Monday, June 30, 2008

Sorting through the clinching rubble

Teams have been clinching left and right here in Greensboro. It's been hard to keep up with all the action. But now that games are wrapping up, we'll try to sort out some of the chaos.

The Columbus Crew took care of business by handling Real So Cal 4-0 to clinch the U-17/18 Great Lakes Conference. 

CASL defeated Potomac this afternoon to wrap up the Atlantic Conference in both the U-15/16 and U-17/18, joining LAFC as the only two clubs to accomplish the double.

The Chicago Magic could only manage a draw on Monday, but it proved to be enough to give them the conference crown. The single point tied them with Sockers FC for the lead in the U-15/16 Mid America Conference, and the head-to head advantage gave the Magic the tiebreaker.

One conference remains unsettled, as three teams in the U-17/18 Mid America Conference still have a chance and games to make up. Sockers holds the lead as of now, but the Chicago Fire and Magic could still complete the comeback.

Carmel is going to the show

Apparently no one thought a team from Indiana could compete with the traditional youth club powers in the Great Lakes Conference - except, of course, the players and coaches from Carmel United. By defeating Northeast Conference Champions Albertson Soccer Club in their final match of the Summer Showcase, the Carmel 'team that could' secured a place in the final eight of the inaugural season of the Development Academy. Only three spots remain up for grabs as the competition in Greensboro draws to a close ...

How the U-15/16 West was won

Real Colorado has clinched the U-15/16 West Conference after defeating Schulz 3-1 on Monday. The win gives them 72 points, just one point ahead of conference foe Crossfire.

Crossfire made things interesting when it beat Metro United 3-0, pulling momentarily ahead of Real Colorado. The only way the Rocky Mountain team could reclaim the conference lead was through a win, and that's exactly what it did.

Real Colorado becomes the 11th team to punch a ticket to Finals Week, with five spots remaining.

Colorado Rush advance

The Colorado Rush found out they advanced to the finals before they even stepped on the field today. With Real Colorado dropping its morning game to Schulz Academy, the U-17/18 Rush clinched the West Championship.

That's our third clincher already today. Six spots are still open for Finals Week.

LAFC lands double berth

The U-15/16 LAFC team joined its big brother club as So Cal Conference Champions, securing the Finals Week berth with a 5-0 win against AFC Lightning. The two squads will head to Carson in July. 

PDA begins Monday clinching madness

PDA defeated the Richmond Strikers 3-2 this morning, to claim the U-15/16 Mid Atlantic Conference crown. The win gives PDA the eighth of 16 spots in Finals Week from July 12-19 in Carson, Calif.

It's just the start of a day that should be filled with excitement. Check back here for updates as more teams wrap up their titles.

College coaches in the house

It's been a popular weekend at the Summer Showcase for college coaches and scouts. Already, we have seen representatives from schools as nearby as Duke and Virginia Tech, to as far away as Stanford and Washington. 

Several Big East, Big 10, Pac 10, ACC and Atlantic 10 schools surrounded one game on Saturday between Scott Gallagher and Albertson (U-15/16). Their presence was so obvious on the sidelines the players couldn't help but notice.

Last hurrah

This is it.

The final day of the Development Academy Showcase is here, and it’s judgment day for several U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams. Seven teams have clinched their conference titles, assuring their spot in finals week. But that means nine conferences have yet to declare a champion. Check here to see the playoff scenarios for today.

That will all end today.

There’s a nice layer of morning fog hovering over fields, but the weather forecast is looking good for the final day of the showcase. The anticipated high is just 83 degrees today with a mixture of clouds and sun, and less than a 20 percent chance of rain. It should be a beautiful day here in Greensboro.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Q&A with Crossfire Premier FC player Brandon Zimmerman

On rejoining Crossfire Premier after graduating from U.S. Soccer’s Residency Program:

Brandon Zimmerman: “When I started out I joined Crossfire a little over a year before I came to Residency. And it was a lot different being scouted then because they’d bring you into a lot more camps and you’d be involved with ODP (Olympic Development Program) and with your regional team, and eventually I got seen. I spent two years in Residency under John Hackworth, which was a great experience. Then I graduated in December and I had some free time before I started college in April, so I trained with the Development Academy league team Crossfire for about three months. Right away I noticed a big difference in the mentality of the club.”

On playing at Santa Clara:

BZ: “I’m at Santa Clara right now, I started in April, committed last fall and that’s been a great experience as well. You could say both Residency and the Academy program has prepared me for that. I’ve been talking to Santa Clara for a long while and I ended up going on my visit and turned out to be a great place for me.” 

On the similarities and differences with the Under-17 Residency and the Development Academy:

“I think the Academy program has taken up the essentials of Residency, where you’re training every day and then a game every week which is the most important thing obviously because it’s soccer.  I can’t speak for the other teams, but Crossfire is getting involved with agility and weights and then you have your training uniforms, which are all things that we see down in Residency. It’s turning players into good professionals and getting them ready for the next level, because that’s exactly what we need right now.”

On his thoughts of being a part of U.S. Soccer:

“I just want to say that U.S. Soccer is definitely taking the right steps and making players more professional and putting them in the professional atmosphere because that’s what’s most important. It’s also giving players a lot more opportunities to get seen because there are teams all over and you come to Showcases like this and every player is getting seen and if you’re good enough you’re going to be there. Before, despite best efforts, not every player got seen and this gives players a lot better opportunity.”


Closing Out The U-20 WNT in Puebla

Well... it's time to go our separate ways. The team had an early (really, really early) wake up call to make an hour and a half bus ride to Mexico City. Now we're at the Houston airport, ready to go our separate ways. It was a successful trip in many ways, despite not taking home gold, because the team did what we came to do - give ourselves a chance to compete in the World Cup in Chile in November/December.

The YNT Blog will be back with the U-20s during the build up to Chile in November ... In the mean time, stay tuned to the Development Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro, and the U-23 MNT as the Olympics approach in Beijing!

Who will win EURO 2008? Spain or Germany?

Dan Delgado (left): Forward for the Nomads (U-16)

Josh Estrada (right): Right midfielder for the Nomads (U-16)

Matt Kassel: Center midfielder for the Red Bulls (U-18)

Christian Alvizar: Midfielder for LAFC (U-18)

Cameron Meeke (left): Forward for LAFC (U-16)

Michael Gates (right): Midfielder for LAFC (U-16)

Athletes' lounge draws morning excitement

With the first round of games finishing up and the next rounds about to begin, many athletes have made their way to the lounge once again.

Players filled the seating areas to view highlights from Saturday's games before heading out to the field to make their own highlights.

The jukebox has been filling the lounge with some great tunes all weekend. Here are some of the more popular selections from the Summer Showcase.

We're back

Yeah, we're still here in Greenboro, and so are the nation's top youth soccer players.

We've already begun day three of games here at the Development Academy Summer Showcase, and every game is becoming more important. 

Seven teams have clinched, but that means there are nine spots still up for grabs. Here are some important games to keep an eye on today.

FC Greater Boston vs. Chicago Fire - 9:15 a.m.
The Fire has the lead, but the race is far too close to call in the Mid America Conference.

CASL vs. Real Colorado - 10:30 a.m.
A CASL win, coupled with a Bridge FA loss or draw gives them the Atlantic Conference Championship.

Michigan Wolves vs. Crossfire - 10:30 a.m.
Both teams trail in their conferences, but a win for either club would go a long way towards keeping their finals hopes alive.

U-15/16 Highlights from Day 2

U-17/18 Highlights from Day 2

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Q&A with San Diego Surf player John Fitzpatrick

John Fitzpatrick from the Under-17/18 San Diego Surf (San Diego, Calif.)

How did you come to join the Under-17/18 San Diego Surf Development Academy team?

“We have the 16s, 17s, and 18s. The 16s is an Academy team, so I could have played on the 16s because I’m a ’91 (born in 1991). The team I was originally on was the 17s, and they’re not in the Academy so I chose the 18s because I wanted to be in the Academy. It’s a way more professional environment. I like having one game a day. It’s really good because we focus on quality of play more. You get to practice more and work on things and sometimes they give you things to work on. Usually, before when we used to play in tournaments with two games a day, you’d just get really run to the ground. You’re so tired all the time and the quality just shoots down.”

What do you think so far about the first year of the Development Academy?

“I think it’s really good for players who want to get called up to the U.S. team. I got called up partly because I’m involved in the Academy. I got called into the U18 camp. I went to Ukraine last summer but that was with the U17s. It was an international tournament, which is amazing. There’s a pool of 40 kids I think and they just kind of mix it and you just keep getting looks. Hopefully I’ll get called for another trip.”

What do you think of the level of play?

“The Academy gives us the opportunity to play on the highest level. Obviously, when you play on the highest level you get better and your game improves a lot more. Experience is a huge part of your game. Little things that happen during the game, if you have the experience and you’ve been through little situations and take advantage of them, then that can end up helping you win the game.”

Do you prefer playing one game a day?

“With one game a day, your mentality…you just got a focus on the game and you get prepared and everything. When you have two games a day you don’t have the time to ice yourself and then eat proper foods and then wait and digest and just be ready. With two games a days you have to rush and everything’s not healthy.”

Coaching Education

SPARQ, Gatorade, and ProZone teamed up to speak to the Development Academy club coaches present at the Summer Showcase about the future of soccer in America by lecturing on three major topics in training - preventing injuries and building up the mechanics and strength; hydration; and evaluating player progress.

Inside the Athletes' Lounge

With a little time off between games, many coaches and athletes have made their way to the Athletes' lounge. Here's an inside look at the scene where the stars of tomorrow refuel for later in the day:

Academy athletes watch highlights from yesterday's game on the projection screen.

Even parents and fans are putting the Gatorade booth to good use.

The Referee Area gives the officials a place to find any information they need, as well as a cool shady, place to escape the hot Greensboro sun between games.

Fans visit the U.S. Soccer store, located in the lounge.

Albertson U-16 players watch highlights and wait eagerly for the score to be posted that clinched their Northeast Conference title.

It Starts Here: Gatorade, ProZone, SPARQ, Coaches, Referees...

SPARQ training provides an outlet for the players to TRAIN right and reach their protential fitness level. The Spring Showcase was used to record training scores, and this showcase provided their results and allowed them to keep track of their progress in their speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness.

You gotta have the right MENTALITY to play your best. This U.S. Soccer store allows players to purchase U.S. Soccer and "It Starts Here" gear.

The REFEREES are getting opportunities to advance their officiating skills by working with U.S. Soccer at the Showcases, receiving guidance from referee assessors as well as mentoring from two U.S. Soccer full-time referees, Ricardo Salazar and Terry Vaughn.

You gotta make sure you're hydrating and staying HEALTHY. The Gatorade Bar provides nutritional facts about eating right and making sure to rehydrate.

ProZone helps track progress and evaluate your games so you can improve your SKILLS.

TALENT is found at the Developement Academy Showcases, and coaches like U.S. boss Bob Bradley are always watching.

Albertson joins Schulz in finals

Albertson wrapped up the U-15/16 Northeast Conference Saturday with a 4-3 win over Scott Gallagher. The club joins Schulz as the second team in that age group to clinch a finals berth.

More than 15 coaches and scouts from universities ranging from as close as Duke to as far away as Stanford were in attendance at the game. Albertson did not disappoint, and pulled away from Scott Gallagher in the second half to clinch the championship.

And the winner is ...

Schulz became the first U-15/16 team to claim a conference championship when it defeated PA Classics, 2-1, this afternoon. Schulz took an insurmountable 14-point lead in the Southeast Conference, with Miami having just four games remaining.

With the Southeast Conference crown, Schulz also seized the first berth into Finals Week. They will travel from their hometown of Boca Raton, Fla. to Carson, Calif. to compete from July 12-19 at the Home Depot Center.

A total of 10 spots for Finals Week remain unclaimed, including seven of the eight U-15/16 slots.

Keep checking back for updates as more teams punch their tickets to Carson today and tomorrow.

Development Isn't Just for the Kids

While the thousands of kids in Greensboro this weekend are here to develop their skills, get better and move up the ladder...they're not the only ones. Around 100 referees are on hand here at the Showcase and, besides officiating games, a big part of the weekend for them is learning how to develop their skills, get better and move up the ladder...ah, the synergy, isn't it great.

Every referee here will be "scouted" by a referee assessor, who will provide him or her with feedback on how they did during the game. It will not help them with their eyes...joking! Seriously, these guys and gals are working their tails off every day here on the field in the scorching heat, while also meeting with U.S. Soccer referee officials to go over what they did good and bad.

Two of U.S. Soccer's full-time referees - Ricardo Salazar and Terry Vaughn - are here to do both as they will officiate a handful of games (gotta keep sharp!), but also try and hand down some of their wisdom for the younger referees.

Considering that Salazar and Vaughn are here, we decided to switch up this week's "Referee Week in Review."

What's that?


...haven't heard about the "Referee Week in Review??"

C'mon people, get with it. We've been doing it for 12 weeks...well, now 13.

Usually, we're talking to the top U.S. Soccer officials - Paul Tamberino, Brian Hall or Alfred Kleinaitis (they actually happen to be here, too, but we figured we'd get some youth into the weekly podcast...those guys are old...we're sure they'll really enjoy we wrote that).

Anyway, the "Week in Review" breaks down how the officials did during their Major League Soccer games, providing the good, the bad and the ugly (not much ugly to tell the truth).

For this week's podcast we flipped it on 'em. That's right, instead of Paul, Brian and Alfred talking about how the referees officiated, we corralled Ricardo and Terry to give us insight into how they think the "Week in Review" helps them.


ProZone brings analysis to athletes' lounge

Players and coaches looking for some insight during their off time at the Summer Showcase might want to head over to the ProZone, located inside the athletes' lounge.

The ProZone uses Matchinsight software to analyze performances on the field. Coaches can go to the booth and see what areas their teams need to improve to fair better in the standings. Players can see what skills they need to develop to make the leap to the next level.

While viewing the materials, on-hand professionals can help make sense of all the data and help both players and coaches learn how to make the most of the information.

The ProZone booth uses a flat-screen television to display the software large enough for groups to all get a look at the analysis. While they are in the area, players can check out the displays on the walls that show how Academy stats compare to other national teams and premier club teams.

Concorde wins Southeast, moves on to Finals

The Concorde Fire became the fifth team to clinch a conference championship when it defeated Potomac 2-0 this morning in Greensboro. The Fire assured its position at the top spot in the Southeast Conference (U-17/18), and earned a berth to Finals Week in Carson, Calif. from July 12-19.

Here are some reactions from Fire players and the Concorde head coach.

Riley Sumpter - Center Midfielder for Concorde

On clinching the Southeast Conference title
"It feels good to finally get it over with. Now we can focus on getting ready for the national finals. We looked at the standings before, so we knew we just had to play well today and we would win it."

On getting the chance to play on ESPN
"It's very exciting. I'm probably going to tell all my friends to watch me play."

On what he will do to celebrate the win
"I'll probably sleep. I don't know, maybe we'll go to a nice restaurant or something. I think we'll watch a movie tonight."

Kevan George - Center Midfielder for Concorde

On winning the conference title after leading for weeks
"It's such a relief. Midway through the season I had a feeling we were going to win it."

On what he expected this weekend
"I expected three victories. So it was about what I expected. I looked at these teams and I expected three victories only."

On playing on national television
"It's great. I'm gonna be a hometown hero again."

On playing with his teammates
"This is the closest group of players I've ever been with. Everyone is so humble. It's like I've been on a vacation even though I'm playing in the hot sun."

Gregg Blasingame - Concorde head coach

On the team's successful season
"Toward the end of the season we had a tough go with injuries and commitments. We had to play some more of the players from the U-16 team. So that was a little more of a struggle. But I think it adds character to the players."

On coaching on ESPN
"That's definitely going to be a pleasure. Im sure the kids are going to to be up and motivated. Every event has been first class. Hopefully we represent the region well."

On the Development Academy experience
"I feel terribly honored to be associated with the elite clubs in the country. I am proud to be a part of that fraternity so to speak. It's a pleasure to play great competition on great fields."

U-17/18 Highlights from Day 1

Good Morning from Greensboro (Day 2)

We're back in Greensboro for another day of exciting youth soccer.

The Development Academy Summer Showcase is off and running, and four teams have clinched berths in Finals Week by claiming their conference championships. Four spots remain up for grabs in the U-17/18 division, while all eight spots are still open in the U-15/16 ranks.

Things to look for today:

1. Clinchers - Several races became more clear (or confusing when you factor in all the extra games the Concorde Fire and Miami FC Kendall have to play), so we should see some more clinchers today. With just two games remaining on the schedule for most teams, the chances of a comeback are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

2. Tight races - There were actually some races that became much more exciting with the chips falling the right way for the underdogs. Sockers FC needed both the Fire and Magic to falter in the U-17/18 Mid America conference ... and that's exactly what happened. Now it's a three team race, with any club having a chance to win. Many other races are far from being decided, making every game important down the stretch.

3. Coaches' demonstration and SPARQ training in the athletes' lounge at 3 p.m. - Players will have an opportunity, with a break in the game schedule, to hone their skills in the lounge.

4. U-17/18 Youth National Team vs. B/W Gottschee (7 p.m.) - This is the prime time game of the night. All other games should be completed before starting time, so it's a great chance for all players, families, coaches and fans to watch some of the best young soccer players in the country.

Friday, June 27, 2008

U-15/16 Highlights from Day 1


Talk about a trip down memory lane! You hard core - and we mean seriously hard core -fans will recognize the t-shirt we spotted today. In case you missed it (and if you lived in New York you probably did), the ill-fated MetroStars playoff marketing campaign in 2003 was tagged with the slogan "MPF (MetroStars Playoff Fever) - Catch It!" Pretty sure the only thing that got caught that year was this t-shirt. Well done, lad!

FC Westchester punches ticket to Finals Week

FC Westchester didn't even have to play a game in Greensboro before winning the Northeast Conference at the U-17/18 level. When the Irvine Strikers took down BW Gottschee, 3-1, this afternoon, FC Westchester quietly clinched the conference's top spot.

Westchester becomes the fourth club to earn a spot in the finals from the U-17/18 division. CASL (Atlantic) and the Baltimore Bays (Mid-Atlantic) won their titles before the weekend, and LAFC wrapped up the So Cal Championship this afternoon.

There are still 12 spots up for grabs here in Greensboro, including all eight berths from the U-15/16 division.

Pardon the Interruption...

While the U-20 WNT is busy here in Mexico and the Development Academy Summer Showcase is in full swing in Greensboro, we're certainly not forgetting about the Olympic team! Midfielder Stuart Holden will be throwing out the first pitch tonight at Minute Maid Park as the Houston Astros take on the Boston Red Sox.

We'll be checking in with Stuart to make sure his pitch didn't bounce, but you might be able to catch him live on Fox Sports Net. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. so be sure to tune in!

Last Training in Puebla...

A brief photo album from our last training session in Puebla ahead of tomorrow's final:

Casey Nogueira

Alyssa Naeher

Gina DiMartino

Jessica McDonald

Ingrid Wells

Kristin Arnold and Christine Nairn


Keelin Winters talks to Puebla's Channel 35

Just to give you a little taste of what's going on here in Greensboro...

The four bowls were used for the 2007/08 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals week drawing.

Above is the Finals Week Draw for the U-16 and U-18 Divisions.

With the U.S. Soccer store set-up in the Athlete's Lounge, fans can purchase the national team's latest gear and sport some nice 'It Starts Here' slogan tees and authentic jerseys.

The players take a break from their games outside to compete on the virtual field indoors.

Players frequent the Gatorade bar for rehydration and quick facts on how to stay healthy in the heat of hard training and Greensboro's strong sun!

Players look on to the list of Development Academy players who have been called into U.S. Youth National Team camps for 2008: 31 are in the U-17 pool, 53 in the U-18 pool, and 14 in the U-20 pool.

Look at all of the people visiting! You should visit too!

LAFC headed to California for finals

LAFC became the third team in the U-17/18 division to clinch a finals berth. The club pulled off a 2-1 victory against Seacoast United in the Development Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro to clinch the So Cal Conference title. LAFC will go into group B in the finals draw, which was announced today at noon.

The Baltimore Bays (Mid Atlantic Conference) and CASL (Atlantic Conference) own the other two finals spots at this point. Five spots remain up for grabs in the U-17/18 age group, while all eight conference championships have yet to be decided in the U-15/16 division.

Q&A with Fordham head coach Jim McElderry

Fordham head coach Jim McElderry is in attendance at the Development Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro. He joins an assortment of college coaches looking for talent from a pool of the top young players in the country. McElderry - entering his sixth season as head coach of the Rams - has never been to an Academy event before, but he is using it as a way to evaluate players he knows, and to look for some hidden gems. He took some time off during his visit to give us his thoughts on the recruiting process. What has your experience been like so far at the Showcase in terms of your recruiting efforts?
Jim McElderry: It's a great concept. US Soccer has put a lot of time and effort into it. It's still evolving and I think they know that. It's part of the process.

US:What are some things you would like to see done better?
JM: As a college coach I wish there was more information about the kids. Sometimes it's a lot of time we spend just figuring out who's who.

US: What are you looking for when you go on these recruiting trips?
JM: Most of the time there are two different types of recruits. You've got the group of kids who contact you, and you make a point to go out and watch them play. There's also going to games and looking for players you like and trying to recruit them cold, so to speak.

US: Which type are you looking for now?
JM: There's a kid I'm watching right now that's already visited the school on his own. So we know he's obviously very interested because he took the time to do that on his own. At the same time I'm watching to see if anyone jumps out.

US: Has the recruiting process changed at all recently?
JM: Kids are starting to commit to universities earlier than before. Maybe it's a little bit different, but I don't know if it's better or worse. 

US: Are you planning on watching the finals on ESPN?
JM: Yeah, I'm not going to go out to the finals, so I'll watch it on TV. I think it's great for US Soccer and the kids.

Finals Week draw

The groups for the Development Academy Finals Week were announced at noon today in Greensboro. The eight conference champions from each age group (U-15/16 and U-17/18) will compete in Finals Week from July 12-19 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

The games can be seen on ESPN networks, with the U-17/18 title game appearing on ESPN2. All other matches will be broadcast on ESPNU.

The eight teams in each age group were split into two groups of four. As of Friday morning, just the Baltimore Bays and CASL - both U-17/18 teams - had clinched berths in the Finals Week. The remaining teams will secure a bid this weekend by winning their conference championships at the Development Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro.

Here's how the groups break down:

Group A (U-17/18)
A1: Mid-America Champion
A2: Baltimore Bays (Mid-Atlantic Champion)
A3: West Champion
A4: Northeast Champion

Group B (U-17/18)
B1: CASL (Atlantic Champion)
B2: Great Lakes Champion
B3: Southeast Champion
B4: So Cal Champion

Group C (U-15/16)
C1: Northeast Champion
C2: So Cal Champion
C3: Great Lakes Champion
C4: Southeast Champion

Group D (U-15/16)
D1: Mid-America Champion
D2: Atlantic Champion
D3: West Champion
D4: Mid-Atlantic Champion

Player's perspective

Michael MacVane, a goalie for Seacoast United (U-16) is entering his final weekend of the Development Academy's inaugural season. It's been a long journey to Greensboro for the Hampton Beach, N.H. resident, filled with long flights and longer delays in the airport thanks to weather and air traffic. We caught up with MacVane after his team's first match to talk about his travels, his future and his experiences with the Development Academy. How did your team deal with the three-hour delay in the airport?
Michael MacVane: We were just all eating, talking and watching the UEFA Cup match (between Spain and Russia).

US: What do you guys do at the hotel at night?
MM: We usually just sit around and eat and watch movies. Last night we watched "The Longest Yard."

US: What's it like to travel around the country to play soccer?
MM: It's a lot of fun. I love traveling and seeing new places.

US: What do you have planned for the weekend off the field?
MM: I'm going to visit some colleges with a couple of the guys on the team.

US: What do you have to do to improve your game to play at the next level?
MM: For me personally, I have to get bigger. And I just have to keep working in goal.

US: What are your thoughts about the Development Academy experience now that the first season is coming to a close?
MM: It's been great. We've definitely become more of a team. We have bonded a lot more. It's been great playing better teams than we've ever played before.

1st Games Kicking Off...

Games just about to kickoff here and the Tent is already rocking. EA Sports' has offered up their latest game, UEFA Euro 2008, and you better believe that the Gatorade bar is already seeing heavy turnover. There's a huge video screen - perfect for today's Finals Week draw at 12 pm. There's also a FREE Jukebox, probably the best addition ever for our big tent. Currently, the Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar is playing. Despite the fact that it is 8:30 am, it can never be too early for some good house music...

Good morning from Greensboro

It's 7 a.m. in Greensboro, and the staff is preparing for a busy day at the Development Academy Showcase. As you can see, the fields are empty, and so are the parking lots, but already the busy workers are filling the tent to prepare for the long day.

Competition will begin at 8:30 a.m., continuing well into the night, with the last match starting at 6:30 p.m., so make sure to check back for updates throughout the morning and afternoon.

The big event for the day will come when the draw is set up for finals week, which will take place from July 12-19 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The eight conference winners from each of the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups will be split into two groups of four for the finals. 

The games will be broadcast live on ESPN networks, with the U-17/18 Championship match to be seen on ESPN2.

To this point, only two teams have clinched a spot in Finals Week (U-17/18 Baltimore Bays and U-17/18 CASL). The rest of the teams will clinch their championships here in Greensboro. 

Check back here and at for more information as the day goes on.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Looks Like We Were Right

...about the weather anyway. This afternoon's storm was a doozy, rolling in a little earlier than usual, but hitting our hotel a little more than normal...

The coaching staff was having a meeting in one of the rooms, when a strike of lightning hit the tin roof that the room overlooks. It was, of course, followed by a huge clap of thunder - the combination raised some heart rates to say the least. The roof was smoking for a few minutes and the room smelled like burning for a bit, but there were no injuries to report.

Task One Complete...

Today's training started out with a congratulations to the players for achieving the first of their two goals in Puebla - qualifying for the World Cup in Chile! (The second goal is to beat Canada on Saturday for the regional championship.)

Yesterday's 4-0 over a feisty Costa Rican side clinched the USA's place in Chile. You can read about the game here.... look at photos from the game here ... and you can watch the game in it's entirety here.

After that, those who played yesterday went for a recovery run and stretch, while those who didn't play had a small-sided game. It's a beautiful day here in Puebla so far, but the rain may still come later...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two Push Ups!

One of the running subplots of our time in Mexico has been the "two push up" punishment implemented by assistant coach Tom Stone on defender Nikki Marshall. Why would he single out a player? In her own words: "It's for saying or doing 'stupid' things. Like at dinner I called something chicken when it was obviously steak. Typical blonde moments I like to call them."

The "tradition" has evolved to the field as well. During one fateful training session, Tom was crossing balls in from the corner that the forwards were supposed to finish. Every time they scored, Nikki did two push ups. Every time they didn't score, Tom had to do the push ups - that's right. Nikki is fighting fire with fire.

"Today I made my penalty kick (at training)," said the defender with the now-huge arms, "and to celebrate I pranced back to top of the box. He tried to mock me by prancing, and he looked so silly that I just had to say 'Tom...' and he did two push ups."