Quote Sheet: Bruce Arena in Year-End Media Conference Call
BRUCE ARENA, U.S. Men's National Team head coach
Reflecting on the 2000 season: "It was a good year, although it wasn't easy advancing to the final round. Overall it was a good year. The experiences that we got out of the semifinal round are going to be invaluable. We faced a lot of adversity and criticism, but in the end the people that came through were the players. In tough times you like to see how people react and our players came through in flying colors. During the year there were a number of great performances. Our team had the best record in U.S. Soccer history with nine wins, two losses and six draws. We outscored our opponents on the average of three-to-one, scoring 33 goals and gave up only 11. We had 18 players score goals which is unusual for U.S. Soccer. We gave up five goals at home and were also undefeated at home. Cobi Jones set a number of records. We have five consecutive shutouts to end the year and our goalkeeping was outstanding with Meola, Keller and Friedel. We drew record crowds with an average over 35,000 for the year. In the end, in crunch time, we gathered 10 out of a possible 12 points. As you look at that, 31 players played in qualifiers and 45 played throughout the year. It was a good year. I wouldn't want the same thing to happen in 2001 where we face such adversity, had so many injuries and so many problems with call-ups. Hopefully 2001 can be smoother, but if it is not, I think we are prepared to handle any problems we may face. I think overall it was a great learning experience for myself and a great experience for the team."
On what he (Bruce) has learned from this year: "Overall I understand the mentality in the Football Confederation and FIFA. I think some mistakes were made along the way. I appreciate the support I got from the players. In tough times you want people backing you up and I think the players did that. I am extremely proud of their records in 2000. I will learn from it as well. I have learned things about our organization on the field and off that will be helpful in the following year. Overall it was real positive. Any mistakes that were made, hopefully we will learn from those mistakes."
On weather factor: "We are going to try and get to Columbus close to seven days before the match. We know that the Crew Stadium staff is terrific and that field will be in great shape. It certainly is going to be cold but we are used to cold weather. We can't predict the conditions. The night of the game could be anywhere from 20 degrees to 45 degrees. We feel comfortable in that type of environment and the cold will help us as opposed to Mexico, but I think more importantly, we will have a home field venue and we expect most of that crowd cheering for the Americans."
On the possibility of snow in Columbus: "I think we are aware of that possibility and we have to be ready to remove the snow from the field. If the conditions are very poor and the referee feels the field is not playable the game will have to be played at a later date. We don't think that is going to be the case though."
On other venues being considered for qualifying fixtures: "I can generally run down some of them but we still have some time to finalize the schedule. Some of the venues being looked at include Foxboro Stadium, RFK Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, Portland, Seattle, Rose Bowl and I think Charlotte and Tampa are also possible venues. People at U.S. Soccer are investigating the availability of these facilities and what makes sense. You have match up with your opponent that you are playing and the stadium needs to be the available. We have to have the right situation to give our team a chance of winning."
On considering Seattle as a future venue: "I know that Seattle was and is being given a strong consideration. I don't think it has been ruled out at this time as a potential venue. I know that SafeCo Field was discussed and I believe that Huskie Stadium was discussed as well. We think the Northwest is a great place for U.S. Soccer and having said that, that would also include Portland down the road. Clearly we are looking to the Northwest as a potential site for one of these World Cup qualifying games"
(Follow-up) Importance of MLS cities getting qualifying games: "I think having games in MLS cities is a good plus, having the organization in place and knowing how to get the tickets out to the American fan. MLS cities are going to be given very strong consideration."
On Mexico training and impact of cold on players: "I don't know how Mexico will prepare. That is an issue that they are going to have to deal with. It is the same type of issue that we have deal with when we go to Mexico City. Do we ignore the altitude and get there the day before or do we try and prepare in altitude? That is an issue they have deal with. The cold weather is a factor if you have never played in it before, but players in the United States are used to cold climates with the exception of a couple of players who have been on the West Coast most of the time. It is simply a matter of attitude. It is a mental adjustment. The sport being the sport it is, once you start moving around you are fine after five to ten minutes and your body adjusts. The field conditions in cold weather can be somewhat different. The field can be harder, the ball can skip a little bit and you have to be ready for that. No different than the adjustments that players have to make when it is very windy or warm, or when the field is in poor condition. It will be a bit of a mental exercise but one that I think we will be prepared for."
On avoiding large Mexican-American crowds in venue selection: "Columbus stands in good shape regardless of the opponent, but it was a factor. This would not be the type of game you put in Southern California. The location of the game was important when you viewed the opponent, and that was the case here. Overall, Columbus stands out as an excellent venue for the U.S. team and certainly for this game it seems the right match."
On rules of gamesmanship: "We are looking at what gives our team an advantage. From our experience, against Costa Rica and our players familiar with Crew Stadium, it is a home field for us. The number one factor in determining a venue has to be what is best for our team. We consider some of the issues against our opponent. I don't believe this in particular is gamesmanship. You can judge otherwise. Overall, Columbus was chosen because it is a great site for U.S. Soccer."
On the importance of the first match: "The first game is not a 'must win' whether it is home or away, but regardless we would like to win the game. Most people would rate Mexico as the top team in the final group, so to be able to get three points in that game would be a major plus for the U.S. Team and that is certainly what we will be shooting for."
On using Crew Stadium again in qualifying: "Right now we have chosen one venue and have four more to chose. Without a doubt I think Crew Stadium is on the radar screen for other dates. Again, none of this has been finalized. The people in Chicago have a couple more weeks before they make any more decisions but I don't think they will be ruling out Columbus for other games."
On the U.S. schedule for 2001: "Opponents have not been finalized. I can tell you likely that we will have a game on February 3 and probably January 27 or 31. We are working on that now. It is also likely we will have a game in the middle of February. There is a chance one match will be played on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast."
On possible opponents for next year: "The problem is that you are not able to chose your opponents anymore. The schedules internationally are so jammed that you need to take what you can get. As you can see from this qualifying schedule we are going to be extremely busy in June. We are going to be off probably July and August. However, if it is possible to get a friendly, then we would like to do that. We would like to get one friendly in March and in July as well. It is a very difficult year in setting up friendlies because of the competitions across the world."
On U.S. goalkeeper Tony Meola's status: "Tony Meola is right there in the mix. We need to get through the month of January, see how Tony Meola is doing and check on Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel. I feel real comfortable including Tony in our 18-man roster because I don't think it is necessary to travel over two goalkeepers from Europe every game. Tony will be right in the mix and has a chance to play."
On what team to possibly play at RFK Stadium: "We are still waiting for one opponent. It is possible that we play Costa Rica there (if they qualify). It is possible that RFK could be a venue for Trinidad & Tobago."
On Guatemala crowd at RFK Stadium: "It was better than what we expected, but we shouldn't be fooled by that. We want a pro-American crowd and fifty-fifty is not good enough. If we can make it much more favorable for the U.S. team we would like to do that."
On the ideal weather conditions: "If it is forty degrees and we play lousy, we will not win. I think the climate is suitable for us whether it is 20 degrees or fifty degrees. It will be fine. The bottom line is that you have to play well. The weather is not going to be the difference in the game."