Monday, March 24, 2008

Closing Up a Successful Shop

Well, it wasn't the happiest way to end the tournament, but in the end it was mission accomplished for the OLYMPIC Team in Nashville. It's been 23 days of training, matches, traveling and bonding for the 20 players plus the staff.

From Bradenton to Tampa to Nashville, the players and coaches have gone their separate ways - Some to Krakow, Poland with the MNT, others back to their clubs. But they now all have the Olympic rings in their sights. We'll be checking in with the Olympic Team periodically leading up to Beijing in August, but in the mean time, enjoy a busy spring with both the MNT Blog as they gear up for major friendlies and World Cup qualifying, and of course the award-winning WNT Blog as it heads to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico for their Olympic Qualifying campaign.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Scoreless at the Half

The U.S. and Honduras are deadlocked, 0-0 at halftime at LP Field. The U.S. seemed to have the better of the chances, but couldn't put one away. Cervi hasn't recorded an official save, but has been called upon to punch away a few crosses.

The U.S. has nine shots in the match, with two on target.

More PKs at LP

Once again, the first game of the double header between Canada and Guatemala here at LP Field has gone into a penalty kick shootout. This time there was no overtime - after a 0-0 regulation, Canada converted in the shootout to take a very respectable third place in the CONCACAF tournament.

That means, if either the U.S. or Honduras can't participate in the Olympics this summer for whatever reason, Canada will be next in line to take their place.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tournament's Best XI

The CONCACAF Technical Study Group has announced its "Best XI" for the Qualifying tournament, along with seven players who earned Honorable Mention. The U.S. leads the way with five players being honored.

Midfielders Dax McCarty and Mo Edu, defender Michael Orozco and forward Freddy Adu were named to the Best XI (or "All-Tournament Team), and Sacha Kljestan earned honorable mention for his work in the midfield.

It's hard to argue putting the U.S. defenders and defensive midfielders in there, considering the U.S. has given up just one goal in the tournament. And, as you probably know, Freddy leads all scorers with four goals, even though he sat out the team's final group game.

Southern Hospitality

It's hard to describe the experience the team just had attending the Nashville Predators game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Sommett (pronounced "so-MAY") Center, just a few blocks from the hotel. We can't thank the Predators' family and fans enough for how well we were treated throughout our time in their "home". For a lot of our players, especially those from So Cal, this was their first live hockey game and after the Predators won in a shootout, they are hooked on the sport. Robbie Findley couldn't believe how fast the game was, and Mo Edu was ready to buy season tickets to the Maple Leafs.

Below is a slide show and a little description of what the afternoon was like... though we don't think the photos will do it justice!



The Predators hooked us up with a suite, complete with snacks, and Lora, our friendly waitress.



As we mentioned, this was the first live hockey game for many of our players. Here are Dax and Seitz helping their teammates figure out the rules.


Stu was trying everything to get on the Jumbo Tron – unfortunately he couldn’t top the Predator Dancing Super Fan during “Cotton-Eyed Joe”, but that didn’t stop him from trying…


Jozy was interviewed by Fox Sports Network during a break in the game



David Freeman, part of the Predators’ ownership group, also owns a piece of Derby County. He and his daughters are HUGE soccer fans, and they were a key part of the hospitality our team received. Here is David handing Coach Nowak a signed jersey and visiting with the players.


The staff also brought down t-shirts for all of the players, which they wore proudly, as you can see.


The team was introduced on the Jumbo-Tron during the second period, receiving a standing ovation from the nearly 20,000 fans in attendance. They showed highlights of Thursday’s game against Canada:

….and Stu finally got to be on the Jumbo-Tron.




Once they were on the Jumbo-Tron, the boys spent quite a bit of time signing autographs. Yes, that is a new MNT jersey that someone was wearing at the game. The players took the time to sign programs, tickets, tshirts and even shoes that were coming at them from every direction.



But of course, the highlight of the afternoon for most of the guys was a visit from the Predator cheerleaders, some of whom will be in attendance at our game on Sunday afternoon.

Seriously, we can't thank the Predators enough - especially David Freeman, Senior V.P. Gerry Helper and Director of Community Relations Rebbecca Ward for everything. It was a great way to spend an afternoon in Nashville. Our 13,000+ fans on Thursday night were great, and we hope tomorrow the people at LP Field will be as supportive of the team as the fans at the Sommett Center.


Friday, March 21, 2008

No Ball This Time

Sadly, the pool in the hotel doesn't look too kindly upon bringing balls into their pool. Don't worry though, the guys made due with the available kick boards as they switched back and forth between the pool and the hot tub. Some onlookers just couldn't turn away from a group of 16 pro athletes having kick board fights.

The players have the afternoon off, recovering from last night's game and celebrating with those whose friends and families were able to come out to last night's game. There were wives, fiances, parents and even some nieces and nephews who ventured to the Music City to see their loved ones earn a trip to Beijing. Lots of shopping and steak dinners are in store in celebration of last night's victory.

Same Team - New Name

Well, one of the perks of being officially qualified for Beijing is that the team will no longer be called "the Under-23 Men's National Team." Now they can be known simply as: The Men's Olympic Team.

They had to earn that title before they could start calling themselves the "Olympic Team," but now it's official.

Missing a Few

Well, the goodbyes have started. Some of the European-based players - Freddy, Charlie, Jonathan and Sal - said their goodbyes at breakfast and took off this morning to return to their clubs for weekend action.

The U.S. roster will be at 16 for Sunday's Final game. It should be an interesting rematch of Honduras eight days after the U.S. won, 1-0, in the group phase. That was only eight days ago? It feels like an eternity!

Beijing Bound

Well.... the dust has settled, the final whistle has blown. And the U.S. is heading to Beijing!!

The players and staff will start working on their Chinese, while removing the "if we qualify" disclaimer from everyone's mind. It's not longer "IF" we qualify.... the U.S. is heading to the Olympics this summer. Now what's left is the task of winning the CONCACAF tournament, but the team's biggest mission has been accomplished.

We will, of course, be back tomorrow - tonight we just wanted to give everyone a chance to enjoy the 3-0 victory over Canada!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SACHA HAMMERS ONE HOME!!! 3-0 USA !!

Stu Holden with the ball in the corner. Turns in and lays it back for an onrushing Sacha Kljestan, who takes one touch with his left, and then buries it inside the near post with his right foot to make it 3-0 in the 78th minute.

FREDDY...YEEESSSSSSSS!!! 2-0 USA!!!

We couldn't have said it better than Max Bretos. From 23 yards out, slightly to the right, Freddy curls a free kick over the wall and it soars virtually uncontested into the back of the net. USA leads 2-0 in the 48th

HON Wins In Sudden Death PKs

120 minutes of scoreless action in tonight's first match have led to Guatemala and Honduras getting ready for PKs.

Here is how the shootout went down:

HON GUA
+ +
+ X
+ +
X +
+ +
+ +
+ X

That's right - sudden death shooters. And Honduras has clinched one of the two berths in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The USA-CAN kickoff is just moments away so stay tuned!

U.S. Lineup vs. Canada


Here's how the U.S. will lineup against Canada tonight:

---------------------Seitz-------------------
-Wynne---Spector----Orozco---Sturgiz

-Kljestan---Edu(c)----McCarty--Holden

--------------Adu------Altidore-------------

We're in the 20th minute of extra time here...we'll let you know how things end up...

And We're Heading to Overtime

After a scoreless 90 minutes, Guatemala and Honduras are heading to overtime. The overtime rules are:

-two 15-minute periods
-no golden goal

We'll keep you updated as overtime moves on here at LP Field.

Halftime: Gua 0 - 0 Hon


Its been a back and forth half, and although the teams are working hard, few real chances have been created. 45 minutes to goal still, and if the deadlock is not broken, then extra time looms...

Counting Down to Kickoff


Well after all the preparation we're finally at game day. The YNT Blog is at the stadium early again, where we'll take in the first game between Guatemala and Honduras. Its a bit of a surprise that Mexico isn't involved in either of these games, but its pretty great that either Guatemala or Honduras will be going to the Olympics in Beijing.

Speaking of Mexico, a YNT Blog informant in Carson told us that El Tri had the champagne ready in the HDC locker room for what they believed would be a big (+5 GD) win over Haiti. Too bad...That was probably a bit awkward when the players came back to the locker room... The same informant told us that when it didn't happen, the champagne was smuggled out in Gatorade towels.

The Blog sat down with Midfielder Sacha Kljestan ahead of tonight's game. Listen to the full podcast here.

Honduras/Guatemala will be kicking off an about an hour and a half, so we'll be here to let you know how its going on the field. And of course be sure to check back here an hour before the game to get the lineups as they come out...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Game Time



Well, it's about that time... the players and coaches are getting ready for a good night's sleep, the trainers - Marcus Holliday and Dave Andrews (shout out!) - have put in a hard night's work dishing out hours of massages, making sure everyone is 100% for tomorrow night. The uniforms are being laid out and tournament patches ironed on. The Studio 90 crew is hard at work getting ready for a show tomorrow.

Bottom line: this team is ready for Canada. We'll of course be back tomorrow for pre-game information, but in the mean time, enjoy this beautiful picture of downtown Nashville, courtesy of a crack ISI Photographer in town.

Music Theme Prevelant in Team Hotel

There is a "theme" to the team hotel here in Nashville, and that theme is music. There is a "Big" style piano in the lobby, music note decor throughout and even live music in the hotel bar every night that can be heard throughout the hotel - especially in rooms like the YNT Blogger's that look over the bar. Tonight the featured artist plays both the piano and the guitar.

Studio 90 in Nashville

In case you haven't seen it yet, the Nashville edition of Studio 90 is back today in abbreviated form. We sat down Jozy Altidore in our studio, and took a self-guided tour of downtown Nashville, complete with guitars and honky tonks. Excuse all the folks dressed up in St. Patty's Day gear - who knew it was such a popular holiday in Tennessee?

Almost Gone with the Wind

Today's training was a little under an hour, with the team just going through some walk-throughs and a brief scrimmage, followed by some free kicks and corner kicks, and of course some finishing drills.

The story of the session today though was the crazy wind. The balls, rolling harmlessy across the field, would suddenly pick up speed and go across all three football fields before hitting the surrounding fences. That 45 degree weather combined with the wind to create a somewhat difficult training environment, but at least the rain had stopped.

Catching the Overseas Action

As it turns out, our hotel lobby has monitors and one of them is set to Fox Soccer Channel - a big plus for our staff. This morning they caught some highlights of the weekend's EPL action, and this afternoon snuck in a good portion of the Man U - Bolton game live before we had to hop on the bus to training.

We don't get the channel in our rooms, so we expect more coaches and a few players to be hanging out on the couches downstairs.

Rain, Rain Go Away...

All four teams woke up this morning to pouring rain, which might affect everyone's opportunity to train at the stadium this afternoon. To preserve the pitch, each team might be limited to a walk through if this keeps up through the morning. In the interest of fairness, if the first team can't train on the match pitch, none of the other teams will be allowed to either - meaning that even if it lightens up early this afternoon, the U.S. may move back to the Titans training facility, where big white bubble would be available.

As for the game-day weather - it's supposed to be 65 and sunny all day tomorrow, which sounds pretty good to us right now!

Late Night...


...with the YNT Blog...

Check out a podcast that we just did with Jonathan Spector - the West Ham Utd. defender discusses the teams preparations for Thursday's game, his club team's goals for the rest of the season and also what it would mean to play in the Olympics. Listen to the whole podcast here.

Here are some shots from today's training (though we suppose its yesterday's training at this point):

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ready for Anything

With the arrival of the knock-out round comes the potential for overtime and penalty kicks, so the team has taken some time at the end of each training session to practice their shots from the spot. We can't go into too much detail, but rest assured that these guys are prepared for anything - including goalkeepers having to take PKs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Welcoming an Old Friend

As you saw on today's edition of Studio 90 News, Jonathan Spector has arrived from West Ham, and trained with the U-23s for the first time today. Here, he and Eddie Gaven catch up while warming up and stretching... the two played in the 2005 U-20 World Cup and the 2003 U-17 World Cup, and now have a chance to qualify together for the Olympics.

Bermuda Grass

Today the team held its first training session in Nashville, at the Tennessee Titans practice facility.. That big white bubble is their indoor facility. In case you're wondering, it's not particularly soft to touch, but when soccer balls bounce against it, it's kind of like a balloon.

The grass was, well, brown. But it wasn't as rough as it might look. Apparently the Bermuda grass that they have here in these parts dies no matter how much you water it because it gets a little too cold.

Another fun fact about the facility: It's at the same latitude and arranged exactly the same as LP Field, where the U.S. plays Thursday night and where the Titans play their home games. Why? So the receivers get used to where the sun is going to be at certain times of day and they can practice looking up at the sky and having the sun be exactly where it would be during a game. How do they think of things like that?

Because of the brown grass, we had to throw in a scenic photo from the facility. This man-made lake surrounds the fields on two sides, and the buildings in the background are now offices. Apparently people try to watch Titans training camp from there during the summer.


Studio 90 News Up and Running

The title speaks for itself - If you haven't had a chance to check out the latest edition of Studio 90 News, it's got updates on the U.S. team in Nashville, a new familiar face just arriving into the team hotel and what lies ahead for the semifinals. Check out ussoccer.com.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Set for Canada

Well... the dust has cleared, and the U.S. team knows its opponent. By a goal differential tiebreaker, Canada has taken second place in Group B and will travel to Nashville tomorrow ahead of their semifinal clash with the hosts at LP Field on Thursday night. Canada is coming off of an offensive high, scoring five goals against Guatemala.

Now, the scouting reports can really get off the ground for all four semifinal teams - Guatemala will play Honduras in the other semifinal.

Well... That Was Exciting!

What a crazy pair of games at The HDC tonight. First, Canada scored five goals against Guatemala and was feeling pretty good about their chances to advance with seven goals scored and a +4 goal differential (goal differential is the first tie breaker).

Then the late game just blew wide open. Mexico hit the post twice in the first few minutes, then scored, then went up a man after a Haiti red card. It was 2-1 in the 70th minute, and 3-1 when Mexico earned a PK. They MISSED the penalty kick, then proceeded to have numerous chances saved by the heroics of Haiti goalkeeper Johnny Placide. They did end up scoring a couple more for a 5-1 final, but with everything happening in the game, including Haiti going down to nine men, you got the feeling that it was inches from being 10-1. Winning by four goals leaves Mexico out of the semifinals by a tiebreaker.

Placide may have earned himself some contract offers after tonight's performance. Yes he gave up five, but when highlights of this game turn up on youtube, you'll see why he earned Man of the Match honors from ESPN Deportes, and all the U.S. coaches.

It was difficult to watch the all-important games in an unfamiliar city. But with slingboxes set to ESPN Deportes and computers set to ESPN360.com, there were stations of players and staff watching throughout the hotel. The internet connection was a few minutes behind, so there were phone chains and contacts at The HDC on standby, calling with updates every few minutes. During the five and a half minutes of stoppage time there must have been about 30 phone calls between each "viewing station." Ohh.... technology.

Twenty in Tennessee

Though the players had the afternoon off from team activities today, one member of the team was busy flying in from London.... Jonathan Spector has joined the U.S. team in Nashville, and is in the team hotel tonight to begin training tomorrow.

We're Not In Tampa Anymore.. .

This morning, relatively early, the team got up and ate breakfast, and then headed to the airport for its smooth flight to Nashville. We heard a lot of "good luck"s in the Tampa airport, got some warm welcomes at the Nashville airport, and in between there were a few shout-outs from the pilots and flight attendants, which prompted a round of applause from the whole flight.

Where we're staying in Nashville is much different from where we were in Tampa. We're right in the heart of downtown staying in an ultra-modern hotel (with a Starbucks in the lobby - that makes the staff very happy). Hopefully there will be some time for exploring once we get settled in.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

USA Defeats Honduras; Wins Group A

U.S. Lineup vs. Honduras


Here's how the U.S. will lineup against Honduras:
---------------Cervi---------------
Hill----Ianni----Orozco---Freeman

Zizzo---Holden-Kljestan--Gaven

-------Findley----Barrett--------


That marks seven changes from the lineup that faced Panama on Thursday ... Meanwhile, the 1st game has finished up, and Panama defeated Cuba 4-1. That means the U.S. has officially advanced to the second round of Qualifying. Of course there's still much to play for in this game...

Nashville Here We Come!

Well, with Panama's 4-2 victory over Cuba, the United States is assured of a place in the semifinals, regardless of the outcome of tonight's game. The game does, however, hold major implications for Group A seeding. The U.S. needs to win to take the top seed, while a draw or a loss would leave the U.S. in second place.

We'll be back during and after the game, of course, but if we don't see you there - we'll see you in Nashville!

Panama Three Goals to the Good

An eventful first half here at Raymond James Stadium where after 45 minutes Panama has jumped out to a 3-0 lead. If the result stays like this after 90, the U.S. will be assured of qualification for the second round...

Cuba v Panama kickoff


Well the game is kicking off here, and we'll keep you posted on any action that occurs. As you can see from this picture, Cuba is starting today with 11 players. That's one more than they played with on Thursday when Roberto Linares, Cuba's number 9, was suspended for the red card he received against the USA. Linares is back now, so its 11 v 11 from the first whistle...

Permutations



We're doing the early shift again at the stadium, and its downright beautiful outside ahead of this afternoon's game between Cuba and Panama. Now there are a lot of things that can happen in this group, so let's go through a few of the scenarios:

What we know so far -
Honduras is in. Panama is out. With six points, Honduras has qualified for the semifinals regardless of today's results. Conversely, Panama has already been eliminated from the tournament and are only playing for pride today.

Cuba must win. In order to have a chance at qualifying for the next round, Cuba needs a victory. With one point from their first two games, the Cubans need all three today to have any chance of moving on. A tie or a loss gets them nowhere, and means that the U.S. will have already qualified for the semifinals when they kickoff at 7 ET.

If Cuba wins and the U.S. loses... then things get a bit tricky. Both teams would be on four points, and it would come down to goal differential. As it stands right now, the U.S. has a +1 GD, while Cuba's is -2. So they'll need to make up some goals if they want to get through.

Of Course...this whole discussion will be pointless if the U.S. wins or draws!

Group B Results

Well, some interesting results at The HDC last night in Group B. Canada let their second-half lead slip to fall to Haiti, 2-1, and Guatemala pulled out a victory over Mexico in front of thousands of Mexico fans.

For those in the Eastern Time Zone who couldn't quite stay up late enough to watch both games, you did miss a pair of entertaining matches. Haiti's goals were two of the best of the tournament... their first last night, a volley at full speed from Alain Gustave, was hands-down impressive and their second one is listed here:

Mexico's loss was their first loss in this tournament since 1992 - a string of 23 games.

So here is Group B as it stands through two games:

Team Points GD
GUA 6 +2
HAI 3 E
CAN 1 -1
MEX 1 -1

Honduras Preview Podcast


We talked to Jozy Altidore and Eddie Gaven after Thursday's game and caught up with Stuart Holden and Chris Seitz at yesterday's media availability. Check out the guys talking about the win against Panama and today's match here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pick Your Teams

A lot of the talk in the training room tonight is about the respective NCAA conference tournament's going on this weekend. Dominic Cervi is fired up that Tulsa advanced to the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament, but it's a touchy subject around his roommate - Maryland fan Chris Seitz.

The UCLA players, all six of them, are comfortable with a 14-point lead over USC in the PAC-10 semifinals. Many of the ACC teams are in progress, which will determine which guys want to talk March Madness in the meal room.

It's So Hot...

Apparently milk isn't such a bad choice? The training staff has added chocolate milk to the team's post-game regimen to help with players' recovery. There is a scientific explanation to it that has to do with protein and carbohydrate ratios, that we don't really need to get into here on the YNT Blog (not that we understand it anyway), but the players seem to like it. Dax McCarty, who's played all 90 minutes of both games, says he's feeling a lot better than he expected to.

Plus, he gets to drink chocolate milk. It's a double-win situation. The chocolate milk, along with the constant stream of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches... these guys are definitely grown men.

The Other Football

Some more players and staff got to poke around the Buccaneer's practice facility today after training. More oohs and aahs over the locker room, and the massive equipment room was also added to the tour. The giant shelves of equipment were like archives, sliding on tracks on one side of the room. The other side of the room had rungs of clothes all hung up, along with the helmets and shoes.

Coach Nowak found a helmet that fit him and started calling plays. "Hot Route! Hot Route!"

Truth be told, the Buccaneers staff has been overly welcoming. We even had a visit today from some of the team's staff, including Assistant Head Coach Paul Kelly, who brought his soccer-player daughter out through traffic in the rain to watch the USA train. We definitely appreciate all their help and support.

We guess footballers and football players can get along after all.

The Morning After


The players were allowed to sleep in a little bit this morning, not required to be in the breakfast room until 10 a.m., which means that most walked through the door at 9:59 and 30 seconds.

It's a bit chilly this morning, making it tough for the players to get excited about going through a pool workout in 65 degree weather, but they're here. We asked for comment about the chill factor, but the players couldn't say much through their chattering teeth.

There was, however, a dolphin sighting about 50 yards from the pool. The pool overlooks the Tampa Bay, and a pair of dolphins swam right by. This necessitated a break in the work out while the players tried to catch a glimpse.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

US Defeats Panama 1-0


Well we got the win. A Freddy Adu penalty was the difference between the U.S. and Panama tonight, as the U-23s grabbed 3 points to take them to second in the group behind Honduras. Adu converted from the spot late in the first half, after strike partner Jozy Altidore was upended by Panama goalkeeper Jose Calderon.

In the second half Panama came back with some hard tackling and physical play, while tension between the two teams always threatened to boil over. But our guys kept our cool and they have the three points to prove it.

Now its all about looking forward to Saturday's game with Honduras, but first we're heading back to the hotel to get some dinner...

United States Lineup to Face Panama


The U.S. will start tonight's game against Panama in a 4-4-2 formation.
----------------------Seitz------------------
Wynne-----Orozco-----Edu (c)------Sturgis

Holden------McCarty--Kljestan---Gaven

--------------Adu-----Altidore------------

The score of Honduras/Cuba is currently 1-0. They made the breakthrough in the 70th minute when Marvin Sanchez turned in a shot/pass from Luis Alfredo Lopez. And now its 2-0 as Hendry Thomas has just capitalized on a Cuban defensive error...

Halftime of Honduras/Cuba


Well its 0-0 after the first half of Honduras vs. Cuba and the game has been pretty entertaining so far. It is open ended stuff, actually, and even though Cuba is playing with 10 men, they're managing to get some attacks in. Granted, they're having to do a lot of defending too and Honduras is slowly getting the edge. The best chance of the half came from a corner kick in the 43rd minute when Cuba cleared a goal-bound header off the line. The guy at the near post there was the one doing the clearing - quite a good save too! Despite the small size, the crowd is also pretty into it: Cuba has a strong following and the Honduran fans are getting pretty rowdy as well. Despite the match on the field, undoubtedly both sets of fans can stand united on the fact that nineties music is awesome. The stadium is cranking out the hits from the pre Y2k era - Smashmouth was a few minutes ago and they just finished Matchbox 20's Bent. The YNT is off to get a sandwich in the press box before the second half begins. We'll be back in a bit to report on the first game and we'll also give you the lineup for the U.S. game a little after 7 pm ET...stay tuned.

Approaching Game 2

Well the YNT Blog is back at Raymond James stadium for the early game, this time it will be Honduras taking on Cuba. After beating Panama on a 90th minute goal, Honduras currently tops the group with three points.

Cuba, of course, has one point from their first match. I'm sure you remember how they got that one... Anyhow, we'll be back when the game kicks off to let you know things are going here...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seitz's 21st B-day!

Chris Seitz celebrated his 21st birthday today like most people.... he had cake after dinner, was sung to by his teammates and then went into a team meeting.

In any case - Happy Birthday Chris!!

Impressive Greeting

Upon entering the lunch room this afternoon, the players were greeted by a contingent of hotel staff, who showed their enthusiasm for the team by cheering and waving pom-poms. They cheered for players, staff, and sometimes passer-bys by accident. We told you - the hotel staff is enjoying our stay as much as we are.

In an effort to top themselves at dinner, the staff put together gift boxes for every table that had a small stuffed animal holding an American flag, and some red, white and blue M&Ms. Not quite as loud as their earlier effort, but just as effective.

The NFL Does It Well

Today the U.S. team trained at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility, built in 2006 and still looking brand new. After getting off the bus, the players and staff all took a moment to look through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the two-story weight room. It was pretty much everything 100 football players would ever need at one time.

After practice, the players took advantage of the state-of-the-art athletic training facilities, which include hot and cold tubs, and another tub with a huge treadmill for underwater running that helps injured athletes rehab.

Some of the staff took a sneak peek into the Bucs locker room, which was complete with carpeted floors, and each players name engraved above their lockers.

Needless to say, everything about the building was impressive. They definitely set a pretty high standard for locker rooms in the rest of the players' careers.

Panama Preview Podcast


Media interviews took place this afternoon, and the YNT blog took the opportunity to ask the guys a few questions about the upcoming game. We sat down Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty and got the guys' thoughts as they move forward towards tomorrow night's mtachup with Panama. Listen to the podcast here.

Worth the Wait

Today's breakfast featured a custom omelet station, where one of the hotel's chefs was taking orders with options like cheese, bacon, veggies... the standard omelet ingredients. The line built up, but once the final product was ready, it was definitely worth the wait.

The omelet bar is coming on the heels of the pasta station from dinner on Monday. A custom pasta station doesn't sound as exciting as it really is. The line of players and staff was out the door, with everyone fighting for their place. The pasta chef (he's actually the same guy as the omelet chef) was armed with everything from alfredo to tortellini to meats and veggies for whatever the team's hearts desired.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CUBA TIES IT, 1-1 IN THE 43RD

A breakdown in midfield by the U.S. and Cuba ties it. With possession in the U.S. end, Cuba was able to string passes together. Leonel Duarte controlled on the right side. After cutting it back at the end line, he dropped it into Yordany Alvarez, just inside the penalty area. Poor service in towards the far post rolled right overPat Ianni's foot and found a sprawling Roberto Linares, who knocked it in past Chris Seitz, who suffered the consequences after knicking off Ianni.

OH FREDDY! IT'S 1-0 USA

In the 14th minute, Freddy Adu has given the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Off a corner kick, Adu played the ball to Findley, who gave it right back on the right side. Freddy took a touch toward the center, and then ripped a shot toward the far post, which snuck inside, untouched to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead early on.

Cheering Section

The Under-17 Men's National Team has made the trek on a bus from Bradenton to cheer on some of the players who have been in their position just a few short years ago. We spotted them in their cheering section just behind the U.S. bench. They're loud and wearing their team colors proudly.

U.S. Lineup vs. Cuba

Here's how the U.S. will be lining up tonight against Cuba:
---------------Seitz--------------
Hill---Sturgis---Ianni---Freeman

Davies--Edu(c)-McCarty-Findley
---------------Adu----------------
-------------Altidore--------------

That's a 4-4-1-1 for those of you scoring at home. Or maybe a 4-5-1. Or maybe a 4-2-3-1. Or maybe just a 4-4-2. We'll have to wait and see. Honduras has just defeated Panama 1-0 on a late goal and the Honduran fans here (there are a good bunch of them) are going berserk. Game time is only a few minutes away now, so we'll catch you after the game...

2nd Half Kickoff


The second half of Honduras/Panama has just kicked off here at the stadium and its still 0-0. Honduras has probably had the better of the exchanges thus far, but really its still anyone's game.

As you can see, some of the coaching staff has also been here scouting the game. Their notepads and clipboards are out in full force ...

The team has just arrived too, and there's about an hour and 15 minutes left before kickoffs. We'll be back with the lineups for our game as soon as we know them, so be sure to stay tuned...

Early Shift and Best Wishes from Abroad

Part of the YNT Blog has been disptached to the Stadium to cover the first game between Panama and Honduras, which kicks off at 5:30, and those of us here early are spending the time in the press box getting everything ready for the media coming to tonight's doubleheader.

Inter Milan v. Liverpool is on ESPN2 and the match couldn't make for a better hors d'oeuvre to the games to come. Its currently 0-0 early in the second half, but with Liverpool holding a 2 goal advantage from the first leg it is about time the Italian champions started putting some goals in.

The Blog also checked in with Michael Bradley over IM - the Heerenveen midfielder is relaxing at home in Holland watching the same game we are over here. He said he's pulling for the Nerrazzurri but acknowledged that they need to get one on the board quickly to have a chance.

Michael also wished everyone over here the best of luck in tonight's game and throughout the rest of the tournament. He said he'd be watching the TV broadcast on his slingbox (though it may have to be on tape delay since it'll be pretty late over there).

That's all from here for now - we'll be back a bit later...

Audio Video

Wanna hear what Jozy, Maurice and Sacha have to say about the upcoming games? We caught up with the trio leading up to tonight's match and talked about their MNT experiences, the challenges that lie ahead of them in qualifying and what it means to have a chance to be an Olympian. Check out the video below for more as the team continues their preparations for tonight's match.


video

Ready to Roll

Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley has arrived in Tampa, joining the team for breakfast this morning. He will be in town scouting the first game of tonight's double header, which features the USA's next two opponents - Panama and Honduras - and will consult with the coaches following tonight's games.

Coach Bradley's arrival is just one of many signs that it's game day at the team hotel. The halls on the team floors are a little bit quieter, the uniforms are being packed up to take to the stadium and everyone in the team delegation seems to be carrying a quiet readiness.

After breakfast this morning, the team went through its game-day routine of going for a light jog and stretch to loosen up. This afternoon, the players have time for their own pre-game rituals, whether it's napping, reading or just relaxing with their teammates. Whatever it takes, the players will be ready to hit the field tonight at 8 p.m.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Supremely Awesome Donovan Goal Chart!


Ohh yeah! Since its election year, we know you can appreciate the bureaucratic dispute that was Landon Donovan's 35 Goals. However, after last week's ruling by FIFA it is finally official: LD is the top goalscorer in U.S. MNT History. The reason we bring this up now is because we've finally been able to post our Supremely Awesome Donovan Goal Chart, complete with supremely awesome videos of every single goal. Check it out here!


No joke, you're going to spend hours on this thing. Seriously, don't let your boss see. And tell us what you think too - which is your favorite goal? The YNT is partial to #7...

Podcast Up!

As promised, we're back with a podcast previewing the Olympic Qualifying tournament. We spoke to Jozy, Sacha and Maurice and you can listen to the full thing here.

And if you're really interested in tomorrow's game (we know you are), print out some reading material for tomorrow's work day...

Ahoy!




Anyone who is at all familiar with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knows about the distinctive decor in their stadium. Behind one of the end zones in the stadium is a huge pirate ship. Talk Like a Pirate Day isn't until September 19, but this year the U-23s are celebrating early.

Raymond James We Hardly Knew Thee

We just finished up our training session in Raymond James Stadium where the team went through some light warmups, a few passing and movement drills and finally some finishing practice. We were surprised also to learn that the stadium's namesake is in fact not a real person. Yup, Raymond James Stadium actually comes from Raymond James Financial Inc., a compilation of the names of the company's founders.

Over the loudspeakers we heard the sounds of birds being played, which is a pretty drastic change from the traditional Jock Jams fare. The bird sounds are played to discourage migratory birds from nesting in the light fixtures above the stadium. The YNT Blog didn't have its binoculars handy, but we'll just assumed that the tactic is reasonably successful.

We'll have a few more pictures from training to follow, and a podcast later on as we move towards tomorrow's game.

Busy World

You may think that Tampa Bay and the U-23s are the center of the world these days, and we don't blame you - that's certainly our mindset right now! But in addition to U-23 qualifying, there are a bunch of other items of note taking place in the US Soccer realm:

The Women's National Team is over in Portugal competing in the Algarve Cup and in fact they're kicking off their third group game against Norway right about now. Follow that game with matchtracker on ussoccer.com, and be sure to keep up with the always entertaining WNT Blog as the tournament rolls into the knockout stage over on the Iberian Peninsula.

And speaking of exotic locales, that's what the Global Blog is all about! Well not quite, but check out the recent weekend update to find out how a bunch of our guys did overseas this weekend...

Helping Hands

We have to give it up for the staff here at the team hotel in Tampa. It's been a while since the team has been anywhere other than the IMG campus, so we'd almost forgotten what it's like to be in a hotel. The staff is very excited to have the team here, and we were greeted by employees wearing the new MNT jerseys and U.S. Soccer hats. The meal room has been decorated with soccer tableclothes and wall decorations. But, beyond the decorations, there is an employee (dressed in a flowered shirt - hey, it's Florida!) always there to help with whatever we need.

We also have to mention the impressive breakfast spread we had today - there was more food than even our group could eat. Everything from Belgian waffle machines and a waffle bar, to a huge pastry tray to fruit, in addition to the traditional breakfast fare. Excellent work from the chef, who has already made himself part of the team.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Night One in Tampa

Well, the first dinner of the new hotel is under wraps, and the players are settling into their new rooms to relax after exploring the nearby mall this afternoon. The handful of guys who ventured out were very happy with the mall.

The equipment room is set up, and so is the training room, so everyone is on board and ready to roll into the official practice at the stadium tomorrow afternoon. It's hard to believe that after all these weeks in LA, China and Bradenton, that game day is just two days away...

Roster for Qualifying Set

Well the training camps and friendlies are done and the roster is finally set. From here on forward it is the real thing. The player pool has been whittled down to 20 players and you can check out the video announcing the team on the front page of ussoccer.com. For the less visually inclined, you can read the full press release of the roster here.


U.S. U-23 Roster for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying
GOALKEEPERS (2): Dominic Cervi (not on contract), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7): Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire),
Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

We're set up in the hotel now in Tampa, the gear has been moved in and dinner is coming up in a few minutes. We'll check back soon with everything that's going on as we move towards Tuesday's 8 pm kickoff.

Yes, We've Been Quiet...

Yes, we've been lacking in updates over the past day or so, but that will certainly change starting today - the team is on the bus to Tampa, where 20 players will finalize preparations for Cuba on Tuesday. Which 20 players are on the bus? You'll have to wait until later this afternoon to find out....

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Little Lizards


We know it's been a slow blog day... but we did manage catch a picture of one of the little lizards that run around the IMG campus. In the pool, on the fields, around the hotel... we were excited to have finally gotten this guy on film after a whole week here.

Pitted Up Against Each Other

We can't tell you much about today's intra-squad scrimmage, but we can tell you that it was played as intensely as any we've ever seen. The 24-player roster was essentially split into blue and white teams, who duked it out like they were playing Cuba. There is a lot at stake for these players with the final Qualifying roster being announced tomorrow, and you could tell by watching them play.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thunder Struck

There is quite a storm here in Bradenton tonight, with the lightning starting a few hours ago and then the thunder, then the pouring rain. One crash of thunder in particular shook the windows of everyone's room. The guys are playing cards or watching Hitch on TV just laying low. Most of the guys are big fans of the movie, and co-star Eva Mendez. Jozy assures us that he's a better dancer than Albert (played by Kevin James)... he also claims to be a better dancer than Will Smith, but that age has a lot to do with it.

Sensory Overload

Today in the pool, there is a tennis ball AND a football. Well, at least there was a football and tennis ball and football until Chris Seitz threw them both out of the pool area.... I guess he doesn't know his own strength. Don't worry - they were quickly recovered by permanent QB Chad Barrett, so the team will have a football tomorrow.

And there goes the campus lightning detector again... looks like the gray skies that have been hanging around are finally ready to open up... time to get out of the pool!

Tennis, Anyone?

Part of today's second training session included some games of soccer-tennis, and even a little soccer golf, which was made famous by the MNT. It was a pretty light session, with some players working on set pieces while the others played leisure games. The rain held out though, which made the players and staff happy.

Day Seven - Part One

The players hit the field this morning for the first of two training sessions on the day - that's what happens after a day off. It was a rare combination of both very windy and very humid this morning, making for difficult training conditions. But, of course the players pressed on and went through some 7 v. 7 drills and then a full-sided scrimmage.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Duel - Part One

As Stu and Charlie mentioned below, the players have the afternoon off - but there is no rest for the blog! Actually we've been holding out on you. This video is from yesterday's training session, in which Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu battled it out during the fitness session. The result? Well, see for yourselves....


video


Stu and Charlie Check In

Hello everyone its Stuart Holden and Charlie Davies AKA room 208C AKA better bloggers than Sacha and Benny.

We are coming in live from sunny and hot Bradenton, Florida. Right now we are just hanging out enjoying our free afternoon, listening to music and dancing. Today we are all going out for a sushi dinner and maybe enjoying a movie in the theater. I know it doesn't sound too exciting, but for us this is a big deal because we have been on the IMG campus for a solid 5 days without too much entertainment.

We all arrived in Bradenton by Sunday night and it was good to see everyone again as we get ready to begin our quest to qualify for Beijing this summer. Everyone is really eager to get out on the field on March 11th in Tampa. We've had a couple double days of training so far and a game against Creighton, you can see the highlights here. Everyone now is starting to feel the effects of Randy Rocha's workouts - thanks Randy, maybe you should work on the back of your shins before you kill our legs even more.

Our favorite activity (aside from training) has been our regeneration sessions in the pool. This may not sound like too much fun to the casual reader, but our "wash machine" as Coach Peter would say, involves diving catches into the deep end with an American football or brand new tennis balls, which can be found by the dozens here. Needless to say these activities aren't encouraged by our coaches, but do draw a lot of laughs. Quarterback Chad Barrett has yet to let anyone else throw the ball for the duration of camp, and Kamani Hill has been known to be the worst receiver so far with 0 catches in 20 attempts.

Thats all for now folks, we will be checking in soon so stay tuned!

Stu and Chuck

Full House at the Soccer Academy

The U-17s got a change of scenery today, moving from the usual training fields to those adjacent to the U-23 training. So, between the three fields, there were 64 players plus full staff for both teams, all going through their various drills dressed in the same USA training gear. A pretty cool sight for the U.S. Soccer family.

Just a Little Scare

IMG's campus is equipped with a lightning detector that sounds an alarm that can be heard throughout the campus. We got a little scare when it went off this morning as everyone was picking up their gear, and the rain was actually coming down pretty hard on the short drive to the fields. But, as luck would have it, the clouds emptied out during the 3 minute drive, and the sun was shining before warm ups began.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Right on the Money

video

We're feeling lucky now with the internet, so as a bonus, we thought we'd show the top four goals from the end of training today, when the players lined up some free kicks. The first kicker is Freddy - he's hard to see in the camera angle - followed up by Dax, Arturo and Benny. And yes, four is sort of an awkward number, but you'll see why we didn't want to narrow it down to three...

Video Evidence

video


Well, they took a while to upload on a pretty slow internet connection, but here are the goals from yesterday's scrimmage against Creighton (keep in mind that the game was shot for technical purposes... that's why they look a little far away!)

Teach a Man to Fish...

Pat Ianni and Eddie Gaven found a new way to spend their hour between the pool and dinner... Eddie brought a collapse-able fishing rod with him on the trip, and the pair went to a pond on campus to see what happened. We're happy to report that both were successful in catching what looked like bass. Congrats to Pat for catching his first-ever fish!

All They Need is a Ball

The team has gotten hold of a ball again, this time a football that athletic trainer Marcus Holliday found in the bushes. Marcus may as well be a hero with the entertainment this foam football has brought the players.

Right now, they are involved in a heated game of "throw the ball from the shallow end of the pool and see who make the best diving catch into the deep end". There have been some pretty impressive catches, and some pretty humorous incomplete passes.

Fluent in Five Months?

Freddy Adu returned to the United States claiming to be fluent in Portuguese in just over five months in Lisbon. Sounds like it would be hard to do, but we're actually convinced. They say that immersing yourself into another culture is the best way to learn a language, and that seems to have worked for the 18-year-old. "One day it just clicked for me, and I realized that I was understanding people when they were speaking Portuguese," he said.

Shared Dining

We mentioned the other day that there were several baseball teams here training at IMG for Spring Break. It seems to be a popular destination for cold weather teams, which is understandable, and for a few days this week we've been sharing dining facilities with the team from Villanova. The Wildcats take on Western Michigan today on the fields connected to the soccer fields. The sound of metal bats actually make the fields seem closer than they really are.

The U.S. Softball team was also on campus today, opening the new softball academy here at IMG. Team USA held a press conference by the pool and stuck around for lunch afterward. The majority of the two teams have already met, at the Olympic Ambassador program in San Francisco in January.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Karma Caught Up..

Okay, we bragged about the weather a couple of days ago, and it was unbelievable again yesterday. Today, karma has finally caught up to us and it's raining this afternoon. Thankfully, the rain held out until long after this morning's scrimmage and even after lunch.

The team was due to head back to the field this afternoon, but instead will hit the weight room to do a little regeneration and a little bit of lifting. Of course, the lifting schedule is set for after the huge Champions' League clash between AC Milan and Arsenal.

Goals, Goals, Goals.. .

The U-23s took on Creighton today in a scrimmage, coming away with a 4-0 win. Here are the goals:

20th minute - Jozy Altidore
Mo Edu challenged the goalkeeper on a 50/50 ball following a shot that was deflected. Findley was able to keep the ball in play, and Jozy was there to fire in the bouncing ball.

35th - Jozy Altidore (Robbie Findley)
Findley received a through ball with his back to goal, turned and played a ball to Altidore, who was running through the defense unmarked. Altidore took a touch and then put the ball into the low corner of the net.

53rd - Eddie Gaven (Kamani Hill)
Kamani played the ball across for Gaven, who took it down with his chest and fired a half-volley into the near post.

83rd - Chad Barrett
Kamani ran onto a long ball in the corner and crossed the ball in. It fell into the box and Chad Barrett powered the ball in for the final score.

Full House

With Freddy Adu's arrival last night from Portugal, all 24 players are present and accounted for in Bradenton, ahead of the team's scrimmage against Creighton this morning. We will, of course, be back after the scrimmage with a match report.... stay tuned.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Men at Work

It's not just your computer - ussoccer.com is having a few issues. Our best people are doing everything they can to get it back to normal, but there are some technical problems that need to be sorted out. Keep checking back in with the YNT Blog to make sure you're on top of all things U-23 MNT - while you're at it, check out the WNT Blog and keep tabs on the U.S. Women at the Algarve Cup.

There Should be a Punch Line...

How many U-23 MNT players can fit into a regular-sized hot tub? We assure you that right now there are no less than 18 in the hot tub after a lifting session. The pool is a little chilly, but the coaches and training staff are making sure the guys get some contrast by switching from cold to hot. It's pretty funny to see a bunch of athletes crammed into a hot tub though... we can't imagine what the other guests must be thinking.

Sizing Up the Competition

Players and coaches from Creighton University are also training on the IMG Campus during Spring Break, and took advantage of the opportunity to watch the U-23s training session this morning from the hillside. Creighton was also sizing up their competition before a scrimmage against the 23s tomorrow morning.

They are one of several college teams who made the trip to sunny Florida during prime Spring Break season. Over on Field 1, Notre Dame was scrimmaging Virginia. There are also a lot of collegiate baseball teams training and scrimmaging on the baseball fields, which are adjacent to the soccer fields.

Two More for Training



There were two more additions to training this morning, with the arrival of Benny Feilhaber last night and Sal Zizzo this morning a few minutes after the start of training. Lots of hugs and handshakes for both of the European-based midfielders.

Coming straight from the airport, Sal went through a little regeneration while the rest of the team went through their regular training. Benny, who got to campus around 9 p.m. last night hopped right onto the field with his teammates this morning. The total number of players now is 23, with Freddy Adu arriving tonight.

A Sad Day to be a Terrapin

Last night, after taking a 20-point lead in the second half, the Maryland basketball team gave up a three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to fall to Clemson, at home on senior night. It was a tough loss, and it's hard to imagine anyone taking it harder than Chris Seitz and strength and conditioning coach Randy Rocha.

Players and staff enjoyed the chance to all but crush the hopes of the Terrapin fans. Did you know that Clemson hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1998?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Poolside Italian


The trio of goalkeepers took advantage of some down time before this afternoon's pool session to catch up on some reading. Chris Seitz and Tally Hall had their respective non-fiction books out, but Dominic Cervi (far left) had a textbook. The third-generation Italian is trying to learn the language of his grandparents. When asked if he knew any Italian yet, Dominic replied "58 pages of it". Sure enough, he was 58 pages in.

Sunny Days



If you had to design a perfect day of weather, would you choose 75 degrees, low humidity, a nice breeze and not a cloud in the sky? That's what the YNT Blog would choose and, you guessed it, that's what we have here in Bradenton. We're not trying to make people up north feel bad, it's not our fault... we don't make the news, we just report it!