US SoccerUS Soccer
Carlos Bocanegra

June 17 Press Conference with Bob Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach BOB BRADLEY
On returning to Ellis Park, site of the 2009 Confederations Cup final:
“Mixed emotions. It was great to be in the final, but of course still a disappointment that we weren’t able to finish the game as champions. But our entire experience in South Africa has been positive, from the time we came for the Nelson Mandela Challenge through the Confederations Cup, and we’re excited to be here again.”

On the health status of the team, particularly Tim Howard:
“We’re in good shape at this time and everybody’s available.”

On Slovenia:
“First, I think Slovenia is a very good team. Matjez Kek has done an excellent job. Their qualification was strong. They’re very well organized, and tactically I think they’re very smart. Their defensive record in qualification was outstanding. They have a good balance in the team, good mobility and some dangerous players, guys we’ve watched both with Slovenia and with their club teams. We have a great deal of respect for their team and look forward to the match.”

On the approach he used to prepare for Slovenia:
“Every time you prepare for a team, you have a sense to the most important players and how they do things as a group. For England, the names might be bigger names, but any team that’s coached by Fabio Capello is going to be a strong unit and also have a real sense of playing collectively. In the case of Slovenia, for us, Robert Koren as captain and a midfielder is the engine of their team. Novakovic is a player who, even as a tall player, has a creative side where he comes underneath and handles the ball and brings other people into the game. You have a player like Versa who’s got a great left foot. You pay attention to the little details, and then you understand how they play as a team which is well-organized. They do a good job of staying very tight and moving as a unit. But we’ve been in many of these types of games before, against teams that play in a similar way. Where you expect the game to be a tactical game, but you look for ways to get an edge. Now we look forward to this one.”

On any potential lineup changes considering the different opponent:
“We take everything into account. The opponent gets weighed, the fitness and form. I think we discussed last week that as you prepare for a match, usually four or five days out you have an idea of what the team might be. But as you go through those days, there’s a process where you still consider some different things. As a staff, we look at the different options. We talk to some of the players to get a little bit of their feeling, and in the end it all gets taken in and decisions get made. It will be no different in this case.”

On their experience of playing in must-win games:
“Along the way there have been some finals, some matches where the pressure’s on and you must win. I think we’ve had good experiences as a group. We’ve learned from both sides, we’ve learned from moments when we stuck together and pulled out important wins, we’ve learned from days when we let a game get away from us. These are all the experiences that come together and help us as we get ready for an important match.”

U.S. Men’s National Team defender and captain CARLOS BOCANEGRA
On the approach to this game knowing a loss will make advancing near-impossible:
“Obviously a loss will put us out, so that’s something that’s going to be in the back of our mind. One way or another we’re going to have to go into this game in an intelligent fashion. We spoke about this the other day, saying that we need to be smart and not open ourselves up going for the win because a loss will put us out of the tournament.”

On the team’s mood the day before the game:
“The mood’s been pretty good the whole time. We’ve got a really good group of guys, we enjoy being around each other. Ever since we got together in the United States in Princeton, we were excited to see each other. We have a really good camaraderie throughout the group, and that’s continued throughout and been one of the strong points with our group. I think that’s what makes us such a strong team. We try not to let little things faze us, and the mood is really good around the camp and we’re excited for tomorrow.”

On the lack of personal experience with Slovenian players compared to the English:
“We have some personal experience against the guys we’re playing against, if you’ve played in Germany, if you play in France. Just because they’re not in the Premiership, so to speak, we watch the other leagues around the world and we’re familiar with their guys. We’re not going to go into it taking anybody lightly just because the rest of the world doesn’t know their names. It’s an important game for us.”