Quote Sheet: Peter Nowak Addresses the Media Following his Roster Selection
U-23 Men's Olympic Team head coach Peter Nowak answers questions from the media about the 18-man roster he has selected for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
July 17, 2008
“Thank you, gentlemen. I just want to say that during the five months right now after our Olympic qualifying games, we’ve evaluated the whole roster. We tried to accommodate the Olympic team needs, but also keep in mind our senior team to play versus Guatemala on Aug 20. So we want to make sure that we have things together for the Olympic Games but also World Cup qualifiers and make sure that we have good quality in both games. It’s no secret that the group we are playing is very difficult, probably one of the toughest groups in the whole tournament. But if you all play the tournament like that, when it’s the 16 best teams in the world, you never have an easy group. We are looking forward to this challenge and I feel very good about the group of players. During our qualifiers, they showed a lot of team unity and spirit, and that was a very important factor in qualifying for the Olympic Games in Beijing.
On how he factored in both the Olympic Games and World Cup Qualifying:
We had a lot of discussions with Coach Bradley about how we were going to accommodate both needs. But even before the qualifiers, we established pretty good relationships with the managers and got word on how the players played. We felt very good about the chance that we would have Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and the rest. I’m very thankful about the cooperation we had from everyone, including the players’ agents and the managers, because they were a very important factor in getting this group together. Major League Soccer was very helpful with the process. We have a lot of these guys on the Olympic team from our senior squad to have a good look at them again and evaluate the whole situation. There were a couple of important factors in the whole selection. Actually, for the Major League soccer guys who play, we watch them very closely, we talked to their managers, the coaches, and also the trainers- how is the physical, mental preparation for that guy- is he ready or not? I feel very good about this group of players, the twelve players right now.
On Michael Parkhurst:
We all knew him from the last couple of years. Michael played for the New England Revolution- we know his qualities. I looked very closely at him last year when he was with the senior team last year at the Gold Cup.. It is not necessarily about how many caps he has, but the experience he has. From a personality standpoint, Michael is a good selection. He’s an underrated defender. I think he does a great job with the Revolution- they’ve played big games in the pastMy experience with him last year at the Gold Cup was very good, and that’s why I took this route.
On Robbie Rogers:
I think it’s no secret that Robbie has a great season with the Columbus Crew and the whole team is playing very well. I think in the last couple of months, Robbie started to play the game everybody loved to see him play. He’s had a lot of very significant progress in the last six, seven months and this is good to see. He’s healthy, he’s fit, he’s scoring goals and he’s helping his team win. If I see Robbie Rogers playing as he is now, I think he fits the picture very well.
On whether Landon Donovan was considered for the team:
Landon is a vital part for the senior team. I did have a couple conversations with Landon about this and I talked to Coach Bradley about it. But at the end of the day, we had to get all factors together and make the best possible decision. For us, as I said, we still feel very strongly about Landon’s contributions to the senior team. As much as I would love to have him, needs are needs. World Cup Qualifiers are not simple games. We still have both teams, very competitive teams, and we feel good about both teams’ chances.
On Sacha Kljestan:
Sacha was, from the beginning, a very good part of this team. He can play different positions. It is important to have players who can fill different roles. I would love to have them right now to start to work and to find a way to accommodate their strengths and work on team preparation and team bonding. I think this is an important time for all of us and especially for Sacha to establish himself on an international level.
On the decision to leave Chad Barrett off the roster:
If I would have 30 places, probably everybody would get in, but I have 18 and you have to make a decision one way or another. I think including all forwards, with Freddy Adu, Jozi Altidore, Charlie Davies, Brian McBride and also Robbie Rogers, we have options up top. It’s gonna be a little bit difficult to accommodate six or seven strikersIt’s not going to always be perfect for the guys that are left off. I was really encouraged to see the progress that Chad made during our camps. In January, he really earned his spot for the qualifiers. But as I said, there’s only 18 spots and you have to make a decision one way or another, and this is the route we chose to go.
On how Brian McBride became involved with the team:
We started to talk to Brian in January of this year about the possibility to play with the Olympic team. We knew he still had four months to play with English Premier League, and it would be an important time for him to make sure his team stayed in the Premier league. We came back after everything was clear and when we did qualify for the Olympic Games, we had another conversation with him about the how he felt about it. . I think he’s a great professional, a great guy to be around, brings in a lot of experience as you’ve said. He’s going to be very vital to our team. I’m really pleased and very thankful that he has considered to play with this team. I think for his career, this Olympic games would be the cherry on the cake.
On not selecting Sal Zizzo:
We knew how important it was for Sal to establish himself in Hanover so that needed to be considered. I would love to have twenty or even twenty-two spots for the Olympic Games but I can’t. We just need to make sure that we’re looking at every possible angle. We will still stay in touch with Christian Holkes and make sure that Saliciso progresses over there with Hanover.
On scheduling conflicts:
This is the best team that we could have selected and I feel very good about this group.
This is our team for the games that we will play. Let’s focus and concentrate on the games. Let’s do the best we possibly can in order to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish. Let’s not play the blame game right now. We just want to make sure that the teams that compete in the Olympic Games and the World Cup Qualifiers are competitive teams. My biggest concern is getting the team ready for our first game against Japan, and Coach Bradley’s main concern is getting the team ready for the next Qualifier.
On not taking other international club players so that they should establish themselves:
All I’m asking is for three weeks of preparation for the Olympic Games and a couple of weeks during the Games. For those players that are changing clubs, they have another 11 months and one week to establish themselves there. I am very pleased with the cooperation that we’ve received from many sides, including Major League Soccer, player agents, Coach Bradley and the senior team, and our top management because everyone involved in this process knows how important it is to get the team together.
On preparation for first games:
We want to have similar weather conditions for the first three games because the weather in Hong Kong is similar to Tiajin and Beijing. The weather is similar to where we are going to play in our group stage. The most important thing is to see how the body will react to the weather conditions and what we have to do as preparations for those games as well as recovery after the games. The games are never easy and its tough competition, very tactical, but I think it’s more important to start the process from the beginning and make sure we understand each other, look at different options and figure out how to establish our team. As much information as we can get will be beneficial to us and make sure that we have every possible piece in place before we enter the first game against Japan.
On factoring current league play into his roster decisions:
It’s important to have criteria but we want to make sure that the players are fit, ready to go. Sometimes you don’t want to risk too much and you want to wait until the player will be 100%. You have to make a decision, and I feel very good about this group of players that we chose. This will be an important time for us to work together and prepare for the Games.
On bringing in Brad Guzan from international league play:
Some of top players from all over the world — Ronaldo, Messi — say they want to play for their country and this tournament is very important to all of us, not only to the team but also to your country. That’s the spirit and the desire that we want to have, so as much as we love Aston Villa, there was a clear message from Brad that he wanted to play in this tournament. There will be enough time for Brad to establish himself as the first string keeper with A Villa.
On Freddy Adu’s development:
Freddy is maturing in a very good way right now. Our relationship hasn’t changed much since the day we started working together in DC. I think he did most of the work himself, and he started to see things during camps and progressed with his mentality and overall game. You can see his progress with the senior team games. I look forward to working with him again and am pleased to see the progress. I feel very good about the work he has put in and time spent with the senior team.
On Brian McBride’s age gap between the rest of the players:
We knew that the age difference was significant; the respect will always be there and he remains in the public eye. It’s like having another coach on the team that has played the game on the team. For me, it will be important to use Brian’s experience; he’s a great professional and we are all going to benefit from having him with us.
On scouting the first three round opponents:
We have a lot of material, not only to scout but also to prepare ourselves for those games. It’s vital to look at the big picture and look at the mental part, the fitness part, the team spirit, team unity. It must be there, and it must be disciplined, the excitement must be there. As much as you would like to win all of the games, it’s more important to see how we progress. We need to stay focused and make sure that the creativity and excitement are still there. Regardless of the results, we need to make sure that we’re going to leave everything on the field.
On the scheduling of the World Cup qualifier during the Olympics:
That’s the FIFA calendar that the whole world is playing with. The Olympic Games are always a little bit different and some different countries have a problem with releasing players for the Olympic Games. So, you know that’s the situation we’re all in. For us, it’s a national team program so it’s very important to make sure that we still develop our young guys, give them international experience because they are the future of US Soccer. The senior team is very important also. If you look at the flip side, I’m sure that Michael Bradley and Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore could also be with the senior team. That’s give or take, but there was a very good understanding from the beginning and we have to have a good two competitive teams who will achieve the goals.
On whether McBride will be match fit in August:
We have guys who are playing in Major League Soccer right now who are match fit and we have a group of players who are in preaseason. We’re going to have more personalized workouts. We have to make sure that the groups will work together at some point and will match fitness at some point- to have both groups on the same page. That’s why we have those two games in Hong Kong in very difficult weather conditions. We’ve already done our homework with that and know how to accommodate our players needs to get them ready for the Japan game.
On how he selected the three overage players:
I went over this with Coach Bradley and the rest of our coaching staff over the last couple of months, and at the end of the day we decided that Brad Guzan was the best option. All three players are great selections. Brad knows the players very well. With the whole team spirit and team unity situation, Brad shows he has similar qualities to our younger players. He has played very good in competitive games versus England and Spain. He is a good goalkeeper but also is someone who can be around those players and can feel like he has something to prove. We have three really great overage players who can contribute to this team.
On who he thinks will be the toughest opponents in the group:
All three are very difficult opponents. I’m not going to say it’s a “Group of Death,” but it really is a difficult group to play. We know that we have to bring our “A” game to all three games. We’re going to make sure our players are ready for it.
On the Olympic football tournament being seen as less important than others:
Looking at the names of players who are coming and the team’s that they’ve been released from, I think the Olympics are starting to gain their profile back. For many people around the world, it’s a pretty deal. We take a lot of pride in not only going to Olympics, but in being successful there.
On how he’ll utilize Brian McBride:
I think our roster allows for many different changes. We have the option of playing in many different ways. With Freddy (Adu), Jozy (Altidore), Robbie Rogers and Charlie (Davies), I will really have options to push the game forward. It’s good to have those kind of options up top.
On Michael Orozco’s development:
From the beginning when we brought Michael in to our first camp, we were very impressed with his professionalism and his desire to play for the U.S. team. He did very well in the qualifiers and we were very happy with how he’s established himself within this team. We’ve been watching him very closely over the past five or six months with San Luis. We’re happy that San Luis was so cooperative to let us have this kind of player because he is very important to our team.