US SoccerUS Soccer

June 9 Press Conference with Sunil Gulati Bob Bradley and Landon Donovan

U.S. Soccer Federation President SUNIL GULATI
On the unprecedented interest in this game in the United States:
“Yes, it is unprecedented. Partly because of who we’re playing, partly because of where the game is in the United States, and frankly partly because of the promotion on television in Spanish and English. There will be a lot of people watching this game on Saturday, and it’s one of the opportunities we don’t get very often.”

On the goal of the United States at this World Cup:
“I think the absolute goal of every team here, at the starting point, is to make the second round. I don’t think there’s anybody involved in U.S. Soccer whether it’s administration, players, coaches or our fans that wouldn’t be disappointed. We were disappointed in 1990 when we didn’t advance, but that was a little different, no one expected us to. Things are a little bit different, the team and the program have come a long way, and I think we’d all be disappointed if we didn’t advance.”

On whether the success of the sport in the U.S. hinges on the results of the national team:
“Part of the future is associated with the national team, but we’ve got millions of kids that are playing, we’ve got a professional league with 16 teams and 15 years under its belt. So the national team is symbolic of where the sport is, and in some ways the national team is probably a leading indicator, and by leading I mean one that is in the forefront. Our league is relatively new by European standards, but it’s done pretty well in 15 years. So our national team is definitely the most symbolic, certainly the most visible, so from that perspective it’s clearly very important.”

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach BOB BRADLEY
On the fitness of the team:
“The overall fitness is quite good. Some of the players that were a little behind, their work continues to move them in the right direction. Jozy’s injury cost him a couple of days, but from the start we knew that this was very minor, and the fact that he’s back in regular training certainly means that he’s available for whatever role we choose for Saturday.”

On the team spirit and whether they’ve kept it despite so many different rosters between last summer and now:
“There’s a corps of players that have been through all those different experiences, and from that I think our leadership is strong. Our ability to use those experiences—good ones, bad ones, hard moments in a game, knowing how to stick together—we understand that when we play as a team, when everybody’s committed the right way, we can play with top teams.”

On controlling the emotions following the result of Saturday’s game:
“I think we have a good understanding about the way it works in the first round, with three matches determining who moves on. Our ability to maneuver through those games is something that we’ve had experience with and I think on that end, the leadership I referred to comes into play.”

On a possible starting formation, particularly in attack:
“Landon and Clint are both important attacking players for us, and we’re very lucky that they have the ability to play different roles. I think we’ve seen that with Fulham, we’ve seen that with Landon with the Galaxy and at Everton. That’s something that allows us to have some tactical flexibility, and something that are able to use at times to our advantage.”

On whether a starting XI has been set:
“Typically, we have an idea of what the starting lineup might be. But there’s always the part that as you move through the week and prepare for the game, you keep alive different possibilities, different discussions. Ultimately, the process works where, and we have a great staff, I make sure all of them have a say and I take in the opinions, gauge some of the players as well and ultimately make the decision. That’s the normal way that we go about our business.”

On Oguchi Onyewu’s fitness and what makes him think he can play a full 90:
“The fitness program that we’ve put our players through to prepare for the World Cup has every player in our 23 ready to play 90 minutes if asked. It’s a credit to Pierre Barrieu, and it’s a credit to the players because they’ve worked incredibly hard.”

On his interactions with newcomers to get them calm in the enormity of this tournament:
“Players have had different moments in their careers when they’ve been tested in those ways. Might have been a match already with the national team, might be experiences they’ve had with their club teams. I think the fact that we have players like Landon who have been in big games, have played in the World Cup and tasted success, that gives our team a level of experience that helps in big games.”

On the expectations that the U.S. will surpass their 2002 World Cup record due to success at the Confederations Cup:
“In football, we understand that success is never guaranteed. So every time you step on the field, you have to earn it all over again. Our experience last summer was positive, just in the sense that we played against very good teams, we learned from those experiences, we had good moments and at the end we had a big disappointment. So we’ll take that all in.”

On the importance of this year’s World Cup as far as building the game in the U.S.:
“The game keeps growing in our country. There are more and more people who follow MLS teams, more and more kids playing all over the place. The game has tremendous roots, it has diversity. So every time we step on the field as a national team, we represent all the people who are involved in soccer in the United States. The ability to perform at the highest level and be successful, we understand what that would mean to everyone.”

On the matchup against Fabio Capello:
“What you expect is that the team will be well-prepared, tactically they’ll be right, their mentality will be right. He certainly sets a good tone with his team in terms of how they need to play, how they go about their business and I think that certainly, when you look at their qualifying, that has been positive.”

On his role as a leader on the team:
“I think in the past when I thought about leadership, it meant doing more things to help other people. I’m best leading when I’m focused on what I’m doing well. I think my energy and the way I play is a form of leadership on the field and I think other guys feed off of that. I’m aware of that, and I’m also aware that I don’t need to yell at guys, or say things all the time, I’m certainly at my best when I’m focused on myself.”

On whether his experience in the Premier League has displayed any English weaknesses:
“In my opinion, England is one of the top teams in the world. With top teams, you don’t have a lot of weaknesses. It’d be hard for me to point anywhere and find weakness in their team. My experience at Everton was valuable in a lot of ways, one was for me personally. Furthermore, getting the chance to play against some of the players that we’ll see on Saturday and then also having the ability to understand the way their league is, the style that most teams play. I think those are all beneficial to us. Is it going to have a huge impact on the game? Probably not, but having some comfort in that way will be helpful.”

On the importance of this game:
“In the bigger picture, it’s just one of three games, and we understand that they’re all equally important in that way. They really are. Aside from that, the other part of it is knowing what this game means back home. For the last six months all we’ve seen is U.S-England, so if you were a casual sports fan at home you might think this is the World Cup final, you wouldn’t know any different. I understand that, but like I’ve said we can win Saturday and not advance and I’d be disappointed, or we could lose Saturday and end up advancing and I’d be equally happy.”

On what he’s taken from the Confederations Cup last year:
“Last year was helpful in that it gives us the belief that we can do something special here. Aside from that, that’s the past. Now our job is to focus on the now, but we know that we have the ability to be special. Now the focus is on bringing that out of us every time we play.”

On the differences between his 2002 form and present-day form:
“As far as soccer goes, I’m more or less what I have been for most of my career. The way I play, the way I do things. Obviously I’ve become better in certain areas, I’ve worked a lot at my weaknesses on the field and tried to get better. Tactically you learn a lot just from the experience of playing in a lot of games, you’ll learn things. Looking back now at that player mentally, it’s almost like a completely different person. And there were pluses and minuses to that. Being young and not knowing anything can be very positive sometimes, and it certainly was in that tournament. Now what I strive to do is keep that youthfulness when I’m playing mixed with the experience that I have and how to play in certain situations. I think the best way to describe it is that in 2002 I played completely from my heart and just went for it. Now I’m striving to play completely from my heart with a little mixture of keeping my mind in the right place so I can not do anything stupid.”

On the meaning of the U.S. hosting a World Cup in 2018 or 2022:
“I think of how far soccer has come since I started, and I have some very vivid memories—my first soccer game I went to was in 1994, Argentina vs. Romania. I know first hand how much we love this sport in our country, and how much all of us have put into this. Bob talks about us going on the field, playing for all the different people we played with growing up, we’re representing all those people. Our country is very proud, and I think we’re all excited at the opportunity to host another World Cup. My only regret would be not being able to play in a World Cup in my own country, but I think we’re not only athletes and coaches, we’re ambassadors for our game, and there’s no greater place in the world to host a World Cup.”

On the mindset approaching the 2010 World Cup after feeling disappointed about his 2006 performance:
“I’m prepared. I know the qualities I have as a player, as a person, as an athlete, and I’m prepared for this moment. I wasn’t prepared in 2006. When you feel this prepared, you don’t worry about if it’s going to go well on the day. I know I’m going to play well Saturday, and then it’s how does our team do and what happens in the game.”

On the mindset of the team in regards to returning to South Africa itself:
“There’s a large comfort in being here. We were here a long time last year, maybe a month, and so you get a real good grasp of the culture, the people, the excitement, the stadiums and the travel. We’re at some of the same facilities we were at last time, which makes it all very comfortable in that way to just get here and get to work. All these things are very helpful when you’re preparing for a tournament like this.”