Following is a transcript of today's teleconference call with U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia and U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena:
U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia
"In 1998, when U.S. Soccer needed hire a new coach to guide our preparation for the 2002 World Cup, there were many different criteria needed for one person to fit the role. We wanted a successful coach with a proven track record at every level of the sport, we wanted a respected coach, we wanted a coach who understood the American player and the unique challenges facing the sport in this country ... and, quite frankly, we wanted the coach to be an American. Only one man fit those requirements in 1998, and he was the right man for the job.
"I don't want to go into too many details about Bruce Arena's successes on the field and at the World Cup and the fact he is now the winningest U.S. Men's National Team coach in our history ... because we all know about that. But what I do want to say before I introduce him, is that perhaps more important than those triumphs on the field, is the blue-print for the future development of the American player and the American professional game which he has imbedded into our National Team program. That will be his true legacy with U.S. Soccer.
"There was never a question he would guide our U.S. Men's National Team as we begin preparing for the 2006 World Cup, and I'm happy to introduce to you now our head coach ... Bruce Arena."
On the duration and details of Arena’s contract:
"The duration of the contract is through the end of 2006 and the next World Cup cycle, but we won't be getting into the detailed terms of the contract in terms of enumeration. The contract includes both base compensation and incentive-based compensation. The structure is pretty much the same as the previous four years, with more of an emphasis on the incentive side of the package."
U.S Men's National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena
"Thank you Dr. Bob, I appreciate those nice comments. Once again I'm truly honored to take on this great challenge of trying to build a team for the future and a team that will ultimately qualify for the World Cup in Germany in 2006. As I reflect back on the last four years, I sure learned a lot and I'm hopeful that these experiences will benefit our team as we move forward. I'm excited about the next four years, and I'm excited about the fact that I think I'm much more prepared this time around. I really look forward to what is really going to be a difficult challenge. Today we were informed that the CONCACAF Zone would receive another half-place in World Cup Qualifying, and I think that is great. I know it is going to be difficult as we begin our preparation and get into qualifying. Our goal, and there is only going to be one goal in the next four years and that is to qualify for Germany. If we make it out of here, the last round, and one of the three teams to qualify or we need to go into that playoff spot, we will be eager for that challenge. The challenge will be placed on our team in January to begin this new cycle and to prepare for what will be a difficult challenge and to keep an open mind and work hard toward to our ultimate goal of being in Germany.
"I would like to thank U.S. Soccer for their tremendous support these past four years and I look forward to another four years to working with these people out of Chicago. They have been very supportive of myself and our team and are equally responsible for the success we’ve had on the field."
On whether CONCACAF’s extra half World Cup qualifying slot to CONCACAF was deserved:
"I think if we had gotten a full slot, I would clearly say that we deserve it. I think it is ridiculous that Europe has as many places as they do. I think Oceania deserved a spot and Asia deserved another half spot. We have 35 countries in qualifying, South America has 10 countries and they get four-and-a-half spots. I think given the size of our confederation, and given the performance of our teams in the World Cup we certainly did deserve at least half a spot, and I am happy that we did receive that and I think it is very deserving."
On scheduling away friendlies against European teams:
"We scheduled games like that the last time around, and I think that although the results weren’t great the games were very beneficial. The game in Germany clearly prepared us for the quarterfinal match-up. The games in Italy and Ireland were great for us. Now we’re at a point where we would like to get results. Having said that it is still beneficial to schedule friendlies there and to experience quality competition. This summer we have the opportunity to play in France, and I think that will help us as well."
On his approach to the 2003 Confederations Cup:
"There are a couple issues there. One is that we are building a pool and these are great experiences for some of our younger players. However if we go into the Confederation’s Cup with a very inexperienced team we will take a beating. We need to balance that the right way. Will it be a completely veteran team? No, I don’t think so. It will be some kind of a mix of some of our less experienced players with some of our veteran players. Between now and June a lot of things happen. Injuries, fitness and form of players, players developing out of MLS, there are a lot factors. So it is hard in December 2002 to give you exactly the direction we are going to go for the Confederations Cup, but in theory it will have the kind of balance I described."
On why not many American players transferred to Europe after the World Cup:
"I think this particular year as been an odd one in terms of the financial crisis in European Football. That has impacted a lot of players, not only American players, but certainly has impacted American players. As we move forward there will be new rules in place that will restrict the ability of those clubs to have foreign players, so that is part of the reason. Another part now is that MLS will need to make some decisions as to whether they think it is the right move for them business-wise to actively pursue the movement of some of their payers. It’s a combination of these things."
On whether he plans to call in any European players for the upcoming friendlies:
"I may use one player in the game against Canada. The particular weekend we play Argentina is not a fixture date, but the game against Jamaica is a fixture date and I would like to bring in at least a couple of players. At the same time this is a great opportunity for our younger players to be able to play in Jamaica. We will bring in a few players from Europe, but I don’t believe we will bring in a whole lot."
On how many new, young players he expects to look at in the upcoming camps:
"There is going to be a number of them. As you can tell from the last four-year cycle, sometimes there isn‘t any rhyme or reason for some of those roster changes. At some point I need to make a decision and decide no more experimentation and that is likely not going to happen until next summer, the summer of 2004. But over the next year and a half I think we have the freedom to look at as many players as we think makes sense. Certainly one area where we have some very promising players is in the goal, which happens to be a strength of ours. And the decision is how many of those players do I look at, how many do I give opportunities to, and it’s the same thing right across the board. But at the same time we have some young, talented players returning in (Landon) Donovan and (DaMarcus) Beasley. No reason to believe a kid like Bobby Convey isn’t going to get a look. That is one of our young players who I think has a good future. There are a number of players like that. Carlos Bocanegra’s time has come, and I believe we need to look at him real strongly over the next year to see if he is a player who can challenge to get into our roster. Wade Barrett, who we looked at in the last qualifying game, Pablo Mastroeni still around, and John O’Brien is still young. We have some young, talented players as well, and we need to mix them in with some of our veterans, and that veteran pool is shrinking, so it is going to be quite a challenge over the next couple years."
On the future make-up of the USMNT with regards to domestic and foreign-based players:
"I think it is important that we have some players who have experience in Europe. Can we go on with a completely domestic team – players from our domestic league? It’s possible, but I think the balance we had last time around, where basically half our roster was domestic based and the other half played overseas was terrific. I think this time around it will probably slant a little bit more toward domestic nucleus because of the lack of player movement over the past year."
On whether the extra qualifying spot for CONCACAF will make World Cup qualifying any easier:
"We don’t know what the qualifying format is going to be, so it is hard to say. It is another half of slot, it’s another opportunity if you fail in the final round for the 4th place team. Having said that, I still don’t know how CONCACAF is going to set up their qualifying. I am going to assume that the same format will stay in place, and that the fourth-place team will play against Asia. How much easier is it? It is easy if they give us six teams. If you’ve followed this process you know it’s always difficult. It’s nice to have the additional half slot, but will it make it any easier? I don’t think so."
On the highlights of his experience from the last four years …
"Regardless of your background as coach, the only experience you get is on the job. CONCACAF is quite unique in their qualifying, the issues around it and certainly the understanding of playing on the road. After you qualify you have to prepare the squad for the World Cup. I clearly look at it in three cycles. The preparation cycle where you build your player pool. Second, when you are in qualifying and going through the ups and downs of qualifying. Lastly, once you have qualified, how you prepare a team to be successful at the World Cup."
On if he received any offers to coach overseas after the 2002 World Cup:
"I did not receive any offers. Over the past four years there were some conversations with several clubs in England. In all honesty, I don’t think there is a lot of respect for an American manager and American players in England. That is why I think I didn’t receive any offers, but that is something I would have considered. In all honesty, once the World Cup ended I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to continue with U.S. Soccer, not because I didn’t enjoy the job or the challenge, but the question was if I wanted to go back into full-time managing or coaching, where you see that in the club level. Even in our negotiation process, I kept an open mind in possibly coming back into MLS but at the end of the day, mostly personal with my family, the decision was made that I would stay with U.S. Soccer."
On the possibility to play more away friendlies against Central American nations in order to prepare for the qualifying rounds for 2006:
"I don’t think you can say a game we play in Central America can be called a friendly. If we can get those kinds of experiences for our players we’d like to do that. Scheduling games is difficult and we don’t shy away from anybody. We love to play on the road and when we continue to move forward we will certainly try to get some opportunities in Central America, but they are difficult for a variety of reasons. We will continue to attempt to schedule games that will benefit our team in the long run."
On the future make up of the MNT coaching staff:
"I think that in the next month we will announce it. We are thinking of going in a little bit of a different direction, but for the most part many of the same faces will be back with the exception of Dave Sarachan who has moved onto MLS."
On Landon Donovan’s decision to remain with MLS and the effect on his future with the U.S. National Team:
"He is staying locally, domestically as we say, and we are going to utilize his services as much as possible. Landon is still 20 years old and has somewhere around 25 caps and he is a player that will probably hit 100 caps very fast in his career. It is time to look real hard in building this team around Landon, so certainly in the next year we will be giving him a lot of responsibility, until he gets comfortable in becoming one of our veteran players to be successful whether we are playing home or away.”
On the future participation of Claudio Reyna, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel in the World Cup process:
"I think both our goalkeepers are definitely interested and I haven’t spoken to Claudio because he has suffered an injury. I think a lot of it will depend on him coming back from this injury however it is clear at this point none of them can be ruled out."
On the style of this team during the next four-year cycle:
"It is hard to answer that question right now it going to depend how our team develops over the next four years, who are the key players and where our strength and weakness are. Every team is different and I believe the next U.S. team will have some differences from the previous one. The best style is the one that helps us win games."
On what he learned about the U.S. team at the World Cup:
"We learned that our team can perform at the big stage. We have players that are talented and have experience, and with the right preparation we can be successful in the future."
On a possible match-up against new Costa Rican Head Coach Steve Sampson …
"I look forward to another challenge against Costa Rica because they are truly one of our rivals in CONCACAF, and whether it is Steve or anyone else in a managing position at Costa Rica it will always be a challenge I look forward to."
On if he ever had doubts during the contract negotiations with U.S. Soccer:
"Negotiations are give and take, and there is always a middle ground where the two parties have to meet. Maybe it was a little slower than we would suspect, but in all honesty I had a contract until the end of the year and there was no rush. The people at U.S. Soccer have been good to me. I knew that we would ultimately reach some type of agreement. I wasn’t all that concerned about it. I was still keeping an open mind anyway and wanted to look at other possibilities as well. I was never concerned with the negotiations with U.S. Soccer because you work with people with integrity who are very professional, and when you negotiate there are two different sides and sometimes they have two different opinions. That is all part of the process and that never concerned me at all. Once I decided that I wanted to stay with U.S. Soccer I was confident that we would reach a common ground."