Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tomorrow's Another Day...

Well, today was certainly a tough one for the team. There's nothing quite like the feeling of preparing so long for something, then not having it go as planned. Sometimes that happens in soccer though, and you just have to look to the next day.

It's a bit of a good thing to have the next game so soon after the first one. The coaching staff has pinpointed things that the team will work on in training tomorrow, but there's absolutely no time to dwell on Tuesday's game. Starting tomorrow it's all about Italy. That's Italy who we played in 2004 and Italy who squeaked out a 1-0 win against Thailand today.

If you want to hear some thoughts on the game today, then we've put a podcast up for you. You can hear Keith Tozer and Jamar Beasley talk about the game here.

And even if things didn't go so well, the blog, like the team, will be persevering! Check back tomorrow for an update from training, another scouting podcast with Vava, and the return of Word of the Day. The Blog had to drag WotD off the beach in Copacabana after it took a long weekend but it is back and ready to go to work!

Final: USA 0 - 5 Paraguay

A tough result for the U.S. and it's not the way they wanted to begin their FIFA Futsal World Cup. With only a day off until their next match against Italy though, Keith Tozer's team will have to put this loss behind them as soon as possible. After all, there are still three games to go and qualification for the next round is still very much a possibility.

40 min - And that's a Final.

39 min - Jeff Richey gives the ball away and R. Villalaba rolls the ball into the goal from just over halfway line.

38 min - Gazolli gives the ball away and Naumoski tries to capitalize. Gazolli sprawls imself out and makes two saves - the ball just won't go in for the U.S. today.

38 min - the Paraguay goalie wants a piece of the action and he tries to catch Richey out with a lofted effort from a punt.

37 min - Good play between Wiesner, Hamms and Myers, but Osorio makes a vital last ditch tackle.

36 min - Foul called on Paraguay - they have two this half.

34 min - U.S. with lots of possession in this second half but they're struggling to create meaningful chances. Another quick counter from Paraguay off of a giveaway and Richey just tips the ball wide with his fingertips.

33 min - Another save from Richey. U.S. goes up to the other end and Myers plays in Beasley, he scuffs his shot wide of the goal though.

32 min - Stewart with a header that finds Wiesner but his flick back across the goal is just out of reach. The U.S. resets and Stewart tries his luck but the ball drifts high and wide.

30 min - U.S. takes a timeout, the energy of this game is dwindling. The U.S. needs to start something quick.

29 min - U.S. on the attack but its stolen by R. Villalba. He tries an audacious effort from the other end of the court but Richey scrambles back to tip the ball over.

28 min - Myers with a shot wide. From the restart Paraguay goes straight up the field and Richey gets down well to block Roman's effort.

26 min - Farias called for a foul an he's not happy. The U.S. steals the ball off the restart and Beasley earns a corner.

25 min - Now the U.S. has some posession and they try to set up an attack. Nothing doing though.

24 min - The U.S. is trying to get things going here in the second half but Paraguay is playing tough defense. Some passing from Cabral and Beasley almost opens up some space, but Santander breaks up the play.

23 min - Beasley loses the ball and Paraguay counters kick W. Villalba plays the ball to Chilavert and he slots it home to the far post. 4-0 Paraguay.

22 min - Jacbosen is fouled and the U.S. sets up a dead ball. Cabral standing over it and he hits it to Jacbosen low at the far pos but his flick doesn't come off.

22 min - Paraguay with some good ball movement to open up the 2nd half, but the U.S. hangs tough and wins it back. Jacobsen flicks it by his man and earns a kick in deep in Paraguay territory.

The 2nd Half Kicks off!

HALFTIME - U.S. with it all to do in the 2nd half here. We'll see if Tozer can rally the troops for the final 20 minutes...

20 min - R. Villalaba takes a corner short to Fernandez who turns inside the area and fires into the roof of the net. Just 11 seconds to go in the half.

20 min - Less than a minute to go now, and Paraguay have the ball. They work an inbounds play to Rotella who turns inside the area. Richey is there to deny him though.

19 min - Roman crushes the ball off the cross bar from a freekick. Pat Morris was booked for the foul there.

18 min - Great ball from Morris to Stewart but his left footed shot is saved by Gazolli. Corner for the U.S....they could sure use a goal before halftime.

17 min - Paraguay counterattacks with devastating effect. W. Villalaba finds Alcaraz with a slide rule pass and he finishes under Jeff Richey. 2-0 Paraguay

15 min - Great defensive cover by Wiesner who comes all the way back to take the ball off Fernandez' feet.

15 min - U.S. finding itself a little bit here - they've had more possession in the past few minutes...

14 min - Paraguay's Rene Villalba goes down in a heap but the referee is not interested. The U.S. counters now and Stewart finds Jacobsen on the right side, his first time shot is saved by Gazolli though.

13 min - Here's a bit more attacking from the U.S. - a nice combination releases Myers but his shot is blocked by a Paraguay defender.

11 min - Save again by Richey. It's all Paraguay right now and the U.S. goalkeeper is doing his part to keep his team in the game.

10 min - Foul on Beasley sets up a dead ball for Paraguay but nothing comes of it.

9 min - Big collision between Beasley, Hammes and a Paraguayan. Referee plays on and Chilavert is in alone. He dallies on the ball too much and Richey picks it up right off his feet. Hammes is a bit shaken up but he's over on the sideline walking around...

9 min - Another good save from Richey who denies Rotella's drive with his chest.

9 min - Shot by Stewart over the goal. The U.S. look a bit stunned after that first goal.

8 min - The numbers have really piled up inside the stadium, looks like a lot of kids, high-schoolers etc have all been recruited to wear blue and white shirts and cheer for the teams.

7 min - Paraguay opens the scoring. Fernandez cracks a shot that deflects off Santander and off the post. Santander reacts quickest off the rebound and puts the ball in the net to give his side the lead.

6 min - Great save by Richey who gets down to his right to block a ball with his foot.

6 min - Still scoreless here, Paraguay has just been called for foul number three. Jacobsen tries a shot but it bounces wide.

5 min - Fancy dribbling from Paraguay's Walter Villalba - the crowd enjoyed that.

4 min - Double save from Richey as he denies Fernandez twice at the near post. U.S. with a corner but they can't get a shot off.

3 min - Paraguay now with their first effort, and ts deflected out for a corner kick. USA does well to clear though.

2 min - That's two early fouls on Paraguay and this one is going to be a yellow card to number 9 Fernandez. He took down Stewart from behind there...

1 - min - First foul on Paraguay as Alcaraz takes out Cabral...and from the freekick the U.S. work a nice play to Matt Stewart but his shot is off the post!

And we're underway!

Both teams are huddling up and the captains are now in the center of the field for the coin toss...

Now the Star Spangled Banner...what a moment for our guys...

First the anthem of Paraguay...

There's a much bigger crowd for this game then there was for the previous game (which finished 1-0 to Italy)..Most of the fans have been imported by the LOC - much in the same way fans in China were for the Olympics and Women's World Cup. Nonetheless, they're making a fair bit of noise!

The warmups are over, the flags are out on the field and here come the teams! The U.S. is about to begin its World Cup quest...First the FIFA anthem.

USA vs. Paraguay Lineups

The game is still a few minutes away - Thailand and Italy are about seven minutes into the second half - but we've just received the starting lineup for our game:

The USA lines up with Jeff Richey in the goal, Joe Hammes, Denison Cabral (who captains the U.S.), Matthew Stewart and Jamar Beasley. Andy Rosenband (suspension) and Mike Apple are inactive for this game.

Paraguay meanwhile starts three players who also started the World Cup match against the USA four years ago - Fabio Alcaraz, Carolos Chilavert (their captain) and Wlater Willalba.

Update: Internet Works

The internet inside the arena is now operational. The Blog is sitting in the media tribune watching Italy vs. Thailand, where the score is currently 1-0 for the Azzurri. Their goal came on a penalty kick late in the first half. In other scores, Brazil is winning 3-1 over Japan over in Brasilia.

Our team just arrived and their currently warming up on the auxiliary court. Kickoff is just under an hour away, and we'll be here the whole time letting you know what's going on.

Live Futsal on ESPN 360 and FIFA.com

USA vs. Paraguay will be broadcast live on ESPN360 beginning in an hour and a half and you can also catch live text updates on FIFA.com. This is especially great news considering the internet is currently unavailable in the stadium - we're looking into that. For now though, you can at least follow the games on these other sites if the internet never goes up here. We'll be back.

Heading to the Stadium

As is the tradition, the Blog is making its way over to the stadium early. We're heading over to the Marcanãzinho a few hours ahead of the team to set up the locker room and check out the first game - Thailand vs. Italy. We'll check back in once we're all set up over there...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Textual Healing

As we mentioned before, the U.S. Futsal games will be broadcast on tape delay on Galavision. We know that's a long time to wait, so for those of you that need to follow the game live be sure to come right here to the MNT Blog. We'll be having live text updates from the Maracanãzinho, starting at around 11:00 a.m. ET. The game kicks off at 11:30 a.m., so be sure to take a long lunch hour. At the least, be sure to work on your window minimizing technique early in the day.

While you're following don't be afraid to leave a comment either. Tell us what you think, what you want to see, or ask us a question. The Blog will gladly answer most queries and if it is something we don't want to address, well then we'll just pretend that we never got the message!

Small disclaimer: This whole plan is contingent on the internet in the Maracanãzinho being available. At last check, the T1 line was up and running so hopefully things run smoothly.

U.S. Futsal on TV!

Oh, you read that right! Galavision will be broadcasting the U.S. games from the FIFA Futsal World Cup on a tape delayed basis. The schedule is as follows:

U.S. vs. Paraguay Oct. 1 12:30 a.m. ET/PT
U.S. vs. Italy Oct. 3 12:30 a.m. ET/PT
U.S. vs. Portugal Oct. 5 12:30 a.m. ET/PT

Now 12 hours is a long time to wait to watch the U.S. play but at least the games are on TV, right? Nonetheless, the FNT Blog knows that all of you out there are craving some FIFA Futsal World Cup action, so we'll have a remedy for you later on...

The Patch Makes it Official

Just as South America loves a good parrot mascot, a international soccer tournaments have a similar affinity for patches. As such, that's what on the cards in the equipment room this afternoon: patch application. The patches are iron on and should stay on through thick, thin and lots and lots of sweat (*cross your fingers). The patches on the anthracite jerseys are the ones you will see tomorrow - general manager Bryan Koch just came back from the match coordinator's meeting and let us know that tomorrow the guys will be in all anthracite for the match.

Vava's Scouting Report

ussoccer.com sat down with U.S. Futsal National Team assistant coach Vava Marques to get his scouting report on Paraguay. You may have heard, but the U.S. is playing Paraguay tomorrow. Want the inside scoop on the U.S. opponent's tactics? Give a listen here.

Training and Afternoon Off

Today's training was the last session before tomorrow's opening game against Paraguay. The mood within the team is one of both excitement and anticipation - what else would you expect going into the last night before the World Cup?The coaches have been preparing the guys for Paraguay, and today they worked on some counter attacking formations and defensive shape. Of course there was the customary crossbar challenge, as well. It didn't last long though - Chile Farias hit the bar with the first try. That makes it two on the trot for Chile, who also took Friday's contest as well.After training we headed back to the hotel. We headed to lunch but not before the team went for a quick stop in the ocean. It was a slightly chilly dip, but all the more refreshing for our guys. Today is the first really sunny day that we've been in Rio and the good weather should continue for the rest of the week. Sometimes you just wish futsal was played outside! Oh well. It's amazing to think that after all the preparations the team has done, the next time they step on the court will be for the FIFA Futsal World Cup...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Almost October...

There's a big Milwaukee contingent here with the team and as you may have guessed, they are psyched up about Brewers making the MLB playoffs. The blog was just searching for a snack in the equipment room and it ran into to goalkeeper Coach, Mark Litton, and goalkeeper, Nick Vorberg, both of the Milwaukee Wave. "Finally!" is about all Mark had to say. "It's definitely been a longtime coming," said Nick, "it'll make this month a pretty big party in Milwaukee." Of course the real Fall Classic, at least as far as this country is concerned, starts on Tuesday when the tournament kicks off...

Flamengo vs. Sport, Pt. 2

This is a follow up to Part 1...
The game kicked off with rain coming down and the teams took a bit of time to get into the match. Flamengo was in need of a win - three points would take them into the top four, which in Brazil is good enough for a playoff spot.

The match was progressing slowly with the teams feeling each other out. The weather was playing a bit of a role, and the pitch was becoming increasingly slick as the half wore on. The best chance of the first 45 minutes came from a Flamengo corner. An outswinging ball wasn't dealt with properly by the Sport defense and a Flamengo player took a shot through a crowd of players. The ball deflected and the Sport keeper, Magrao, just got a hand to it before a defender eventually blasted the ball clear.

Halftime gave our guys a chance to regroup and we walked around a bit on the upper concourse. We coudn't really go far though - a locked gate separated the box seats from the rest of the upper terraces. The stadium itself was still under much renovation, especially as far as the box seat amenities are concerned. Lots of the box seats on our level were gutted and awaiting redecoration. Renovation is going to be a constant theme for this stadium and many others around Brazil. The target, of course, is the World Cup, which will return to Brazil in 2014 for the first time since 1950.

The second half commenced with a renewed intensity from both teams, and about ten minutes in, Sport struck first. A corner kick was completely misjudged by the Flamengo goalkeeper, and Roger was lurking at the far post to knock the ball into the unguarded net.
The crowd was stunned, but in the far corner of the stadium, the traveling fans were going mad. The Sport players ran over to celebrate with them, but at the Maracanã there's no chance of jumping into the crowd, Lambeau Leap style. There is a large moat surrounding the field, separating the crowd from the pitch, so Sport's players were restricted to some jubilant fist pumping with their traveling support.
Flamengo were up against it now, and they were struggling to create chances. The fans were getting restless, but when the coach decided to change things up, nobody in the Marcanã was pleased. Vandinho came on for Ibson and the substitute was roundly booed by the crowd. Of course, head coach Caio Júnior knew something that the fans did not, and Vandinho changed the game for the home team.

Flamengo started to create chances, and soon after, they were level. Juan, Flamengo's marauding left back, was the architect, playing a beautiful give-and-go with Vandinho. Juan calmly finished past Magrao and, just like that, the game was tied. The fans were in a frenzy - the flags were out again and the flares relit.
The downpour on the field was reaching its heaviest, and Flamengo, galvanized by the noise of the crowd, always looked like the side most likely to score a winner. Eventually the heavy pressure told, and just minutes from time Vandinho justified his manager's tactics by netting the winner. Off of a short corner, Marcelinho lifted the ball to the near post where Vandinho angled his header past the helpless Sport goalkeeper.

The crowd was in raptures and the final whistle came soon after. With the win, Flamengo boosted itself up to fourth in the standings and the team left the fied with the fans chanting Vandinho's name. Jeered and derided by the his club's supporters not 20 minutes before, he was now their hero - a paradigmatic example of how quickly fortunes can change in football.

We left the booth and headed to the ground floor. At the main entrance to the stadium, famous players in soccer history have left their mark by imprinting their feet in the cement by the entryway. The footprints of Brazilian legends from all eras mark the entrance to the famous ground, and our guys stopped by for one last picture.Eventually we returned to the hotel for a late dinner, but a slightly cold meal is only a small prince to pay for a match and an experience that none of us will soon forget.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flamengo vs. Sport, Pt. 1

Our team arrived at the Maracanã about half an hour before game time and though the weather wasn't the best, the Flamengo fans were still out in full force. The roads leading up to the famous stadium were packed with supporters dancing, singing, and..um..drinking. A lot.We exited the bus and took an escalator up to the top floor. Our team was fortunate enough to be provided a suite in which to watch the game, and we walked around the upper level of the stadium to get to our box.
The Maracanã is right in the middle of Rio, and even though it was a foggy night in the Brazilian metropolis, we could still see the city lights and the surrounding mountains (In the picture above you can see the Maracanãzinho, where we'll be playing our games). There's no denying that Brazil is a great place to watch a soccer game, and as kickoff approached the atmosphere became more and more enjoyable. Watching one of the most famous club teams in the world at twilight in Rio? There aren't many things more exciting for a soccer fan.
The noise of the crowd was steadily increasing and as the game drew closer, the fans were getting ready. Big flags of all their heroes - Zico, Junior, Dida, and more - were unfurled and readied for the walkout of the teams.First the lineups, where the Flamengo fans took timeout from their singing to roundly boo the starting eleven of the visitors, Sport Club do Recife. Sport, as they are known, were garbed in their white away kits while the home side was outfitted in its traditional red and black hoops. When Flamengo took the field pandemonium ensued.
At one time, the Maracanã was famously large, holding close to 200,000 people. Renovations and restrictions over the years have cut that number in half and in tonight's game, the stadium was hardly a third filled. But, nonetheless, it was loud. We were lucky enough to be sitting right behind the most rabid section of Flamengo fans and the noise was constant.As the energy built to kickoff, flares were let, fans were jumping up and down, and when the center referee finally put a start to the game, there was no chance that we were going to hear the whistle.

Part 2 coming up soon...

Word of the Day - Pedalada

The Pedalada: a classic move that's undoubtedly the weapon of choice for many Brazilians. Translated as "pedaling a bicycle," the Pedalada is world renown for its effectiveness as well as its aesthetic magnificence. Odds are, and the Blog is just taking a guess here, there will be a LOT of Pedalada action in this upcoming tournament.

A ludicrous seven pedaladas from Robinho en route to earning a penalty -

How about this ridiculous goal from Mancini in the UEFA Champions League two years ago?

Today's demonstration brought to you by Andy Rosenband and Andrew Jacobson:

Pre-Maracanã Training

In today's training we were back at the gym where we trained on Thursday. Our training time slot was set for 12:30 and we arrived a bit early. Our hotel-mates Paraguay were still doing their warm down, so we let them finish while we got ready for our own session in the locker room.
After about an hour we were in and out, and we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower ahead of our journey to the Maracanã in the evening. There was no time for a meal in between, but equipment guy, Marthell Vazquez, came through in a big way - he stopped and picked up some Chicken McNuggets for the guys.

Full House

That just about describes the the Intercontinental Rio at this point - a full house. All five teams from Group B are staying here, and as of yesterday they've all arrived. Between the five teams, four different confederations are represented - CONEMBOL, CONCACAF, AFC and UEFA - so you know there were some major travel hours logged en route to Rio.

Some random notes:

- Both Paraguay and Italy are familiar hotel mates for the U.S. After all, the U.S. played both of them in the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
- Right now the coolest piece of official team apparel is the Fanny Pack sported by members of the Italian coaching staff.
- The blog hasn't actually seen the Thailand team yet. Apparently they're here, so we'll believe the authorities...this time.
- If you thought five teams in one hotel was crowded, imagine all of us sharing a meal room! Actually it doesn't get too crazy though. The aforementioned authorities have done a good job of spacing out meal times enough that there's only ever one other team in the buffet line at any given time. The food is kept well stocked too, which is an essential.

For now, we're off to training, but later the guys will be heading to the Marcanã to take in a game. Flamengo is playing tonight, and the team has been fortunate enough to acquire tickets for the game. It should be a great experience.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Video from Today's Leaky Roof Training

Here's a video from today's training. Joe Hammes spoke to ussoccer.com following the session today.

That's about it.

The blog needs to get to bed - it's 3 a.m., you know?

Phrase of the Day - Tomou um Chocolate

As you can see, Word of the Day is already branching out into Phrase of the Day.

Tomou um Chocolate -
The literal translation is "eating chocolate" and when a team is eating chocolate in Brazil, they're playing terribly. There are probably less savory terms for a losing streak as well, but in Brazil, you want your team to stay away from the sweets.

Today's Phrase of the Day was told to us by our liason, Thiago. He was thrilled because Fluminese and Vasco de Gama are the teams eating chocolate in Rio these days. The two teams, both traditional powerhouses of Brazil, have encountered tough times in the domestic league this year and Thiago couldn't be more gleeful about their suffering. He's a Flamengo fan and as fans of the U.S. MNT know, there's nothing like watching your rival suffer...Hi, Mexico!

Not Just for Players

Teams from all over the world are converging on Brazil this week, but they're not the only ones jetting in from around the globe. Officials from all different confederations have come to Brazil, including the U.S.' own Jason Krnac (all the way to the right in the picture). Jason is blogging for the ussoccer.com over at the Official Take blog, and you can follow his exploits in South America by clicking here. It's a perspective that you don't always get when you follow a major tournament, and it's easy to forget that these are huge events for officials as well. And while you're at it you can listen to ussoccer.com's Referee Week in Review with U.S. Soccer Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall.

The Powers of Observation

The Blog was never very good at Magic Eye but this visual puzzle should have been significantly easier. See anything interesting about the official FIFA Futsal World Cup logo?
That's right - it's a PARROT! South America is well known for having a large diversity of parrots and in fact the famous Estadio do Maracanã is nicknamed after the bird with the same moniker.

What facilitated the discovery of the Parrot logo was our introduction to Parangolé, the FIFA Futsal World Cup mascot. Apparently, South America loves a good parrot mascot - if you'll remember last year Guaky was the mascot of the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela.
Side Note: The Blog can't wait to take its picture with Parangolé.

Training in the Stadium

Our drive to training today featured lots of traffic, which seems about par for the course in Rio. We drove through Leblon and Ipanema, two of the most famous beachside neighborhoods in Rio. Even through the thunderstorm you can see that these are the places to be. We detoured away from the beach and just blocks from the sand the streets are lined with Cafes and boutique stores.Unlike yesterday, today we trained at the Maracanãzinho, the venue where we'll be playing our games. Some roof leakage aside, the venue looks great and there should be quite the atmosphere for the games.
Under FIFA regulations, our training session can only be an hour long so the team had to quickly get down to business. The focus was on defensive situations and the bulk of the training consisted of one team trying to hold the lead while the other team pressed for an equalizer.
Driving back to the hotel involved less traffic than the ride there and the guys are looking forward to dinner in the early evening before the having the rest of the night off.

It's Raining...

Well turns out it's not paradise 24/7 in Rio. It's currently storming outside and for the moment, beach volleyball game out on the beach has been postponed. The blog is hard at work inside, however, and here are a few things to pass the time on your Friday wherever you may be.

We caught up with head coach Keith Tozer and defender Pat Morris after training yesterday. Listen to the podcast here.

Here's a video from the first day of training:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Word of the Day - Chapeuzinho

Wherever you are around the world, soccer is a always remarkably useful way to communicate. Whenever the Blog travels, the easiest way to get to know the locals is through the language of soccer, futbol, etc. That being said, each country has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that also make the game unique around the globe. Its with that in mind that the FNT Blog brings you "The Word of the Day" from Brazil:

Directly translated as the "litle hat," "little cap," or "little balloon," the Chapeuzinho is simple but, when deployed effectively, lethal. It involves a quick touch over an opponents head into space and a burst of speed to slip by the wronfooted defender. If done correctly, your foe will be bamboozled, leaving you to sprint by him or her with the goal in your sites.

Classic instances:

Ronaldinho in action.

Wonder-goal from Gaizka Mendieta

Today's demonstration:

By assistant coach Vava Marques and midfielder Denison Cabral.

First Training Finished

The first training session from Rio is in the books. The team left the hotel in the afternoon and drove across the city to train at the HSBC Arena. Used for basketball in the 2007 Pan American Games, the gym is part of the Riocentro Sports Complex that hosted a variety of sports during last year's competition. We trained in the auxiliary gym, which was more than satisfactory for our team.

We arrived just as Italy were finishing training and the guys headed to the locker room as our Group B colleagues finished up their session. A warmup and stretch lead into some small sided games with the emphasis on defense. The pace is always fast in futsal, and there's not too much time to take a breather. The 90 minutes flew by and son the guys were finishing up the workout with some shooting drills.

The ride home involved less traffic than usual and soon the guys were showering up in their rooms. Dinner is next and a team meeting to follow - it's certainly been an eventful first day!

Licensed Dealer

As we were leaving for training today, Ptah Myers was flagged down by an onlooker outside of our hotel. Turns out, the bystander was a salesman and he wanted to show us what he had on offer: license plates.
According to Denison Cabral, who was doing the translating, one custom named U.S. Futsal National Team license plate can be yours for just 40 Brazilian. Apparently receiving random trinkets outside of your hotel is a very South American thing. For those of you loyal blog readers, you may remember the MNT encountering a botled ship maker during last years Copa America. Anyhow, the license plate dealer has given the guys some time to make their decisions - and chances are that asking price isn't final either... (From left to right in the picture -Team Doctor Nicholas Romansky, Cabral, and Myers)

We've Arrived

One overnight flight later and we've touched down in Rio de Janeiro. The trip went smoothly, and the guys passed the time on the plane by watching movies and sleeping. Coach Tozer also passed around his copy of the team's game against Japan from two weeks ago, which most of the team got to look at for the first time.
We landed in the Rio de Janeiro airport and collected our bags before getting on the team bus. The team hotel was a bit of a drive away, so we settled in for a nap or a good long look out the window, depending on your choice.

View Larger Map

Driving through Rio you can see how soccer permeates everyday life in Brazil. Soccer fields are everywhere, of all different shapes and sizes. You can see an outdoor field and on the next block, a dirt pitch. Anything can serve as a pitch for football - just put some goals up and get after it.

The local kids were doing just that, and we drove by numerous pick up games on our way to the hotel. It was 8:30 am, but neither the early hour nor any apparent school commitments were stopping these kids from kicking the ball around.

We drove by some professional stadiums as well, including the famous Maracanã. We could just see the famous ground off in the distance, but couldn't make out the Maracanãzinho beside it. Known as "the litle Maracanã," it is a gymnasium adjacent to its bigger brother and is the venue for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Rio.

Before heading into a huge tunnel, the bus got a good look at the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue perched atop Corcovado mountain. No word on whether we'll be able to get up the mountain for a closer look, but hopefully we'll find some time to go take a few pictures.Getting closer to our hotel we drove by the Gávea Stadium (above). It's the home of storied Brazilian club, Flamengo, but is rarely used anymore these days as the team prefers to play most of their home games at the Maracanã.

Soon after we arrived at the hotel and the guys are currently getting situated in their rooms before lunch. We've got a training session this afternoon but surely there will be some naps taken in he meantime. For now, you can do a lot worse than this view from your hotel balcony...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Road to Brazil

The MNT isn't in session right now - they're waiting until October to resume their World Cup Qualifying campaign in Washington D.C. against Cuba. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything going on in the world of U.S. Soccer, in fact, there are a few World Cups just around the corner. One of those is the FIFA Futsal World Cup, which is set to begin next week in Brazil.

With the U.S. FNT (That's Futsal National Team!) set to kickoff Group B on Sept. 30 against Paraguay, we'll be chronicling the team's fortunes from Rio de Janeiro here on the blog. It should be a fun time - after, all it is Rio and Futsal couldn't be more popular in Brazil.

The team is en route to South America today, and we're currently in the midst of an epic four hour layover in Atlanta. If all goes well (fingers crossed) we'll arrive in Rio tomorrow morning before getting situated in our hotel. For now - here's a few things you should know:

- Head coach Keith Tozer has named a 14-man squad for the FIFA Futsal World Cup. You can read about his selection here and listen to the head coach talk about the roster here.

- As previously mentioned, the U.S. is in Group B, along with Paraguay, Italy, Thailand and Portugal. The top 2 teams go through to the next round. You can check out the full World Cup schedule here.

- Brazil is super psyched to host the Futsal World Cup. The game enjoys an immense following in the country and the Brazilian Futsal National Team is ranked number one in the world. They've won the World Cup title three times but they haven't lifted the trophy since 2000. You better believe that their fans want the team to reclaim that hardware on home turf.

- Want some more info? Check out U.S. Soccer's Futsal page here and FIFA.com's World Cup page here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hannover Needs A Few Players

Trouble for Hannover 96 this week, as a stomach bug has taken down seven 1st team squad players. Add that to a few injuries (which includes Steve Cherundolo's strained abdominal muscle) and Hannover will only have 14 players available for today's 2nd Round DFB-Pokal Cup match with Schalke. Of course that could also mean a start or appearance for Sal Zizzo, the young American made his first Bundesliga appearance this past weekend when he came on as a second half sub. That would assume he isn't effected by the stomach virus though, so we'll have to wait and see. Heath Pearce's Hansa Rostock and Michael Bradley's Bor. M'gladbach are also in action tonight, facing off against Eintracht Frankfurt and Energie Cottbus, respectively.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Everton vs. Hull Highlights

Match of the Day Highlights of Tim Howard and Everton's 2-2 draw against Hull from this past weekend. Next up for Everton is a trip to Blackburn for a midweek Carling Cup clash.

San Luis beat Pumas

San Luis topped Pumas, 1-0, this weekend to consolidate their place atop Group 3 in the Primera División's 2008 Apertura. Defender Michael Orozco played 90 minutes for San Luis, who next face Argentinos Juniors in the Copa Sudamericana on Wednesday.

Watford Ties Reading, 2-2

By now you've probably heard about the phantom goal scored during the 2-2 draw between Watford and Reading this weekend. If you haven't, however, you can see it in the highlights below. You can also see Watford captain, Jay DeMerit, trying to figure out where the goal came from.

Marcus Hahnemann was also involved in the game for Reading, making 6 saves for the Royals during the game. As a result of the draw, Reading remain in sixth place while Watford continue to struggle in 17th place at the start of the Championship season.

Continental Wrap-Up

-'Gladbach Loses on Bradley's Debut
Michael Bradley made his Borussia M'gladbach debut on Sunday, but his team were unable to get by Hertha Berlin. Midfielder Patrick Paauwe was injured in the pre-game warmup, thus thrusting Bradley into the starting lineup for his first appearance with his new club.

-Rennes Draws at Home
Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes fought out a scoreless tie with AS Nancy on Sunday. The result leaves Rennes in 12th place in Ligue 1, but the point on the road should be a satisfying enough result for the club ahead of next Saturday's encounter with Nice.

-Standard Liege Ready for Top of the Table Clash
Standard Liege and Oguchi Onyewu continued their solid start to the 2008-09 season. A 1-0 victory over Tubize on Sunday took the reigning Belgian League Champions level on points with Anderlecht at the top of the table.

Anderlecht and Standard Liege meet this coming Friday in what will be a crucial early season match-up between the two title favorites in Belgium.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rostock Ties 2-2

Heath Pearce and Hansa Rostock tied Ahlen 2-2 today in Bundesliga 2 action (that's a lot of 2's). Pearce started at left back for his club side, and played all 90 minutes in the draw. Rostock remain in 10th place in the table and the club's next match comes a week from today against FC St. Pauli.

Carlos' First Goal for Rennes

Carlos Bocanegra scored his first goal for Rennes as his team went on to beat FC Twente, 2-1, in the UEFA Cup. Rennes went down early, but two goals either side of halftime gave the French side an advantage heading into the second leg. Bocanegra and Rennes turn their attention back to Ligue 1 this weekend when travel to face AS Nancy on Sunday.

Gooch vs. Tim, Part 1 Complete

Everton came from behind to draw Standard Liege, 2-2, last night at Goodison Park. Oguchi Onyewu's side took the lead twice in the first half, but Tim Howard and the home team clawed themselves level on both occasions. A 2-2 draw means that the tie is still up in the air heading into next week's return leg. With two away goals, however, the advantage probably sits with the Belgian champions at this point...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Video from Mo's Debut

Here are some extended highlights from Mo Edu's Rangers debut, including an interview with Mo at the end:

A longer interview with Mo:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gooch vs. Tim

Standard de Liege will open their UEFA Cup campaign on Thursday with a trip to Goodison Park and a matchup against Everton (delayed on Fox Soccer Channel, 5 p.m. ET - though for those of you who want to follow live text updates, you can do so on UEFA.com). The game puts two stalwarts of the U.S. defense head-to-head, as Oguchi Onyewu will not be standing guard in front of Tim Howard as we have become so acccustomed to seeing. We wondered what is like to square off against a teammate with whom you have shared so many important moments in your career ... so we asked Gooch.

ussoccer.com: What’s it like going up against a U.S. teammate in match as big as a UEFA Cup match?

Gooch: “Now that I think about it, this is the first time that I’ve played in a UEFA Cup game against another American. It should be fun. It will be a lot more fun if the results go our way.”

ussoccer.com: Is it strange to be playing against Tim, particularly when you work so closely together in the U.S. defense?

Gooch: “Definitely different than what I’m usually doing with him. Timmy is my boy and all, but for 90 minutes he’s going to be my adversary. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get the ball past him.”

ussoccer.com: Have your teammates asked you for the scouting report on him?

Gooch: “Yes. You can’t say too much about him other than he’s a great goalkeeper.”

ussoccer.com: What do you think he’s telling them about you?

Gooch: “I don’t like to cite my weaknesses, but I’m sure if I have any he is telling his coaches about it and they will try to expose them.”

ussoccer.com: Coming off such a great season in Belgium, how is the team’s mood as you head to the UK?

Gooch: “It feels like yesterday we were coming away from that. We’re confident. We know they are a big club, and it’s always a good atmosphere when you play a Premiership club. Everton has aspirations to go far in UEFA Cup. Even though we are from a smaller country, I’m sure they respect us.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brescia Stuck in 1st Gear

After narrowly missing promotion to Serie A last season, Danny Szetela and Brescia have sputtered at the start of their league campaign this time around. Three draws from three games have left them in the lower half of the Serie B table, bu then again those ties are always better than losses. Danny Szetela played 90 minutes for Brescia in this weekend's 1-1 draw with Bari:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rennes Ties Le Havre 1-1

Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes tied Le Havre, 1-1, this past weekend. Up next for the U.S. Captain and his team: a date with Twente in the UEFA Cup on Thursday...

Edu Debuts for Rangers

Maurice Edu made his rangers debut this past weekend, earning a spot in his side's starting 11 against Kilmarnock. Rangers overcame a 1st half deficit en route to a victory that took them took them top of the Scottish Premier League table. DaMarcus Beasley also started the game for Rangers, who next face Motherwell on Sept. 21.

You can read about Mo's debut on the Rangers website. Click here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nine from Three

U.S. vs. T&T post-match checklist:

  • Three wins, nine points, first place in group
  • Shutout streak reaches 551 minutes
  • Six straight matches without giving up a goal - team record
  • Five straight victories in one World Cup qualifying cycle - ties a team record set
  • 9-0-2 lifetime against T&T in qualifying
  • Clint Dempsey has scored four goals in the four World Cup qualifiers he has played in during 2008

There's plenty for you to follow up on from last night's 3-0 victory, from the official game story to a great photo gallery to video highlights and post-match reaction from the team.

That's it from what has been an extraordinarily memorable 10 days with the U.S. national team. The U.S. can secure their place in the final round of qualifying with a win against Cuba on Oct. 11 at RFK Stadium (tickets), or complete the deal when they travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Both of those matches will be shown live on the ESPN Networks and Galavision, or you can always follow along on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.

Thanks for following along. We'll see you in D.C.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

USA vs. T&T: Live Blog from Bridgeview

5:54 p.m. - Hey all! We're sitting here in the press box at the stadium and we're heading towards the 7 p.m. CT kickoff for the USA vs. T&T.

5:55 p.m. - We'll be here through all the pre-game buildup with the lineup, some pictures and also some help from a special guest! That's right, Blog all-star Amy will be helping us all the way until game time.

6:00 p.m. - One hour before, and that means lineup time! Here's how the U.S. will start tonight's game against T&T:

6:02 p.m. - Woo! Here's Amy: What's up everyone? The coaches are walking around and checking out the condition of the pitch. And the sprinklers have just come on to wet the field a bit.

6:05 pm. - For those of you familiar with Toyota Park, notice anything different about the layout of the field in this shot?
6:07 p.m. - What a view! Not many stadiums have a view like that! I guess Soldier Field has a pretty good view too. Only in Chicago!
6:09 p.m. - "Eye of the Tiger" is playing. You better believe the Blog is really psyched up!

6:11 p.m. - Hey Geoff! Thanks for the support, but to be a Blog All-Star you have to start answering all the trivia questions correctly! And within five minutes of them being posted.

6:12 p.m. - Says the MNT Blog: "Oooh, zzzzzing!" And just as we're all high-fiving eachother in the booth some of the players are out. Well, only Michael Bradley is out. He looks lonely.

6:17 p.m. - Hey Joel, those are some ok opinions, but you should channel that energy into supporting the team instead! :-p

6:19 p.m. - The weather is gorgeous. No sign of rain!

6:20 p.m. - My wonderful, beautiful, talented, intelligent sister Katie is here too. She was varsity soccer in high school. Go Parker Vikings!

6:22 p.m. - (ed. note: The MNT Blog also has a wonderful, beautiful, talented and intelligent sister too. The WNT Blog! Woot! Achieve Your Gold!)

6:23 p.m. - There seemed to be a pretty good contingent of T&T fans in the parking lot earlier this evening. I'm sure the Soca Warriors will be inspired by their presence.

6:26 p.m. - This song is now playing:
Just as the U.S. team enters the field! How can you not be excited?

6:30 p.m. - "Don't Tread On This" by Clint Dempsey is playing now and I will admit that I know all the words. I have it on my iPod.

6:33 p.m. - (ed. note: In case you need some more reading material, you can read some game previews here and here.)

6:35 p.m. - I'm glad it has only taken us two years to get a game at Toyota Park, but I am very glad that they are here. I got my tickets the first day of the pre-sale.

6:38 p.m. - The Blog is jealous now that it knows I'm going to the Old Firm game on December 27th at Ibrox. I'm bringing my big American flag and if anybody says anything, I'll just mention the last time Scotland qualified for a major tournament.

6:42 p.m. - (ed. note: That would be 1998, for those scoring at home. Also for those scoring at home, that's Amy 1, Scotland 0)

6:44 p.m. - Soon I'll be covered completely with the giant "Don't Tread On Me" banner, joining the rest of Sam's Army in Section 8.

6:45 p.m. - A little tidbit: as you heard in the podcast with Maurice Edu, he was happy to have been serenaded by the visiting Rangers fans at Celtic Park the first time he was on the gameday roster. What he may not know is that the Rangers fans had looked him up on YouTube and found video of the Toronto FC fans singing to him. They happily adopted it for their new signing.

6:53 p.m. - Those are the starting lineups for both teams, which means it is time for me to head down to Section 8. I want to thank the Blog for letting me take it over. It was fun! For now, GO USA!!