Scoring Goals and Stopping Goals - Looking Towards Argentina
Abu Dhabi, UAE (Dec. 10, 2003) - The U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team goalkeeper Steve Cronin and forward Ed Johnson are lined up on opposite ends of the field, but the two have come together during the team's four games in the FIFA World Youth Championship to lead the U.S. to the quarterfinals. Johnson has put points up on the board with four goals, placing him tied for first in the tournament, while Cronin has kept points off the board by picking up clean sheets in the past two matches. The two U.S. leaders took a few minutes to talk about the Under-20s match-up with Argentina on Friday, Dec. 12 at 9 p.m. in Abu Dhabi, making one thing obvious: they will not be backing down when they take the field with the defending champions.
Dec. 10, 2003
Forward Ed Johnson - Four Goals in World Youth Championship
How is the team looking after four games at the WYC?
"As a team, we are doing really well. We’re surprising a lot of people not only in the U.S., but also around the world. Hopefully, we can continue our run against Argentina by coming out and playing our soccer. We want to make history for U.S. Soccer."
How does it feel to perform well in the WYC after the struggles in the '01 Under-17 World Championship, which you were apart of?
"For me, it feels wonderful. I’m sure if you asked the other guys that were on also on the U-17 team they would say the same thing. I think now we are proving to a lot of people in the U.S. that this group does have a lot of talent and we can compete at this level. We are confident in what we do on the field and it is showing in this tournament."
What have you guys been doing well so far in the WYC?
"The fact that we have been dangerous by going forward and getting counters on teams. We’ve got guys that can create goals. I don’t think the other teams expected that kind of play out of the United States."
How big would it be to beat Argentina?
"It would be big for everyone. The more games we win the better our team looks. There are a lot of college guys that are looking to play in the MLS or overseas and the more we win, the better it is for the U.S. National Team. I think we have a really good chance of winning this game. We have a lot of experience at the international level on this team. We have a great captain in Bobby Convey and I think we are going to give Argentina a game. We just have to out work them and if we can do that, I think we can win."
How much has playing in the MLS helped you on the international stage?
"From a physical standpoint, it has helped me out a lot. I’m playing against men who are bigger and stronger. That experience is indispensable when I bring it to the international level. On a mental standpoint, my focus is much better, along with my patience and confidence."
How important was your first goal agains Paraguay on the team's performance the rest of the way?
"When you get one goal, you get more. You get on a roll and kind of create your own luck. As a team it has given us confidence when we are in our final third to go at guys without hesitating. For our first goal in the tournament, Santino (Quaranta) sent in a great ball and I was able to get my head to it. The emotion at the time pumped everyone up and helped us get two more goals for a good result."
What kind of game would you like to see the U.S. play agaisnt Argentina?
"I would love to see us come out as a team by going at Argentina, instead of them coming at us. It would be great to get an early goal, put them on their heels and really make them work for it. Basically, just show them that American players can really play."
Steve Cronin - Two shutouts in World Youth Championship
How's the team feeling going into its quarterfinal match?
"In general, we are all tired, but I think the three days of rest we have between the games will give us a lot of time to recover. I think so far in the tournament we’ve looked pretty good and at times we’ve looked great. As soon as we found out we were going to be playing Argentina, our minds just looked ahead to Friday. We have the chance to beat Argentina if we do what we’re capable of."
How have you guys been recovering from the first four games?
"We spent a morning in a Turkish bath and a steam room the day after the game. Besides that we’ve gotten some massages and have been laying pretty low key to let our body’s recover as much as we can. The biggest thing is we need to keep staying hungry and keep looking for wins."
How are the four guys in front of you looking?
"Coming into the tournament we hadn’t had a lot of experience in the last six months together, so it was a bit hard to get things going right off the bat. I take the fault for the early goal against Paraguay. I had to come off my line and caused the free kick. For the rest of the game though, we played pretty solid. We struggled a bit against Germany in a span of about 15 minutes in the second half, but after that we have improved in every half. We have been doing a better job pressuring the opposing team’s forwards and stepping forward. It’s taken a bit, but I feel the backline has started to gel, which will be important against Argentina."
Talk a bit about playing Argentina.
"Anytime you play Argentina, especially on this level, it is going to be tough. In this tournament, they are also the favorites to win it all as the defending champions, so you know these guys are the best of the best. Before we even step out onto the field they have our respect because of what they have accomplished in the past, but once we step on the field we know we aren’t going to fear them. We aren’t afraid to play anybody."
How much does this game mean to the team?
"First of all, it’s a quarterfinal match, so we know if we lose, we go home. That’s a little added incentive. Also, only one other U.S. team has reached the semifinals of a World Youth Championship. We want to make our mark in the annals of U.S. Soccer history and be one of the teams that got the farthest in a world championship. While there may be a lot of pressure, we know once the whistle blows and we are out on the field we are always going to play as hard as we can."
How do you deal with the added pressure?
"With nothing to lose, you have everything to play for. The added pressure I don’t think is a bad thing at all. With this team, we are able to get it done when the game is on the line or we’re backed into a corner. We don’t’ see it as negative pressure. It will just push us towards playing to the best of our abilities."
How have you been getting ready for Argentina?
"We’ve gone through a lot of offense and defense tactics to stay sharp, but at this point you can’t really change the way you play. You can just hope to play better. Over the tournament our offense and defense has gotten steadily better. Our defense in the last two games has come away with shutouts and has been playing really well. Hopefully, we’ll be able to piece it all together against Argentina."