U.S. Soccer Quote Sheet: Conference Call with Bruce Arena
CHICAGO (Thursday, July 29, 1999) - The U.S. Men's National Team will battle Germany on Friday in Guadalajara at 7 p.m. ET, needing just a draw to advance to the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals. Following our Bruce Arena's thoughts on tomorrow's match against Germany, yesterday's excellent U.S. performance against Brazil, and the overall state of the U.S. National Team.
BRUCE ARENA - U.S. Men's National Team head coach
On playing for a draw in a tournament of this type (with a draw against Germany advancing the U.S. on Friday): "First of all, even if Joe-Max scores that penalty kick last night we are in the same position. This is the challenge to achieve a draw at a minimum on Friday. Before the tournament, I had three challenges for our team. One, to get three points against New Zealand. Two, to keep the result close against Brazil, so we can go into Friday with a fair chance for playing on Sunday. And three is now the key. It is a real exercise to get the appropriate result in this circumstance. The team is aware of the challenge. It will be a real good test of what we've learned."
"You play to get into the next round, but you don't defend for 90 minutes. If you try that you generally lose. We are going out there trying to win the game, but we need to be conscious of the fact that a draw will get us to the next round."
On the goal by Brazil: "I don't recall exactly what led up to the passes in the end, but they got the ball to Serginho, and Frankie (Hejduk) closed him down, but he hit a great cross. The area we can be faulted on is not closing on Ronaldinho, and he ended up with a clean header from five yards out. There was nothing Kasey (Keller) could do. They got one cross in the game from Serginho and Evinilson each, but they are a great team and one chance is all they need."
On Brazil's fitness compared to Germany: "There is not a team in the world that is more athletic than Brazil. We stayed with them pretty well for most parts of the game. Germany is more of a power team and they are a little better in the air. That is their strength. For overall agility and technique, there isn't a better team than Brazil."
On Brazil beating Germany 4-0 in the opening Confederations Cup match: "Brazil is going to beat teams more than a couple of goals from time to time, regardless of the team they are playing. Two of those goals, came less than 10 minutes from the finish. Looking back Germany might think they should have been more solid across the last 10 minutes, giving them a cleaner chance to get to the semifinals. But the final outcome is a little deceiving: they won 4-0, but it was even for 60-65 minutes."
General comments on the match vs. Brazil: "I think for the most part we defended well, except for the goal. And we defended well over long periods of time. We pressured the ball, created chances going the other way. Over the last 20 minutes of the first half, we got after them a bit and gained some confidence. Our back line was very strong. I was very proud of the player of Agoos, Llamosa, Hejduk and Fraser. We got at 'em and became dangerous. We moved the ball around well and pressed well. Kasey wasn't called upon too much in the game and they didn't get a corner kick, which never happens with Brazil, and they were called offside something like 17 times. We could got at them a little quicker on shots and on offense. We had an opportunity to tie it up with a penalty kick, but Joe-Max didn't hit it real well, and we ended up on the short end of the score. I'm pretty happy with the performance, but not the result."
"Using Brazil as a way to measure a team is sometimes unfair, sometimes it's the real world. That was one of the most talented teams in the world and we did very well. That makes you think we are getting there. It was a solid performance. With a break here or there it's a draw, which obviously would be a very good result. We are improving, looking more dangerous in attack and defensively we are getting better."
"I don't think it is fair to compare the two games (the U.S. 1-0 victory in 1998). All of our games are different. This match was a little more even."
"Our recent performances is a tribute to the players. We are making progress. We have a long way to go. We don't have a time table, but I think we are another year away. We need to have our team ready in October of 2000 for World Cup qualifying."
On how he decided who would take the penalty: "Joe-Max Moore grabbed the ball, so that's how it was determined. I don't think there is a better player in U.S. Soccer than Joe-Max taking penalties. He wanted the ball and wanted to take the kick. That's really what that boiled down to. He and Jovan are our best guys on the team to take PKs."
On the forwards overall confidence (based on Cobi Jones lack of shot on first-half breakaway): "Well, they are not little kids. Cobi's played in 100 international matches and has scored goals at every level. I'm confident that with chances like that in the future he will do a better. Those things happen. What can you say? Brazil played in Copa America and they gave up one goal and they've given up zero in this tournament. We challenged them. It would be nice to have Ronaldo on the team, but we don't. But we can score goals."
On Frankie Hejduk's defensive role on Wednesday, and how that differs from his past experience: "I don't think it was a different role. He played like that in MLS and on the Olympic team with me. We aren't asking him to do something he hasn't done before. He may have a little different role in Germany, though."
On Jovan Kirovski's recent performances: "Kirovski has been very good for us. With the situation last night we had to pull him back a little and he wasn't a presence in front of the goal. He is a young player with a lot of talent and he's one of the guys we can build the team around in the future."
On Carlos Llamosa's injury which forced him out of the game in the 68th minute: "I think the official report is that it's day-to-day and it's a mild strain of his left quad muscle. It is likely he won't play tomorrow, but you never know how different players respond, that's why it's day-to-day."
On Claudio Reyna's absence: "I imagine if we had Claudio on the field it would be a little different, but you go with the players you have. There is no point in analyzing the 'what if?'. Claudio could have played last night and been the worst player on the field or the best. We don't think about those things. We are very confident with the players we have."
On Robin Fraser's play: "I thought last night was the best game he's played for the U.S. since I've had him. His passing was good and as the game went on he got more aggressive. He was very solid, and was more comfortable playing on a four-man line than a three-man line. He made a great play sprinting back to breakup the breakaway by Brazil and assist Kasey in making the save. He's got some years ahead of him at this level and hopefully he will remain a fixture on our team."
On Harkes recent play and injury status: "Harkes took a knock last night. He had a good game against New Zealand. He's played pretty well. He's playing the way we want him to play. He has a great attitude. He continues to help this team. We will know more tomorrow about his status, but he seemed OK today in training."
On the tight scheduling of the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup: "It feels like the 1998 MLS final where D.C. United played a bunch of games in the week before the finals and our opponent did not. The nice thing here is everyone is on a fairly similar playing schedule. Except Group A, which will have an extra day of rest before the semifinals. It's difficult and I don't see the rationale behind it. It's unheard of at this level to play three games in 5 days or 2 games in 3 days. But we are happy to be here and it's basically the same for everyone."
On the fatigue factor against Germany: "We are well adjusted to the altitude now, having trained in it for 17 days now, so that shouldn't be a factor. It could be a factor if we advance to Mexico City. There will be some changes tomorrow night, but I can't tell you what they are. Fatigue will play a factor when games are close together, and we saw this in U.S. Cup in March. Our charge is to advance into the next round, as well as put a team on the field Sunday that can get us to the final if we do advance. It's a balancing act. I can't tell you what the line-up will be until we see the players tomorrow and see how they've responded since the last game."
On the team's psychological improvement, compared to 5-7 years ago: "We talk about it, but we don't have a sports psychologist to get them ready to play. They are gaining experience at the international level and they do the best they can. The difference now from 5-7 years ago is that we have full-time professional players. On any given day they can compete with any team in the world."
"We have gone from not being able to kick a ball in the ocean to being able to pass a little bit. Our players now are playing on a regular basis. We are becoming a soccer-playing nation. We are improving technically. With this environment you are bound to improve technically, physically and mentally."
On Lothar Matthaus and his pending move to MLS: "He had another great year in Germany and was their player of the year again. He continues to demonstrate that he is a great player and scored a great goal last night (in 2-0 win over New Zealand). I don't know what type of MLS player he will be. It really depends on the team and the players surrounding him and what role he is eventually given within the team. But let's face it, he is a great player."