U.S. Head Coach
On looking back at the USA-Korea match 24 hours later:
“I thought we gave a great effort. I thought we did a terrific job of taking a lead, unfortunately we gave up a goal in the last 15 minutes, but I thought given that circumstances … as I’ve said, we weren’t playing Korea, we were playing against a nation. I thought with the pressure and magnitude of that game, that the result was very positive for us. It puts us in a position to get into the second round if we can be successful on Friday. I thought overall, given the circumstances, we played well.
“I think defensively we were pretty solid. They certainly had three or four very good chances, but Brad (Friedel) came up big. But I expect our goalkeepers to come up big. He is an outstanding goalkeeper and I expect him to make saves. In that game he bailed us out. On the other end of the field we created some decent chances. Obviously Mathis was clinical on his finish, and Donovan had a couple of good chances. We had a few good counters in which we were not able to get a shot off, but I thought that at times we were able to counter them.
“If I could be critical of anything, I would say in the second half we did not do a good job of possessing the ball to take a little pressure off our back line. But overall, I am pleased with the way we played and the result is what we needed. Sitting here today we feel good, and no we have to prepare real hard to be ready for Poland.”
On the team’s current injury situation:
“We came out of this game better than we did the Portugal game. … Although Steve Cherundulo will likely not be available for the remained of the Cup after suffering a slight knee injury. So we should have 22 healthy players available on Friday.”
On whether he has thought about how to get Earnie Stewart back into the line-up (after he missed the Korea game with a groin injury):
“Yes, we’ve thought about it. (pause) We are not worried about the starting line-up right now. The job is to recover and get our team back to a point where we are going to get on the field Friday and be ready to play. We are going to relax for awhile before we start talking about lineups.”
On whether he expects any lineup changes from Poland:
“I expect the game against Poland to be a very difficult game. If anything the pressure is off of them now and they can go out and relax and try and get a result. I imagine there will be some changes in their lineup, we know they have a player suspended for the third game (midfielder Piotr Swierczewski) and they might have a couple of injuries, however I think they will put a good team on the field and it will be a very difficult match for us. Our team has to be prepared to play in a very physical match.”
On his thoughts of Portugal against Poland, compared to the Portugal the U.S. beat 3-2 in their tournament opener:
“I think you cannot compare Portugal-USA to Portugal-Poland. I think the styles are different for all four teams in our group and the games are going to look different. You cannot compare one game to another. If you do, I think you are mistaken. Certainly, our game against Poland will look different than our games against Portugal and Korea.”
On whether he has thought about the benefits of a first-place finish, compared to second-place and earning an extra day of rest:
“I wish I had the luxury to think that way. All I want to do is be in the next round. We know it is going to be difficult to against Poland. I don’t really care whether we finish first or second, or whether we play the 17th or 18th. We need to focus on the game on Friday and whatever happens happens. And if we qualify and that means we are first or second, I can live with either one to be honest.”
On whether he thinks it is a fair assessment to say Jeff Agoos is struggling in this tournament:
“Well first of all, I don’t think that is a fair assessment. I think actually yesterday Jeff played a very good game. He made a bunch of good plays. The penalty kick was a bunch of legs getting tangled up. I think 9 out of 10 times that call is not made. I think Korea being the home team and kind of pressure and the score of the game at the time …. Now I’m not saying that there wasn’t contact and that it wasn’t a play where a referee can make that call. I think it is rarely made in a World Cup in this situation. That is unfortunate for Jeff. That could happen to anyone, and it was Eddie Pope who actually knocked into him. The Korean forwards all game were fouling our guys, grabbing our shirts, falling down, and we are called for the penalty kick. Fair enough. On the play at the end of the game, it was a very good goal by the Koreans. Yes, Jeff could have done a little bit better on the play, but I’ll be honest with you, he made a bunch of good plays in this game. At the end of this game, he gets singled out a little bit. But I think he had a pretty solid game. And that was the case against Portugal as well, and yet he was still involved in a couple of plays there.
On whether he has talked to Jeff Agoos about his performances in the last two games:
“Well first of all he knows me. I’ve knocked him down and I’ve picked him up over the last 24 hours. He knows me. We’ve talked about it. He is a big boy.”
On any changes he might consider making in the U.S. lineup in advance of USA-Poland:
“Any changes we make in our lineup will come from a variety of reasons. They will come from injuries, they will come from fatigue, they will come because of cards. And also, we will evaluate the Poland team and decide on our best 11 who can be successful against Poland.”
On his thoughts on Clint’ performance against Korea:
“It was a great goal. Clint is a great finisher, no doubt about it. Not many people would have finished off that play. He did well taking down the ball by John (O’Brien), it was a great pass by O’Brien. A great run by Clint. Beautiful technique in getting the ball down quickly and a clinical finish with his left foot. That’s Clint. I thought in the second half he was one of our few players who did a pretty good job of holding the ball, and he had some good combinations with Beasley that were dangerous at times.”
On how he felt Claudio Reyna filled his role in the U.S. lineup against Korea:
“That is a difficult game for a midfielder, with the pressure that the Koreans apply to the midfield. It was Claudio’s first game in about three weeks, he was a little rusty and his match fitness wasn’t what it needed to be. But I think he did a lot of good things. He worked hard defensively. He was one of a bunch of players who helped us get at them in countering. I think that game is going to help him for the game on Friday. He needed that. We didn’t say anything publicly, but Claudio went easily a week without training. So he was a little rusty.”
On his thoughts and prediction on the Korea-Portugal match on Friday:
“If you look around this World Cup and you had to try and predict these games, you wouldn’t be making a very good living. They are very unpredictable. That is why you roll the ball out there and play. I am not in the business in predicting any results, in group play for sure, but clearly you have two teams with two different styles, and once again the Korean fans will come out and support their team and it is do or die. They need a result in this game. I think that home-field advantage will be big, and they will bring a lot of pressure on the Portuguese team. On the other hand, the Portuguese team now has confidence and they think they are the team they thought they were going to be coming into this tournament, so it is going to be a great game.”
On his decision to start Brad Friedel in goal for the first two matches of the World Cup:
“Well first of all, I don’t believe we have a goalkeeper controversy. I just happen to believe we have two great goalkeepers. Which I don’t think is a bad problem to have. Obviously Brad is coming off two great seasons with Blackburn. And I thought in these games … Kasey is a great shot-stopper as well … but I think one of the things that separates Brad from most goalkeepers is his feet are outstanding and his ability to play balls out of the back under pressure, on goal kicks and on balls back to the ‘keeper, all of those things that maybe the average fan doesn’t notice are big in games like this. And he is an offensive weapon for us as well, besides the fact that he does what we love to see goalkeepers do yesterday in the goal, which is denying the other team. That is really your overriding factor in making that decision, I think that is another outstanding part of his game.”
On Friedel’s performance against Portugal:
“I thought against Portugal he played well and had a good solid game. And obviously he couldn’t be faulted on the two goals they got, he might have been able to save Agoos’ actually (laughter), but he wasn’t set for the shot. His kicking game was outstanding, and again, I continue to think that is an area that really helps our team.”
On whether he decided before the Cup to start Brad in each of these three games:
“I don’t do that. You must think I’m an absolute liar. We look at every game. We play the game, and then we decide what we do the next game. Goalkeepers are no different in my eyes for me than field players when we evaluate, and in how we set a team for each and every game.”
On his views on CONCACAF and their success:
“CONCACAF has done well. Who can argue that? We are the only confederation that is undefeated in this World Cup. That speaks for itself. I have always said that I would like to see a lot of these other teams have to go to Azteca Stadium (Mexico) and Saprissa Stadium (Costa Rica) and Honduras and Guatemala to play. I would like to see how they would do. It is a tough region to play in. The home games are one thing, but the traveling is another animal that not too many realize.”
On if he thinks there are any tactical reasons responsible for the CONCACAF success:
“No. I really don’t. I think there is a lot of experience there. Costa Rica may have had an easy time at the end of qualifying, but they fought like dogs to get into the final round, winning a playoff. At the start of the final round, they lost their opening game. Mexico fought to get in, and we fought. We have all been in a lot of pressure games in a way, and I think that helps a lot. I think that might be part of the reason the CONCACAF teams have done well. They have all been in a lot of pressure situations.”
On how Poland will respond against the U.S. after being outscored 6-0 in two games and being eliminated:
"We have to look at it like Poland is going to come out and play their best game of the tournament. I think all professionals have a very large sense of pride about them. And I think if you look at the result, maybe with Saudi Arabia against when they lost to Germany and they came out against Cameroon, they had a lot of good chances to get a result in that game, and I think that's what we have to be expecting against Poland. If we're expecting them to fall over and let us beat them and get whatever result we want, then we're sorely mistaken."
On whether his strong season at Blackburn gave him some extra confidence going into the World Cup:
"The last couple of years at Blackburn have gone very well for me. I'm in a very good environment there. It's a very well run club. And with a manager there who I get along with very well. So, when every things go smoothly in your club seasons, I think it always gives you more confidence. You'd always rather be winning than losing, so yes, I think so."
On whether there was anything different in his or the team's preparation for this World Cup:
"No. The only thing that was a little bit different is we got together as a team on May 1 and we went through a mini pre-season, if you'd like, and it was good for a lot of reasons, for the whole team to be together for one, and to kind of get yourself regenerated from the long season. Nothing as far as my training methods. I think once you learn what you need to know what to do before each and every game to make yourself feel right for the game, you go through those routines no matter where you are. But from the standpoint of getting the team all together and getting the team spirit right, it was very good and that would be the only difference, so to speak."
On his mindset entering the final game of the 1998 World Cup, when the U.S. was in the same position as the Polish team:
"I think, first and foremost, you want to go out and try to save some face. I think our performance against Yugoslavia was probably our best performance of the tournament, and that was a tribute to, I think, the players on the team and maybe the American players' mentalities. It's a difficult situation when you know you're going home the day after, but I think when you're professional, and when you're competitive, you do want to prove yourself each and everyday, and that's what the Poles will be doing on that day."
On whether he had a feeling which way the Korean shooter might be going on the penalty kick:
"No, I just hoped. They changed shooters right before, and generally speaking, that would tell me that whoever is taking the penalty kick might not be prepared for it, and I might feel in that situation the shooter might go to the side of the goal where he opens up his body, since it's easier to hit the area of the goal doing that as supposed to trying to drag it. A lot of times you might drag it too far right. It was just a thought I had in my mind, and it was fortunate for us that it worked that way."
On whether he draws off the crowd like the one at the USA-Korea match:
"Not really. The crowd yesterday, it was very, very good electric atmosphere. It wasn't hostile towards us, nor was it a crowd that would get behind the away team in anyway. A lot of times, if the home team isn't doing what they like, then they might come on our side. That's not the case. The South Korean crowd were fantastic for them. I think the first time I touched the ball in the second half, they started to boo me. It was great for them. But it wasn't a crowd that was going to get behind us in any way or give us more energy to do that. It was a great crowd for the South Koreans, and it's going to be the 12th man for them, for the entire tournament."