Thursday, July 31, 2008

Checking in from Northern Ireland...

The U-20's are in Northern Ireland this week, where Thomas Rongen's side is competing in the 2008 edition of the Milk Cup. The Milk Cup is one of the premier youth tournaments in Europe, and scouts and teams from across the globe converge on Northern Ireland to take part.

The team arrived late last week and though they started the competition with a loss against Northern Ireland (white starting 11 picture), Rongen's team rebounded nicely to beat Wales, 4-0, yesterday (navy blue starting 11 picture).

Goals from Brek Shea (2), Peri Marosevic and Danny Cruz were more than enough for three points, as the U.S. defense held tight while not allowing the Welsh many opportunities.

The U.S. next faces Belgium on Friday in the Third place match of the Tournament.

You can check out video highlights and lots of great pictures and info at the Milk Cup website...

Happy Birthday Michael!

Michael Bradley celebrated the big 2-1 today, enjoying the afternoon off and then eating the best dinner we've had so far here in Hong Kong. Alfonso, our team administrator, arranged for some sushi and sashimi to go along with some sweet and sour chicken. You wouldn't believe the popularity of sushi with this group - The hotel staff couldn't refill the plates fast enough. There was also some chocolate cake and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the whole team.

There was also some entertaining performances from Sacha and Stuart that capped off a great meal. While it's not a "traditional American" 21st birthday, it was pretty enjoyable.

Small Packages

This local woman stands about 4 feet 10 inches, so when she showed up on the team floor as a back specialist, it was a little surprising. The players who wanted a little extra work hopped on the table expecting a little TLC, but that's not exactly what they got.

Patrick Ianni, whose feet are pictured above, got some tough love. "I would never imagine a woman so tiny being so strong" he said, through his painful screams into the pillow.

(And in case you're wondering, those are the special Nike PreCool vests that we've been using to help keep body core temperatures down ... they were still wet from last night's game so they're drying in the training room closet.)

Post-Match Day

Well, by now you know that team came away with a scoreless draw against the Ivory Coast. In cae you missed it, you can read about the game here. And see some great action photos here, courtesy of our traveling photographers from ISI.

Today was a light day for the players training-wise, with only a recovery session in the pool standing between them and an afternoon of shopping in Hong Kong. Brian McBride, who is in the midst of his third trip here, served as the navigator for the local malls, willing and able to point other players in the right direction of whatever it was they were looking for.

And yes, his transfer to the Chicago Fire did finally become official yesterday, so congratulations to Brian and his new team!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Well, this could happen to anybody, right? That's why you play the tune up games before the tournament starts ... South Korea ended up winning this game 2-1, but don't bank on this kind of error happening when we play Ivory Coast tomorrow. We're guessing they worked on a few of these in training...

Phone Booths are the Past

Wi Fi booths are the future? In Hong Kong they are the present. On the way ride home from training we managed to snap a photo of this WiFi booth that seemingly replaced an outdated pay phone booth. Surely Superman can still change in one of these if he had to... (at least we hope so!)

Stadium Training

Today the team got its first glimpse at the aptly named Hong Kong Stadium, site of the two double headers of the ING Cup. The impressive-looking stadium holds about 40,000 and is expected to be about half full for tomorrow night's match against the Ivory Coast.

A Fit Fan

The team has picked up some fans during our stay in Kowloon, some of whom wait outside the hotel for the team to walk to the bus. They often just ask for autographs and photos with the players on the way across the bus, and sometimes they'll even have action shots of certain players for them to sign or even write personalized notes. Today one fan raised the bar - the team boarded the bus and started to drive away, so she - with a heavy-looking back pack on - chased the bus all the way to the highway, camera in hand and snapping photos. We're pretty sure she was trying to get extra shots of Robbie Rogers, and Robbie was nice enough to wave in appreciation. Her fitness was impressive. She kept up with the bus for about four blocks, and we were even hitting green lights....

A Yank Abroad

What could be more stereotypical than running into a fellow American at Starbucks? Well, that happened today as we found an U.S. fan living in Hong Kong and ordering a tall mocha right across the street from our team hotel. Recognizing the crest, he asked if we were with the U.S. team, knowing that we were in town for the ING Cup. He and a group of his American friends will be in attendance for tomorrow night's game against the Ivory Coast, and we hope he brings everyone he knows - the more USA fans the merrier!

Apparently there are over 60,000 Yanks living here in Hong Kong - hopefully we'll feel their presence at the stadium...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Change of Venue

Today the U.S. changed its training site to the Sun Wei Wen Stadium on the other side of town. As you can see, the stadium is in the shadows of some MASSIVE condo buildings, which seem to be the norm in this city of seven million people. Even though it's a bit smaller population-wise than New York City, it just feels so much bigger...

Global Icons

This afternoon Peter Nowak and Michael Bradley addressed media from all over the world at a press conference held at our host hotel - all four teams are staying here. We tell you this mostly because we really want to ask you if the photographer below is really sporting a David Beckham tattoo on his ankle?

CONCACAF Champions!

The U.S. U-17 WNT won the 2008 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship with a 4-1 win against Costa Rica. The team celebrated appropriately, drenching assistant coach Skender Gega with Gatorade (video to come).

The team also got a first-hand look at their first piece of hardward: the CONCACAF U-17 trophy and their gold medals

Big Day Out

The team ventured out of the confines of the hotel before lunch today, making the short walk over the highway to the shores of the harbor. As you can see from the picture below, the harbor was .... well, it was really hazy and humid. The sun was shining but you can see how thick the air is here.

Having nothing to do with anything, we saw a sign for a place called "McLovin's Tavern". Just like in the movie Superbad!

After about a mile, we reached the happiest place on Earth - Starbucks. You can't tell from this picture just how much everyone was sweating, but needless to say it was iced drinks all around.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Live MLS

This morning before breakfast, we were all surprised to find that the MLS game between FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy was being shown live - in English no less. A few days ago we were able to catch replays of the MLS All-Star Game from Toronto, which Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers would have started in if they weren't here.

Lots of love for Major League Soccer here in Hong Kong!

Canada is in

Canada defeated Mexico, 1-0, at Marvin Lee Stadium and will join the U.S. U-17 WNT and Costa Rica at the 2008 FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand.

T-Minus 2.5 hours

The U.S. U-17 WNT has arrived at Marvin Lee Stadium and is sharing the stands with Costa Rica as Canada and Mexico battle it out for the third and final CONCACAF spot at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.

The U.S. is gearing up for their match against Canada, which is for all the CONCACAF marbles and will determine the first-ever CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Champion.

We're here with defender Julia Roberts (, not THAT Julia Roberts) and she weighs in on the Canada-Mexico match at hand.

YNT Blog: What is your prediction for this match?

Julia Roberts: "I don't know. Originally I would have said that Mexico would win but Canada is playing good."

YNT Blog: Who would you like to see go through?

JR: "Mexico, because I think their style of soccer is prettier to watch."

First Training

The team held their first official training in Hong Kong at Mongkok Stadium, where a swarm of media was there to welcome them. There is a lot of attention on this tournament from the locals, and the U.S. is happy to get used to it all before the Olympics. We're not sure if they're going to have to get used to a different kind of grass though - the grounds at Mongkok Stadium were covered with a very thick, weed-like grass. This picture below doesn't quite do it justice, but it was fairly strange. The good news is that there was a small amount of rain, which cut the stifling humidity in half right at the start of training. Everyone would be very happy if the weather could stay that was for the remainder of the trip!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Men (Manly Men!) In Tights

You may have heard of compression socks for plane rides, but the Olympic team took it to a whole 'nother level. In order to reduce the swelling that can occur during long flights, the players geared up with some Nike-issued compression pants. Combined with their USOC-issued Nike shorts, made of sweatpant material, the players were admittedly very comfortable during their long travels.

Here, Stu and Brad model the pants (and the overall outfit). The swimmers that were on our flight were wondering why our players were wearing their uniforms under our clothes...


Before their final training session at Marvin Lee Stadium, the team got together to take a team photo. Don't they look sharp in their uniform? First Row: Samantha Johnson, Rachel Nuzzolese, Crystal Dunn, Taylor Vancil, Kate Bennett, Sydney Payne, Morgan Brian. Second Row: Butch Hummel, Asst. Coach Skender Gega, Head Coach Kazbek Tambi, Alexis Harris, Julia Roberts, Cloee Colohan, Kelsey Wys, Courtney Verloo, Samantha Mewis, Amy Colquhoun, Asst. Coach Amy Griffin. Third Row: Sean McNeil, Dr. John O'Kane, Olivia Klei, Amber Brooks, Tani Costa, Alexa Gaul, Erika Tymrak, Kristen Mewis, Victoria DiMartino, Ali Griffith, Max Laitner.

Getting in the Spirit

The spirit of Team USA was in full effect today, starting at the San Francisco airport. Our team and the men's and women's swim teams arrived at the airport at about the same time. While walking through the airport (and walking right past a pretty long security long - thanks security!) people started to recognize us as Olympians, shaking hands and wishing everyone good luck.

We boarded the plane to Hong Kong along with about half of the swimmers - their final destination is Singapore. There were a lot of introductions and small talk as the two teams got to know each other on the plane, and then a lot of questions about training and each others' sport in general. By the end of the 14 hour flight, there was a great sense of camaraderie between the teams, and lots of "good luck!"s and "bring home the gold!"s exchanged between the teams before we went our separate ways.

In 3's w / Victoria DiMartino

Victoria DiMartino has had a busy time in Trinidad, starting three of the team's four games and helping the team to qualify for the inaugural FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup. The striker took some time from her busy schedule to sit down with Center Circle for this edition of In 3's w / Victoria DiMartino.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Maracas Beach

After a hard-fought, 1-0, battle with Mexico on Thursday, the U.S. U-17 WNT took a day to venture out to Maracas Beach on the north part of Trinidad. The team appreciated the winding, mountainous road and the absolutely gorgeous scenery, and didn't leave without trying the famous "bake and shark," which is fried shark stuffed into fried bread. Yes, we said shark. And, yes, it was delicious. Above, Samantha Mewis, Courtney Verloo, Olivia Klei and Cloee Colohan take advantage of a photo op overlooking the valley below.

These two vendors certainly found some buyers for their bracelets, anklets, necklaces, etc.

Courtney Verloo tries out the bake and shark at Richard's, which we heard was the best place to go for it.

Get Us to China ASAP

We depart for Hong Kong today, and this morning has just been filled with energy. Everyone is dressed and ready for the flight, the bags have already been sent to the airport to be checked and the only thing standing between us and Hong Kong is a 14 hour plane ride.... As a beaming Jozy Altidore said at breakfast "China fever, baby!"

The Final Preparations

Today was the last day before the big departure to Hong Kong, and boy was it a busy one. Today's morning training session was a departure from the late afternoon norm, then it was lunch and off to Team Processing.

Team processing is well, a process, that every member of Team USA goes through right before their departure to China. It's where final preparations are made - headshots, team photo, any medical issues, etc. But the biggest and best part of Team Processing is: the stuff.

The players and staff each receive an Olympic ring, so they were properly sized for the right fit. Then they could decide to upgrade to a higher karat, add diamonds or even change it to white gold. Not surprisingly, a lot of the players - figuring that it's pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity - decided to upgrade.

Then, everyone grabbed a shopping cart - literally a big orange cart from The Home Depot - and went into this giant room where all the clothes and shoes were. It was like a big glorious warehouse filled with clothes made specifically for the Olympic Games by Nike and Polo Ralph Lauren.

The players were fitted for sneakers, dress shoes, tshirts, polos, hats ... a parade outfit from Polo Ralph Lauren that looks pretty sharp. Then they dropped off the parade outfits to get tailored, packed up their brand new luggage and went through one final meeting to overview a few last minute things before departure. Then they picked up their clothes from the tailor and it was back to the hotel for dinner, a quick photo shoot and then to crash early.

There is definitely an energy about the team tonight as everyone is anxious to get over to China.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Costa Rica Qualifies

In what can be considered quite the upset, Costa Rica defeated Canada, 2-0, and earned one of of the three CONCACAF spots at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. If the U.S. beats Mexico tonight, they will face Costa Rica in the final.

Potential Opposition

The U.S. U-17 WNT has arrived at Marvin Lee Stadium and is ready to face Mexico. In the first match of the evening, Costa Rica is winning, 2-0, against Canada. Canada ws the heavy favorite going into the match, but a poor clearance, followed by a hand in the box, created perfect scoring opportunities for Costa Rica.

All In (Finally)

As you know by now, Nate Sturgis had to leave the team after re-aggravating a hamstring injury that has been nagging him for weeks. It was of course difficult to see Nate leave, but Dax McCarty was able to hop on an early flight Thursday morning and arrive in time to meet the team for lunch.

After a long (literally, very long) game in D.C. last night that ended at 1 a.m., Stu Holden and Pat Ianni basically headed straight to the airport to catch their flight out to California. They came straight out of the taxi from the airport and onto the training field for some regeneration. The rest of the team went through some circuit training with some fans looking on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Game Night

The night before the crucial semifinal clash against Mexico, the U.S. U-17 Women's National Team got together for some relaxing, yet ultra-competitive games. The team split into three groups that played Apples to Apples, Spoons and Uno. In the picture above, it's Samantha Mewis's turn to be the judge in Apples to Apples.

Because of the number of players, some had to wait their turn to be able to play.

Kelsey Wys, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Johnson watch the other girls almost tear each other's hands off grabbing spoons. At another table, Kristen Mewis and Erika Tymrak take a break from finding similarities at the camera. It turns out, the girls aren't only competitive on the field. We hope they save some of that for Mexico.Last, but not least, the trio of Taylor Vancil, Courtney Verloo and Kate Bennett put on their Uno faces. It's like their poker faces, but way more fun.

We'll Make It Up to You

We know we've been a little negligent in our blogging, so we were hoping to tame the masses with a mini-photo gallery from training. As you can see, more and more players are trickling in: Charlie Davies arrived Monday night and trained yesterday. Jozy, Brad, Marvell and Mo will be at practice this afternoon and the final two - Stuart and Patrick - will arrive tomorrow morning. As you may or may not have heard, Houston's game at D.C. United was pushed back until tonight, so the Dynamo duo will hop on an early cross-country flight tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Old Friends in New Places

The YNT Blog ran into none other than former U.S. Soccer referee Sandra Hunt while watching the Costa Rica vs. El Salvador match at Marvin Lee Stadium. Hunt, who sends her salutations to Soccerhouse and her friends back home, is at the 2008 CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship as the FIFA-appointed referee instructor for the tournament.

It was nice seeing you, Sandy! And, the score at halftime is Costa Rica 2, El Salvador 1, by the way.

The Ride to the Stadium

The U.S. U-17 WNT was a little worried about playing the second match on Tuesday, considering they would be leaving Port of Spain for Macoya in rush hour traffic. The team needn't have worried. The police escort was very enthusiastic and took its job very seriously, and the team made it to Marvin Lee Stadium in record time for rush hour travelers.
Driving on the right side of the street would be a lot more relaxing if people didn't drive on the left in Trinidad & Tobago. But, as you can see, the police were experts and directed traffic from their vehicle to ensure the team's safe and prompt arrival.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Fellow Olympian

A special shoutout has to go to Nicole Barnhart, goalkeeper for the Women's Olympic Team. A recent Stanford grad, Barnhart stuck around Palo Alto upon graduation and hit up her old stomping grounds to check out her Team USA teammates in action. She didn't stick around to chat after training, but we definitely appreciate her support!

Training Day

For most of the players, today was the first training session as part of the Olympic team. The core group has been together several times since the end of 2007, but of course there were some new faces as well. Newcomers to the team who trained today include - Michael Bradley, Danny Szetela, Brian McBride and Michael Parkhurst.

In all, 11 players on the roster (plus alternate goalkeeper Dominic Cervi) hit the beautiful field at Stanford University. As the third goalkeeper, Dominic will travel with the team to China in case of an emergency. So, quick: name all the players in the below photo! We know you're going to try to figure out who's here anyway. (Hint, but only because some players are mostly hidden: field players are in red, goalkeepers in blue, staff in gray)

Take II

The U.S. U-17 WNT ventured out to MovieTowne again in hopes that The Dark Knight would be out, but it hasn't hit theaters yet in Port of Spain. Some of the team was able to hang out with their family and others hit the shops and restaurants within the shopping center. MovieTowne, appropriately named, doesn't only have a movie theater but it also definitely looks like it could be the set of a movie. A western maybe?

Alexis Harris, Kelsey Wys, Tani Costa and Sam Johnson hang out waiting for the bus.

Morgan Brian and Sydney Payne must have found the TCBY again. We're thinking Morgan enjoyed the Superman ice cream.
We're not sure what's going on here but we're guessing Kristen Mewis and Victoria DiMartino found TCBY, too, and their actions are the result of increased level of sucrose in their body. Translation: sugar high.

No Hard Feelings

This post is a little bit late after the end of the match, but we wanted to show that there were no hard feelings from El Salvador. After the match against, a few of the Salvadorian players waited outside the U.S. locker room and asked to take some pictures with the team. The Salvadorians are staying at the same hotel as the team, but the girls wanted to get team in uniform while they were in uniform, too.

Here, Amber Brooks, Crystal Dunn and Alexis Harries pose with goalkeeper Irma Melara, midfielder Alba Duenas and midfielder Karen Landaverde.

The rest of the team joins in on the fun before heading to the stands to watch the first half of the game between Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica, which ended in a scoreless draw.

Take Me Out to the Bull Pen

With about 10 players already present and accounted for, the team took some time Sunday afternoon to take in a baseball game at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Though the players and staff did look at the tickets before arriving at the stadium, we had no idea that "Row Zero" actually meant "in the bull pen". We walked all the way down the steps, and then down to the dugout level on the first base side, where we were treated to a feast - a combination of some excellent ball park food (hot dogs, burgers, etc) and some of the healthy variety, including chicken Caesar salad, hummus, fruit, etc. And of course, peanuts - because what's a ball game without peanuts?

We were so close to the action that we quickly made friends with the Brewers’ bull pen catcher, who apparently grew up with Chivas USA midfielder Jesse Marsch. It was also the first ever live baseball game for Coach Nowak.

Some chaos ensued as a foul ball popped VERY high and landed inside our little area - instead of trying to catch it, the players and staff mostly ducked and covered, knocking over chairs and teammates in the process. But, it was probably for the best, because the ball landed on the metal shelving that kept the food warm... and left a laces imprint. We decided it was probably a good thing that no one went for it. Some photos from the game:

You can see how close we were to the action - Benny, apparently a huge baseball fan, led the chatter and tried to make friends with first base coach Roberto Kelly

The food in the "Bullpen Box" was as good as the view

And of course there was an impressive amount of peanuts eaten...

This is the foul ball that came into our section - Seitz and the rest of the players signed the ball for some of the people who treated us so well throughout the game.

We can't thank the Giants' organization enough for hooking us up. It was a nice getaway on a Sunday afternoon

Sunday, July 20, 2008

U.S. U-17 WNT 9, El Salvador 0

The U.S. U-17 WNT dominated their opponent, winning 9-0 against El Salvador in their second Group A match at Marvin Lee Stadium in Trinidad. A full match report will be posted on in a few short hours.

Halftime Report: U.S. U-17 WNT 6, El Salvador 0

The U.S. came out strong in the first half, scoring their first goal in the fourth minute when Rachel Nuzzolese poked in a pass from Tani Costa. They didn't stop until the 37th minute, with goal No. 6 from Amber Brooks, who slammed home a header from and Olivia Klei corner kick. Scoring for the U.S. in the first half were (by order of goal): Rachel Nuzzolese, Olivia Klei, Morgan Brian, Tani Costa and Amber Brooks (2).

One Down, Two to Go

The U.S. U-17 WNT is at Marvin Lee Stadium, where everything is in place for the second matchday of Group B. The U.S. U-17 WNT will take on El Salvador in the first game, while Trinidad & Tobago will host Costa Rica in the second match of the evening. The U.S. team is ready to go and hoping to earn three more points to secure a spot in the tournament semifinals.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Word, Two Syllables

After drying off from the pool cooldown, the team gathered for a game of charades. The team split into two groups, Pool Side and Food Side.

Food Side started out strong, with Victoria DiMartino and Olivia Klei turning out to be surprisingly good at guessing and even better at acting phrases out.

But Pool Side got back into the game and ended up winning by one point.

The Water is Fine!

The U.S. U-17 WNT team finished training and headed back to the hotel for a quick cooldown. And by quick we mean, the team stepped into the hotel, dropped their equipment in the lobby and jumped into the pool completely dressed.

Most of the team appreciated finally being able to get into the water, considering we are on a Caribbean island, except for maybe Morgan Brian, who was a little bit surprised by goalkeeper Kelsey Wys.