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Quote Sheet: U.S. MNT Head Coach Bob Bradley Discusses the Upcoming Mexico Match

As the second match of 2007 draws near, U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley took time out from training to discuss the upcoming match against CONCACAF rival Mexico. Bradley and the U.S. team will face Mexico on Feb. 7 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., in what is his second match at the helm of the squad.

Opening Comments:
“We are excited to be here in Phoenix. I know the players felt that all the work that took place at The Home Depot Center was very good but I know that they’re pleased to get here and I know that’s an indication of their excitement for the game and the fact that it’s only a few days away. We will train later this afternoon. It is our first opportunity to get on the field with the four players that have met us in Phoenix from Europe: Timmy Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Convey and Clint Dempsey. We’re trying to find a good balance so that we’re not too excited too soon but at the same time, the focus that this kind of match requires to get us prepared for Wednesday night.”

On why he chose those four European-based players:
“There are so many factors that come into play in terms of decisions on who’s coming from overseas. It worked well at this time for this group and I think they mix in well with the players that have been in camp. We hope that it gives some of the players that have been around since January 3 the continued chance to play in these games. It’s a great opportunity to have some of our young players and see how they perform in a tough atmosphere. We feel that this is a good group for this match.”

On his thoughts on Mexico’s lineup:
“I know the list, like everyone. I think it’s a statement that they take this game very seriously. We will wait to see the decision in terms of who they put on the field to start.”

On how he tries to balance the intensity of a game against Mexico and measuring player progress so early in the cycle:
“Our goal is to win and we’ve had a group in camp that I think has come together very well. We felt that the Denmark game helped us assess some of these guys in their first match or first couple matches with the U.S. team. Now we move on. We feel good about the players that we’ve brought from Europe and we are trying to make the decisions that are best for the beginning of this cycle and at the same time, we’re doing it always with the understanding that when we step on the field we must perform and obviously our goal is to win.”

On Todd Dunivant not making the roster:
“It’s not the time to discuss the specifics of situations. We feel like the camps have been competitive and the group of players that we’ve brought here have earned that chance. At the same time we feel that all the players in camp did well and we’ll continue to keep an eye on them when the MLS season begins.”

On Jonathan Bornstein and Kenny Cooper’s performances against Denmark:
“I thought both Jonathan Bornstein and Kenny Cooper performed really well in their first match. Jonathan didn’t have a great start to the game but he seemed to settle down and, particularly in the second half, find the confidence. Kenny came on as a sub and had the insurance goal. I thought that he showed great composure with the way that he handled that chance. I was pleased with both of those guys.”

On testing the young players and who he would like to see perform well against Mexico:
“I would mention a player like Ricardo Clark. Ricardo has shown people in MLS how competitive he is and the qualities he brings to the center of the field. I think those kinds of qualities will be important in the game on Wednesday. We’re excited to see how he handles those challenges.”

On how this game tests him as coach:
“It certainly raises the stakes. I have an expression I use with the players a lot. When you’re in a camp, at the end of the camp when you have a match, the spotlight comes on. The spotlight in those 90 minutes tells a lot about what went on in the camp. We certainly know that when we play Mexico at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Wednesday with the crowd that’s anticipated, that spotlight will come on very, very brightly. In that regard, our preparation, the way that we balance the little details but not over-preparation, so that the players still step on the field with confidence and the understanding that as a group they need to go out and go after Mexico and put them under pressure and play the game at that kind of tempo. I think U.S. teams have had success over the past years where they have gone on the field and Bruce (Arena) always made sure that those teams really went after Mexico. I think that’s a really important thing for us to be thinking about on Wednesday.”

On how much pressure he feels before this game given his ‘interim’ status:
“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to this game. As a coach, you always look forward to big matches. I have not allowed this ‘interim’ thing to factor into any part of it. I feel good with the work that Peter Nowak, Mike Sorber, Zak Abdel and myself have done. Now we are anxious to put it out on the field in an important game.”

On the challenge of replacing Claudio Reyna in the next four years:
“I think Claudio is going to be a very very difficult player to replace. I think he had the ability to control the tempo of the game. His pure skill on the ball allowed him at times to slow the game down and give the game some pause when it was necessary and that’s something we’ll need time to develop. We all recognize that Claudio has been a very special player for our National Team and certainly replacing him is a big challenge.

On Clint Dempsey’s role, going forward:
“As far as Clint is concerned, we’re excited to see his fearlessness and his aggressiveness going forward and getting into the box. We all know he scored a great goal in the World Cup and throughout his time in MLS he has shown a level of unpredictability and creativity in terms of taking plays and helping the team create goal scoring situations. I’m excited for that. I had a discussion with him last night and I know he feels good about his first few weeks in England and I think that as he continues to mature and play in big games, he’s only going to get better for the U.S. National Team.

On whether Dempsey could play in the center for the U.S., or strictly outside:
“It depends on how the team plays. The most important thing is to still find a way for him to get the ball in situations going forward where his attacking skills come into play.”

On not bringing in European-based forwards:
“I would say that we feel good about the players that we have, but that’s also the way it worked out. I don’t want to get into the specifics but we put out different releases, we had different conversations and we made the decisions that we thought fit this game.”

On Hugo Sanchez and the way he may be looking at the match:
“I read some of the quotes that come out of the Mexican camp and I certainly can see that the mentality of Hugo Sanchez is to erase some of the results. That shows his competitiveness which has always marked his career. Other than that, I promise you that we concentrate on our side of things, in trying to find the right way every day to challenge our players, create a good environment, that our group is prepared, not only for this game but is understanding everything that needs to go into creating a good foundation for the next four years.”

On whether he looks at the rosters and thinks about what players may fit together for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America:
“It’s constantly going through all our heads. One of the things we feel good about is that in the early months of this year, starting with the camps that have led to the Denmark and the Mexico games, an Under-23 camp next month and the double fixture date in March, we feel like we will have had an opportunity to see so many of our players and size up where they all are at this particular time. That will allow us to make good decisions going forward for the summer.”

On which European-based players he requested and did not bring in:
“Again, we’re going to stay away from the specifics. Every situation is unique. We feel like we explored all the different opportunities and that’s the way it worked out.”

On Eddie Johnson:
“Eddie is still a young player who we feel we must invest some time in. I think like many other young players, when there is some early success then, at times, that also creates pressure. With it there are ups and downs. We are trying hard just to create a good understanding with Eddie on what we expect every day, trying hard to challenge him in training, show him little things. We feel that he has come into camp with a good attitude, a good mentality to learn and we feel that all of that bodes well for the future.”

On whether some of his struggles come from the pressure put on him:
“I think it’s always difficult for young players when so much is expected so quickly. While it’s natural that players like that may bring a lot of attention, it doesn’t always work properly with the speed that they need to pick up things in order to grow. We want to assure him that we see the talent and now we want to set good guidelines for how to go to work together over the next four years.”

On where he thinks Landon Donovan is more suited to play at the international level:
“I think Landon’s capable of playing as a frontrunner and as a midfielder and I think that versatility will help us.”

On Pablo Mastroeni’s role during the next cycle:
“I can tell you that Pablo has done a tremendous job during the last month as one of the key veteran players who has had experience in the previous two World Cups. His mentality every day has been a great example to everyone else. He trains very hard, he takes time with younger players, he still listens and wants to see the things we think he can do to improve. We all know that on the field he’s so committed and such a strong competitor, so we feel good about everything that he brings to our team at this time.”

On whether there is anything in particular he is asking of Mastroeni against Mexico:
“As I mentioned earlier, the center of the midfield is important in these games and Pablo’s leadership in terms of, not only going for balls and making tackles, but making sure that the people around him are organized. We have tried to get him to understand that he can’t try to do it all himself. He has to make sure that people are in the right spots and we’re always organized. When you have young players on the field, he needs to have a way to support them so that they understand what it’s like to play in these big games. I think he understands all of those things very well.”

On the team’s mindset:
“I think it’s a group that’s very very excited. There are new players that have helped bring extra enthusiasm into everything we do. I think the players have refocused themselves on the challenges that are ahead. They’re all just truly looking forward to this game on Wednesday.”

On what he sees from Landon Donovan, especially after the World Cup:
“Landon puts a lot of pressure on himself. As all of you know, he’s incredibly honest with himself. After the World Cup last summer, I think that he showed great character in terms of the way he spoke openly about his performance, the fact that he felt that he wasn’t at his best, the way he took a certain amount of responsibility. Moving forward, we’ve also tried to create the right environment where everybody understands that it’s a team thing. I think he’s had a great sense of enthusiasm throughout these camps and I think he’s looking forward to this game and to the next four years.”

On the atmosphere he expects on Wednesday against Mexico:
“We expect a great atmosphere. We know that Mexico is typically very well supported in these kinds of matches. We know what that feels like. We understand that there will still be a great number of U.S. supporters there and we are concentrating on playing in an atmosphere that will be exciting, that will be loud and understand what goes into playing in these kind of big games.”

On Carlos Bocanegra and his development in England:
“I think that every player that’s gone to Europe has seen [ups and downs] and in almost all cases has grown from that. Carlos has had a very good run of games lately. I know that he’s happy to be playing back in the center of the defense, which he certainly feels is the position where he can contribute most at Fulham. They’ve had some good results and in all ways I can see a level of maturity in terms of his play and the way he conducts himself. In that regard, it’s nice to see. I’ve always enjoyed working with Carlos. From the beginning, he was a great competitor, someone who meant a lot to the success that we had in Chicago. I know that he takes his role with the national team very seriously.”

On whether his best spot with the MNT is in the center or on the left:
“I think with Carlos, we’re fortunate that we have flexibility. He can play in a four-man system as either a center-back or a left-back. I think he’s capable, if we play three in the back, of playing as the central defender or as the left-sided defender. The fact that he has played in all those roles only helps us. We will always try to look at our options in every camp and figure out the ways to put our best team on the field but also ways to have some tactical flexibility going forward.”

On Jimmy Conrad:
“Again, similar to the comments that I made about Pablo, I have only very very good things to say about working with Jimmy. He’s taken a leadership role. As you know he was our captain in the game against Denmark and his experience, his understanding of the game really is important, especially with the fact that we’ve had some young defenders in this camp throughout January. At one time or another, I would pair every one of them up with Jimmy because I feel like when we work in training it’s just a great exercise to have Bobby Boswell next to him on a given day, Michael Parkhurst next to him, Dasan Robinson next to him. I think he’s really done an excellent job of handling the fact that we’re asking him to help these guys and show them a little bit about the differences between playing on the MLS level and playing in international games. He had a good solid match against Denmark. We know that playing against Mexico there are some big challenges with the players that they have in the attack and Jimmy will play a big role again on Wednesday.”

On whether playing Mexico makes the game a little bit more special:
“Clearly. First of all, (our players) all read the papers. They all know what’s going on. They know the group of players that Mexico is bringing to this game. They are also incredibly excited to play at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Most of them have watched the Arizona Cardinals play there, the Fiesta Bowl, there was a game between Chivas Guadalajara and Club America there last Halloween, so the players know what kind of stadium this is. They’re all excited, even with the way they bring the field in before the game. You just sense that this game has a little bit of extra attention and everybody is just looking forward to it.”

On what he thinks are Mexico’s greatest strengths and weaknesses:
“I see Mexico always as a great soccer team with good history and now our number one rival. We always know when we play them that fans from both our teams will view this match with extra importance.”

On Taylor Twellman and his plans for him with the National Team:
“Like all the players, I think they feel that there is a fresh start. Taylor missed the first part of camp. When he came in for the second part after his hernia surgeries, clearly he starts a little bit behind and he’s playing catch-up. So we have to think about a role that fits with where he is at this time. He works hard in trainings, that’s nothing new. Taylor is a great competitor, someone who has shown tremendous ability to score goals in MLS. I’m excited to work with him and look for him to be able to be a guy who can score on the international level.

“Whenever there is a great goal scorer in the domestic league, there still is an adjustment when that player plays for his national team. We continue to talk to Taylor every day about the fact that the games go a little bit faster, his ability to see things a little bit quicker and his ability to polish up in certain areas will be key. In those ways he seems incredibly receptive. Peter Nowak has really taken time with him in this camp and I think those two have hit it off in that regard and we’re excited to try to push him forward a little bit more.”

On Eddie Robinson:
“Eddie has done a very good job in camp. The qualities that you see with the (Houston) Dynamo in terms of his physical presence and his leadership, I think those things have started to come out loud and clear with the national team. There is a great deal of competition amongst these guys to try to get onto the field. Eddie’s time hasn’t come yet but I don’t think it’s too far away.”

On how Brian Ching fits into his plans:
“We’ve missed Brian. We know everything that he brings to the team. I hope that his rehab is going well and that we will see him again soon.”

On the U.S. record vs. Mexico and whether it will work for or against the U.S. team:
“Our players are certainly aware of the record. Many of them have participated in those games. As I mentioned earlier, Hugo Sanchez has used those statistics as motivation for his team. I think that just puts more on the line as we go into this game.”