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U.S. Manager Bruce Arena Conference Call Quote Sheet - Aug. 30, 2004


U.S. MNT Conference Call Quote Sheet
U.S. Manager Bruce Arena
Aug. 30, 2004


Opening comments…
“Thank you for joining us today. As you know we are preparing for two very important games in the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. The game on Saturday against El Salvador is obviously our main focus at this time. El Salvador is the team on top of our group and, obviously, a team we feel we need to beat if we have hopes of going forward into the last group of six next spring. We’ve named what I feel is one of our strongest rosters since the World Cup. I feel that we have great balance all over the roster. We have experienced players at every position and, over two games, certainly I feel that we’re going to be able to utilize that roster fully. I feel good about the players at camp. A number of them have had difficult games over the weekend and a lot of travel, so we will slowly build towards getting our players back on their feet properly, and hopefully getting them in the right kind of form once we kick off on Saturday. It should be a very good game. We look forward to the match and, obviously, our focus is on trying to get the three points on Saturday in order to position ourselves to where we need to be as we travel down to Panama. “

On Clint Mathis’s injury…
“Clint, the day before we played Honduras in Boston roughly two months ago, hurt his ankle in a shooting exercise and has been slow in coming back. When he went back to pre-season he wasn’t 100 percent and it has taken him some time to get back his form. However, at this point in time, he is completely healthy.”

On Chris Armas and Earnie Stewart’s exclusions from the roster…

“Chris Armas is injured and I believe I’d be best served by letting Chicago announce where Chris stands right now.  In terms of Earnie, I didn’t select him on this roster for a variety of reasons which I don’t feel are necessary to make public at this time.”

On his splitting his goalkeepers…

“There are three goalkeepers there so you can’t split three of them. The possibility exists in that (splitting the two games) but I think we need to take it one step at a time. No decisions have been made yet. We know Tim Howard took a knock on Saturday as well as today and his status is still up in the air at this point in time.”

On the art of putting team together on short notice…

“The last game was a very difficult challenge in that we had a very short period of time. As you know, players arrived in Miami late Sunday and left for Jamaica on Tuesday. So, that was a time where we had to put together a roster real quick and get them organized and get them on the field to play a very difficult game. Even that can be done if you know your roster [well], and I’m fully aware of our players at this point in time. I’m actually ahead of where I was four years ago, in fact, and I think that’s half the battle: understanding your pool of players, and having the right balance and the right psychology with your team and understanding the way they need to play as well. So, it’s a combination of having everyone together as a team, having the right kind of team spirit in them, obviously putting them on the field in the right position and with the right tactics in order to be successful. Sometimes it’s easier than other times and there’s never any perfect solution as to how to get it done, but I think experience allows you to be more efficient every time out.”

On the team’s options at forward, specifically Brian Ching…
“Brian did very well and, obviously, he’s having a very good year with his club team. On the roster I think we’ve listed four players as forwards with Ching, (Brian) McBride, Conor (Casey) and Eddie Johnson. Plus, Landon Donovan can play there, as well as Clint Mathis, so we do have options. I think at this point in time we really look for the players that are in the best form out of this group and certainly Brian Ching is among them. He’s had a very good year and we’re hopeful as we move forward to later in the week that Brian responds to some treatments.  He played on Saturday not quite 100 percent, so we have to make sure he’s healthy if we’re going to consider him for the game on Saturday.”

On the impact of Ching’s performance against Jamaica on his place with the national team…

“He’s likely going to get an opportunity.  One game doesn’t completely finalize my opinion on a player. I think I need to see him over a period of time. However, the reason we brought Brian in is because we felt he was a guy that could make his presence in these games and get some goals, and he certainly has demonstrated that in his short stint with the national team. If you look at our roster, I think Conor has done well with us, Eddie Johnson is still untested and, certainly, McBride has a history of being very good with the national team as well.”

On Eddie Gaven…
“I think he’s played well. We have him in for what I believe is going to be his third camp now. He continues to be a player with a lot of promise and I’m hopeful he gets an opportunity during our qualifying to show as well. But you see him with the MetroStars. He’s a talented kid and I think it makes sense with some of our younger players to recognize how they’ve played in the league and introduce them with the national team and have the opportunity to meet the players. Because even the younger players, with all the talent they have, they need to have a little experience and confidence when they come into this setting. So if we bring them along the right way so when they step onto the field they’re going to be able to produce for us.”

On preferences of playing a single game or cluster of two games…

“It really doesn’t matter. It’s what it is and it’s always been this way. The reason there are two games is because in the international calendar and the fixture dates we only have limited segments in which you can get in World Cup qualifying dates, so we obviously have to play double dates. I don’t mind the double dates. I think it’s actually good. The ones I do mind is when we have the 48 hours [together], like we did against Jamaica. This time around, at least we have the luxury of bringing the team in early and getting them settled in a little bit, have a little bit of training and preparing them for the upcoming game.”

On Bobby Convey and DaMarcus Beasley playing in Europe…

“The challenge at Reading is a good one for him (Convey). I think he’s playing in a very tough league in the First Division in England. He’s not going to get the benefit of the doubt. He needs to produce game in and game out and I think that’s good for him. He’s going to be in a more pressure-packed situation. It is a team that believes it can position itself to be promoted to the Premiership, so all those challenges within his club, I think, are going to be good for Bobby because he needs to be tested as a player and that environment will certainly test him throughout a very long and rigorous schedule.

“If you look at PSV’s schedule, DaMarcus plays almost three games a week for the next six, seven, eight weeks. He’ll certainly be tested; however, I think that’s one quality DaMarcus always showed here, he shows up for each and every game. I think being in that kind of environment is not going to be at all troubling to DaMarcus. I think he’s going to respond pretty well to that challenge. And this is what these kind of players need. They need to be tested to an extent and they’re certainly going to get that at their respective clubs.”

On the goalkeeping situation …

“I haven’t made any final decisions. We know what this final roster includes.  It includes Keller, Howard and Walker. Friedel is still not 100 percent, and actually, I think this (weekend) was the first time he’s actually kicked the ball, so we still need to see him. The other thing about Brad that you don’t realize is that we’ve played probably - and I could be off - we’ve played about 30 games since the World Cup. Brad has played for us once. So he hasn’t been around.  He’s not 100 percent.  Kasey has been around a number of times. I’ve tried Tim Howard and John Walker throughout this process since the 2002 World Cup. So, at this point in time, I think this group of goalkeepers makes the most sense for us.”

On the importance of controlling WCQ games at home…

“Obviously there’s no magic to what I’m saying here, that simply an important part of qualifying is getting as many points as you can at home because the road is unknown. Having said that, we accomplished a lot in the first game by getting a point in Jamaica. What we do in the group is we take the three points that you’re riding at home away from Jamaica, so that’s a real plus and it becomes a wash. It’s very critical, I think, that we get the three points on Saturday if we want to be successful. So, I think if you explore every team that’s advanced in group stages and has qualified for World Cups, it shows that they’re successful at home and they find ways to steal points on the road. So, certainly, that’s what we need to do is be successful at home. In order to do that we need to play well and, secondly, I think it’s important that we get support in the stands. I’m hopeful on Saturday that the supporters of this U.S. team show up and support their team because I think it’s very important, because these teams are very challenging and we need the so-called 12th man to help us as well.”

On bringing Cobi Jones back to the squad…

“First of all, I told Cobi during the winter that I wouldn’t be looking at him until at least June because he’s a guy that has about 160 caps, he’s well proven, he’s experienced. He came off a difficult season last year, got his rest in the off-season, and had the opportunity to slowly get back into things with the Galaxy. I know he had a little bit of an injury, so I just followed him and waited until I thought he was getting back in form. Once we had to make decisions for our roster with Jamaica, we had a number of players that were out for a variety of reasons and it made sense to bring in an experienced player like Cobi on the right. I think that’s the reason why I did that, and I know that Cobi can always help. You can’t say enough for a guy that keeps fit like Cobi does and can run like he can run, knows how to play on the touchline like he can, and has all the kinds of experience that he does.  He’s good with his teammates, he’s got a lot of experience and he helps us become a better team. I think that’s the same thing that Earnie Stewart has done. So I think that there’s always room for those type of players that have proven themselves and still have the ability to help us on the field.”

On calling up Eddie Johnson…
“Scoring goals is important. He’s demonstrated that ability in the MLS. He’s a young player, about 20 years old. He’s had a variety of experience at the youth and national level with some of our youth teams and has done well. He’s really demonstrated to me that he looks like he’s a big name player. But one thing that separates him from a lot of players is that he can run. He has outstanding speed, and I think that’s still a quality that you need to have to be a forward and he’s a guy that’s proven that he can get behind teams. And the other part with Eddie, is not just scoring goals, but he efficiently scores goals. I think he does pretty well with his chances. So he’s a young forward, and with the kind of physical qualities that he has, I think it makes sense to look at him at this time.  I think the experience he had with the trip to Jamaica only helped him kind of understand what needs to be done as a forward. He’s learning coming into camp, and I think if continues to do well with his club team, I’m going to continue to look at him with the national team.”

On the impact of not having Chris Armas…

“Players missing games for injuries, suspensions and being out of form is all part of the process. You never want to lose a certain quality and experience; however, we have a number of players who can still play in that spot in midfield on this roster, such as Claudio (Reyna) and Kerry Zavagnin, and others in the league, so we’ll make up for the void. We wish Chris the best and hopefully he’ll get back in the near future. I think we’ve got enough balance on this roster to cover for Chris.”

On Josh Wolff’s status…

“Josh has had a little bit of a knee problem, I’d say, over the last four to six weeks and then last week he had surgery on his thumb. It was the day after they played the Open Cup game against San Jose. He did play last Tuesday, so perhaps on Wednesday he had surgery on his thumb.  I was going to give Josh a little bit more time to come back around from the knee and I think by the time we play our next set of games he’s certainly going to be under consideration.

“I think, overall, it’s been a real positive year for Josh because he’s basically played in every game for Kansas City. He’s had a few aches and pains along the way, but considering the past two or three years, I think this has been a good year for Josh.”

On getting one point in Jamaica…
“It’s not disconcerting. That’s all part of it. If you’re not prepared for that then you’re never going to be successful. I thought we played a very good game in Jamaica. Giving up the goal in the beginning of the second half, obviously, made things very difficult for us, but I thought around the 25th minute of the game, we started taking control of the game. I was very pleased. We created some good chances, defended very well and dealt with the issues we had to deal with; the crowd, playing into the wind in the first half, and an excellent effort from this good Jamaican team. I think, overall, to leave with a point is still a plus.”

On dealing with the change in perception of the U.S. around the world…

“In terms of the change of perception of the U.S. around the world, I really can’t sort that out. I really don’t know what other countries think about us. Obviously, in the 2002 World Cup we demonstrated we’ve made progress. In CONCACAF, I think for a while we’ve demonstrated we’re one of the top teams. We continue to demonstrate that. Certainly what happens now is that we’re the big team on everyone’s schedule. We get the attention of all our opponents throughout qualifying, so it probably makes things a lot more difficult. But having said that, qualifying is going to be difficult regardless. You need to respect every team on your schedule, which we do and I’m certain our opponents do the same. Although we’ve probably improved our perception, that doesn’t make things any easier once you step on the field. In fact, it probably makes things more difficult.”

On plans to release players back to their MLS clubs…

“I’m not sure I’m planning on releasing any players. MLS has known well in advance our schedule. This is now World Cup Qualifying. I’ve had calls from MLS coaches asking the same thing. I don’t know if everyone realizes the significance of these games. We need to have a full roster.  We need to be prepared for any injuries or suspensions. So, as of this point in time, our plans are not to be releasing players. However, you never know what happens towards the end of the week. As far as I’m concerned, on Monday, all 23 players are going to be with us unless I have a good reason to release players.”

On Kerry Zavagnin’s chances of starting…

“There’s certainly a chance. We won’t really make those decisions until later in the week. However, Kerry has played very well for us each and every time, and I think that’s the reason why he’s still here. I’d feel very comfortable if Kerry is in our first 11. He’s a good player and he’ll do a good job.”

On the impact of travel and number of games on players and risk of injury…
“Actually, it’s a very good question, because it (travel) is a factor. The Jamaica game, where players played on Saturday in Europe and then traveled to Miami on Sunday, virtually our job was to make sure they recovered from Saturday’s game to have them ready on Wednesday. That was the total purpose of training those couple days, really getting them physically rested and mentally prepared to play on the Wednesday game in Jamaica. This time around, there’s a little bit more time on our hands. Travel is a little bit easier. There’s a lot more time to get our players rested and then prepared. So, this week, we can have a couple of good training sessions and we can take our time in moving them forward. Therefore, when they step on the field on Saturday, fatigue certainly won’t be an issue. And then certainly, things turn around quickly Wednesday for the game against Panama.  However, we have a deep roster and if we need to make any changes because of injuries, suspensions or fatigue, it’s going to be a lot easier to do. So, having the longer period of time together makes the transition from the travel a lot easier this time around.”

“There would be (a greater risk of injury) if they’re not rested properly, that’s what the challenge is. You need to have the experience to understand how to get players to recover quickly and ready to play. They typically will play one or two games a week, so it’s not that difficult to do, but you need to be smart about how you bring players around and get them ready. If you step on the field tired and fatigued, yeah, there’s a chance of injury. However, one of the things we do when putting together a roster when we have a short time with the team is make sure we’re bringing players that are fit. Fit players can recover quickly and be ready to play. Unfit players are certainly going to be a problem in recovery and they’ll likely get injured because of that.”

On Conor Casey and Oguchi Onyewu…

“Well, Conor we’ve had a number of times this year and he’s a good player. I’ve seen him on a steady basis with our youth teams as well. We knew what we were getting with Conor. He’s done very well in a tough environment and in the first division in the Bundesliga. He’s a good player. Still at the age of 22 or 23,  he’s a guy with a bright future. He’s physically strong, a good athlete, has good feet and gets himself in goal scoring positions.

“‘Gooch’ I don’t know. I haven’t seen Gooch since last November and, at the time, I still didn’t think he was ready to play for us. I had him in camp briefly last summer before we went to the Confederations Cup, and this time around I want to see what kind of progress he’s made. He’s had a year in France and now he’s in Belguim, and he’s a guy with a lot of talent. I don’t know what I’m going to see this week in training.  That’s one of the reasons I have him in here. I think we need to start moving along some of our young defenders and Gooch is a guy that is now playing on a regular basis at Standard Liege and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s making the kind of progress I hope he’s making in order to help our team.”

Closing comments…
“Before we sign off we’d just like to, on behalf of the men’s team, congratulate our women for their outstanding performance in Athens and winning the Gold Medal. It’s an accomplishment that we’re all very proud of and I think that helps move along the sport in our country. And, simply, our congratulations to April and her staff, as well as the players for an outstanding performance in Athens.”

 

 

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