US National Team
It’s been quite a week for LA Galaxy Academy forward Haji Wright.
The Galaxy Under-16 forward scored two goals during the U.S. 4-1 victory over Brazil to help the Americans win the Nike International Friendlies for a second year in a row. With his two goals against the Brazilians, Wright brought his total to five, taking home the tournament’s Nike Golden Boot.
It’s been quite a run this week for Wright who has started all three games in the tournament against the likes of Portugal, England and Brazil with a brace in each of the final two matches. Wright began the week scoring the lone goal in U.S. 2-1 defeat to Portugal, but then shined in the U.S. victory over England with a pair of second half finishes that helped the Americans win 5-1.
The forward added to his account twice against Brazil as he gave the U.S. the lead in the eighth minute with an unassisted strike off a counter attack. After the South Americans equalized, the U.S. scored twice to take a 3-1 lead before Wright added the final tally with a left-footed finish off a Joe Gallardo cross. While Wright won the Golden Boot, U.S. goalkeeper Kevin Silva won the tournament's Golden Gloves and Christian Pulisic earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
Thoughts on Wright’s performance?
Share them below.
Part One: Q&A with Pablo Mastroeni reflecting on his 16-year MLS career and time with the U.S. National Team
Pablo Mastroeni ended his illustrious career on Tuesday and I had a chance to speak to the midfielder on his favorite moments of his career and his plans for the future.
As part one of my two part interview with Mastroeni, he discusses his career and why he decided to move on from playing.
Check it out below.
LAGI: "What made you decide to retire at the age of 37, was being separated from your family the most important aspect?"
PM: “In the end, that ended up the biggest part. One of the questions that I asked myself was ‘from a professional perspective, why do I want to keep playing? What’s the milestone that you want to reach?’ and to be fair, I couldn’t think of one that was so tempting that I would possibly move away from the family or relocate. At the end of the day, I have an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, and I think that these ages are critical to have good parents around. I feel like that I ended my career on my own terms as far as being healthy rather than have any injury like concussions dictate my exit. I’m stepping away from the game feeling good and ready to start a new path.”
LAGI: “How do you think that you’ll be remembered? When people look back, how will they remember Pablo Mastroeni?”
PM: Well, I don’t know, I learned in this business that you need to have a tough skin because people are going to say some good things and some will be very critical. It’ll depend on just who you ask. If you ask a casual fan, he’ll say that ‘he was just a bruiser’ while someone who is a bit more sophisticated will say that he was technical and aggressive but held down the middle of the field. However, for me, I’d like to be known as a guy that came to work every day whether it was practice or training, held myself and those around me to a high level, and most importantly got along with all the guys in the locker room. For me, the locker room was like a sanctuary and a brotherhood where we were all fighting for the same cause. I don’t know what people will say about my career, but I’m completely satisfied with I achieved, but I couldn’t be happier."
LAGI: “What have you thought of the immense reaction that you’ve gotten from across the soccer community? Tons of people have been coming forward to reflect on your career.
PM: “It’s pretty humbling because you realize how important it is to get to know people and share your passions and your perspective. I think that the game of soccer is always an excuse to be social and to get all these messages and phone calls is pretty powerful. It’s humbling and a real joy to be able to know so many people and be friends with so many people.”
LAGI: “What would you say was your greatest moment as a player?”
PM: “It had to be captaining the 2010 Colorado Rapids to MLS Cup. It was one of those teams where we needed to put together four good games. We were a team that very few people on the outside believed in, but the coaching staff and the organization knew that we had something special in that locker room. This retirement would have been so different for me if I had not won anything, yeah, I won a couple Gold Cups, but I wanted to win a championship which is the greatest thing in sports. Being a part of that team is something that I cherish most.”
LAGI: “What about your experience with the national team? How do you think that you’ll best remember that and, specifically, your role in the U.S. 2002 World Cup campaign?”
PM: My experience with the national team was great and I think that I was fortunate because there were circumstances where I was able to go from not playing a qualifier to starting [at the 2002 FIFA World Cup]. Looking back, it was such a blur and I don’t recall a lot of 2002. We had to come right back to our club and never had a moment to relish in those moments of awe. My national team experience was awesome though because I saw places that I never thought that I would see, played with great players and even played against some great players as well. It was really an eye-opening experience and that is something that I really cherish. People don’t understand the magnitude of those moments and when I think back, I realize that I’m a lot stronger than I thought. Putting it in words is almost taking away from the magnitude."
LAGI: “Does that mean that the U.S. victory over Mexico is part of the blur too?”
PM: I don’t really remember that and I've seen the video of Cuauhtémoc Blanco is standing over me looking like he’s going to punch me a hundred times, but it was just part of the blur. You’re flying to different cities, playing in different games then before you know it some guys are on Jay Leno, and you get home thinking ‘what just happened?’ That game was awesome because it was two CONCACAF rivals and we came away victorious and this is one of the experiences that I can’t wait to share with others."
Much more in part two later on Wednesday.
LA Galaxy Academy product Haji Wright has been called up for the U.S. Under-17's roster for the upcoming 2013 Nike International Friendlies.
U.S. U-17 head coach Richie Williams' 20-man group will face Portugal on Monday before matches against England on Dec. 11 and Brazil on Dec. 13 at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood, Florida. It is Wright's second inclusion in the U.S. U-17 roster in less than a month as he took part in the nation's U-17's friendlies with Canada in November.
The roster includes eight players from California.
The complete roster is below...
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond Strikers; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (PDA; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (7): Hugo Arellano (Chivas USA Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), Daniel Barbir (Unattached; Allentown, Pa.), George Braima (Crew Soccer Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Edwin Lara (unattached; San Leandro, Calif.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham; San Diego, Calif.), Thomas McCabe (PDA; South Orange, N.J.), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; St. Louis, Mo), Brian Zelaya (De Anza Force; San Mateo, Calif.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas Academy; El Paso, Texas)
FORWARDS (5): Pierre Da Silva (New York Soccer Club; Port Chester, N.Y.), Joe Gallardo (Monterrey FC; San Diego, Calif.), Joshua Perez (unattached; La Habra, Calif.), Christian Pulisic (PA Classics; Hershey, Pa.), Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy); Los Angeles, Calif.
The U.S. National Team will be testing themselves against the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil next summer and are already relishing the opportunity to tackle a “Group of Death.”
During a media scrum at a World Cup draw watch party at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Omar Gonzalez and other U.S. national team members remarked about the Americans’ placement in Group G. One highlight for Gonzalez will be another chance to take on one of the planet’s finest players in Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I faced him for the Galaxy once before and that was fun, but I think he’s going to be even harder playing for his country in this tournament,” Gonzalez told reporters of his bouts with Ronaldo in 2010 and 2012 friendlies. “I think it’s going to be awesome and it should be a fun time.”
Even though Gonzalez will be looking to make his first-ever World Cup roster, the Galaxy defender admitted that he correctly anticipated where the U.S. would fall upon learning the first two participants in Group G.
“Once Germany and Ghana got paired together I figured this is probably going to be us,” Gonzalez admitted. “Fate’s going to align, and it’s all going to happen.”
CARSON, Calif. – Clint Mathis knows a little something about playing – and excelling – at the World Cup and after watching the U.S. National Team’s draw for the 2014 edition in Brazil, he believes the Americans can advance from their “Group of Death.”
Mathis, who appeared in two games during the U.S. National Team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, which included a stunning goal against South Korea helping the Americans to a 1-1 draw. During that tournament, the Americans faced two of their opponents for 2014 as they defeated Portugal 3-2—with Mathis watching from the bench—in their group stage opener while falling 1-0 to eventual tournament runner-up Germany in the quarterfinals.
Mathis’ thoughts on the U.S. National Team’s World Cup draw for Brazil is below…
MATHIS: “Obviously, we’ve definitely seen quite a few of these teams in the last few World Cups. Obviously, Germany is going to be a favorite, but I think in the past, the U.S. has done well against those guys. The one particular team that they haven’t been too successful with is Ghana, but being knocked out of the last two World Cups by the same team, maybe the third time is the charm for the U.S. It’s going to be the first game so I think that a lot will be on the line, but if the U.S. can get a result in that first game that would definitely change the whole outcome of the group. Then there’s Portugal, who we were successful against in 2002 in the first group stage game. It’s two different teams though and Portugal is not a team that you can sit back on. It’s in my opinion, the toughest group if not the toughest then it is the second toughest. If you’re playing in a World Cup, it’s never easy so I don’t think there’s not too much to worry about because every game is going to be tough no matter what group you’re in. The good thing is if the U.S. gets out of this group stages, I think it should be easier when normally it gets harder.”
(On what is running through the players’ minds about facing Ghana once again…)
MATHIS: “I think there’s a lot of excitement. If you look at guys like Landon or other guys who have been put out by the same team, I think there’s a lot of excitement on the revenge side. They’re saying ‘hey, we’ve got them in a group stage not a knockout stage’ so I think there’s some excitement to get some revenge because you can say ‘hey, you know what. Everyone is already going to count us out, we’re the underdogs’ and I think that’s not a bad mindset to go into this World Cup like we’ve got nothing to lose because no one is thinking that the U.S. can get out of his group right now.”
(On whether the U.S. group stage is similar to what he faced during the 2002 World Cup…)
MATHIS: “I think so. Everyone thought that the U.S. had no chance to get out of our group and we did well. I think there is something to say because these other teams are going to be fighting too. Portugal is sitting saying ‘why am I in this group?’ Ghana is saying the same thing and Germany is going ‘are you kidding me?’ Anything can happen in these games and no one is going to want to play against the U.S. per say because of the athleticism and the results that they could turn out. I think that it is going to be a tough group and I don’t think that any of the teams are too excited to be in this group.”
It couldn’t have gotten much harder for the U.S. National Team at the FIFA World Cup Draw as they were drawn into a “Group of Death” in Group G against Germany, Ghana and Portugal. However, at a closer glance, the draw is not a mission impossible for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group.
The U.S. opens the World Cup in Brazil on June 16 against Ghana at the Arena das Dunas in Natal. The match is undoubtedly the most important one for the U.S. as they must get past the team that eliminated them from the past two World Cups in order to have a reasonable chance to advance from the group. As the U.S. are well-aware, the Black Stars are a major challenge as they have a mix of physicality and technical skill that should give the Americans a major test. That being said, if the U.S. midfield can control the game and the Americans can capitalize on their opportunities, they may get past the African side.
In their second game, the U.S. will face Portugal in the Amazonian outpost of Manaus on June 22. Not only must the Americans best a side that boasts one of the world’s finest players in Cristiano Ronaldo, they must deal with the crippling heat and humidity of the Amazon. In June, the average temperatures in Manaus are typically in the high-80’s with more than 80 percent humidity, which promises to be a muggy game that could favor an American squad that should be better acclimated to the conditions due to a potentially high presence of North American-based players. However sticking to strictly on the field matters, Portugal may seemlike a stiff test, but the nation struggled during UEFA World Cup qualifying as they finished second in their group to Russia—with two draws against Israel as well as a draw against Northern Ireland—before defeating Sweden in a playoff to advance to Brazil.
Lastly, The U.S, have traditional powerhouse Germany in the final game on June 26 in Recife is the Americans’ best case scenario as they should face a German team that may already have a ticket into the second round. Against a German team that could be loaded with reserves, the U.S. should be able to stay competitive against a side that promises to be organized and immensely talented.
What will make their draw even more difficult is the immense travel that they must undertake for all three matches. With three games in Natal, Manus and Recife, the U.S. could travel nearly 9,000 miles round trip during their Group G campaign. The one benefit for the Americans however is that their MLS players should be accustomed to immense travel as well as heat and humidity, however, the benefit of charter flights should cut down on the exhaustion.
My prediction for a best case—and relatively realistic— scenario for the U.S. is a simple one: a victory against Ghana coupled with a Germany win over Portugal during the first match day. In the second match day, the U.S. must earn a draw—or a close win—against Portugal with a Germany victory over Ghana in the second day setting up a draw or close loss to an already qualified Germany in the final match day. If the Americans can find a way to earn points in their first two games, at the very least, they should negate the impact of Portugal's final match against Ghana.
What are your thoughts? Remember, the U.S. open up the year at StubHub Center against South Korea on Feb. 1.
Share them below.
Immediately following the World Cup draw, I spoke with LA Galaxy head coach -- and former U.S. National team boss -- Bruce Arena on his thoughts on the U.S.' draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The U.S. was drawn into Group G against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Remember, the U.S. will open up the year at StubHub Center against South Korea on Feb. 1.
Check out Arena's thoughts below.
It's been Omar Gonzalez day on LAGalaxy.com with loads of Gonzalez content and up next,Gonzalez discussed the U.S. National Team, dual citizenship, saxophones, football, beer chugging, and more on ESPN's Highly Questionable.
Check it out below...
Omar Gonzalez had a successful 2013 at the club and international level, but 2014 could be something even more substantial.
I look back at Gonzalez’s 2013 season in my latest LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review piece. Gonzalez was undoubtedly successful as he earned the club’s Defender of the Year award, was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year and an MLS Best XI selection while also locking down a regular place on the U.S. National Team.
The Galaxy center back is expected to contend for a roster spot –and a place in the starting XI—on the U.S. National Team’s roster at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and while Gonzalez is staying “even keeled” ahead of a big year, he’s hopeful that he’ll be on the plane to South America.
“There’s no really Cinderella story so I feel like every team in the World Cup is a great team and deserves to be there. Whoever we’re matched up against is going to be a tough group,” Gonzalez told reporters in a conference call a week ago. “I've never been to a World Cup, but I’m sure that I’ll be getting at Robbie to ask him questions about how it is. It’s going to be a fun year and hopefully, I can keep my form, stay healthy, and hopefully I’ll be there.”
Will Gonzalez be at the World Cup in 2014?
In honor of Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez's Best XI selections on Tuesday, LAGalaxy.com has created this video highlight reel of their 2013 seasons.
Check it out below.