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Quote Sheet: U.S. WNT Conference Call Ahead of the Playoff Series Against Italy

U.S. WNT head coach PIA SUNDHAGE
On how the U.S. will look to match up against Italy:
“One thing, if you look around the world, is that if you p lay against technical teams they gain confidence the longer they keep the ball. They try to control the game. It’s important for us to win the ball a little bit higher. That means either the pressure is higher and we’re more compact so we can win the ball with the midfielders, or with our center backs getting high when the ball is in the middle of the field. That attitude will be good for this team because it’s a battle and they’d have to do it together. We’ve done our homework when it comes to Italy. They’re a technical team and that will make it important for us to win the ball higher and move on the transition. We can choose whether we look for a quick transition or build up the attack.”

On the level of excitement from outsiders about this game:
“When you talk to people, be it journalists, coaches and people around the world, this is an important game. The fact that we’re playing in this game, everyone is very interested in how it will go. The journalists here are asking a lot of questions about the team and it’s exciting.”

On the added midfielders:
“The reason we added three players is because we wanted to change the atmosphere a little bit. It’s the training atmosphere that is important, and the trainings that we’ve been having have been great. Everybody is pushing everybody, so the fact is that by adding players, the environment will be a little bit different. Those three have done great. I think that all of us, after the little break, regrouped. To be honest, it was a good break from each other, and then when we came back in it looks like a different team. This is a team that is ready and recharged, including the new players.”

On the state of the women’s game in the United States:
“I want to remind that it was one game. I think we’ve done very well, I fyou look at the beginning of the year we played Germany and Sweden very well. You have to admit that it was a bad game, but also you shouldn’t look into it too much. What I’ve seen in these training sessions and what we’ll hopefully see on Saturday is that this is a really good team. We have some new players from 2008 and I think that the fact that women’s soccer around the world is constantly growing is good for us because we have to get better. It’s only one game. We lost and that will be good for us because we’ll win the next game.”

On Saturday’s game and the series with Italy:
“We are really excited right now for this second opportunity to qualify. We’re heading into our first game of two, and it is going to take two games to get through this qualifying match. The team is training well. We’re really excited. We think we have good momentum going with the way the team is looking and we’re looking forward to the first game and then getting back to the U.S.”

On what the team has learned since the qualifying tournament:
“The most important thing is togetherness. When you go through a tough time you have to come together as a unit and not become individuals. The bond is stronger. We know now what we need to do heading into these next few games. On the other hand, we’ve lost one game. We’re confident. We just need to get back to the way that the USA plays and get back to our rhythm. We know we didn’t play our best game in Mexico, so now it’s about regrouping, getting reenergized and just becoming one unit and making sure we’re going to stay together.”

On what the team is expecting from Italy:
“The Italian team is a very committed team. They play together. They’re very strong in their attack as well as their defending. They are aggressive and committed. They work together. We can’t let them build confidence as the game moves on and we have to keep them far away from our goal. If we can get a lot of movement offensively and attack with numbers to separate ourselves I think will be successful and disrupt their attack.”

On whether they think Italy will be confident since the U.S. lost to Mexico:
“I don’t think that would help their confidence. I don’t think they were expecting to have us as the opponent they were going to have to play twice to get to the World Cup. If it’s give them momentum, great, because it gives us even more. It’s one loss, but we’ve grown stronger. I think that’s even more intimidating, facing a team that just lost after we’ve been so successful. For us, we’re going in with confidence and it doesn’t really matter what they’re thinking.”

On going into the series against Italy:
“I think the thing we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on is that it’s an opportunity for us. In the World Cup, when you lose you don’t get another chance. We’re very grateful and thankful for this second chance and we don’t want to throw it away. We want to look at it in the right way. It’s going to teach us a lot of lessons. Hopefully we can get the bugs out so that if we do qualify, we can be successful in 2011. The state of the team is great. We’re really positive, upbeat and excited to match up against Italy in these two games.”

On what Mexico’s victory says about the state of the women’s game in CONCACAF:
“That’s definitely a great way of looking at it. The thing about being No. 1 in the world and having the success that we’ve had over a number of years is that you can’t be perfect all the time. You can’t win every game all the time. Unfortunately we chose to play poorly in a game that really mattered. That’s life, and that’s what soccer is about. Any day you can line up against a team and they can beat you. Under those circumstances, in those moments, you can’t play poorly. Gone are the days when you walk into a CONCACAF tournament, walk through it and easily win a championship. That give me a lot of happiness because it’s only going to make this team stronger throughout the years. It means that teams like Mexico and Canada have put time and money into their program, and that means good things for the USA. I bet that, as much as they wanted us to qualify, the players that were around in 1991 are smiling because their hard work is now being seen through some of these other non-traditional teams finding success.”

On changing plans for the Thanksgiving holiday:
“Obviously a lot of us had made plans for our offseason and I think that one of the beauties in life is that when unexpected things happen, that’s where you learn the most and how you grow as a person. We, as a team, I think were adding up the change fees we needed to make. Obviously it’s something that we’re embracing. We have all probably missed more Thanksgivings than we can count in previous years, so it’s not the biggest deal that we’re going to be spending the holiday with the team.”

On playing on the road vs. playing at home:
“When we go up against a different opponent on their soil you are battling a lot of different factors. The magnitude of the game changes things a bit because their might be more fans and that give you some extra nerves. This is a World Cup game for us. This isn’t the Algarve Cup where we’re training through a tournament. We’re here to win this game, and not just by one goal. We feel we have the opportunity to do that so we go into the second leg with that under our belt before we play at home in Chicago. Whenever you play on away soil there is an added level of excitement because we want to silent that crowd. We’re excited about the opportunity.”

On how they feel about the increased coverage:
“I think it can feel frustrating in the moment but the truth is that if you’re at all knowledgeable about the media, then all press is good press when it comes to women’s sports. The irony of the whole thing is that when the U.S. men win they get the coverage, but when the U.S. women lose we get the coverage. The problem with that is that we are good enough and we do deserve to be in the World Cup in Germany but we need to prove it. The joke among us is that we planned it this way and that we knew this was the only way to get the coverage that we think we deserve. That’s obviously a joke. Moving forward we feel like so many people have put so many hours into this team. ESPN is going above and beyond, so we know it means a lot to a lot of different media outlets. We’re going to do out part, win this game on Saturday, go home to Chicago and win that game.”

On whether she thinks the qualifying format should be changed to include more games:
“I believe it does put quite a bit of pressure on one game. In 2007, leading into the 2007 World Cup, we literally only had one game to qualify. I had previously sprained my ankle so for me it was even more stressful to be playing injured. Of course, the more games there are, you’d see the better teams qualifying. You have to be consistent. With our team, we’ve always been consistent. I’m not sitting here making excuses because that’s not what this team does. We accept what happened and move on and we’ll prove it in the game against Italy.”