ussoccer.com: With the team together for three days now, what are your impressions of the squad that you have selected?
Keith Tozer: Psychologically they are very enthusiastic, they are all winners. They work extremely hard, and they are extremely coachable – that is what I like about this group. Not only are they coachable, but they are intelligent players who can take information and then actually apply it in the next training session or in the next game.
ussoccer.com: The team has a win and a tie in two exhibition matches. What do those two results mean to the team?
KT: Any time you play a match you want to get a win. At the same time, you are looking for improvement in each game. I thought it was good that we won the first game 1-0. I thought that gave us confidence. We had just come down to a country that has a history in futsal, and we were able to beat a team that has three former national team players. The second game I thought psychologically was extremely important because we were down 3-1 but we came back and tied it 3-3. That gave us confidence. We got down early and our guys didn’t panic. We tried to work some things out. I was thinking of keeping the fifth attacker in but I did not want to lose that game so the positive attitude could continue on to the next practice. I thought we improved as the games went on and got the results that we needed.
ussoccer.com: Costa Rica and other countries play futsal for their whole lives. What are the challenges of the transition from indoor and outdoor soccer to futsal?
KT: It’s a huge challenge because other countries just play the game. Sometimes we find ourselves having to think the game through because we are just learning the game; we don’t play futsal all the time. Sometimes we get a little bit robotic, but at the same time we have played a lot of games in the past two years. These players continue to get better. That is why it was important for us to get down here early, where in tournaments in the past we got down here a day or two before the tournament and didn’t have time to practice or play exhibition games and I thought that hurt us.
ussoccer.com: Lee Tschantret and Sean Bowers are the two players who have been in this position before as holdovers from the 2000 team. What assets they bring to your team?
KT: The first thing that they bring is intensity to the game. They are both winners, they are both champions on the teams they have played for. They are down here knowing the pain of losing in 2000 and that veteranship of being here is going to help that fact. They also are able to tell the guys how it felt in 2000. The other thing is that it is great to have two coaches. They are smart, intelligent players. They help their indoor teams. It’s like having two more coaches on the field to help me.
KT: We hope that everyone is getting involved in the attack, either by creating opportunities and actually finishing those opportunities. You look at Greg Howes, the MVP of the MISL; we are looking for big games from him. Todd Dusosky is one of the best target players in the league; we are looking for things from him. Danny Kelly is a gifted left footer, Andy Guastaferro is an upcoming young player, and Joel Shanker is a guy who always works hard and gets points. Donny D’Ambra is one of the best target players in the league. They you have guys like Bowers, Pat White and Tschantret who have the ability to create stuff from the back. This is a team that has the ability to score some goals.
ussoccer.com: How important is it for the team to have two accomplished goalkeepers?
KT: Let’s first talk about their winning attitude. You are talking about Brett Phillips and Scott Hileman who played together in Baltimore two years ago and won the MISL championship. Hileman won the championship again this year and was an MVP. They are teammates, they believe in each other, and they back each other up. They both want to start, but if they don’t there are still there behind that player. They are great shot blockers, great readers of the ball, great distribution and both are champions. I am extremely comfortable with the situation in goal.
ussoccer.com: Talk a bit about the selection of this team. Was it difficult to take players away from their outdoor teams, including the sister club of your Milwaukee Wave?
KT: You have to thank Atlanta (Silverbacks) to let Johnny Ball, an important player, go in the midst of a playoff run. For our team (Milwaukee Wave United) to take Greg Howes and Todd Dusosky, two of our top three goal scorers, is a huge commitment for the player to say I want to compete with the national team and a huge commitment from the club saying they were going to release that player. I was extremely proud of our team back in Milwaukee who won last night 1-0 against Edmonton. It makes me feel a little bit better, a little bit more pressure released that the team didn’t lose while we were gone.
ussoccer.com: You played on some of the first U.S. Futsal teams. What is the difference from the mid-80s until now?
KT: It’s similar to indoor and outdoor soccer – tactically the game has really grown and it has changed over the years. In 1986 at the first tournament it was outdoor players playing an indoor game and figuring out how to play. Now, over the years, the game has really developed offensively. You have man-to-man and zone defenses, different formations, and offensively you have a lot of patterns and a lot of different ways to break defenses down. The game has really evolved in the last 20 years.
ussoccer.com: Looking forward to tomorrow’s game, what do we expect from Panama as an opponent?
KT: Any opponent at a CONCACAF Championship is going to bring intensity, aggressiveness and passion to the game. Second, Panama is known for speed and quickness and technical ability. I think they are in a similar situation as the United States – it’s a young futsal team learning the game, trying to apply information from practice to the game. They are going to be quick, and they are going to be talented – it’s going to be a tough game.
ussoccer.com: What do you expect from the other Group B teams – Guyana and Cuba?
KT: Honestly, we are not really focussing on them. Cuba has been to the World Cup the last two years. In 1996 we lost to Cuba in the first round, but beat them in the final 7-3. In 2000 we lost to them 4-2. They are an extremely experienced club, probably the second most experienced team in the tournament if not the most experienced just fighting off Costa Rica. Guyana is similar to the United States and Panama, just getting into this game. Our whole focus at a three game tournament before the medal round is the first game. It is crucial that we get out in the first game and get a victory.
ussoccer.com: You have said our goal is to win the tournament. What are the keys to us reaching that goal?
KT: I think there are three things. First of all, our success comes from our defense. All of the players that we have selected have the ability to defend as an individual and as a team. That is extremely important especially with the goalkeepers that we have. Ball possession is going to be critical. The longer we keep the ball the less we have to defend and the more our offense comes out. Then, the ability to stay away from too many mistakes: turning balls over in dangerous parts of the field, getting yellow cards, too many fouls and into the 10-meter kick situation. I think if we can stay away from those situations and work on the other two keys we will be OK.