Bruce Arena, Clint Mathis and Tony Sanneh Preview U.S. Men's National Team Trip to Honduras for World Cup Qualifier
BRUCE ARENA, U.S. Men's National Team head coach
On Steve Cherundolo: "Steve has been with a number of our national teams. (He) played with the U-23s in (Olympic) qualifying last year in Hershey and is playing in Hannover (Germany). He can play both in the midfield or in the back. He's a good player that's a couple of years older than Landon (Donovan) and certainly I believe a player that has a bright future with U.S. Soccer."
On the goalkeeper situation with Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel: "I think they are our top two keepers. They both deserve to be here. I know both of them want to be here so we felt that this time around, we'd bring in both keepers."
On any lessons learned in the first qualifying round: "Yeah, I think we learned that we're going to be facing some adverse circumstances this time around as well. In some ways, Honduras is very similar to Costa Rica and Guatemala. Some people say it's an even more difficult venue to play in. But the experience we gained from playing last summer in Central America will be helpful."
On Claudio's status for the match: "We brought him because we feel his chances are good to play next Wednesday, but again we're going to have to wait and see. He trained today with (Glasgow) Rangers--that's a good sign. He's going to travel tomorrow. We'll have a chance to see him on Saturday and Sunday and determine whether he will travel with us down to Honduras. But right now I'm optimistic that he'll be ready to play. At the same time, we're preparing to play without him."
On possible lineup inclusion of forward Josh Wolff due to Honduras' similar style to Mexico: "I don't know yet what we're going to do. Obviously, Josh's pace is a real plus for us. We just have to make a decision with out group of players. We have a couple players who are a bit injured right now and that's going to play into what our final lineup is going to be come Wednesday. Obviously, whether Josh starts or not, he's going to be an important part of the game on Wednesday."
On Eddie Lewis' status on the MNT and at Fulham: "We don't have any choice in the matter there (at Fulham). He looked very good in training yesterday. He's very fit, he's confident. He doesn't have control of his situation right now at Fulham. You know with clubs when a new manager comes in, they like to bring in some of their own players in, and that's the situation that has occurred at Fulham. Obviously, Eddie's not seeing a lot of first team play over the past year, but after watching him yesterday I'm pretty confident that he's in better form than he was last summer."
On his plan to play for one or three points at Honduras: "We're going to play for three. I'm sure one point would work as well. But I think if you go into the game and try to play for a point, over 90 minutes it's difficult. We need to pick our spots to attack certainly, but at this point, we need to start thinking about at very least a point, but try to get through as well. But you know how these games go. You don't know what it's going to look like until you step on the field of play, so we'll have to adjust accordingly."
On comparisons between U.S. attacking midfielders Clint Mathis and Claudio Reyna: "First of all, I think that last summer we brought Clint to games at Guatemala and Costa Rica to give him that experience, because we felt that down the road he was going to be a player that would help us. Certainly he had his opportunity versus Barbados and had an opportunity against Mexico late last fall and he's been playing regularly for us for some time. He has a lot of confidence, and obviously it's complemented by the fact that he's coming off an outstanding season last year in MLS. He and Claudio are different players. It's difficult to compare them; they're just different players. Clint is more of a goal-scoring player in the midfield position than Claudio is. Claudio is a much better distributor of the ball and is an outstanding player defensively. Clint gives you more going forward. Both are very good players, but they're both very different and it's difficult to compare one to the other."
On comparing Honduras to the style of play of CONCACAF opponents Mexico and Guatemala: "Again, they're different styles for both of those teams. They're completely different. Guatemala is a very defensive-oriented team that sat back and picked their spots to counter, which was rare. Mexico is an attacking team, but a different type of attacking team from Honduras. They can change the rhythm of the game any time they want and they have many more experienced players at this level, especially when they get (Mexico forward Cuathemoc) Blanco on the field. Honduras is a very good team--a team that gets forward real quick. They're not a team that sits back defensively. They'll press you in your own end as much as possible. They rely on the quick attacking work of Nunez, DeLeon and Guevara. They have an outstanding defender, possibly the best in the Football Confederation (CONCACAF), in Caballero. They can attack you in a bunch of different spots and have a very aggressive team. At home, they can come at you from all different angles. They're going to be a very difficult team to play against. They've traditionally played a 3-5-2 (formation), but in their last game versus Costa Rica, they played with four in the back. I still haven't gotten the report on how they played last night against Chile, but they're a very good team. Their speed and quickness are something that we're definitely concerned about."
On any injuries among players in the Ft. Lauderdale training camp: "It's a bunch of players. We probably don't want to make it too public. Hopefully it adds up to nothing in the end. We just have a number of players that are experiencing injuries from pre-season with MLS. Our European players are actually very fit this time around, which is kind of surprising since they were the ones that were injured in the Mexico game. But besides Claudio, the European-based players are fine. Just the MLS players are a little nicked up. Landon (Donovan) came from Trinidad a little nicked up from playing two games in a short period of time, but I'm optimistic that all of these injuries are going to be fine by the time we play Wednesday."
On the temperament of U.S. midfielder Clint Mathis is a concern: "Yeah, exactly. I think it's just a matter of experience. That's why Clint has been on the field for a number of games over the last six months and getting those type of experiences. I think as he goes along, he's just going to get better and better. You saw the Mexico game; he was pretty focused and he got the job done."
On Honduras' home field advantage as the most difficult to face in CONCACAF: "I haven't personally experienced it, but this is what I'm told: It's a bigger venue with about 50,000 seats. We played at Guatemala in a small venue with maybe 14,000 seats and Saprissa (Stadium in Costa Rica) is about 30-35,000. The Olympic Stadium in Honduras is about 50,000 with a track around it, but I've watched a couple of games and it's quite an environment. The other issue to deal with is the heat and humidity. It's 100 degrees during the day right now. We're fortunate that we're playing at night. You put together the heat and humidity with the crowd and the conditions can be rather difficult. I'm told that in previous games that the U.S. team has played in this venue, it's been rather difficult.
On the injury status of Joe-Max Moore: "He's coming along slowly. I think he's optimistic that he can start running next week. He's actually here with us getting treatment a couple times a day. But he tore a muscle in his calf that was bothering him in the first half of the (Mexico) game. Late in the game against mexico right before he came out, he had to make a run around the 73rd minute or so where he chased down Pardo in the box and made that tackle and it was a big play. That did his calf pretty good. He has a pretty big tear. We're optimistic that in another week or so he'll be back training."
On the importance to the Honduras team of getting a positive result: "It is a huge match for them. You have to win at home, and they're certainly looking at that. The game at Costa Rica, the referees put five extra minutes on the clock and there's actually a shot at the end of the game that deflected off a Honduran player that went in the goal. It was one of those typical games in Saprissa, but I think Honduras feels the pressure because they need three points for this match. I anticipate that they're going to come at us with everything they have in the early moments of the game."
On the possibility of players underrating Honduras, having not met in qualifying since 1993: "I don't think that's the case at all. They realize that Honduras is a very good team and they also realize that playing in Central America is extremely difficult. Whoever we play in Central America, it's always a difficult match. We have the background and experience to understand that, and I'm certain that we'll be prepared for this match."
On the goalkeeper situation and who is considered to be the team's #1 keeper: "I think they both think that they're number one and rightfully so. I believe that whoever is chosen not to play won't be really happy about it, but that's all part of it. From my coaching perspective, I think it's terrific to have this kind of competition in the goal. Friedel proved last game (vs. Mexico on Feb. 28) that he's a quality keeper, and (Tony) Meola has proven the same. They're all good keepers, and they all want to be play, but that's not going to happen. The advantage Friedel has at this point is the fact that he played in the last game and we won."
On the reliance on European-based players over MLS-based players due to better fitness: "First of all, if you take a step back and think about the Mexico game, that was definitely going to be more the case. We brought a team in early January and trained them all the way through. Those players that have been with us since January, there are no problems with their fitness at all. If anything, the MLS players have caught up with the European players. The reason there is an imbalance is basically because we think this is our best roster. Fitness is not an issue at this point any more."
On any other Matchday 2 results that would be beneficial: "Obviously one would have to believe that Mexico is going to win that game (vs. Jamaica March 25 in Mexico City). They don't lose many games at Azteca (Stadium). The result that probably favors us is a draw, but I'd be surprised if that happened."
On U.S. forward Landon Donovan's success with the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team at the CONCACAF U-17 World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Trinidad & Tobago? "Nothing changes. We obviously anticipated that Landon was going to be the key player for the U.S. team down in Trinidad and obviously expected him to play well. He's moving along gradually into our program. I don't think he is ready to be a full-time player yet, but he's getting better and if he keeps moving forward and he gets some time with his club team, he's going to be a player that's going to challenge for a spot on a regular basis."
On the success of the U-20 team and how it bodes for the Men's National Team: "I think it means we're getting better. You have to put those results in the right perspective. Those are youth championships. We're obviously getting better at the youth level. We had great results (in New Zealand ?99) with our Under-17 team, and obviously very good results with the U-23 team in Australia (in Sydney Olympics 2000) this past year and now the U-20's have qualified for the world championship (Argentina 2001). If those players are now able to step into a professional environment and keep getting the experience they need in everyday soccer, they can turn into very good professionals and hopefully international players as well."
On which Honduras players to watch for: "I think Caballero is an outstanding defender. Pavon and Núñez up front are outstanding. The midfield players DeLeón and Guevara are very good players as well. Honduras is very good team which has talent in all positions."
On any experienced taken from road games in the semi-final round of qualifying: "It certainly teaches us that the game is 90 minutes plus, and we were well aware that in those two games (at Guatemala and Costa Rica), the final 10 minutes of the game was very difficult for us. The bottom line is that we failed and we didn't come through in doing the things we had to do. I think we have learned from that experience and it good to have been there. We had that same situation against Mexico. We were holding on over the last 15 minutes when Mexico took a run at us, and we did a great job of keeping them off the board and got the second goal, which could be very important for us down the road. So I think the experiences from last summer Central America has already paid some results for us. I'd like to think for the last 15 minutes of the game, we're going to be a better team this time around."
On his feelings regarding Mexico's decision to retain head coach Enrique Meza after rumors that he would be fired after the loss to the USA: "It's not only characteristic of this region, but it's the same around the world. We see this in sports in general today. There's so much pressure to win. We've seen in college athletics how crazy it is in NCAA basketball. If you take a job today as a coach in any sport, that's the risk you have to take and the reality of the situation. In a sense I'm pleased that Mexico didn't make a change. We've said a number of times, this is going to be a long haul. It's going to go down to the last game. To make any judgements after one game, I think is a mistake. I'm happy to see my colleague in Mexico is still there and I wish him the best of luck."
On bringing in Eddie Lewis into camp after recent absences for MNT games: "Well, Eddie was last brought in against Barbados in November. The reason is really to get another left-footed attacking player. I think we have two good young ones in DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey, but I clearly think Eddie's experience is such that he's the best choice to make at this time. Eddie looks very sharp. Although he's not in with the full team at Fulham, he's been playing with the reserve team on a regular basis."
On the use and progress of U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo: "Steve's a very good player. He's got a lot of soccer in him. We're going to look at him in really three positions: outside midfielder, right back and defensive midfielder. I think it's a real plus having a player with that kind of versatility. The knee injury is history. He's been playing now on a regular basis I believe since December. That's past him now. He's full recovered from that. He's like any other player. I think if you traced the way we've handled players like Steve, we bring them into camp initially to get them comfortable with our players. Then we pick a time to get them on the field. What you'd like to is give them an opportunity to taste success the first time they step on the field, so we've got to be smart about how we introduce Steve to international soccer."
CLINT MATHIS, U.S. Men's National Team midfielder
On the effect that the recent international experience has had on his game: "It's like Bruce said, with the win that we had against teams like Mexico and such, it's done the same thing for me in the confidence level. In any situation like this when you're trying to break through and get games, confidence is a big thing. Right now I feel that I'm playing well due to the results we had. I'm looking forward to going into these game knowing that I can play."
On if he's thought about having to control his temper: "Definitely. It's something I'm working on. I think my temper and hunger for the game makes me who I am, but as far as the situation with the referee, it's something that I need to work on to improve my game. But it's definitely something that I'm working on."
On his goal versus Brazil on March 3 in a 2-1 loss at the Rose Bowl: "It was a shot. I saw Josh Wolff at the back post and then I took another look up and saw the ?keeper edging to far to the near post, so I just shot."
TONY SANNEH, U.S. Men's National Team defender/midfielder
On if other CONCACAF opponents feel the USA is the team to beat: "I think everybody left in the region has a lot of respect for each other. We can't take it for granted. We beat a great team in Mexico, but we were also playing at home. The other teams respect us, and we respect them, and we know that we need to get points at home and fight for what we can away. Other teams are always going after us, being a bigger country and a world power, but I don't think they respect us any more than other teams in the region."
On playing the last 10 minutes of a match on the road: "I think we just need to be more disciplined. In those games, we might not have played the best, but with five minutes to go in both games, we would've gotten four points on the road and we would've been happy with that. Even thought it wasn't pretty soccer, we're playing away and we're playing qualifiers against quality teams. We just have to be more disciplines and not let 10 minutes of non-concentration blow the whole 85 minutes of a well-played game."
On his versatility being a detriment at his club team and/or the MNT: "I've played for Bruce for a while now and he knows my flexibility. Fortunately for me Bruce has used me in a position where I think it has allowed me to play more than I might have at another. So I think it's helped me on the U.S. team being in the lineup more often than not. In the recent months, I've played one position (defender). Although it's more of a newer position, I'm learning it and I'm committed to it. As many of you know, I signed with FC Nuremburg next year and I'm going there to play one position, the same position I'm playing here."
On the difficulty of playing with an injured foot during the match versus Mexico on Feb. 28: "The foot feels better, my ankle is still sore, but everybody on this team has some kind of injury. (Playing with pain) is just what you do when you're a professional. I think I've done a good job in general in the qualifiers, defensively. Like Bruce said, we haven't given up a lot of goals, and that's the goal. Hopefully they (the offensive players) know they can take more risks and realize that they have four studs behind them."