Arena and Wolff Comment on World Cup Preparations
CHICAGO (Wednesday, November 7, 2001) - U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena and forward Josh Wolff participated in a media conference call this afternoon to talk about Sunday's World Cup Qualifier in Trinidad and ongoing preparations for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan.
Nov. 7, 2001
Bruce Arena, U.S. Head Coach
In reference to his comments following the Oct. 7 match and what areas he will specifically target in terms of "making the U.S. a better team":
On the game he expects against Trinidad:
"I believe that this is a very important game for Trinidad, because they have stated that now they are in another period of their development, in which they are attempting now to get their team ready for not only the Gold Cup next year, but to start their team for qualifying in 2006. They have a bunch of players that are fighting for roster spots and I think they have a lot of pride from their last result in Honduras. Therefore, I think they are going to come out certainly ready to play, whether they are very physical or not remains to be seen, but I think it will be a typical World Cup qualifying game on the road. It is going to be very, very difficult."
On the general issues facing the team heading into the Trinidad & Tobago match:
"We are looking to move forward as a team in this game, while also trying to get three points on the road. Additionally, we will have a chance to look at some new players on this roster."
On missing players for the match in Trinidad:
"If you are aware of what we have gone through in the last 15 qualifying games, this is all part of the process. We frequently have players that are missing. We move along in stride and that is all part of the exercise. We have missed players at every position of the field this year, and we have still attempted to go out and get important points and win as a team. This is just another one of those situations. Certainly we will miss Claudio, but if you haven’t noticed, we are missing at least four starters from the last game. (Brad) Friedel is not here, (Tony) Sanneh is not here, (David) Regis is not here and (Chris) Armas is not here. It’s not the end of the world - this game is one in that we don’t have great pressure on us yet we want to get three points. We will continue to move forward and have the opportunity to look at some other players and I’m insistent on the fact that we need to make progress and move forward for this match."
On how he motivates the players for a match like this Sunday, with a berth in the World Cup already clinched:
"It is easy to motivate them. The carrot we are hanging out there is trying to get a spot on the World Cup roster. If that isn’t motivation enough, then it is pretty clear they won’t be on the roster."
On his preference for the team’s World Cup preparation across the next six months in terms of schedule and level of opponent:
"We plan on playing a game against Korea in December with a roster that will be predominantly made up of MLS players, if not completely. The Gold Cup in January guarantees us two games, and as many as five, and that roster will most likely be a roster of predominantly MLS players. We have an away game in Italy in February and two games in March, including one in Germany. We have one game in April and three games in May. The level of opponents we don’t have a lot of control over. The Draw on Dec. 1 will indicate the level of opponents we can seek out. Also, the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. will play a factor in the level of opponents we can get to travel into the United States for games."
On whether he expects to be drawn into Korea, with the Dec. 9 game being scheduled in advance:
"It’s 50-50. We scheduled the game against South Korea a couple of months ago, and it will be helpful for us to get a lay of the land in Korea and Japan, and get a feel for both countries."
On the status of Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis in this training camp:
"Josh is ahead of Clint. Josh hasn’t played a game since the end of April, but he has made significant progress this week. He is training at about 80%, and I would love to give him some time in the second half this week. But we don’t want to rush him. We need to see how he gets through this week of training. I believe in the next camp he will be closer to 100%, and by the turn of the year will be there.
"Clint is still probably two months away from getting at it in an international game. The Gold Cup is where we will probably see him in a game. This week we are getting him involved in fitness and involved with other players in exercises where there is no contact. We need to improve his fitness and get his weight down and get him hit a few times in the next six weeks before he is ready."
On the importance of the January camp for a player in terms of being considered in the mix for the final World Cup roster:
"Our next camp will have 30 players in Chula Vista, California (in late November). After we get through the next two games, we will have a better feel for the group we want to bring in in January. It will be an extended camp for a couple of weeks, and will be limited with European players. Everyone keeps asking, ‘Why we don't have European players?’ You have to remember that on Dec. 9, they will all be involved with their club teams. Because it is a World Cup year, in January and February they will be involved in their club schedules. You have to weigh a couple of things in regard to selection of European-based players. One is that we have a number of players playing first-team football in Europe, and to take them out of their clubs for three or four weeks could jeopardize their standing with the clubs. So, I have to weigh if it is better for them to play two or three, four, five games in the Gold Cup, and then jeopardize the months of February, March, April and May in terms of their everyday activity and games with their club teams. All things being equal, if I feel that it will jeopardize their position with their club teams, I'm not going to bring them in. If we have European-based players who aren't seeing regular time with their club teams, then they will be given strong consideration to come into the camp in January."
On if he expects to go overseas to monitor the progress of players who may not be called away from the club teams (for the reasons detailed above):
"As you know in January I will not be able to travel overseas because we are in camp the whole time. In February we are going to Italy, and hopefully we will still be playing in the Gold Cup on Feb. 2, and we go to Italy on Feb. 9. It could be possible in that period of time to observe some of our players in Europe. And perhaps again in March around the Germany trip. It is my job that if certain players are not in with our team, I need to be following their development with their club teams. I plan to do that, whether it is in person or via video tape or some other form of communication.
"As you think about that, keep this in mind, Friedel has a regular position with his club team, Reyna has a regular position, Cherundolo does, Sanneh does, O'Brien does, Stewart does. So right there, there are six players. And we don't want to jeopardize that for sure. Kirovski as well, that is seven. Berhalter remains in the pool, we have to look at him. Joe-Max remains in the pool. So there are a number of players like that. So I really have to weigh that in terms of making decisions with our roster in January and bringing some of them back from Europe for friendly games as well. That is going to be the difficult exercise for me next year."
On the benefits of getting a core group of eight or nine players together in preparation for the World Cup:
"I think without a doubt if you play Italy in Italy and Germany in Germany, even if they are friendly games, you get an indication of where your team is. With the difficulty of bringing Europeans back to the U.S., it is great to have two games in Europe where some of our players can get to us in an hour or two and be with the team. If you go through the entire exercise from January through May, I am going to have the opportunity to see domestic players and foreign-based players a fair amount in order to make a judgment as to what our final 23 players will be. Along the way, I am very hopeful that we will be able to keep a core group of players together to give us enough time to get us ready for the World Cup. The final conclusion to that will certainly be the Nike U.S. Cup in May, where our full team will be together for two or three games in our final preparation for the World Cup. We also play a domestic game in the middle of April that should be a game where we can bring in a mixture of domestic players as well as foreign-based players. I think as we go through the entire exercise of 2002, it's not going to be perfect, but we are still going to have the opportunity to see our domestic players, our foreign-based players and then a mixture of both to hopefully be able to make an intelligent decision on what our final roster will be."
On moving forward and using MLS players:
"Our entire team is not European-based players. And our roster for the World Cup has not been determined. There is a lot of time now to determine our final 23. I think we can make progress. We are going to challenge our players to find out where they are and certainly an indication of how they can compete against one of the host countries in South Korea and compete in the Gold Cup. That would give me an indication where those players are and at the same time, I think we can continue to move forward in testing our nucleus of domestic players, so I think it is a positive any way you look at it."
On players making the jump from MLS to the National Team:
"There is not necessarily a correlation from club play to international play. The evaluation and observations of the coaching staff of the players, and to see how they fit in to the way we play and how they compliment some of our other players. Most of the pool of players in the MLS or overseas, we have looked at in one form or another over the last three years. Whether they get on the field in an official match or in training, we get a pretty good indication of where they are at. It is trial and error -- there is no clear cut way in how you make these decisions, but my job is to try and observe as many players as possible and to try to get a feel as to what there qualities are like and to try to make a prediction or an assessment in my own mind as to how they would fit in with our team. One of the issues we do have is a large nucleus of players that are pretty comparable and you could argue one way or the other on a certain player, and that is always the guessing game and Monday Morning Quarterback analysis, and it is never easy. We have some players at the top level and a large number of players below them, and then it is a question of choosing the players that we think fit in best for our team."
On Claudio Reyna not being called in to camp this week:
"This is an international fixture date, so clubs are not playing. I think it’s to simply cut down on the travel and give him the opportunity to slow down his schedule a bit. They have over the next couple of weeks an important UEFA Cup game, as well as a very important game against Celtic. I think it is important to slow down Claudio a bit and give him an opportunity to be at his best for his club team in the next couple of weeks."
On a report about Claudio Reyna wanting two years off after the World Cup:
"I‘m not worried about anything after the World Cup right now. I may be working in an office somewhere next fall, so I may not have control over what Claudio Reyna thinks or wants. In the two years after this next World Cup, it isn’t important for those types of players anyway. If I’m the coach, or whoever is the next coach, it is not important to have Claudio around. What do you need him around for? That is the time to develop a new team for qualifying in 2006. If you really want to look back at the amount of travel Claudio Reyna has made since the 1998 WC up until now, it hasn’t been substantial. I would venture to say he has traveled the least of our European-based players. If I were the coach for the next World Cup run, I wouldn’t be concerned about having Claudio around for friendlies in ‘03 and 2004, the time you need him is in 2005 and 2006."
On Nick Rimando’s status within the team:
"I’m not sure if he will get to play at this point, but he had another good year in MLS. He has done well for us in a couple of camps. Nick is in a group of goalkeepers in MLS that includes Tim Howard, Zach Thornton, Tom Presthus, Kevin Hartman and Joe Cannon, in addition to Tony Meola, who will be in competition for the number three goalkeeping spot on our World Cup roster."
On Richard Mulrooney and Jesse Marsch:
"Mulrooney and Marsch are players that play in deep line midfield positions. I think Rich and Jesse both had very good years in MLS. I’ve stayed in touch with Rich throughout and had him in camp with us last year when we trained for Mexico in October, and told Rich he would come back and stayed in touch with him during the MLS season, and this is partly a reward for the season he did have. This is another player we can look at in the position that Armas plays in and Claudio sometimes. That is the same with Jesse. Jesse is a player to me who has proven to be a winner on the field. Everywhere Jesse goes, his team wins and he is the guy who is always in the middle of it. People who aren’t realistic with the game tend to overlook qualities that a Jesse Marsch brings to these teams, that a Richie Williams brings to the team, and we think it is important to have in our camp. Whenever we bring these types of players in, they do quite well and I am comfortable where they are at in terms of National Team. Jesse I have never looked at before, and I wanted to do that. That is what I intend to do in the next camp as well. At the turn of the year I will add about 10 new faces into the camp for observation and that evaluation helps us move forward as we look at 2002 -- looking at those qualities and see how they fit in with our team and see if they will still remain with the team as we get into next year."
JOSH WOLFF, U.S. Forward
On the year he has had with injuries:
"It has been a frustrating year. Since the injury, it has been tough watching games. But the main thing is that we got a good result and we ended up qualifying for the World Cup, and that was the ultimate goal. Whether or not I was a part of it is irrelevant -- just that we got there was the ultimate. With Chicago, it was tough watching them down the stretch, because I had started playing and it would have been nice - not that I would have been able to play 90 minutes - but if I would have still been on the roster it would have been nice to have gotten some games in. But that is irrelevant now and I basically look ahead, and I look at this camp hopefully to gain some more fitness, get in game shape and that is going to come in time and only from games. The next two months will hopefully be an area to work on all those things."
On the struggles the U.S. faced this summer:
"They were tough games all around. Going to Mexico and trying to salvage a point down there is a tough task in itself. We fought hard, got behind early and that always makes it tough. Against Honduras it could have gone a little better for us. We had opportunities to have a better result at halftime and going into the second half. It is just one of those games that it just didn’t work out for whatever reason. Against Costa Rica, we still had many injuries and going down there obviously the mentality was to try to get three points, but to ultimately come away with at least one. It is tough going on the road. Costa Rica was one of the stronger teams in qualifying, and they did a very good job of getting three points at home and putting us under a lot of pressure down there."
On the competition at forward for the World Cup roster and what he needs to do to make the team:
Listen to audio clip
On his personal feelings about Clint Mathis and his injury.
Listen to audio clip