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U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach Bob Bradley and President Sunil Gulati Discuss the Upcoming 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup


U.S. Soccer President SUNIL GULATI
“Thanks, folks, for joining us on a Thursday afternoon on a holiday weekend. Just very briefly, obviously it’s a very busy time, the team has just gotten back after being on the road for four and a half weeks for the two qualifiers and the five games in the Confederations Cup. Obviously we were disappointed not to bring home winners’ medals. We got close and progressed along the way. And now we’re going into another busy tournament where we’re the defending champions for the Gold Cup being played in the United States, which is why we’ve added some players today under an agreement with CONCACAF. We’re excited about that, and then players will be going back to their club teams before regrouping for the Mexico game on August. 12.”

U.S. Soccer Head Coach BOB BRADLEY
“Thanks Sunil, I appreciate that everybody has joined the call today. Certainly it has been a busy schedule but we’re excited to be here in Seattle. We’ve been hosted by the Sounders in a great way in terms of their training facility. The weather has been spectacular and we’re ready to get going with the Gold Cup.”

On refining preparations for the World Cup after the Confederations Cup experience:
BB: “We’ve thought about all those things. In all ways the exercise this year has provided information for what we would like to do next year. I said a number of times that it was always going to be a challenge this time around for players coming right out of their seasons in Europe and for MLS players to jump right into two tough qualifiers and then straight away into the Confederations Cup. Certainly the fact that we would have a lead-in period prior to the World Cup helps. I think the work that has gone on in the past couple of World Cups leading into things has really been instrumental in terms of our preparations. We will look at all those possibilities. Again, the other part of being in South Africa is getting a sense of the different stadiums, the different cities. Obviously, there are some pretty big variables in terms of altitude and temperature, but I think we were able to gather a lot of information that we’ll be able to use as we prepare next year.”

On Santino Quaranta:
BB: “I think it’s always important that we keep an eye on what’s going on in the league. The fact of the matter is that towards, in particular, the second half of last year and so far this year, his play has been very good. It’s only been a couple days for me here but people that I’ve talked to along the way have all mentioned the way he has grown as a person. The combination of that maturity and his soccer talent lends itself to another good opportunity here at this time.”

On what Quaranta brings to the team:
BB: “Santino is a talented player. Technically, physically, I think we certainly see every time we test ourselves against the top teams in the world, what those games are all about. The fact that he has both the technical side of it, as well as the physical ability, in terms of speed and strength. I think he is a talented player and we’re hopeful that this is a good thing to have him back and hopefully he can take advantage of it.”

On if the Gold Cup represents a change in goals from the Confederations Cup:
BB: “No, our goal clearly is to defend our championship. We know that, at times, there are many different factors that get considered when putting a roster together. But once we are together, our focus is to go about our business and the way we play and this is an important tournament – the championship of our confederation. We are excited about defending our title.”

On what Brad Evans brings to the team:
BB: “Brad is a player that had a good season in Columbus last year and I think has really been an important part of Seattle’s success throughout the first part of this season. He’s a very good competitor, he’s athletic, and we also know that he’s had some experience in the past with our Under-20 team. So, I think it’s a very good time to assess him in the group, and, so far in training it’s just what you expect. He works very hard, has a great attitude and now we’ll have a chance going forward in this tournament to see more.”

On expectations of playing time for Jozy Altidore in the Gold Cup:
BB: “The players that have been added will now be considered as we move through the tournament. So, we have not finalized all of the decisions yet. Again, there are different factors for different guys in terms of how much they played, rest, that kind of thing. But, we now have more options as we move forward.”

On Freddy Adu’s situation at his club and the national team:
BB: “It’s important that Freddy can now, with his club team, make the next step. Certainly, we recognize that there is talent and, yet, it’s not easy to come into a national team during a period when you’re not playing and to play against the likes of Italy, Spain, and Brazil. But having him in the group is a way of letting him know that we still want to push him forward. It’s most important that he can push his way through with his club team so that that playing time, that experience, the lessons you learn from being on the field start to help him with our national team.”

On how Adu’s situation is different than Jozy Altidore’s situation:
BB: “I think that at this time Jozy has shown that he is closer to being able to step onto the field with us to help, to contribute in that part of the field. It hasn’t been as clear with Freddy.”

On whether Jozy Altidore was included for him to play in more important and meaningful games:
BB: “That’s always part of the consideration. Other factors are, again, rest leading into a season. We certainly know, as we discussed, it’s important for players to play regularly with their club team. Jozy came out of the Confederations Cup still physically feeling good and it gives us an opportunity to consider him throughout this tournament.”

On if there was a moment that signaled a change in the team after the first two Confederations Cup games:
BB: “Not really. I think that we’ve always been able, during the last couple of years, to understand what it takes to move forward as a team, to look at all sides of the game, to see things that we do well, to see areas where we need to improve. Certainly, we’ve tried to play as many top teams as we can because when you play top teams is when you find out the most. We understood going into the Confederations Cup that our group was very difficult. But we also knew that meant that the first round was all about three games, not one. And, we took different things from each of the first couple of games. One of them was the need to start the game with the right kind of energy, the right kind of intelligence. Try to be the team that takes the initiative in a good way in a game. I think that was incredibly important against Egypt. Egypt had put a lot into their first two games, and we felt strongly that if we could get on top of them, their fatigue might come through. And so you learn lessons like that from games – games where, in some cases, the lesson comes the hard way. But we’ve always been able to improve in these ways and it was great now that we were able to experience a big final, both the things that we did well and the areas where we felt we could’ve done better in the second half. I think this experience all around will help us.”

On whether he plans to select a core starting XI or rotate players in different matches:
BB: “Again, I draw upon our experience two years ago from the Gold Cup. The games come quickly. Obviously, this time of year in the United States in some cities it’s very warm. There’s a need to rotate players and then, what you hope is that as you play through the first round and into the quarterfinals, certain things start to take hold so that you have a very good idea as to your best team going into the latter part of the tournament.”

On whether bringing in some players who are older is to have a mix of experience on the team:
BB: “I think that’s always important and, again, when we look at everything that’s taken place in the last month, there’s always a need to size up different options going forward, to consider what different guys would possibly bring to our team in a situation like the World Cup. Every game, I think, needs a good balance. It’s important to consistently assess what’s going on in Major League Soccer, see which players are important on their team and really playing well and trying to find a way to size up all those different possibilities as we build our best team.

On if it is a competitive disadvantage for the other teams in the Gold Cup not to be able to draw from seven extra players:
SG: “Well, I guess it is a competitive disadvantage to have played five games that ended two or three days ago 10,000 miles away. The way that we look at it is that we’ve had a long period, and not just in any tournament but a tournament where we earned the right to participate by being Gold Cup champions. So having won this competition two years ago and representing the confederation, the confederation recognized that given the distances involved, the number of games we had just played, and where were starting in the tournament. We’re not being given the opportunity to play with two goalkeepers in any given game. It’s a larger roster of players to select from. We’re not going to be able to dress more than 18. All of those things are the same. It may well end up being the case that, in fact, depending on how many games we play in the tournament, that Bob doesn’t play more than 23 players throughout. That’s going to be up to him. So we don’t view it as a big competitive advantage. We think it’s a plus for CONCACAF, for us, for the competition that some of the players that have just participated in the Confederations Cup will have the opportunity, or at least the eligibility, to play in the Gold Cup. I don’t think it’s a very big issue, frankly.”

On if U.S. asked for the provision or if CONCACAF initiated it:
SG: “We had a discussion with CONCACAF about it. Our rosters were due roughly 10 days ago and we talked to them about it because we were still in the competition in South Africa and they’ve made this provision. It’s not just for this one time. They’ve made this provision that the champion of the confederation will be able to expand their roster after the Confederations Cup, when it’s specifically so close and it will be the case in the future. And we hope that means that we’ll be able to add more players, but if it’s Mexico, or Costa Rica, or Honduras, or Jamaica, or Trinidad, the same would apply to them.”

On whether it is more important to spread regional championship games in as many regional markets as possible and have slightly less lucrative matches:
SG: “That’s probably more appropriately directed at CONCACAF. I think that some of the thinking was exactly what you mentioned. The Gold Cup has been very successful. It’s grown in stature, it’s grown in attendance, it’s grown in television ratings, in every which way. Obviously the last one, where we played Mexico in the final, was a terrific event and a terrific final. I think the thought was to be able to go into more markets and allow, in this case, 13 venues to host games. So that was the thinking from CONCACAF’s side. It’s really their decision.”

On the importance of the Gold Cup during such a busy year:
BB: “There are always challenges in the schedule, challenges that force difficult decisions in terms of rosters. That doesn’t take away our strong feeling that this is the championship of our Confederation, that we are defending champs and that message started when this group first arrived here. It’s always important to represent the United States in the right way. We know our fans still look at this event as being very important and we are excited to get going.”

On Edgar Castillo:
SG: “Everything is open. I don’t think Bob is ready to say that he’s coming into the team or not coming into the team. But, from our perspective, we’ve had some preliminary discussions with Edgar.”

On Edgar Castillo:
BB: “In these discussions it gives us the opportunity to consider the timing, consider how he would fit in like any other player. That’s part of the work of any national team coach: looking around, sizing up players, making decisions on rosters so we can, depending up how things were to move forward with the comments that he’s made. It’s possible that we would have the ability to consider him in the future.”

On Project 2010:
SG: “I don’t want to compare the Confederations Cup to the World Cup; the project we outlined a decade ago was that we had a goal to put ourselves in a competitive position in world soccer. That came in some circles to mean we wanted to win the World Cup in 2010. We had a very good last week at the Confederations Cup, I think Bob understands that. The way I look at it is that the players and all of us involved, whether fans or staff or coaches, understand how hard it is to be on that winner’s podium at a big competition. So those sorts of goals are maybe a little bit more in sight now, but not quite within grasp. But I think everyone has a better appreciation. Overall, the experience on and off the field in South Africa, for everyone in our program, was a very positive one. The ultimate goal for American soccer, for the U.S. Men’s team is to win at the very highest competition, and that’s the World Cup. I’m not going to predict that will happen next summer, but that’s the goal. It’s been that way for the players, the staff, and everyone else involved.”

On whether he thinks the U.S. performance in the Confederations Cup was a ‘miracle’:
SG: “No, I don’t consider it a miracle. In some cases, people are talking about the reversal of fortunes in the last stage of group play. A couple people said that we got very lucky. My response to that in Johannesburg was that the only part of this process at the Confederations Cup that was pure luck was the draw. And that’s where we drew Italy, Brazil and Egypt. The rest of it, clearly, you need some breaks, whether it’s crossbars that could be an inch lower, and it would be different. That happened at both ends of the field for us. It happened twice against Brazil in the later part of the game when the outcome of the game was perhaps no longer in doubt, but certainly if the ball goes in then you don’t need the same response in the last game. No, I don’t consider it a miracle. I think the team played very well against Egypt. We did what we needed to get done. I don’t think anybody had written the game off in our camp and the idea was to win that game and obviously if we scored early, anything was possible. Obviously, Brazil needed to beat Italy by several goals. The game against Spain was a terrific performance by the U.S. team. Do I consider it a miracle? No. Just a great performance and players playing at a level that we’d all love to see them playing at every game. No one plays at their top level every game, not Spain, not Brazil and not the U.S. But it was a great performance, not a miracle.”

On German-American Jermaine Jones:
SG: “We’ve had pretty regular communication with Jermaine’s representatives and advisors. He has both publicly and privately indicated that he would like to file for an eligibility switch. I think the paperwork for that has probably now been submitted to FIFA and the earliest he would be eligible to move would be the second of August which would be 60 days after the rule change came into effect. After that it comes down to the normal things, the health of the player and Bob’s selection.”

On German-American Jermaine Jones:
BB: “From a coaching standpoint, you wait for things to be final. You never know how things go in terms of paperwork and that kind of thing. Once that’s all taken care of, then he will be a player that we can consider and then you take into account the obvious factors that you would with any other player.”

On the chances of beating Mexico in Azteca:
BB: “We’ve said all along that we’re excited about the challenge of winning in Azteca. It’s a huge challenge, anyone who’s been there for a match knows how difficult a place it is to play, but we are excited about the match and we look forward to it.”

On Stuart Holden’s inclusion into the national team:
BB: "Stuart has had experience with our Olympic team in Beijing last summer, we’ve had him in some National Team camps. I think along the way there’s been some untimely injuries that perhaps interfered with him having opportunities, but we’re excited to have him back for the Gold Cup. He’s having a good run of late with Houston and he’s a player that we rate.

On Seattle as a host and the opportunity to play on the Fourth of July:
BB: “To answer the second part first, it is always special to hear the National Anthem and I think on the Fourth of July there’s a little bit extra there. We are excited to be opening up the Gold Cup; the fact that it’s in Seattle is great in many ways, but as an organization they have done a tremendous job of getting themselves going on the right foot. Their team is very good, fun to watch, I think anybody who has seen any of their games, whether live at Qwest Field or on TV can see the passion their fans have for the team. You see jerseys all over the city. I mentioned earlier that the training facility is first class. They deserve credit for how they went about bringing their team into the league, and I think it’s great that we’re beginning the Gold Cup here.”

On whether there is more pressure for this tournament after the strong performance at the Confederations Cup:
BB: “I think it is important, certainly all of us have heard from people, friends, fans, in the United States over these past days. It’s a tremendous feeling to think that so many people tuned in and were excited about the Confederations Cup. The responsibility, in that regard, continues to always be there. The Gold Cup is a chance to follow up the success of the Confederations Cup with hopefully defending our title.”

On what to expect from the Honduras game in Washington, D.C.:
BB: “We have a great amount of respect for Honduras, and we certainly know from past experiences that they have loyal fans, tremendous fans, and anytime we come up against Honduras, the atmosphere in the stadium with our own supporters, as well as Honduran supporters, gives the game an extra special feel. The fact that it comes closely on the heels of the game we played in Chicago probably only makes it even more important.”

On midfielder José Francisco Torres:
BB: “José has had a very, very busy schedule with his club team and in discussions we felt that it was important that he have a little bit of a break before things start up again. When we look at all the different factors, certainly the idea that next summer, players will be coming right from their clubs into training camp that leads into the World Cup. You have to make very difficult decisions about whether a player can go a couple years without a break or there’s a need in some cases for a player to have a little bit of a break now before he begins an important stretch.

On Torres not playing since the match against Costa Rica:
BB: “Like all players that come into the national team, it takes time to establish yourself, it takes time to get a feel for the group. He’s a young player that I think has shown us that he has the talent, we feel very good about having him in the United States National Team. There will always be, for any national team coach, difficult decisions. But we feel good about what José has shown us thus far and we hope that the experience with the club and the national team can push him further.”

On what Jermaine Jones could bring to the team:
BB: “I certainly have had a lot of opportunities to see him play; I would just like to wait until everything is taken care of on the paperwork-side and we have the chance to bring him in before we get too much into detail. But he’s been an important player at Schalke, he’s played in a lot of big games, and that type of experience can always be very helpful.”

On what Torres needs to work on to improve and continue to be part of the team:
BB: “I think it’s just that he’s a young player. I think Pachuca has done a very good job of developing his talent. If you were to look at the way they have used him in the last couple of years, they have also brought him along at the right speed, and with all that in mind, we look at how he handles things every time he comes into camp. He did have an opportunity this year to have a number of appearances in his first year with the national team, and a number of starts, so I think that is a sign from us in terms of our feeling for what he can do for the national team. With any young player you try to move him along at the right speed—to make decisions about when it’s time to play more, when you need to maybe give it a little more time to see. So we’re in that process, it’s gone well so far and hopefully it will continue to move forward.”
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