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Bruce Arena, Landon Donovan and Jimmy Conrad Conference Call on the World Cup Roster

U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena

Opening comments:
“I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today. As I stated in our press release, this has been a long process both in qualifying and the finally in narrowing our group down to 23 players. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a brief moment to thank the players that are not part of this roster that have done so much over the last three and half years to help qualify the American team for the World Cup. Not only our 13 alternates, but many others. This was very difficult. A number of players that have been left off this roster could, arguably, be part of it. But, having said that, that’s my responsibility in identifying a group of 23 and I think we established a group that’s a very good group. I think, with a good training camp, good preparation games and the right mental approach, our team is going to be a team that’s going to challenge anybody on the field in this World Cup. I’m happy that this process is now in its final stages and we’re ready to prepare for the opening game June 12 against Czech Republic.”

On the toughest roster decisions:
“All positions are difficult, to be honest. I think the easiest position had to be the goal because I think those three stood apart from everybody else. But all the positions we had a difficult time coming down to the last players, whether it was in defense, in the midfield or forwards. It was difficult. That’s good and bad. I think the good part was that we continually developed players that should be a part of our pool and challenged for spots on this roster. The negative part, for me, is simply that we have to tell some players that arguably belong on this roster or can be on this roster that they’re not going to be a part of it. It was difficult but I think the decisions for the most part were fairly challenging at every position.”

On the lessons learned from the 2002 selection process:
“We know the profile, clearly, of a player that needs to play in a world cup. We also learned the things that are important in the preparation of a team, which we will hopefully improve upon this time around. One area in which I was really concerned was monitoring the fitness of our players up until the selection time. We had a number of players who came into camp in Cary, N.C., in 2002 that were not fit and they had to rehabilitate injuries. This time around, with one exception – John O’Brien is a little bit of a question mark, injury-wise – but for the most part, this is a pretty fit group coming into camp. I’d like nothing better than, on June 12, to have a roster of 23 healthy players and, hopefully, we can get that accomplished.”

On how many selections went right down to the last few days and how opponents influenced the roster:
“The teams we are playing did influence who we picked. This is an interesting group in comparison to the last World cup. Portugal, Korea and Poland were, I think, very different teams than the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana. They’re teams that are physically big and they bring a component of speed to the game. We were well aware of that fact in trying to sort together the roster.

“I think on April 12, I clearly established 18 players as set. Shortly after, we got it to 19 and then used the last couple weeks to finalize the last four, which was accomplished on Sunday evening. Then, I used yesterday to reflect on that a little bit in case I had any doubts about the decision made and if I needed to make a change. Obviously, there were four decisions that came down right to the end.”

On what he considers a success for the U.S. in the World Cup:
“Well my immediate standard is to advance out of group play. That’s the staring point. You can’t do anything else until you accomplish that, so that will be our focus. Once we get out of group play we’ll re-evaluate the inventory and move forward from there. But that has to be the starting point. We’re stepping on the field June 12 with the thought that we’re going to be hanging around Germany for awhile. That’s our objective to get out of group play and when we’re in the Round of 16 we’ll deal with out next opponent.”

On Jimmy Conrad's qualities off the field:
“I think Landon could support this. He’s a genuinely a good person and has a great sense of humor. He’s friendly, outgoing and extremely supportive. He’s a good guy. If Jimmy wasn’t playing soccer, he would do very well in a variety of fields. He’s just a guy that brings a lot of support to his teammates and creates a great environment.”

On comparing this year’s team to the 2002 World Cup squad:
“In some ways you compare apples to oranges. I think, again, the challenges are pretty great with our opponents. On paper, I like this team better than the team in 2002. I’ve said this a number of times today and in the past: you don’t win games on paper, you win them on the field. The way this team will be judged is how we play in the World Cup. It’s really that simple.”

On Claudio Reyna’s role on the squad as captain:
“I’ll tell you this, I know Landon mentioned the fact told that we’re maybe short some leaders from last time, but we have 12 players returning with World Cup experience, so I think we have fantastic leadership. Claudio now positions himself, as well as Kasey Keller, as one of the few players in the history of our sport to be involved in four World Cups. Having said that, I expect Claudio’s leadership qualities and his experience to be invaluable. And besides that he’s an exceptional player and we need Claudio to be on top of his game come June 12. So, those are the expectations of Claudio – to be our leader and to be one of our best players.”

On Claudio's form for the World Cup:
“I think in the beginning of the season, Claudio was in pretty good form. I think there’s a chance Claudio is going to be in great form. It’s never easy for a player in rehab, so even though he’s only played maybe a dozen games it isn’t that he’s well rested. Rehab for those types of injuries is a lot of work. But I still think he’s going to be a lot fresher than a lot of players. It is quite possible he reaches his best form this year in the World Cup, and I hope that is the case.”

On the versatility of the players on the roster:
“I don’t think it’s any different than any team. Given the fact that if any player goes down, we have cover in a variety of positions. In a pinch, we discussed left back; it could be Eddie Lewis, it could be Cory Gibbs, it could be Carlos Bocanegra, John O’Brien could play there, Bobby Convey can play there, Beasley can play there. We have a bunch of players with versatility. Claudio can play as a right back in a pinch, or anywhere in the midfield. Landon could play as a forward. So, yes, we do have that and that complements the entire roster.”

On how he contacted the alternates:
“I’ll be pretty straight forward. This is how I did that. Earlier today our 13 alternates received an email from me with a brief explanation of my decision, and told them to be prepared as an alternate. Within the last hour, they received another email explaining the process of an alternate and just simply congratulating them for being in that position and understand that they need to be prepared and ready. And also give them a little bit of history that that happened in the last World Cup. That was really the process for the alternates.”

On picking John O’Brien despite questions about injuries:
“We open up June 12, so we have about six weeks to move John along. I’m hopeful that can be done and hopeful he can stay injury free. If he’s not able to overcome any kind of injury, he will be a candidate for a possible replacement on the roster. John knows that, but we selected John because we believe he can come around and position himself to help us come June 12.”

In closing:

“I’d just like to thank all you gentlemen and women for being on this call. We appreciate your (media) support, not only today, but throughout this process over the last four years. This game continues to grow in our country and you people are doing a fantastic job in delivering the message. We appreciate it. We look forward to all your support and coverage, both good and bad, as we move into the process of getting our team ready for the World Cup.”

U.S. Men's National Team Midfielder Landon Donovan

Opening comments:
“This is obviously an exciting day for everyone. Likewise, it’s a sad day for a few. I think it’s time we get this going. I think everyone has been watiting for this for a long time. I’ts been five months now since we started in January and I think people have been waiting for this day so we can move forward and get going. I’m extremely excited and I’m ready for camp to start May 10.”

On what is considered a success for this team for the 2006 World Cup:
“When I think about the World Cup, I think about June 12. I don’t think about June 17 and I don’t think about June 22. That’s the game I’m worried about. I learned last time that you have, not a ton of time, but you have plenty of time to prepare for your next opponent and make whatever changes you need to make. I’m sure Bruce and the coaching stuff does the planning ahead, but from my standpoint, it’s about June 12. I don’t need to tell you how important that game is. That’s where my focus lies. As far as what’s a success, I mean, there’s a very realistic chance that we get out of the group and play Brazil. If we get out, we could play Brazil, so, would I bet that nine times out of 10 we’re going to be Brazil? Probably not. Could we beat Brazil? Absolutely. So you have to be a little bit realistic but we want to put ourselves in that situation. If we’re in that situation, I would still be confident."

On comparing the 2006 team with the team in 2002:
“Talent-wise, looking at our roster, we are deeper, even though you only use 23 players in both circumstances, but I think we’re deeper from one through 23 and we’re a better team. The thing we don’t have that we had four years ago though, is not as many clear leaders on the team. Whereas last time you had Tony Sanneh, Earnie Stewart, Cobi Jones, along with Claudio (Reyna), Brian (McBride), Kasey (Keller) and Brad Friedel. We had a bunch of those guys and this time we probably only have four of five to think of. That is one issue that will probably sort itself out, and something Bruce isn’t too concerned about, but I think you need that on the field. You need 11 guys who are leading. You can’t just be out there doing your own thing. You need to be making people better, and that’s what we had last time and need in the coming months.”

On what that means to Landon in terms of being a leader himself:
"That’s clear to me, too. That falls on me, too. That falls on DaMarcus, too. And Pablo, a guy who’s not generally not super vocal and you don’t typify as a leader, but those are things that we need. You can’t go into a World Cup timid, you can’t go into it shy thinking, well, I’m happy to be here and lets get out there and play. We’re there for a reason and we’re there to win. Everyone has to be on that same page and willing to take responsibility.”

On the qualities Jimmy Conrad brings to the team:
“I think Jimmy understands where he stands on this team. I don’t think Jimmy would expect to start come the opening game and he understands that, is okay with that. If anybody is going to be ready to go at any time it is Jimmy. I played with him in San Jose, so I know. Whether we’re playing the Cal Bears in a friendly game before the season starts or in a World Cup, he’s ready to play and he’s always ready. That’s good to know and good to have in the back of your mind.”

On Josh Wolff :
“Wolff gives us a dimension that I don’t think the other three forwards do, in his ability to get a ball, turn someone quickly and run at people. A part that’s underrated that only defenders in MLS, really, know is that, Wolff is pretty good at holding the ball for a small guy. I think he might be an inch taller than I am. He’s good with his body, he’s very shifty and he uses his weight well, so he does things on the field that, when he’s not scoring goals, he’s helping you."

On Brian Ching:
"That’s a segue into the way Ching is too. Forwards are on the field to score goals. But, in the World Cup, last time I checked, you’re not averaging three goals a game. So, you might get one chance or you might get two chances and you have to make the most of the. If not, and you’re not on your game and you’re not scoring goals, what are you doing for the team. Ching is a lot like Brian (McBride) in that way, in that he does things that you can’t really quantify, they don’t show up on the stat sheets but he holds the ball, he challenges, he works hard defensively. Obviously, all are qualities that Brian McBride has too and, as a forward, you want that because you want them putting you in positions to be successful, too. You also have the luxury of knowing that they’re going to score quite frequently.”

U.S. Men’s National Team Defender Jimmy Conrad

On being selected to his first World Cup roster:
“I, too, would like to thank Bruce, first and foremost, for giving me this opportunity. I’m honored to be part of this roster and I’ll do everything I can to make sure we’re ready to go come June 12 against Czech Republic. I still don’t really know how to respond to this moment. I’m kind of in shock still. I’m just excited to be a part of this roster and I’m looking forward to getting started on May 10.”

How concerned he was about making the team with his hernia:
“When I first knew that I had some issues, I called the staff, Bruce, Hash and some of the trainers to get an overall decision on what I should do. Everyone came to the agreement that I should get this done sooner rather than later and get back to being healthy and then we could make decisions from there and I would have a couple weeks to play in MLS games to show that I was back to being 100 percent. I had been with the national team consistently for about a year so I knew in my heart that Bruce knew what I could and couldn’t do and I knew that I wanted just to talk with him and see how he felt about it and go from there. Then I had three games here during the past couple weeks to show that I was fit. I think I did a decent job of that.”

On how he found out:
“In terms of how I found out, well, Landon Donovan, he can speak for himself, but he kind of tipped me off a little bit, being the good friend that he is, probably about five minutes before I got an email saying that I got it, which was about 30 minutes before I watched Bruce on SportsCenter. So, it all happened pretty quick and I’m definitely having a glass of wine tonight with my wife to help it settle in and enjoy myself. It’s been a lot of stress and pressure, whether I put it on myself or whether it exists outside of that, that’s been looming around. I’m just excited that I know one way or another and I’m really excited to be on the roster.”

On if he felt a lot of pressure to play well when he was with the MNT if he was going to make the World Cup roster:
“There’s pressure and there’s not. I really had nothing to lose and everything to gain every time I stepped on the field for the national team. So, every time I was there, I enjoyed it immensely because I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. There really wasn’t that much pressure on me in that regard, but the last couple weeks it has just felt like there’s been a little stress in terms of not knowing where I stood. I knew I was going to be in contention for a spot, but other than that we were all kind of in the same boat just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen. So, I mean in terms of that there’s a little pressure, just due to stress. But when I step on the field and represent the U.S., I feel no pressure. I just try to go out there and do my job, and try to put everyone else in the best position to make plays and go from there.”