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Conference Call Quotes: Myernick Talks about the Under-23 Olympic Qualifying

U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team head coach Glenn “Mooch” Myernick announced his final 20-player roster for the 2004 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will take place from Feb. 2-12 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The U.S. U-23s will first face Panama on Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. (local/CT), followed by matches against Canada on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. and Honduras on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. All three U.S. opening round matches in Group A will be played at the 10,000-seat Estadio Tres de Marzo (in the Zapopan area of Guadalajara) and can be followed by fans live via's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

Below is a transcript of a media teleconference with Myernick and midfielder Bobby Convey:

Opening Statement:
I am very delighted to be the coach of this team. It has been a little more than a two-year process since we first got together in January of 2002. We have looked at over 50 players in the pool, and it has been a very difficult decision narrowing it down to 20. The players have worked extremely hard. We feel that we have an extremely talented team. We are missing a few players who would be first team selections, but I am sure that is the case for all of the teams. 

On Edson Buddle’s departure:
When Edson Buddle could no longer compete with tendonitis that was really prohibiting mobility we brought in Nate Jaqua on Monday night to round out the camp and allow us to have the games that we wanted to have in training.

On Kyle Martino not being named to the roster:
Kyle Martino developed a hip flexor during training camp back in Los Angeles and put up a valiant effort to have the combination of treatment and rest to get throught that. What became apparent was that it prohibited him from striking long passes, being able to shoot and play the No. 10 position. Not be able to open up the game with passes or shooting the ball from the edge of the box really limits your effectiveness at that position.

On the Challenges of Group A:
Since we have gotten to Mexico there has been a lot of media coverage and all they have wanted to talk about is USA v. Mexico and all I wanted to think about was USA v. Panama. It’s our most difficult game because it is the first. We will be the away team during every game down here, not just because it is Mexico but because of the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico. 

I think the challenge is that we know that we have come here not on the mission of playing three games in five days but have come with the purpose of playing five games in 10 days. The physical demands of that are significant. We know that it is going to take all 20 players on the roster to make a contribution, and the preparation has been in that light.

We have given everyone significant playing time so that they are match fit. The spirit in the group is excellent. I can tell from the players that while they have put in a good effort in training, they really don’t want to train anymore. They want to get to the tournament and play.

On Conor Casey being recalled to his club, Karlsruher:
It was an ongoing battle. None of the teams in Europe want to release payers. Countries view the Olympics in different lights, some put a lot of stock into it while for others it’s all about their domestic league.

Conor is the leading goal scorer for Karlsruher, a team that’s in the second division with aspirations of eventually getting back to Bundesliga, and I knew they would be reluctant to let him go.

But it was a chance for us to Conor in for the first time since we put this team together because he had struggled with injuries for about a year and a half. Twice he went back with his team an re-injured himself, so the camp gave us the opportunity to hopefully have Conor come and join us and have (U.S. MNT head) coach (Bruce) Arena to look at Conor because we had a joint training camp with the Men’s National Team. If Conor had been available he would be here, but that was not the case. I think it speaks to the depth of the pool that I have all the confidence in the world with who we have with us.

On how he will juggle the lineup:
We are very close to deciding. I anticipate with our intention of playing five games in 10 days, I anticipate using probably three subs in every game, trying to keep legs fresh and trying to keep players available. And then what happens are tactical changes that you need to make, injury changes that you need to make - keeping in mind that yellow cards can suspend players for games so we may need to get a player out of the game who is carrying a yellow card. All of those scenarios go into an equation of having to use all 20 players over the course of the tournament.

On how it is more difficult to qualify for the Olympics than the World Cup:
There are fewer games and that means less margin of error. I think that the difficult part is in the World Cup (qualifying) you have quite a bit of time between games. You’re not playing in a tournament format and you can have specific times between games to prepare your team to play against a typical style and with a particular lineup.

The tournament here is very difficult in that you play every other day and there is not a lot of time in between each game for tactical preparation for the team. You have to have a quick turnaround and the day after the first game, or the day between games, it is all about recovery and not so much about preparation. You have to quickly determine the health of your team and if a player is carrying some type of injury, can you count on that player to give you another match.

What you don’t want to do is go into a game with a player that is carrying an injury and all of a sudden you find out 15 minutes into the game and you have to burn a substitute 15 minutes into a match. So I think managing the players from a health standpoint in a tournament format is different than in qualifying for a World Cup.

Comparing this Olympic team to the 1996 and 2000 teams:
The 1996 Olympic team was a college all-star team with three overage players. The last Olympic team, which set the bar high for us doing a wonderful job, was predominantly professional players. There is a handful of players on this team who have World Youth Championships under their belts and have played in MLS for a number of years. You have Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley who have been at the World Cup. Bobby Convey has a lot of experience. Nat Borchers had a good season for Colorado as well as Kyle Beckerman. I think this team has a little bit more experience. Where this team doesn’t have as much experience as I would like to see across the back.

On what Mooch expects from the are relatively inexperienced defenders:
I think we have a very good attacking group of players and a capable defense. I think the challenge of our defense is to stay intact and make defending their priority. I’m not expecting us to be the type of team that has defenders coming out of the back, joining into the attack, overlapping into the final third of the field, combining us with crosses, getting to the edge of the box and getting shots. We simply don’t have that makeup in our team.

I believe we have the type of defense that needs to stay at home, control their area of the field, dominate the forwards they play against and get he ball into the midfield to the players who can provide it to our forwards so we can be dangerous. We can all highlight our strengths. We spent a lot of time working on our defense as a unit, keeping them intact and making sure they control their area of the field. If you’re not that experienced, you need to keep the game as simple as possible.

On Honduras, who on paper would appear to be the toughest Group A challenge:
We’ve had a chance to scout Honduras. They recently played Mexico in Ft. Lauderdale. We scouted the game and we have videotape of the game that we’ve watched very closely. What’s nice about Honduras is we are going get to see them play twice in the tournament because we play them third in the group. We’ll have a good first-hand look at them.

On defender Chad Marshall:
Chad had a very good Under-20 World Championship. He was a player we have known about for quite some time, he was on our youth teams. Chad’s strength is when the game is in front of him and he can attack the ball, plus he is a good passer of the ball out of the back. He is very good at defending the box in the air on restart situations, but also can be a dangerous threat for us in the box on the other end. We think with players like Bobby Convey, (DaMarcus) Beasley and (Landon) Donovan, who are good at holding the ball, running at people, not only creating chances and creating goals, but also unfortunately getting fouled as that does create restart situations. We would like to utilize Chad in the air in the box for restart situations. I’ve made no bones about it that what Chad needs to significantly improve upon is his leadership and communication skills. That is a vital part of playing in the back. I’m constantly on Chad about taking more of a leadership role, talking and organizing on defense. If you go back to the inexperience that we have across the back, when players are inexperienced at a new level, they tend to get very involved in their own game than, and don’t talk as much as they could to help rather others around them. That has been a constant theme for us as a team and coaching each other on the field, which is part of playing in the back where you have vision of the whole field in front of him. I think if Chad can add that to his game, he is going to have a terrific career.

On defender Jose Burciaga, who missed most of 2003 with an ACL injury:
Jose is fully recovered physically, but there is no substitute for playing competitive matches. It’s one of the reason we put in a training camp with the full national team. From Dec. 12 to 19 we played them a couple of times and then in our most recent camp in January we played them a few times. 

Jose has done well. He was sent off yesterday unfortunately, he got two yellow cards within about 10 minutes in the game against Atlas. Jose is player who can give us some versatility. He can play left back and in central defense. Last year at the start of the MLS preseason, in tracking all these guys and talking with their coaches and seeing the preseason, Jose was clearly not only KC’s only defender - but one of their best players in their camp. It was really unfortunate when he went down for the second year in a row with another ACL injury. His challenge is going to regain full confidence, and you can only get it playing in matches. I see that he is on his way back but he has a little way to go.

On the development of Nat Borchers:
There is no substitute for experience and Nat has clearly become one of our more experienced in the back line. As you know, he got a great deal of playing time in Colorado through a series of injuries on the roster. He grasped that opportunity, and I thought he did very well. He continues to mature as a player. Nat is very quiet as a player because it was his first time in the pool, but his stature within the team has grown, his confidence as a player has grown. He’s a little bit more experienced than (Chad) Marshall, obviously having played a professional season. We want a quick partnership in the middle there, and both are good in the air. Both are very conscientious defenders.

In Colorado, one of the things that happened was that Nat was very quick to give the ball to Robin Fraser or the nearest around him. I’ve asked him to be a little bit more adventurous with his passing. We have the ability with Bobby (Convey), Beas (DaMarcus Beasley), Landon (Donovan) and Brad Davis to be a very good counter-attacking team. So, not just to win it and play it to the nearest guy, but to win it and play if forward or wide with a long pass to open the game up for a counter attack. He’s worked at that on a daily basis and is developing very nicely.

On midfielder Bobby Convey, who was also on the conference call:
Because he is standing next to me I’ll say a bunch of nice things. Bobby is a talent, there is no doubt about that. Bobby continues to grow and mature in his game. He had a very unique year in that he played for four different teams and did them all very effectively. I don’t think it is a secret that Bobby would like to try his own game outside of MLS; to  move on and play in Europe at some point. I would look forward to seeing him have that challenge because I know he will be successful at it. I think the fact that Bobby can play so many positions and be good in all of them opens up a lot of opportunities.

For our particular team he is an attacking midfielder, that is very good at running with the ball and bringing other players into the game. We saw that when he played with the Under-20 team at the World Championship. I would like to take the momentum that he got with the Under 20s and bring it to the Under 23 team and he has done that very effectively. But I would also like to say while he is standing here that there are times that his youth and exuberance gets the most of him and he always wants to take off running toward the other team’s goal. We could use him more effectively if he could stay at home to keep position for a longer time. He’s done a great job and I still think the best is yet to come from Bobby Convey and I am happy to help him achieve those goals.

On if the U.S. can win the tournament:
I think we have the capability of winning the tournament. I know it sounds a little cliché, but the goal of winning the tournament starts with Panama and in all honesty, we haven’t talked about any other opponents. We have not talked about Mexico, we have not talked about what we need to do in any other game except Panama. I can tell you this, our objective is to qualify for the Olympics. If we won the tournament, that would be a bonus.

U.S. midfielder BOBBY CONVEY
On describing the differences between training at the Home Depot Center vs. Marzo:
It’s obviously a bit different, with The Home Depot Center being brand new and our National Team Training Center where we have really good fields there, the nice locker rooms, the American food, all the stuff we like. It’s just a normal foreign trip for us, the fields aren’t too bad. Some of the fields we’ve played on haven’t been too good, but we have gotten used to them. We just kind of hang out, play cards, play video games, and we’ve gotten on the Internet, so we keep busy. We’re just ready to play.

On playing with D.C. United teammates:
I think it is a great experience for all five of us to be here. I have been with the national team and the Olympic team and it helped. With Alecko (Eskandarian), David (Stokes), (Brian) Carroll and Doug (Warren) it give us experience and playing time which those guys really weren’t getting in D.C. last year. It only helps them out and gives them confidence and it gets them ready to step in for D.C. United this year. I think it’s been a great experience to be here and play for the team and to get to know each other. We have already known each other for a little while, but the more you play with your teammates the better you gel with them.