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One-on-One with Tony Meola

Tony Meola is the USA's all-time leader in games played, wins and shutouts among goalkeepers. He is also the only U.S. goalkeeper in the last 50 years to win a World Cup game. We recently sat down with Tony and talked about the team's first day in Korea, the differences between 1990 U.S. World Cup Team and the current squad, his role with the team and more… How has the first 24 hours in Korea been?
Tony Meola: The trip here was good. The hospitality has been great, and now it is time to start working. How does the team feel heading into the tournament?
Meola: Everyone is pretty upbeat, we all realize that this is the best team we have ever had. I think we are all pretty confident that getting through the first round is certainly achievable. It wouldn’t be a surprise like it was in 1994. What is the team working on right now, with 11 days until the World Cup kicks off?
Meola: The process right now, from the coaching staff point of view, has to be to solidify a starting 11, and then for everybody else to understand their roles.  Right now everyone needs to get as sharp as they possibly can.  Perfection is what we have to strive for, although it is very difficult to achieve.  Everyone has to be critical of themselves, but at the same time they have to be loose enough not to worry about making mistakes because in the World Cup if you worry too much about making mistakes you’re not concentrating on some of the other things you need to do. I think this team has a pretty good attitude about the whole thing, and only time will tell how far we go. What has the atmosphere been like in Korea?
Meola: I think the city here and the rest of the two countries will embrace the World Cup. I think everyone has thought for the last year that this is going to be a great venue. From the coverage we’ve seen so far on TV to the enthusiasm of the people, I’m sure this will be as exciting of a World Cup as any that has ever been held. How much progress has been made from 1990 – when you played all three matches at the World Cup in Italy - to now?
Meola: People always want to know the difference between 1990 and now - and it is night and day.  In 1990 Coach Gansler was looking for players #20, #21 and #22 to fill out the roster. We had to scan the whole country to try to find guys for those roles. And now Bruce has the luxury of releasing probably that many guys. The MLS has really helped the player pool and its depth and it has helped a lot of individuals play at this level. Hopefully we will see the fruits of that in the next couple of weeks. You are in somewhat of a tough position as the third goalkeeper, what do you do get ready for the tournament?
Meola: Right now I have to approach it to be ready at all times.  Anything can happen. I know I’m not going to be the starter, but you never know, crazier things have happened. If I have the opportunity to contribute on the field I have to do it, but if not I have to do what I’ve got to do to contribute off the field. It’s a unique situation, but I told myself I was going to make the most out of it, and I intend to do that.