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One-on-One With Eddie Lewis

Midfielder Eddie Lewis tried his best to help the U.S. Men's National Team take a point out of Mexico City, notching his second straight qualifying goal with a well-placed strike in the 59th minute of Sunday's match against Mexico in Estadio Azetca. Despite his - and his teammates - best efforts, the U.S. fell 2-1 and now looks to rebound in Birmingham, Ala., against Guatemala on Wednesday, March 30, in their first home qualifier of the final round.

After a flight to Birmingham on Sunday night, Eddie sat down with to reflect on the Mexico match, and give some insight into the U.S. Men's next match against Guatemala. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on the Mexico game, give us some of your thoughts on the match…

Eddie Lewis: “I think I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some sort of hangover effect from the game.  Even though there’s a game on Wednesday, I’m still thinking about the ifs and buts about the game.  Looking back, I still think we could have done better, even though it’s a tough place to play.  There’s a reason why they have the record they do at the Azteca.” What are some of the ifs and buts that creep into your mind?

EL:“You think about little chances and half chances, but also tactically and how we could have corrected it early on as players on the field.  Individually you always think about plays that could have made a difference.  As a slightly more experienced player, I could have done a little bit more with a couple of the other players in terms of moving us around and getting more pressure on the ball.” You were quoted yesterday saying that we gave Mexico too much respect.  How did that translate on the field?

EL:“Although it’s a difficult place to play, we’ve had our best games against them when we get in their face more and put pressure on them.  If they have time and space, they’re very good at moving the ball and keeping possession.  In that altitude, if they can move the ball, it will wear on you.  That hurt us a bit.  In my opinion, we are a stronger team than them in a lot of ways, and I felt we should have gone out there and got in their face more.” Considering the recent success of the team, particularly against Mexico, it’s a bit surprising to hear the words ‘too much respect.’  To what do you attribute that mentality?

EL: “I think it’s the Azteca.  It’s not so much our recent record against them.  It’s more ours and everyone’s else’s record against them in Mexico.  There’s no two ways about it.  They’re fantastic in Mexico City and everybody knows that.  It’s difficult to play our type of game there.  We’re an athletic, aggressive team and we like to press the ball.  In those sorts of conditions, it’s very difficult.  You have to pick and choose. As a result, we fell into the usual Azteca trap of dropping off too deep.  Eventually it cost us.” You’ve now scored in two straight World Cup qualifiers.  Although a result against Mexico would have made it that much sweeter, what does that productivity do for your confidence?

EL: “The fact that I’ve been able to contribute goals is a bonus personally.  More importantly, I’ve been sort of proud of the way I’ve managed to accept whatever role is given to me.  Whether it’s playing wide or tucking in and keeping a better shape to let some other players have more freedom, I’ve enjoyed really trying to fulfil a role that Bruce [Arena] feels necessary in each particular game.  I’m just happy to be a part of things.” Despite changes in formations and personnel, you seem to be getting consistent playing time with the national team. Do you think your performance has made it difficult for Bruce Arena not to keep sending you out there?

EL: “Certainly I think I’m doing my job if it’s difficult for the manager not to have you on the field.  
Having said that, international football is much different than anything else.  It’s a game-by-game scenario.  You don’t really get into much of rhythm because you’re away from each other so long from a tactical standpoint. Bruce does change things a lot and I think it’s warranted in a lot of ways because each game is so different. I haven’t changed the way I’ve gone about things.  I figure if I just keep at it and try and do the right things, more times than not I’ll be on the field.” Considering all the other factors – travel, short training camps, different club environments – how difficult is it as a player to adjust to shifting formations like the 4-2-3-1 we saw against Mexico yesterday?

EL: “On an individual player, it’s one of the biggest challenges.  Not only do you have to try and gel as a team in a short period of time, there’s generally a few players that have changed from the game before.  Then you take into account that you are playing against teams with a very different type of football mentality in perhaps difficult conditions, and it’s a massive challenge.  What makes good international teams consistently good is their ability to deal with those situations and not just play with a single-minded mentality.  It doesn’t always work, but more often than not, I think that ability is the reason why I’ve managed to stay around the national team.” Three days is already a short turn-around time for another World Cup qualifier.  When you add in the demands of having played in altitude and the emotion of facing Mexico, how does the team get prepared to play Guatemala?

EL: “From a physical standpoint, it’s probably the biggest challenge.  You want to try and get as close to 100 percent as you can.  I think we’ll do a good job of that, and I really don’t think that will be a major issue.  Mentally, the good news really is that we have another game in a couple days.  If Mexico was the only game this time around and I had to go back to England right now, I’d be living with this sort of disappointing loss until the next set of games.  The fact that all these players here can put that behind them and end the trip on a win is actually a bonus.  I’m looking forward to concentrating on this game and putting the last one behind us.” Some people will now say that after losing to Mexico, this game against Guatemala becomes critical in the team’s effort to qualify for Germany. How important do you think the result is?

EL: “I wouldn’t say this early there is big pressure on the result.  At the same time, we feel we should win every game at home.  It doesn’t always happen, but that’s what makes qualifying so difficult.  All the players here are intending to put in a good performance and come away with three points.  Whether it happens or not, there’s still enough games to get ourselves in position to qualify.  Certainly any home game, the players are expecting and preparing to win.”