U.S. Soccer

Sneak a Peek Inside Tim Howard's New Book "The Keeper"

I will never forget our bus ride to the Loftus Versfeld, the Pretoria stadium where we’d play our win-or-go-home match against Algeria. All along the route, American fans stood on the road, waving and cheering. By the time Loftus came into view, the bus had to roll to a stop. A sea of supporters stretched out in all directions. Some wrapped themselves in American flags, others had painted stars and stripes on their faces, and everyone rocked the national colors—red, white, and blue. They held up scarves like one might see at a Premier League match except these said LAND OF THE FREE. They held up signs proclaiming ONE NATION. ONE TEAM, and DIVERSE. HUNGRY. UNITED. AMERICA. Fans were rapping on the windows screaming “USA!” They also held up our bus—not that anyone minded. We were so far from home, and yet all these fans made us feel like were home. “Holy crap,” said Carlos. “This is awesome.” 

The game was scoreless for 90 minutes. A draw wouldn’t be good enough for us; to advance we had to win. At a certain point, tactics went out the window. Defensive principles? Gone. The notion that a soccer game might be a chess match? Forget about it. With the clock ticking down and the prospect of our World Cup ending, there was no time for rhyme or reason. If we had a strategy, it was this: throw everything we have at them and hope they break. 

We attacked with three strikers and a midfield that marauded forward with only one thing on its mind: putting the ball in the back of their net. Algeria massed as many as nine players in front of their goal. Still we had chance after chance. We hit the post. We had a goal called back for offsides. We did everything but score. I watched on full alert, thinking, All we need is one play, one moment of inspiration where we catch them on their heels. And then, a minute into stoppage time, it arrived.

Algeria’s Rafik Saïfi had a clear header at goal but it was weak and straight at me. The ball bounced and I caught it. I had to move fast. There was no time to survey the field and pick out a safe outlet. There wasn’t time to even look up. I had to operate on instinct. My instincts were formed on the fields of New Jersey with my goalkeeping coach Tim “Mulch” Mulqueen hammering certain lessons into my brain. When the ball comes in from the left, look to the right. A split second after catching that ball, I knew—I just knew—that Landon would be tearing down the right flank. And because the game had been stretched wide open in those final frantic minutes, all those players abandoning their positions in their desperation to score, I also knew there’d be acres of green grass in front of him. So I hurled that ball as far as I could to where Landon would be by the time it landed. It came to rest at his feet, like Mulch always insisted it would.

Landon set off toward the Algeria goal, 10 yards, 20 yards, 30 yards, chewing up the space as he searched for an open teammate. He pushed the ball ahead to Jozy, who picked out Clint across the box. I thought Clint would finish it but at the exact moment that he reached Jozy’s pass, the Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi threw himself bravely at Dempsey’s feet. The ball ricocheted off their keeper and away from goal. For a moment, it looked to most of the world like we were going home.

But my eyes were on Landon. He was still running, accelerating as he moved closer to the ball. I’m not even sure the Algerian defenders knew he was there. That’s the thing about Landon. He doesn’t broadcast his presence like some of the flashier players. He glides in, cool-as-you-like, and no matter how high the stakes, no matter how pressurized the situation is, he does what Landon always does—executes the finish with flawless precision.

There were 92 minutes on the clock. The ball had traveled from goal line to goal line in a few historic seconds before Landon buried it in the back of their net.

Landon raced toward the corner flag. He stretched out his arms and dove, bodysurfing along the grass. Benny Feilhaber slid behind him. Then everyone got in on it. All the guys on the field. All the guys on the bench. The coaches. The staff. Everyone. They ran toward Landon and threw themselves on top of him, one after another. Jozy flew onto the pileup like he was Superman. Jay DeMerit finished it off with a rolling somersault over the whole delirious gang. I watched the jubilation from the far end of the field. I kneeled down and touched the grass, five precise touches. I stood. I kissed my goalkeeper’s gloves, and raised my arms toward the sky.

“Thank you,” I said, looking up. “Thank you.”

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MNT LD Dec 13, 2014

U.S. MNT Press Conference for June 21

U.S. MNT Defender STEVE CHERUNDOLO
On his form so far in the tournament and preparing for Nadir Belhadj:
“He’s a physically talented player, he’s got good feet as well. We’re aware of his strengths and also his weaknesses. As far as my game is concerned, I’m just trying to do my part to keep my section of the field clean and try to avoid any sort of chances the opponent can create against us. I’m just trying to do my part like the rest of the guys.”

On the benefits to be gained by repeated come-from-behind, tight games:
“Anytime you don’t lose, it’s a gain of confidence. Leading up to the World Cup, our last two warm-up matches we won, and the first two matches we’ve tied. So that’s a string of four matches now of good play from us and decent results. I think it’s a chance for us to finish this first round with a consistent performance and consistent results. That’s certainly our goal, to win this game Wednesday and to do what we did well in the first two games over 90 minutes this time. If we achieve that, the result will take care of itself.”

On the challenge of playing as well as they did in the second half against Slovenia across 90 minutes:
“Soccer is a continuous sport, it’s changing every minute. A lot of it depends on the opponent, you can never forget the other 11 standing on the other side of the field. That changes the elements of our game continuously. But I think when we sharpen up our passing and have a good attitude of attacking guys and putting defenders on their heels, I think that’s when we’re at our best. We can move all of our lines forward and put other teams under pressure. That’s when we’ll create chances, make the other team make mistakes, and we tend to scoop up a lot of those mistakes and reward ourselves.”

U.S. MNT Midfielder MICHAEL BRADLEY
On his improved discipline on the pitch over the past year:
“I think in any game you want to have a feel for how the ref is handling things and the way the game is going. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re in card trouble or you’re committing a lot of fouls that are dangerous for our team. Having said that, I am who I am as a player and to know what I do to help the team, that’s important. As far as being aggressive and committed in the center of the field, those things always have to be there.”

On scoring his first World Cup goal:
“At that point, the best feeling was just now to get back to 2-2. The way we came out in the second half and every guy on our team was committed to running and fighting and doing everything we could to turn the game around, that was something special to be a part of. We looked at each other at halftime and said that wasn’t how our tournament was going to end. The commitment from every guy to keep going and to do everything we possibly could to turn the game around, for me that was the best part of it and to be a part of that and celebrate that with your teammates, that’s the best feeling.”

On the Algerian team and what they present:
“Algeria is a good team. The performances they put together in the African Cup of Nations were all really good. They didn’t start the tournament off great, but they were able to work themselves into it and go on a really good run. Qualifying in Africa, playing teams like Egypt home and away, is not easy. We watched a good bit of tape on them and have a good feel for their players. A lot of guys are comfortable on the ball, but they’re still an athletic team that’s fit and mobile, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”

On some of the Algerian players he’s played with and against in the Bundesliga:
“When you look at their players, like I said before, they have a lot of guys who are skillful on the ball and like to get the ball in dangerous areas, run by guys or be creative in their own ways to get shots. Certainly Karim (Matmour) is good at that, his ability to use his speed to run by defenders and get shots and crosses, I know that well from playing with him every week. So that’s something we need to keep an eye on. When you look at their whole team they have a lot of different threats. (Karim) Ziani, who plays at Wolfsburg, is a creative player who can stay wide, he can come inside and find dangerous spots. Belhadj obviously coming from the left, so there’s threats coming from a lot of different places.”

U.S. MNT Midfielder LANDON DONOVAN
On the scenarios for their advancement to the second round:
“We’re obviously aware of what each result means. Clearly, if we lose we’re done and if we win we’re through. There are scenarios where if we tie we could still advance, but at this point our objective is very clear. It’s to win the game and take all the other stuff out of the question, and that’s our goal.”

On what the team talked about to put the frustration at a disallowed goal behind them:
“After the game, I know a lot of us were frustrated. If you can put yourself in that moment, and how much energy we put into getting ourselves back in the game and how emotional it is to go from the realization that your World Cup might be over to, had that goal been allowed, we would have been very close to advancing—there’s a lot of emotion that goes into that. But I think we all understand the reality of it. We’ve all played in enough games where those things happen and through the course of your career they tend to even out. A lot of us have been on the good side of something like that, and unfortunately this time we were on the bad side. It happens, you get on with it. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about it right now, so we focus on Wednesday.”

On the challenge of keeping an eye on the other game on Wednesday:
“It’s fairly simple, obviously people know what’s going on not only on our coaching staff and bench but throughout the stadium people know what’s going on in the other game. Then it’s just communicating. You have to be a little careful because you want to just play and you don’t want to, at the end of the game, think ‘if we hold on to this result we’re going to get through’, and then you get a goal scored on you and you’re out of it. So you have to play, but you have to also be aware of what the other result is so you know how you continue the game and how you finish the game. You have to be smart about all of those things.”

On the parallels between this match and the 2006 final group game against Ghana:
“I hadn’t thought about comparisons to the Ghana game. Perhaps it is. I said earlier in the tournament that in the two World Cups I’d been a part of, we hadn’t strung together three consecutive good results and good performances. I think this team has the experience and the ability to do that. We’ll find out on Wednesday night, but I think we’re as prepared as we can be for what’s ahead of us on Wednesday.”

On the importance of having a good team spirit:
“Our team spirit has always been a strong point of this team, and will continue to be the strong point. In the second half the other night, we simply refused to let our World Cup end. I would say the second half was a collection of 11, 12, 13 guys who wanted to do something special. We all have roles on our team, I would argue that the way we defended in the second half was equally as important as scoring the goals. Keeping a team that’s good on the counter-attack at bay, when they’re up two goals and have a lot of space going the other way is very important. A few of us have roles that include scoring goals and making plays, and that’s our job just like it was Steve’s job to continue to shut down that side of the field when we got countered on. We all did the things necessary to win.”

On whether the comeback against Slovenia brought the team closer together:
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experiences that have brought us together, both good and bad. Our qualifying in our part of the world is extremely difficult, and a lot of times people don’t understand how difficult it is. But when you go through a process like that with 14, 15, 16 of the same guys, you grow very close. You also start to trust each other. Being down 2-0 with your World Cup on the line is a difficult and daunting task to overcome, but the way we’ve been hardened a lot of ways over the years made that possible and I think we’re extremely excited for Wednesday.”

On the response back in the U.S. to the disallowed goal:
“We’ve all been pretty well informed as to the response back home, via text, email, phone calls, Facebook, etc., and in some ways it’s really heartening to see how much people care. The one thing we do know is that Wednesday morning in the States is going to be a really big occasion, and we relish that because we don’t get it very often. We know people are talking about it and people care. As far as what the fans can do, we’ve had unbelievable support here. It’s been incredible to see, and knowing that people back home genuinely care and are proud and are supporting our team helps us a lot. It’s not something I’ve experienced since I’ve been a part of this team, not to this level.”

On what type of game he expects against Algeria:
“It’ll be interesting to see how they approach the game. They have no choice but to win, there are scenarios where we could tie and advance so their approach to the game would most likely be an aggressive approach to get a goal and win the game. But they’re a team that, as much as we can watch tape and know about their players, as a team they can be unpredictable. On their day they’re a very good team. We have to see what the game presents early, but our clear objective is to go out and try to win the game.”
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MNT Jun 21, 2010

June 19 Press Conference With Bob Bradley and Jay DeMerit

U.S. MNT Head Coach Bob Bradley
On his thoughts on the disallowed goal a day later:
“On the disallowed goal, I end up feeling badly for the team and our fans because a 3-2 comeback win would have given us a real chance of advancing and would have been something that was pretty special for everybody. It didn’t happen that way, so we put it behind us. We understand that if we win we advance and we understand that there’s a possibility that we still win our group. We have moved forward.”

On why the team starts so slowly:
“The way it works is that if you get scored on first, everyone thinks it’s a bad start. In actuality, I don’t think the first 12 minutes were bad. I think we were doing a lot of the right things to play ourselves into the game. I think we found a way to start to look for seams in their defense, I think we had played some balls behind their defense that had started to open things up a little bit. In the process, there’s that feeling out period and I think we were doing a lot of the right things. They put a play together…our reactions maybe are a hair slow; at the end it’s a great shot. Soccer is a game that often times things change based on somebody making a play. It’s frustrating when you go through a stretch when it seems like in that feeling out process of the game you find yourselves behind too often, so we’re all looking hard at that.”

On whether FIFA should require referees to publicly explain their decisions similar to other sports:
“We’re all accustomed to the fact that if it’s an NFL playoff game and there’s a call that’s in question there will be statement by the league from the referees, but FIFA operates differently and soccer – world football – is a different game. We could have a long discussion with regards to whether or not you’re offside if a little part of your body is ahead a guy or behind, so I think there are some aspects of it that are not made 100 percent clear which adds to the discussion of the game. From our end, we get used to that. We all have friends and family that ask us the same questions that most of you ask us and you end up saying that’s just how it is sometimes and you move on and get ready for the next game.”

On what he’s learned from the first two games that will help against Algeria:
“I thought our midfield play against England was really good. You play against a very good team in the center of the field with guys like Gerrard and Lampard and I thought this was an even battle and gave us a real chance to win the game. We start the game yesterday and expect early on there’s a little bit more of a tactical side to it – can you start to find a way to open them up and find some of the channels for passes. In the midst of all that, if it’s 0-0 at halftime or 1-1 at halftime, there’s no discussion. The change that is made at halftime is because there is a real need to press the game, not because Jose (Torres) hadn’t done well or anything else. Now our ability to push the game, impose ourselves knowing that the game is going to open up a little bit more I thought that fit more to what (Maurice Edu) brings to the table. In the second half of the game when we’ve got to push the game, I felt that the work of the whole team, the work of the midfielders to push, close down, try and win the ball back was really good. Those were all positives.”

On if the lineup changes in the second half will influence his starting lineup for the next match against Algeria:
“Those are factors. We always take into account the different variables, everything from how the last game went to what we expect the next game to look like. We make changes in a game based upon how the game is going and what you think different players bring to the game at that moment. As I just indicated, when we made some changes at halftime it was with a clear idea that we were going to push the game and that the players and the changes would fit that. As you get ready for Algeria you look hard to see what that game will be like and now you assess where we are as a team with injuries, fitness and fatigue and make decisions.

On Landon Donovan’s performance:
“The goal came quick so that was the best thing that could happen for us at the start of the second half. I think we came out of the locker room committed that we were going to push things and when you get the goal so quickly it’s impetus to just keep going. Landon was a big part of that.”

On Jozy Altidore’s performance:
“Jozy is still a guy that in tough games continues to mature and show that he gives a lot when he’s on the field. As the game went on yesterday and the team as a whole is pushing and pushing, Jozy’s ability up front to stay involved, fight for balls, keep plays alive, be a threat to get behind people, those are all big pluses. His maturity is great to see and you always test yourself by how you play in big games. He continues to take more responsibility and keep going.”

On Algeria’s performance against England:
“Algeria is a team that has a way of getting a lot of numbers behind the ball, but they still are talented going forward with some of the skill and physical abilities of key individuals. As the game goes on England pushes harder so Algeria pushes deeper but that doesn’t mean England is going to win because there is still that possibility of Algeria putting something together and getting at them. It was an interesting game. It shows even when you have a talented attacking team like England, when you play against a team that is organized, numbers behind the ball, breaking them down, making the right play, to get a goal is still not always easy. Everything is to be played for in the group.”

On whether it’s possible a team can play at the high tempo like the second half against Slovenia for 90 minutes:
“It’s possible. Goals change what happens on the field, so I’m not sure that from the first minute you can play like that. We believe in the fact that early in the game that with some mix of passes both over the top and through the middle, you start to see how the game develops. The ebbs and flows of 90 minutes, those are interesting things. Every game is a little different. You can talk about so many games where at the end of the day the scoreline might be one-sided and everyone talks about how great one team was, when in actuality the game is right there on the edge for 30 or 40 minutes, and the team that ends up winning might not have been the better team, but then a play at right moment, momentum, extra sharpness when the other team takes chances, those moments make the difference. This is the part of our game you try to get across to players - that you want to have an idea of how the game will be played, but you have to have an ability to be able to take the game as it comes. You can’t always plan out everything that is going to happen.”

On the options at forward with Robbie Findley suspended for the match against Algeria:
“We used Edson Buddle as a reserve in the first game, and I thought he gave us a good effort. In the second half of the last game, we pushed Clint up closer to Jozy, and I thought he did a good job. When we talk about in the right moments coming underneath, finding seams, helping win balls in the air, I think those are things that Clint has shown he does well when he plays in that role. Last night we chose Herculez Gomez. He brings a little different dimension. He’s very mobile. I think we’ve got some different choices and some good ones. We’ll take a look at our options and see what makes sense.”

On Algeria’s attack:
“They have some talented players and some physically gifted players. As they go forward and get the right numbers in the attack, they have the ability to create one-on-ones and go by you. They have found a balance of defending with numbers, and they take their chances well with some of their creative attacking players going forward. It means that our ability to be disciplined and to finish attacks is going to be very important.”

U.S. MNT Defender Jay DeMerit
On why the team starts so slowly:
“Ultimately, we prepare the same way every game so it’s hard to put your finger on one single thing. Warm-ups have been fine, our attitude going out of the tunnel has been fine, so I don’t think there is one thing we can put our finger on. We are a team that really responds to that, so I suppose that is the positive side of starting not as well as we expect to. We tend to use those types of things as more of a fuel to our fire. Now, I guess the positive side again thinking about that is let’s think about the games where we actually start really well then what will happen. That’s when victories will start to happen, so looking forward that should be our goal, to continue watch the film and maybe find where to put your finger on those types of things and make sure that as we move forward that less and less of those types of things happen.”

On the belief that the U.S. will advance out of the group:
“Having the attitude is important. As a team, you have to have that belief. Going into the final game we have to believe we are going to get out of the group. All the teams have proved they can play with one another. It just comes down to single moments. It’s going to be the team that takes those opportunities when they get them that goes through. We have proved over 90 minutes that we can create and have opportunities to score. In this game, we’re going to have to take those chances.”
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MNT Jun 19, 2010
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