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U.S. Men's National Team Quote Sheet: Bob Bradley Previews USA-Ecuador

U.S. MNT Head Coach

On the team’s preparations and camp thus far:
“Good afternoon to everybody. We just finished our third training session here at Bradenton. We feel very good about having this group of players in. As I said for a number of weeks, this camp gives us the opportunity to mix a very, very good group of players from Europe with some MLS players. And it’s a really a version of a mini-camp with the ability to train throughout the week to get ready for Sunday’s match against Ecuador. Timmy Howard arrived yesterday. He was the last one to get in to camp obviously coming in off of a shut-out win on the weekend when Everton beat Arsenal. So he’s in very, very good spirits as he should be and the camp as a whole has gone quite well with excellent mentality from all the players.”

On the overview of having both Tim Howard and Kasey Keller in camp, and the goalkeeping situation for the next four years:
“I think we’re fortunate to have a number of very, very good goalkeepers. We know Kasey has been a mainstay for the U.S. and I believe that his performances with Borussia Mönchengladbach continue to show that he’s playing at a high level. Timmy has really benefited from joining Everton. He’s played very well this year. He came off an excellent game against Mexico and we’re excited to have good competition. And knowing that we also have other goalkeepers, both in Europe and the MLS, are pushing these guys. So I think it’s a good situation for us as we move forward.”

On whether he is planning to split the two over these two games and if age is a factor for Keller over a four-year cycle:
“The likelihood is that we will split these two games. That’s not a final decision but that’s certainly what we’re thinking at this point. And we’ll just continue to keep an open mind with Kasey. The part that impressed me is just his desire to come in to camp and compete. We know that we have big events this summer and certainly we’ll want to take advantage of both those tournaments and play our best teams. So that will continue to give us an idea of exactly where Kasey stacks up but for the moment, as I said earlier. I think he continues to play at a high level and that’s something that we look for when we put camps together.”
On the importance of results in these two games, compared to the importance of “how you play:”
“You said it first, results are always important and we know that. With it, we also understand that every camp, every game provide opportunities to develop a better understanding on the field, make sure as a group we understand how to deal with each game. We feel good about the progress we’re making in that regard. We know that Ecuador is a very good team and we’ll have our hands full on Sunday.

On what kind of problem stylistically Ecuador poses:
“I think they are very, very good technically. They are very quick. So, the ability to deal with those factors, defensively make sure that we’re on the same page, yet still do a good job when we have the ball. I think we’re looking for balance. We feel like we’ve made some good strides in terms of organizational ability on the field. I think against Mexico we were pretty hard to play against. But we also still feel that our movement, our spacing, our passing can continue to improve. So we’re always looking for good balance.”

On his impressions of Jay DeMerit during his first call-up:
“Jay has not been able to join fully into training as of yet. We knew coming into this camp that he had a slight groin strain and that he would be available to jump into training later in the week. He was able to do a little bit of the warm-up today, a little bit of ball work. He feels like the injury is responding and we’re looking forward to seeing him as we go through the rest of this camp.”

On DeMerit’s story and what he might be able to bring to the team:
“We do know that it’s a great story. Anyone who has watched him play for Watford sees the competitiveness that he brings to the field every game. These camps are important so that we get to know him better, get a feel for all his qualities, but certainly that mentality is important to our program and we hope that the other things will impress us as well. And that he can be a guy that we look to throughout this cycle.

On that hope that we will be able to play on Wednesday:
“That would be the hope at this time.”

On his apparent decision to bring primarily an MLS squad to Copa America, and whether that is based on discussions with the European teams already:
“We have not finalized any of those discussions. The initial comments that came out were general ones based upon the way the rules work, based upon training schedules, that kind of thing. But we will work closely with all the clubs, both the European clubs as well as the MLS clubs, and try to put together the two strongest teams we can for all the soccer events that will take place this summer.”

On the challenge of the “rebuilding process”:
“It’s a good challenge. We start this four-year cycle with, I think, an excellent mix of players. We have so many players that have been successful for our national team and have experience. We now have more and more guys playing regularly for their clubs in Europe. We have a group of younger players that we think can help us in the future as we find a way to introduce the young players into national team camps, challenge the veterans to be good role models and show young players the right way to train every day and the right way to prepare for games. I think all of those things are very, very important, and makes the challenge of building a team a good one, and an exciting one.”

On if he feels the pressure of the “rebuilding process”:
“I enjoy the work that goes on. I feel the camps that started in January and continued through the Mexico game and now back again in Bradenton before the Ecuador game, I think every camp is important and we try to emphasize with all the players that at the end of each camp is a game. And that game shows everyone what kind of work went on in that camp and over the course of time, all those camps add up and you have the opportunity to have a team that comes from the work of those camps. We really want every player to know the importance of each camp and what needs to go into it so we can continue to carry good things forward.”

On his choices for the center midfield position in this game (with Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni out):
“Every camp gives us an opportunity to put different combinations on the field and to see how players work if you tweak systems a little bit. So we are trying to build a foundation of how to play and we want to have some variety at times to change up against different opponents. I think this camp gives us an opportunity. We miss having both Pablo and Ricardo here, because I think both of them did a good job, but in this camp there are some young players who have a chance to come in and show what they can do and we’ll see going forward for these games what makes the most sense.”

On his defense and the strength of the position overall:
“We feel really good that we are making progress. When you have players that are playing first team soccer, whether it is here in MLS or over in Europe, it is a sign that our players are getting better. When you bring guys into camp and they are doing a very, very good job for their club teams, it makes for good competition. In this camp we were able to bring in Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu from Europe, and both are doing quite well and playing regularly. Jimmy Conrad comes off of an excellent game in Mexico and has been one of the top defenders in MLS, and we can add some young players like Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit into camp, so it is a good sign as we move our program along.”

On Jonathan Spector and Benny Feilhaber:
“Jonathan, we all know, is a young player that has done quite well in the Premiership. Primarily he has played as a right and left back, but he also has some experience playing as a center back. I think that we want to be able to see him on both the outsides and in the center and have a good grip on what he can offer for the tournaments this summer and know where he fits best. Week in and week out the part that always impresses me with Jonathan is just his competitiveness. He’s shown, even as a young player in hard games, that his concentration is good and he understands how to handle himself in tough games.”

“Benny started the season quite well in Hamburg, but obviously has suffered of late with the coaching change, but he has a good feel for the game. He reads things well when he has time on the ball. He has a good sense of where the ball should go. He can mix up passes short and long. So we are anxious to continue to challenge him and move him forward.”

On the choice players face of establishing themselves in MLS or trying to play in Europe:
“I’ve said before that every player is different. Gooch is a very, very good example of a player that chose to go to Europe early in his career. He has moved up with the loan to Newcastle, and is getting experience in the Premiership, which is a great thing for him and a great thing for U.S. Soccer. In other cases, we have players that have chosen to stay in MLS and I think the league continues to improve and without a doubt it has been the most important thing for helping our national team because so many players have had the opportunity to become professional players in MLS. I believe that every player in his career has to make the decision that makes sense for him. As a national team coach you hope they are growing as professionals and are taking their game to a higher level and taking all those qualities into a national team camp so we can continue to improve.”