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June 18, 2010: U.S. Men vs. Slovenia

U.S. MNT Press Conference for June 21

On his form so far in the tournament and preparing for Nadir Belhadj:
“He’s a physically talented player, he’s got good feet as well. We’re aware of his strengths and also his weaknesses. As far as my game is concerned, I’m just trying to do my part to keep my section of the field clean and try to avoid any sort of chances the opponent can create against us. I’m just trying to do my part like the rest of the guys.”

On the benefits to be gained by repeated come-from-behind, tight games:
“Anytime you don’t lose, it’s a gain of confidence. Leading up to the World Cup, our last two warm-up matches we won, and the first two matches we’ve tied. So that’s a string of four matches now of good play from us and decent results. I think it’s a chance for us to finish this first round with a consistent performance and consistent results. That’s certainly our goal, to win this game Wednesday and to do what we did well in the first two games over 90 minutes this time. If we achieve that, the result will take care of itself.”

On the challenge of playing as well as they did in the second half against Slovenia across 90 minutes:
“Soccer is a continuous sport, it’s changing every minute. A lot of it depends on the opponent, you can never forget the other 11 standing on the other side of the field. That changes the elements of our game continuously. But I think when we sharpen up our passing and have a good attitude of attacking guys and putting defenders on their heels, I think that’s when we’re at our best. We can move all of our lines forward and put other teams under pressure. That’s when we’ll create chances, make the other team make mistakes, and we tend to scoop up a lot of those mistakes and reward ourselves.”

On his improved discipline on the pitch over the past year:
“I think in any game you want to have a feel for how the ref is handling things and the way the game is going. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re in card trouble or you’re committing a lot of fouls that are dangerous for our team. Having said that, I am who I am as a player and to know what I do to help the team, that’s important. As far as being aggressive and committed in the center of the field, those things always have to be there.”

On scoring his first World Cup goal:
“At that point, the best feeling was just now to get back to 2-2. The way we came out in the second half and every guy on our team was committed to running and fighting and doing everything we could to turn the game around, that was something special to be a part of. We looked at each other at halftime and said that wasn’t how our tournament was going to end. The commitment from every guy to keep going and to do everything we possibly could to turn the game around, for me that was the best part of it and to be a part of that and celebrate that with your teammates, that’s the best feeling.”

On the Algerian team and what they present:
“Algeria is a good team. The performances they put together in the African Cup of Nations were all really good. They didn’t start the tournament off great, but they were able to work themselves into it and go on a really good run. Qualifying in Africa, playing teams like Egypt home and away, is not easy. We watched a good bit of tape on them and have a good feel for their players. A lot of guys are comfortable on the ball, but they’re still an athletic team that’s fit and mobile, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”

On some of the Algerian players he’s played with and against in the Bundesliga:
“When you look at their players, like I said before, they have a lot of guys who are skillful on the ball and like to get the ball in dangerous areas, run by guys or be creative in their own ways to get shots. Certainly Karim (Matmour) is good at that, his ability to use his speed to run by defenders and get shots and crosses, I know that well from playing with him every week. So that’s something we need to keep an eye on. When you look at their whole team they have a lot of different threats. (Karim) Ziani, who plays at Wolfsburg, is a creative player who can stay wide, he can come inside and find dangerous spots. Belhadj obviously coming from the left, so there’s threats coming from a lot of different places.”

On the scenarios for their advancement to the second round:
“We’re obviously aware of what each result means. Clearly, if we lose we’re done and if we win we’re through. There are scenarios where if we tie we could still advance, but at this point our objective is very clear. It’s to win the game and take all the other stuff out of the question, and that’s our goal.”

On what the team talked about to put the frustration at a disallowed goal behind them:
“After the game, I know a lot of us were frustrated. If you can put yourself in that moment, and how much energy we put into getting ourselves back in the game and how emotional it is to go from the realization that your World Cup might be over to, had that goal been allowed, we would have been very close to advancing—there’s a lot of emotion that goes into that. But I think we all understand the reality of it. We’ve all played in enough games where those things happen and through the course of your career they tend to even out. A lot of us have been on the good side of something like that, and unfortunately this time we were on the bad side. It happens, you get on with it. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about it right now, so we focus on Wednesday.”

On the challenge of keeping an eye on the other game on Wednesday:
“It’s fairly simple, obviously people know what’s going on not only on our coaching staff and bench but throughout the stadium people know what’s going on in the other game. Then it’s just communicating. You have to be a little careful because you want to just play and you don’t want to, at the end of the game, think ‘if we hold on to this result we’re going to get through’, and then you get a goal scored on you and you’re out of it. So you have to play, but you have to also be aware of what the other result is so you know how you continue the game and how you finish the game. You have to be smart about all of those things.”

On the parallels between this match and the 2006 final group game against Ghana:
“I hadn’t thought about comparisons to the Ghana game. Perhaps it is. I said earlier in the tournament that in the two World Cups I’d been a part of, we hadn’t strung together three consecutive good results and good performances. I think this team has the experience and the ability to do that. We’ll find out on Wednesday night, but I think we’re as prepared as we can be for what’s ahead of us on Wednesday.”

On the importance of having a good team spirit:
“Our team spirit has always been a strong point of this team, and will continue to be the strong point. In the second half the other night, we simply refused to let our World Cup end. I would say the second half was a collection of 11, 12, 13 guys who wanted to do something special. We all have roles on our team, I would argue that the way we defended in the second half was equally as important as scoring the goals. Keeping a team that’s good on the counter-attack at bay, when they’re up two goals and have a lot of space going the other way is very important. A few of us have roles that include scoring goals and making plays, and that’s our job just like it was Steve’s job to continue to shut down that side of the field when we got countered on. We all did the things necessary to win.”

On whether the comeback against Slovenia brought the team closer together:
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experiences that have brought us together, both good and bad. Our qualifying in our part of the world is extremely difficult, and a lot of times people don’t understand how difficult it is. But when you go through a process like that with 14, 15, 16 of the same guys, you grow very close. You also start to trust each other. Being down 2-0 with your World Cup on the line is a difficult and daunting task to overcome, but the way we’ve been hardened a lot of ways over the years made that possible and I think we’re extremely excited for Wednesday.”

On the response back in the U.S. to the disallowed goal:
“We’ve all been pretty well informed as to the response back home, via text, email, phone calls, Facebook, etc., and in some ways it’s really heartening to see how much people care. The one thing we do know is that Wednesday morning in the States is going to be a really big occasion, and we relish that because we don’t get it very often. We know people are talking about it and people care. As far as what the fans can do, we’ve had unbelievable support here. It’s been incredible to see, and knowing that people back home genuinely care and are proud and are supporting our team helps us a lot. It’s not something I’ve experienced since I’ve been a part of this team, not to this level.”

On what type of game he expects against Algeria:
“It’ll be interesting to see how they approach the game. They have no choice but to win, there are scenarios where we could tie and advance so their approach to the game would most likely be an aggressive approach to get a goal and win the game. But they’re a team that, as much as we can watch tape and know about their players, as a team they can be unpredictable. On their day they’re a very good team. We have to see what the game presents early, but our clear objective is to go out and try to win the game.”