Quote Sheet: U.S. MNT Manager Bruce Arena Conference Call
“Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today. We now enter our sixth week of camp in Manhattan Beach, Calif. It’s been a good camp for us. Obviously the early going was very difficult for our players because of the long layoff they had from their MLS seasons. That was to be expected. But we’ve seen some steady progress from the Canada game to the Norway game and the Japan game. Now the Guatemala game presents a number of new challenges for us and we eagerly look forward to it.
“For this game, as you’re probably aware, we released eight players back to their club teams, notably the players from the New England Revolution and the Los Angeles Galaxy, so we’re 17-strong now in camp and that will be our roster for the game against Guatemala.
“It’s a big game for our players, as well as our coaching staff in terms of evaluating players for a potential World Cup roster. It’s an opportunity now for a number of players who haven’t received a whole lot of minutes in the first three games to show us what they’re about. I know it’s going to be a game that they eagerly look forward to and I’m excited about giving some of these players an opportunity.
“We do have a strong nucleus of players led by former (FC Dallas) player Eddie Johnson. Josh Wolff and Brian Ching join him in our front line. We have a midfield nucleus of Chris Rolfe, Ben Olsen, Chris Klein, Kerry Zavagnin, Kyle Martino, Brian Carroll, and a potential backline of Eddie Pope, Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hejduk, Bobby Boswell and Heath Pearce. Our goalkeepers are Brad Guzan and Zach Wells, who we look forward to seeing in their first international matches, as well. That’s our 17-man roster. We look forward to the challenge against Guatemala. Carlos Ruiz is the one player we’re certainly well aware of. We know from (World Cup) qualifying they have a very good team. It should be a real good game in Dallas on Sunday and we look forward to our first visit. It’s a wonderful facility.”
On whether Taylor Twellman has done enough to earn a spot on the World Cup roster:
“He’s obviously shown well in our camp as he heads back to New England. We haven’t penciled in anyone in our roster yet. I want to make that clear. We have not finalized any names. I think we need to play it out. I think if you wanted to bet that Kasey Keller would be on our roster, you would probably have a pretty good chance at being correct. I think we have a lot of competition in a lot of positions and the forward position is certainly one of them. Taylor has done nothing but help his cause but certainly, at this point in time, we’re not ready to write his name down, as is the case with our entire roster."
On Eddie Johnson’s confidence:
“In terms of Eddie Johnson, I think over the past week he’s finally physically and psychologically recovered from his turf toe injury. That has been an obstacle for Eddie for a good six months or so. That’s completely past him. He suffered an injury in the game against Canada that set him back a couple weeks but over the last week or so we’ve seen some of the form that Eddie’s had in the past. He’s looking much sharper on the ball and he’s much fitter, and because of that, he’s confident. He still has that speed and that’s not going to change. I think that over the next couple months Eddie should be back in full form and be a player who is challenging for a spot on the World Cup roster.”
On the five New England Revolution players in camp and their improvement:
“The games haven’t changed. I think they’re a little bit more experienced and a little bit more confident. Taylor has had a lot of success at the MLS level and it’s never translated to the international game. Obviously, we’ve seen as of late that he is much more comfortable and is becoming adjusted to international soccer and has been successful.
“I would say the same with Clint Demspey. Clint is a little bit of a different story because he’s still a young professional and I thought it was going to take him a little bit of time and he’s finally discovered what he’s about as a player and how to take that to the field and he’s done quite well there.
“Matt Reis is a good goalkeeper. Honestly, he could have gotten the nod just as easily as Kevin Hartman the other night and the decision was made to go with Kevin.
“Pat Noonan, I think, is a terrific player. I really like him, he has a great personality. He’s good for our team on the field and off. He’s a real winner and a great competitor, as are all the Revolution players. Whatever Stevie is doing with them, they’re really competitive guys and the kind of players you need to have on the field in international games. Pat, I think, had his best game ever for the national team against Japan. He played well on both sides of the ball. He was involved in one play that set up a goal. He was involved in a bunch of other plays that created goal-scoring opportunities, and, as I said, played well on both sides of the ball. He was a lot more comfortable on the ball and had a very good game against the right-sided Japanese players. He had a super game.
“Steve Ralston, it’s just a shame that he suffered that quad injury because he came into camp fitter that I’ve seen in many years and, still to date, is probably our most comfortable player in our pool in playing on the right side of the field on the touch line. It’s unfortunate that we miss him but it’s a good nucleus of players. It’s not surprising that the teams that have the largest number of players on our roster over the past 30 days are players that played in the MLS Cup Final. Notably New England and the Galaxy. The New England guys did great. They’ll all give a serious push as we go down the stretch in trying to be on our roster.”
On Clint Demspey:
“What I tried to describe to Clint and made it clear, I did see that he mentioned it in an interview previously, I think he needs to model himself more towards the likes of a Steven Gerrard and a Frank Lampard: two-way midfielders, modern day midfielders who play up and down the field, can attack and defend. Not playmakers, not holding midfielders, but very active guys. They use their athleticism and their instincts around the goal to help their team and whatever needs to be done on a given day. I think as he’s gotten fitter and more experienced he understands how to play that role. Really, those are the qualities he has. He’s not experienced enough yet to put a team on his back. He’s not particularly a great passer of the ball, however he’s a guy that’s a very good goal scorer out of the midfield and that’s the way we line him up, to play him in the midfield, a little bit on the right side of the field but not out wide on touches, and giving him a little bit of freedom to move accordingly and I think he’s adjusted quite well to that responsibility.”
On the gap between the U.S. players in Europe and those in MLS, and whether the European players are on the World Cup roster:
“No, we don’t have a roster set yet for Germany. I might be doing things different than other managers around the world but that’s just the case. There is a gap in some case. Some of our players that have been in Europe a little bit longer have an edge in experience on some of our domestic players. However, as I’ve mentioned, a Landon Donovan and an Eddie Pope don’t take a backseat to any of our players. But, I think, when healthy, Keller is clearly our No. 1 goalkeeper. Reyna continues to be our leader and we have a number of other players in Europe that are among our better players such as Beasley, Eddie Lewis, Steve Cherundolo and Brian McBride. We have good players domestically and we have good players playing in Europe. On a given day they’re equally as competitive with one another.”
On Kerry Zavagnin’s play in camp:
“When we put together this roster, we didn’t know what to do with Kerry because we had Pablo coming into camp, Brian Carroll, who ended up the year pretty well for us and Ben Olsen as an option as well. Kerry, in the beginning, was a player on the alternate list and a little bit in the background to players who play similar positions, like a Reyna, an O’Brien. Where does Kerry fit into this whole thing? But all he has done since he’s been in camp is demonstrate that he’s a very a good player. In our camp here, he’s in our first 11. He’s been very good since day one. He offers a lot. He knows how to play the position. He’s a very composed player. He’s a good communicator on the field and a very good teammate. He’s one of these guys that goes unnoticed and only makes your team better. His stock has risen considerably and given the circumstances in our entire pool, Kerry is going to be in there right until the end, when we’re looking to finalize our roster.”
On what he has seen in Taylor Twellman:
“Taylor is a very good player. He’s a player like a lot of athletes in a lot of sports where, when they’re in the right rhythm and they have that confidence, they play better. Taylor, in our environment, has struggled to find himself and now he’s found himself. I’m hopeful that everything is going to move forward from here. I think he’s also finding how he has to play with our team and play international soccer, which is very different from playing in the MLS. He’s adjusting to that and as he does that and tastes success he gets nothing but more confidence.”
On U.S. defender Eddie Pope’s career with the U.S. Men’s National Team:
“His career with the national team began in 1996. I was his coach at D.C. United and I remember when we released him for his first camp. At the time he was a talented young central defender who I was quite certain was going to be successful and, 10 years later, he’s still kicking around. He’s had a great career and will potentially be playing in his third World Cup, which is a fantastic achievement for any player in the world. He has done the job for the U.S. throughout all of these qualifying campaigns. He has a new motivation in terms of wanting to be healthy and wanting to play in his last World Cup. He’s had a fantastic camp. He’s come in in pretty good shape and, as you know, has played well. Obviously, he has two goals in his last two matches on top of everything else. I’m hopeful that he stays injury free, maintains his form and is a part of our World Cup roster in Germany.
“Eddie’s a quiet person. I’ve known him for a long time. He has a pretty good sense of humor. He takes some time to open up, but he’s a guy who really enjoys being part of the national team and the relationships he has with his teammates. As he’s closing out his national team career, he enjoys the opportunity to spread some of his wisdom to the younger players. He’s been a really good role model for a number of our guys. He’s earned a lot of respect.”
On who has helped their chances to make the World Cup roster:
“I think our centerbacks have been very good: Pope and Conrad. I think Todd Dunivant has shown well. Zavagnin has shown well. I think Dempsey has shown well. Noonan did a good job. Twellman and Wolff have been pretty solid. Landon Donovan has done great. He is a terrific soccer player. He just had an outstanding five or six weeks with us. He has rekindled his desire to be a real player and I think he is positioning himself to have a great World Cup.”
On an American style of soccer:
“I don’t think yet we’ve really established one particular style, but we’re certainly more suited to the styles of the European countries than the South American (style). You would say we’re maybe a little bit more similar to the Germans or the English, the Dutch and the Italians than we would be to the South American countries or the African countries.
“It’s more of an athletic game, more of an honest two-way game by players. A little bit more position oriented and disciplined as opposed to a little bit more free-flowing and a little bit more wizardry on the ball. We don’t have players like the Brazilians have. We don’t have that kind of player. Why? I don’t exactly know. We don’t have the competition and the soccer culture that you have in Brazil when you’re developing players. But we have athletic guys, bright guys and they tend to play a game that fits to their strengths. Which is much more similar to the European countries than it is to anywhere else in the world.”
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