduk heading to the beach for a coffee, but otherwise a slow morning. The usual logistical mechanisms of game day are rolling along, from sorting out tickets for the players to making sure the bus will be in position at the right time. The first official function is the pre-game meal at 2 p.m. Until then, it's all about resting and getting in the zone...

Wednesday, June 6 @ 8:49 p.m - While the team watches film, we'll catch you up on opening day action in the 2007 Gold Cup.  The tournament kicked off with a pair of surprising results in Miami, starting with Canada's 2-1 upset win against Costa Rica. Deportivo la Coruna striker Julian de Guzman potted two straight goals to erase an early lead for the Ticos.  In the second half of the doubleheader, Gold Cup newcomers Guadeloupe pulled out a 1-1 draw against Haiti in front of a largely pro-Haitian crowd at The Orange Bowl.  Haiti took the lead on a penalty in the 36th minute, but the tiny archipelago with a population of less than 500,000 got the tying goal in the 54th minute off the foot of  Cedric Fiston.  Definitely not the picture you expected from Group A after opening day...

Wednesday, June 6 @ 2:37 p.m.
Sunny day here in SoCal, and the team is fully tuned in to getting ready for the Gold Cup opener against Guatemala tomorrow night. One more session to go, as the team heads to The Home Depot Center for a 5 p.m training. Much of the group will get their first run out on the field, as many of the 'Euros' have never played a match in Carson. The Gold Cup preview video is up on the site, including Landon Donovan talking about how a tournament is truly a team game, Jay DeMerit on how you approach games knowing that you might not be a starter, and Benny Feilhaber discussing what he hopes to accomplish. Also, don't miss tonight's Studio 90 Gold Cup preview show on Fox Soccer Channel at 8:30 and 12:30 p.m. ET. (but if you do miss it, we'll have it here Thursday).

Wednesday, June 6 @ 12:08 a.m.
Wow. That's all we can think of to say at this point. Wow ...

First, there was a fantastic turnout for the Drew vs. U.S. Soccer Video Game Challenge. All of the MNT players and staff and about a dozen of the WNT group were on hand in full-throated support of Taylor, Hope, Kasey, Abby and Landon playing against Drew. The stadium club at The Home Depot Center was transformed into a sweet a video game venue, and there was plenty of great food and drink to keep the festivities going. And obviously the biggest thing of all, Drew dropping $160,000 for the Mooch Myernick Memorial Fund. The Myernick family and the rest of the crowd were just stunned. Anyways, you can read all about it here, and there are plenty of photos and will be video up on ussoccer.com shortly. In of our favorite segments, here's some things you didn't see...

  • There was some serious negotiating going on for two items in the silent auction - the Wayne Rooney autographed jersey and the Tony Hawk skateboard deck. The bidding war went right down to the wire
    on the Rooney jersey, shooting the price from $350 to $1,200 in about two minutes. As for the Tony Hawk deck, let's just say there was an offer we couldn't refuse
  • As you can see from the photos, the guys and gals were practicing all night. Turns out one of the kids in the audience - who got invited because his buddy submitted one of the best fan e-mail on why he should get an invitation - was an absolute ringer, and spent quality time with Landon showing him all the really cool moves. We'd say it paid off, to the tune of $50,000 ...
  • Drew brought several props to set the stage, including cologne names 'dirt' and 'grass'. And yup, they sure did smell like 'em. He also brought Drew Carey bobbleheads for each of the contestants, putting a personalized message on each. Unfortunately we can't print what they said... 
  • Hope Solo is looking absolutely ripped. One pretty impressive looking athlete... She met Kasey Keller for the first time last night. Both are from the Seattle area, and trained under the same coach. 
  • Allen Hopkins was en fuego as the emcee for the show. Delivered some of his trademark commentary during the matches, and even talked a little trash. 
  • So, a little more on the controller controversy. Apparently some mysterious person (Drew spy, saboteur, someone with a stake in the outcome - who knows?) changed the settings on the controller, one
    of which meant that a normal slide tackle turned into the bone-crushing variety that earns players red cards. The change was only noticed after Landon curiously got two players sent off back-to-back. While Hope, Abby and Kasey attempted to protest their results, if you recall from the Rules of Competition state that the decision of Mr. Care... the Official Competition Committee, were final. It also helped that Drew gave the money anyway
  • Tim Howard fought off a hard challenge to win the jersey signed by Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol. With Tim's wife hailing from Tennessee, someone is in line for a great Christmas present
  • Drew dubbed tonight the "First Annual", declaring that he wants to hold it every year, and will guarantee the $100,000 to start. What can you say about this guy? Such a huge heart ...

Nancy, Kelly, Travis, and the rest of the Myernick family wanted to express their profound gratitude to Drew and everyone who helped make the event such a great success, and all in the name of the man who inspired it, Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick.

Tuesday, June 5 @ 3:34 p.m.
Really fun seeing Frankie Hejduk back on the training field again. His energy, his fitness ... his really long hair. Wow, back to the Marley days. We all so knew it would happen. Good, solid training session today. All hands are on deck, minus Pablo Mastroeni. The team worked on attacking shape and going to big goals, with some finishing at the end. Saw Howard and Keller make some sick saves, but there were a few bombs scored as well. And maybe one or two cars dented in the parking lot! While doing the regeneration session, the Brazil-Turkey friendly came on. I think a few more guys hopped in the ice bath than normal just to get a good seat ...

Tuesday, June 5 @ 12:45 p.m.
So far we have three folks who have swayed us with their prose and earned special invitations to tonight's Drew Carey vs. U.S. Soccer Event. And here they are!


#1
Hey U.S. Soccer!

I am a 22 year old hardcore U.S. soccer fan from the San Fernando Valley. I drove about 10 hours on saturday to San Jose and back so I could attend this weekend's friendly match. I am going to both matches here in Carson this week. I love no other team more than my own National team and whenever there is a match, be it friendly or actual competition, I stop everything I do to watch. I visit
ussoccer.com daily and I also visit websites like espn's soccernet to get all the info about u.s. soccer I can get. I would love nothing more but to be able to attend this event in Carson because it would be an honor to be in the same room with so many of my heroes and watch the competition of FIFA 07 (Which by the way is the only video game I play right now). It would be great to be able to attend, but if I cannot, let me just say GO USA! Let's win the Gold Cup!!!

Thank you very much.

Josué Arias.


#2
My passion is twofold first and foremost is to help children
that are diagnosed with Cancer and secondly soccer. Our foundation supports families that have children with cancer and we often have opportunities to participate in events as the one you are having on Tuesday night. I would love to bring one or two children to watch and enjoy this great event. This year we were fortunate enough to host a pre-season game between The Galaxy and The Crew in Santa Clarita and had over 5400 in attendance with all profits benefiting our foundation. We had over 100 families in a special section that have children with cancer and to watch the joy on their faces as they were VIPs at this game was very rewarding to us. I would love to see that Joy again at the event you are having on Tuesday night. Thank you for your consideration and a big thank you to Drew Carey for his generosity.

Thank You

Scott Schauer


Unfortunately, #3's email kicked back to us, so he didn't receive the instructions on how to get in tonight. However, #3, if you are reading this, send us another note with your name and a new email address and we will get that back to you.


#3
We all love Mooch and his foundation, but someone has to root for US Soccer's #1 fan Drew Carey (meaning he can afford to go all over the world to all of the games while all of us other HUGE fans can only watch from afar). I mean if he has no support, losing all of those games will hurt that much more. I mean losing to a woman, albeit an imposing beautiful woman, has to hurt a man's ego; he needs some people to cheer him up and keep him going till the end! Plus, I am truly US Soccer's #1 supporter and have been since I was a wee child. I would be honored to finally be held in the high esteem of being in attendance of a VIP only
US Soccer event; I am a VIP (valued income provider) for my family, so why not at the Home Depot Center too!

Thanks, and have a wonderful day.

(Name with held until validated)

Again, if you live in the area, drop us a note at DrewVS@ussoccer.org and tell us why you want to come tonight.

Monday, June 4 @ 4:15 p.m.
Didn't spend a lot of time around the team today, as the staff was working to set up the Stadium Club for the "Drew Carey vs. U.S. Soccer" event on Tuesday night. The place looks awesome and should be a great event. We will try and post some pictures on Tuesday of the set-up. Keep an eye on ussoccer.com on Wednesday for an exclusive all_access video covering the event.

Are you still reading? Good. ussoccer.com's friendly blogger staff has got a special treat for you. If you are in the Southern California area, and want to attend the "Drew Carey vs. U.S. Soccer" event, we are holding a few spots open for the sport's best fans (who are the one's that read ussoccer.com, of course). Send us a quick paragraph about why you want to attend the event, and we will read and post the best responses and will get a select few fans into the event!

Drop us a note now at DREWvs@ussoccer.org.

Monday, June 4 @ 11:43 a.m. 
Ran into Abby Wambach in the halls of the HDC.  She's been prepping for her showdown with Drew tomorrow night.  Her new roommate won't let her practice FIFA 07 as much as she'd like, but she is still feeling confident.  Scored a bike with Messi last night and won after having two players sent off.  Abby's definitely got her game face on ...

Sunday, June 3 @ 11:41 p.m.
Before we hit the hay, we figured we'd provide Part II of the Jay DeMerit road trip story. If you don't remember Part I, go back to Tuesday, May 29 @ 2:25 p.m. PT. We're calling this entry, "Tap of Luck" Enjoy:

Without any idea how much time they have until the car battery would die, DeMerit and his friend immediately exit the highway. And what do you know, they see an auto shop. They’re saved…or so they thought. As they pull up, they notice the shop is closed (remember, it’s almost 7 p.m. at this point). Disappointed, they blindly pick a direction and drive.

Now, if you know anything about Jay's story of how he made it to the EPL, good luck and good timing are some things he seems to have on his side (not to mention drive, dedication and skill, of course) and about half-a-mile down the road that luck and timing come into play as they see another auto shop, this one with its garage door open. They veer in with fingers crossed.

It’s open. But things looked bleak. After a quick inspection under the hood, the mechanics tell Jay that there’s nothing they can do. The battery is now completely dead, and they’ll have to wait to order a new alternator, which will take at least a day. Desperate for another solution, Jay asks the inevitable question, “You’re sure there’s nothing you can do?” The mechanic pauses, shakes his head and says, “well … we can try one thing.”

The mechanic pulls out a hammer and walks toward the engine. Jay and his buddy look at each other, and basically shrug their shoulders. The mechanic begins to lightly tap on the alternator with the hammer, and then tells Jay to try and start up the car. It works! Magic? Nah. The mechanic explains that it dies when the brushes wear out in the starter, making a bad electric contact. The tapping on the back of the starter with the hammer jars the brushes back in place, where they'll make contact (hopefully) one more time.

With their last start used up, they head out down the road knowing very well the next time they stop they’d be out of luck and would finally need to fix the alternator.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 3 @ 4:59 p.m.
Couple new faces joined the regeneration session this afternoon at the HDC. Landon moved his stuff down the hall from the Galaxy lockers, and hat-trick specialist Eddie Johnson turned up from K.C. Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark are on their way from Houston, celebrating their 2-1 win against FC Dallas. Hope you caught Ricardo's game-tying blast. Justin Mapp and Frankie Hejduk are out first thing tomorrow morning from the Windy City, which will bring the Gold Cup training camp up to 22 players. The last arrival award belongs to Pablo Mastroeni, who will play in the Rapids-Dynamo match on June 7 in Houston. Pablo must sit out the first two matches of the tournament, completing his suspension from the 2006 World Cup.

Sunday, June 3 @ 11:44 a.m.
Met up in baggage claim with the Revs trio who arrived after a very, very early wake up call this morning.  Nice reunion for Clint Dempsey with his old pals Michael Parkhurst, Steve Ralston and Taylor Twellman.  Ralston was particularly excited to see all the guys wearing the white camouflage hoodies (we know, we know, we need to post a photo of this famous hoodie).  He's an avid hunter, you see.  Meantime, Taylor and Kasey were already huddling up to discuss tactics and strategy for their upcoming FIFA 07 showdown with Drew Carey on Tuesday night. If you haven't read about the big fundraising event, click here.

Sunday, June 3 @ 8:43 a.m.
Hopefully you all are sleeping in after watching an impressive 4-1 win last night.  We, on the other hand, are at the airport waiting for a flight back to Los Angeles and a training session this afternoon.  No time to enjoy this one, folks. It's four days until the Gold Cup opener and there is much work to be done.  But since we're not technically working now, let's review some of last night's highlights:

How about that crowd?  Enthusiastic, loud, decked out in the colors ... San Jose really has demonstrated that it's a soccer town.
  
Small issue in the locker room before the game.  Seems there was a bit of a plumbing problem, so the atmosphere was a bit ... uncomfortable.  In the end, the guys had to go back to the hotel to shower after the game.
  
Asked Benny about the goal celebration.  He and his roommate Sacha apparently used some of their down time in the hotel - when not recording their award-winning podcasts - to choreograph the dance.  Benny made point a to run towards his father, who was celebrating his birthday
  
As you probably saw on the broadcast, assistant coach Peter Nowakvwatched the game from an elevated position and communicated by radio with Mike Sorber sitting on the bench.  At one point in the first half when the coaches were discussing the formation change, team equipment manager Jesse Bignami was sitting alone next to Sorber and didn't see the earpiece in his ear.  When Sorber was asking Peter 'Do you think we should switch to a 4-4-2?', Jesse, not seeing anyone else around, thought Sorber was seeking his counsel.  "OK," Jesse replied. Sorber further explained moving Michael Bradley inside and pushing Clint up top. "Sounds good," Jesse said.  It was about that time that the light bulb went on. He won't be living that one down any time soon.

Highlights and post-game reaction will be up on the website shortly, so stay tuned ...

Saturday, June 2 @ 4:00 p.m.
Ladies and gentlemen, your starting XI against China (in the graphic below). A few items:

  • Tim Howard will be in goal to start the match
  • Carlos Bocanegra gets the captain's armband, becoming the fourth different captain in five matches since Bradley took the helm (Conrad, Mastroeni, Donovan). First time for Carlos, who happens to have had the most ticket requests for this match of any player on the roster (he's from Rancho Cucamonga)
  • Beasley is the cap leader amongst the starters, with 62 appearances and 12 goals
  • Sacha Kljestan gets his first cap for the senior team, the only starter to make his debut
  • Beasley and Dempsey will likely switch sides to start the game, but have the freedom to roam



Saturday, June 2 @ 2:28 p.m.
Several of the USA's upcoming opponents are also in international action today. In 2008 European Championship qualifying, Sweden were in extra time of a wild 3-3 encounter with Denmark when the match was abandoned due to a fan attack on the referee. The Danes had charged back from a three goal deficit after Sweden had potted a trio after 26 minutes. The result will not be confirmed until UEFA reviews the referee's report. The U.S. got a two-for-one scouting deal with Switzerland holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Basel, a goal by Tranquillo Barnetta in the 63rd minute erasing the deficit created when Argentina's Carlos Teves headed home in the 49th minute. Paraguay, the USA's second opponent in the Copa America, played to a goalless draw against Austria, leaving them without a victory in five matches since the 2006 World Cup. Trinidad & Tobago, who the U.S. will face in the Gold Cup on June 9 in Carson, Calif., will take on Honduras later this evening in their final tournament tune-up.

Saturday, June 2 @ 11:38 a.m.
The wheels on game day are turning in their typically slow fashion. Not much to do for the players but eat, relax and get focused. Saw Clint Dempsey and Lee Nguyen hanging out at an outdoor cafe near the hotel, drinking coffee and signing some autographs for locals. The equipment truck rolls out at noon - which reminds us of an interesting dilemma that our kit man Jesse Bignami discovered in his locker room walk-through yesterday. As anyone who has seen a game from Spartan Stadium knows, the field is quite cozy, shall we say. Well, the circumstance is no different in the locker room. Pretty tight space, small lockers ... anyone guess where we are going with this? Let us pose this question then: where do you stick a 6'4", 210 pound defender? Tough call for Jesse. As fortune would have it, we lay out our lockers in numerical order, so Gooch being No. 22 winds up being on the end. A little extra leg room, but it's the same problem he has sitting on airplanes. Keep this one between us, because quite frankly, we don't want to be the ones to have to tell him...

Friday, June 1 @ 6:45 p.m.
Just rolled back from training, and it turned out to be a nice, sunny afternoon for the guys to have a little kick around. For a handful of U.S. players who weren't in MLS it was their first visit to Spartan Stadium, which felt eerie with the void of Earthquake-ness that we've all been used to whenever we've been to San Jose. As it turns out, only one of the 18 players with the U.S. team has played a national team game in this stadium. Kasey Keller earned one of his 46 career shutouts here as the U.S. drew Macedonia FYR 0-0 on May 16, 1998. A small but hungry group of local press came out, including some Chinese language media from both the Bay Area and China. Here are the highlights from the post-practice interviews:

  • Bob Bradley was asked about different aspects of David Beckham's arrival twice
  • A Chinese photographer was fascinated with the ice wraps on the players as they did typical post-practice icing. Asked what the bag of ice wrapped to his knee was for, DaMarcus Beasley said "My knee."
  • Rob Stone and Allen Hopkins, two-thirds of the ESPN2 broadcast team, were on hand with some production crew to listen in to interviews and talk to Bob Bradley
  • Gooch talked about how the younger veterans are embracing leadership roles as the new players to the mix
  • U.S. Soccer (that's us) announced that more than 18,000 tickets are out for the match
  • Before the interviews, some of the younger players (Feilhaber, Kljestan, Davies, Bradley, et. al) were shooting on net, and we can't help but wonder if the were shanking balls off the outside of their right foot on purpose, causing the media contingent to scatter with each errant shot or save by the 'keeper

Off to dinner, more later.

Friday, June 1 @ 1:08 p.m.
About a dozen players and coaches managed to slip out before lunch to watch the first half of the England-Brazil game that was played at the new Wembley Stadium. Pretty sweet digs. Not a bad first half of football. Who was holding their breath when Beckham had that free kick from the top of the 'D'? Unfortunately we missed both goals - notice we didn't say who scored them - but that's what the TiVo is for. At least the clouds have broken, so should be a nice afternoon training session at Spartan Stadium. Thanks to Britannia Arms for making space for us.

(Bradley, Feilhaber, Howard, Kljestan, Marsch, Nguyen and Spector, for whoever was dying to know ...)

Friday, June 1 @ 10:18 a.m.
Time to talk about the really fantastic Drew Carey fundraising event coming up this Tuesday at The Home Depot Center. You can read all about the Drew Carey vs. U.S. Soccer EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer 07 on Xbox 360 Challenge, where Drew will donate up to $100,000 to the Mooch Myernick Memorial Fund by playing against Landon Donovan, Abby Wambach, Kasey Keller, Hope Solo, and Taylor Twellman on FIFA 07. There's been a great buzz building, and as you can see we've got some really cool things planned. But let us tell you some things that you won't find in the article:

  • The most amazing thing about this whole concept is that it was Drew's idea. He wrote to us a few months back expressing his desire to support the Mooch Myernick Fund, and this was his way of making it a fun evening for a cause that is close to all of our hearts. And let's be honest, he's a huge Xbox 360 fan and a huge soccer fan, so it's cool for him too.
  • More great items have been donated for the gift packages that will help raise even more cash. We now have added a signed skateboard deck from Tony Hawk, an autographed soccer ball from Mia Hamm, and an Avengers VIP pack. U.S. Soccer and the Myernick family would like to thank Nike, EA Sports, Xbox, the Wasserman Media Group, the Doubletree Hotels, McDonald's and Gatorade for all of the awesome swag
  • For those of you in the LA area, indie 103.1 will be giving away 10 sets of tickets on both jonesy's jukebox and the Morning Show with Joe Escalante on Monday and Tuesday next week
  • Funny Drew story. He's been talking smack for the last couple months on how bad he was going to beat our players. Two days ago, he fires up his system for another practice session and happens to notice on the opening screen that he's been playing FIFA '05 the whole time! (If you're a gamer, you know you better be playing the right version or else). He hunts all over the LA area to get the right game, then realizes later that he doesn't own the newest Xbox 360 system that the tournament is being played on. So yet another shopping trip ensues, but after unsuccessfully trying to install the system on his NASA-like entertainment system at home, he had to call for professional help. Needless to say, this guy wants to win...

Stay tuned for more pre-event coverage, as well as video and photos from the big night...

Friday, June 1 @ 9:33 a.m.
This morning's team breakfast was optional, and not surprisingly, most guys chose not to exercise the option and a get a couple extra hours of sleep. Oguchi Onyewu made it into the room just before 9 a.m. looking a little relieved after having navigated the maze of this rather vast hotel. It's an overcast day in San Jose, and with training not scheduled until 5 p.m., we've got time to go back to the trivia question. For those of you just jumping in to the blog ... the question asked who is the only player on the current U.S. roster who played in the last match against China, a 2-1 on Jan. 27, 2001 in Oakland. The answer: A 19-year old from Ft. Wayne, Ind., made his full team debut that day, DaMarcus Beasley going 90 minutes while earning his first cap. In case anyone was wondering, DaMarcus got the answer right...

If you're feeling like Jeopardy! should be in your future, test yourself with the Gold Cup version of Center Circle's "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" trivia questions by clicking here.

Thursday, May 31 @ 8:22 p.m.
Well, we made it.  And so did most of our bags!  Unfortunately, several players are currently without toothbrushes, razors, deodorant, and all the other things that they keep in their toiletry kits.  The trunk holding those is somewhere between LAX and the Bay Area ... we hope.  Nice view of the coast coming up to San Fran, and an equally pleasant 45-minute ride from the airport.  Side note: It's constantly amazing to witness the napping ability of some of these players.  It's like they have an on-off switch.  Dinner at our rather swanky hotel was fantastic.  Jesse Marsch and Jay DeMerit were bowled over by the rather impressive cheese tray - they're from Wisconsin, after all.  The next task is to figure out where to watch the England-Brazil friendly on Friday.  Lunch will be up early so guys can catch both halves if they want. In the mean time, the group gets settled into the new digs with less than 48 hours to kickoff ...


Thursday, May 31 @ 12:58 p.m.
Media interest has certainly ratcheted up a notch with kick off less than 48 hours away. In addition to the half a dozen reporters at training today (Daily Breeze, Portland Oregonian, espn.com, to name a few), lots of phone interviews for the Bay Area. To give you a quick on what to look for:

Bob Bradley and Jesse Marsch spoke to the San Jose Mercury News for a feature on ... Bob.
Oguchi Onyewu talked to the Associated Press for a game preview.
Jay DeMerit sat down with the L.A. Daily News for a profile.
Lee Nguyen talked with the Ft. Worth Star Telegram about his first opportunity with the senior team.
Kamani Hill was interviewed by the Contra Costa Times for a weekend column.

Just enough to do interviews, eat, and hit the bus ...

Thursday, May 31 @ 6:48 a.m.
Moving day folks! Today's adventure begins with the medical staff and equipment room being packed up at 0-dark hundred - military term for really frickin' early - and all the players and coaches having their travel bags down by 8:30 a.m. The aforementioned Jesse Bignami will then load a truck and send them on their way to San Jose. (Resisting temptation for lame "do they know the way?" joke.)

The group will only take carry-on bags to the airport in order to save time and space. Meanwhile, we still have the regular routine of training, regeneration work, interviews, etc., so it's a pretty full schedule. Speaking of which, the breakfast might already be set up. Going to need some coffee for this one ...

Wednesday, May 30 @ 5:38 p.m.
Way too much going on to catch up right now, so we'll give you a trivia question while you're waiting. Only one player on the current roster played in the USA's last meeting against China, a 2-1 win on Jan. 27, 2001 in Oakland. Here's a hint: it was his first cap. See how long it takes you to get the answer before you break down and Google it ...

Wednesday, May 30 @ 1:12 p.m.
We know this is now yesterday's news, but since it's new to you we'll pretend it's new to us. While this blog was designed to share with our fans a sneak peak behind the team where even our all_access cameras can't (or won't) go, we took it a step farther with a breakdown of Tuesday's training session. Also, don't miss photos of the first two days of training. The boys have been getting into it a little bit, as these photos will show.

Here's a quick look at the Anatomy of a Practice:
9:40 a.m. – Final players roll down to the lobby and pile into the last van as we head to practice. About seven vans in all take the players, coaches and staff to The Home Depot Center. As usual, there are vans beating others off the line, at a stop light, or some just zooming past others on the way (under the speed limit of course). What can we say…everything is a competition.
...
9:56 a.m. – The players inevitably end up warming up in groups of two or three. Right now we see Kamani Hill with Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen; Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber; Ante Razov and Carlos Bocanegra; Jay DeMerit and Frank Simek; Jesse Marsch and Michael Bradley; Oguchi Onyewu and Clint Dempsey.
...
10:23 a.m. – Davies and Jonathan Bornstein just lost in the juggling competition. We know because they’re down doing pushups. They start again, this time juggling just with their head…and the duo almost lose again, as they’re all over the place (we hear Nowak yell, “Where you going” in his classic Polish accent). Luckily for them, they recover and get under control and keep the ball off the ground.

Read More

Wednesday, May 30 @ 9:43 a.m.
Today is the last day for long-time equipment manager Ryan Maxfield. Don’t feel bad for him, he’s going to join Team Beckham. The Vermont native started with the senior team in January of 2004 and quickly became a favorite amongst the players for his sense of humor and attention to detail. Most folks don't have a real appreciation for how extensive - and critical - the role of the kit man is for the team, and the commitment that it takes to do the job properly. He's the guy who is up at 4 a.m. to load the truck departing for our next venue and the last one out of the locker room after a game. He's the one who customizes players' boots, remembers their individual gear preferences, and keeps an extra set of everything just in case. He helps in the design of uniforms, training gear, etc., to help maximize the comfort and performance for the guys. And yes, he shags a lot of balls, often out of sticker bushes, ponds, and across highways - hey, when some of our guys miss, they miss big ... Ryan has been an important member of the team for three years, and we're going to miss him.

On the bright side, the average height of the team staff just jumped four inches!

Oh, and remember those awesome Studio 90 commercials? Yep. That was Maxfield in all his glory pumping up the goods at ussoccerstore.com.

Vaya con dios, Maxfieldbergensteinowitz!

Tuesday, May 29 @ 8:48 p.m.
News out of Trinidad that the Soca Warriors defeated Haiti 1-0 in the first match of the Digicel Cup, a warm up tournament for T&T before the Gold Cup begins next week.  Andre Toussaint got the lone goal in the 76th minute.  T&T will play tomorrow against the winner of the Mexico U-23 MNT and Cuba match currently underway.  The result and lineups:

May 29, 2007 – Hasley Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain – Digicel Cup
T&T      1          Andre Toussaint 76’
Haiti     0

Trinidad & Tobago:  21-Marvin Phillip, 20-Anthony Noreiga, 5-Keyeno Thomas, Nickcolson Thomas, 2-Romauld Aguillera, Christian Baptiste, 15-Andrei Pacheco, 16-Silvio Spann (8-Kerry Baptiste 67), 7-Densill Theobald (Capt.), 12-Gary Glasgow (11-Andre Toussaint 67), 14-Darryl Roberts (9-Errol McFarlane 67).

Haiti: Fenelon Gabart, Brunny Richard (Capt.), Gilles Frantz (Raymond Ednerson 83), Noncent Windsor, Guillamme Stephane, Fucien Brunel, Cadet Eliphene (Noel Fabrice 46) Alexandre Boucicant (Romulus Turlien 46), Marcelin James, Chery Mones (Jacques Jamil 46), St Jean Roland (Germain Peter 46).

Tuesday, May 29 @ 6:58 p.m.
Landon and Bianca were kind enough to let us interrupt dinner at the Donovan home so we could get a couple sound bites from LD for the upcoming Studio 90 Gold Cup Preview Show.  Congrats to Bianca for having her CBS sit-com Rules of Engagement picked up for another season.  Hope we didn't just let the cat out of the bag ...

Tuesday, May 29 @ 6:01 p.m.
Driving back from the afternoon gym session with equipment managers Jesse Bignami and Ryan Maxfield, and trainer Justin Shaginaw.  It's important sometimes for the staff to have a bit of quality time together away from the group to clear our heads and take a break from thinking about soccer. Intelligent and curious by nature, we even go so far as to ponder some of the significant philosophical dilemas that we all confront as human beings on Planet Earth. In the interest of furthering discourse, we thought we'd make you all a part of the debate.  So consider these questions.  Would you rather:

a) eat Dorritos or Cheetos?
b) drive a tank or a Zamboni for the rest of your life?
c) strum an air guitar or bang on the air drums?

And the bonus question: Should the staff stay in the steam room for more than 30 minutes at a time?

Tuesday, May 29 @ 2:25 p.m. PT
We mentioned earlier that Jay DeMerit told us an entertaining yarn about a road trip he recently took after coming back from England. Well, we went back to the center back to verify some facts and we realized it’s a bit too long for a single blog entry, but it’s definitely worth telling so we’ll provide it in segments throughout the next week. We’re calling the first part, “What’s GEN?” Enjoy.

On his way back to the U.S. after the season, Jay had something waiting for him: a ’69 Camaro. Seems Jay has been looking into getting a vintage car and ended up pulling the trigger basically sight unseen in New York. He flew in, picked up the car and then met a childhood friend from Green Bay now living in the city that never sleeps. Their plan? Drive the 13-hour trip to Green Bay, and along the way stop in Indianapolis for his friend’s sister’s college graduation. 

The day they were set to leave, Jay actually spent the day tooling around the city playing Santa by delivering free gear he received over the course of the season. Him and his friend drove around downtown dropping of “gifts” to a number of people they knew from home or college. While dropping off the last "gift," Jay noticed a light on the dash came on that simply said “GEN.” Unsure what it stood for, Jay asked the final recipient of his extra gear to Google what "GEN" to find out what it meant, while he and his friend started their journey West.

Not too long later, Jay received a phone call. His friend’s Google search had discovered that “GEN” stood for “generator,” or better known now-a-days as the alternator. And since the light was on it meant the alternator was dead. Jay looked around…it was 6 p.m., they were on the New Jersey Turkpike and were running only on the reserve power in the battery. With no auto shop in sight, they had no idea whether they had one minute or one hour of juice. Would their trip end before it even started?

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 29 @ 1:35 p.m. PT
Sat down with Clint Dempsey after lunch and talked about his time in with Fulham this year. We'll include some of his comments in a piece we're working on for later this week about Spector, DeMerit and Clint. We can tell you though that we're always really impressed by Clint's ability to look ahead and not concentrate on what's happened - good or bad. In reference to the huge goal he scored that helped Fulham stay up in the EPL, he stated he obviously enjoyed the moment, but now he just needs to look towards next season and continue to try and mark a bigger impact on the team.

Tuesday, May 29 @ 12:40 p.m. PT
Just back from training and it's the second time in a row that Kasey Keller is the last to leave due to the media contingent that just can't seem to get enough of the well-spoken and charming goalkeper. He talked openly about his club situation next year, his thoughts on possibly coming home to play, where he sees his role on the MNT and even touched on the qualties of Brad Guzan and what the young 'keeper will need to do to keep climbing the ladder. Some intriguing stuff from Kasey (as always) and we'll get it up on the site some time later today (or tomorrow...we're swamped people!)

Tuesday, May 29 @ 8:05 a.m. PT
Charlie Davies arrived to the hotel late last night to fill out the U.S. roster (see the complete roster here), and made his first appearance at breakfast this morning complete with a shaved head. The “summer cut” seems to be the new style of choice (see Feilhaber, DeMerit). The former U-20 was all smiles as he greeted the players and coaches, and will get his first taste of what it’s like with the big boys in about two hours when we head to practice. He might not be all smiles if he is on the receiving end of a tough tackle or two as Lee Nguyen was yesterday, but then again he's pretty happy he's here.

Monday, May 28 @ 6:49 p.m. PT 
Live from the MNT team dinner!  And that exclamation point will be as exciting as this entry gets.  Gooch has made it into town and looks like a lean, mean, fighting machine.  Earlier this afternoon, ussoccer.com completed a bunch of sit-down interviews for an upcoming Studio 90 Gold Cup preview show airing on Fox Soccer Channel. We also sat some guys down for a feature we'll have on ussoccer.com later this week, so here are a couple sneak peaks:

  • Jonathan Spector talks about the suspense-filled final matchday of the EPL campaign where he and West Ham faced his former club Manchester United with the relegation battle going down to the wire
  • Jay DeMerit also touches on his season with Watford, touching on the tough season and the team's demotion. 

After the interview with DeMerit, he told us a pretty hilarious story about his New York to Wisconsin road trip in a '69 Camaro.  Let's just say even professional athletes tend to sleep in some odd places when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and there's not a hotel room available. We'll try and let you in on the story a bit later.

OK, tough to type and eat cheesecake at the same time.  Some sacrifices we aren't willing to make...

Monday, May 28 @ 12:41 p.m.  PT
Rode back from training with Kasey Keller, and he told us something that for some reason was very surprising. Today was his first-ever visit to The Home Depot Center - playing, training or otherwise.  Yes, most of the national team trips here are in January when he's in season, but we've spent so much time here over the last five years it just seems counter-intuitive.   Anyway, he likes it so far ...

Monday, May 28 @ 12:28 p.m. PT
Just back from the debut training session, and what a gorgeous Memorial Day in Carson.  Almost makes up for the fact that we're all working on yet another holiday.  The morning started with trainer Anthony Slater warming up the group in his bare feet. 'Testing the grass for the team," he told us.  Leaving his runners in the hotel is what the equipment manager said.   A  7 v. 7  possession game followed, then the 'keepers entered and wheeled out the big goals.  Michael Bradley hit an absolute screamer upper 90 to give his team the win, and we're desperately hoping our new video shooter caught it on tape.  When asked, the smile he returned had the look of 'please don't hate me', but we'll see.  Overall the speed of play was very good, and you can see straight away it's a group that is in full season form.  Tomorrow we'll tell you how the new kids did, once we tell you who the new kids are ...

Monday, May 28 @ 8:01 a.m. PT
Remember the aforementioned pile of casual gear?  It's always interesting to see 1) what's in the collection of goodies, and 2) what guys will like, hate and never wear. Upon inspection of the cache last night, the leading front-runner for the "Never to Make it Out of the Plastic Award" had to be the white camouflage zip-up hoodie that looks like it came out of the wadrobe closet from Red Dawn (all you Patrick Swayze/Charlie Sheen fans should go sprinting to Blockbuster if you haven't seen it). Sure enough, as the team entered the breakfast room this morning, in walks Carlos Bocanegra sporting the winter hunting jacket.  And you know what?  Carlos can pull it off.  Anyone else would look like they are clothed in an endangered species, but that guy is something else. Our inside paparazzi will work on a photo.

Sunday, May 27 @ 9:15 p.m. PT
Well, if you have to eat hotel food, this stuff is pretty darn good.  Some introductions were necessary for the new guys in camp - sorry, you'll have to wait until Tuesday for the 'official' roster announcement, but we think you'll be intrigued. The guys look in great shape, and the Euros are clearly happy to back in the good ole' U-S-of-A.  Bob Bradley held his first team meeting without the interim tag in front of his title, and we can tell you that it seemed ... exactly the same. Went through the usual various items that always come up at the start a camp - including a very cool Drew Carey fundraising event that we'll get into later this week- and then the boys were off to crash out early and get ready to get down to business in the morning.

Sunday, May 27 @ 7:08 p.m. PT
Training room full of tape, massage tables and snacks. Equipment room piled with new Nike casual gear in neat stacks. Rooming lists and schedules slid under the doors ... yep, training camp has started, all right.  New hotel, but very familiar scene as the group of players and coaches returned to Los Angeles to gear up for the China match.  Some fresh looks on some familiar faces, with Benny Feilhaber (that's FAIL-hay-ber, to clear up the confusion) and Jay DeMerit sporting newly shorn locks - think Brad Pitt in "Ocean's Twelve."  The first of an endless schedule of hotel meals for the next six weeks is about to get underway, so saddle up as we start the 2007 summer road show ...

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