Conference Call: Bruce Arena
"We’re finally beginning World Cup qualifying and we’re all excited about it. We remember the last time around how difficult it was and experienced the highs and lows and we're just excited about getting it going again. Our goal is certainly to qualify for Germany in 2006. It all starts on Sunday and I’m very confident that our team will be ready to play."
On getting players motivated:
"That’s what I do for a living. I know how to do that and the team will be ready. Our players are well aware of the obstacles you face in these types of rounds and against these types of opponents. Our team will be prepared to play and they will be motivated to play."
On how much he knows about Grenada as a country, and whether it is like most Americans, "the country we invaded in the 1980s":
"Well, that certainly comes to mind, and the fact that it’s one of the Caribbean islands where a number of American students attend medical school, I was aware of that. Since the draw we have visited Grenada to scout our opponent and are fully aware of their team at this point in time."
On Kasey Keller's attempt to become the all-time U.S. wins leader on Sunday:
"That accomplishment goes hand in hand with his longevity. Kasey’s demonstrated now for a number of years that he’s an outstanding goalkeeper and there is plenty of evidence to indicate the fact that there are none more successful than Kasey Keller. And that says a lot. Kasey’s had an outstanding career with the national team and an outstanding career abroad and I’m happy that he has an opportunity on Sunday to set a record that will be hard for any goalkeeper to match for years to come."
On the USA's deep pool of goalkeepers and whether it is the deepest in the world:
"I’m going to say off the top that the Italians have some very good goalkeepers. We know the Germans are pretty strong with Kahn and Lehman. There are a number of countries, maybe three or four other countries in the world that one could say that their goalkeeping is very strong, but the three or four I have I would match with most countries in the world, they’re a very good group of goalkeepers."
On the unique home-and-away series and whether he is thinking about how many goals they need to score:
"You do need to think of goals because you never want to go away from home in the second round having to seek a lot of goals. This format is unique to us, we’ve never been in it in World Cup qualifying and obviously you have to think of two things. One is winning the game and two is scoring goals. Yes, we need to think about goals. We don’t want to go into Grenada having only a one-goal margin on our opponent. It’s important if the goals are there to be had that we get them."
On what a comfortable goal margin might be following the first leg:
"Winning the game is a comfortable margin. Anything more than one goal I think is comfortable."
On other recent Caribbean opponents for the U.S. that might compare similarly to Grenada, like Haiti and Barbados:
"Those are two good teams that are similar to Grenada. We see similar qualities in their styles of play. I think those are the two countries that I would name as well."
On whether scoring early against an opponent like Grenada is overstated:
"Sure it’s a big deal. The name of the game is, one, to win, and, two, to get a couple goals. However if the goals come after 60 minutes, fair enough. Soccer is a low-scoring sport and you don’t expect to jump on the board right away and have many goals to follow. You never know how these games will unfold. Our first priority is winning the game and secondly if we can get some goals, that would be great as well."
On going into World Cup qualifying as favorites, having been to the quarterfinals of the last World Cup:
"Our stature has improved since '98. Anytime we play these types of games they’re going to be difficult. I don’t perceive us to be a giant. This time around I think our players remember the qualifying process from 2000 and 2001 and how difficult it was and the highs and lows and the things we went through to make us a team, we’re well aware of that. We also left the 2002 World Cup with a real good feeling. I think that motivates our group, I think we want to get back to the World Cup and place ourselves in a position to do well again and we know it’s a long road to get there. The whole process is exciting to the group. The only expectations we have our within our team. There is no pressure from the outside, the pressure is internal.
On the status of Clint Mathis:
"Clint is in a position like lot of our players. We’re two or three deep in a lot of positions and will be very competitive. His club season will go a long way in terms of positioning himself with the U.S. team. I think the move to the Bundesliga has been great for Clint. He’s a more serious and dedicated player than he was before. The dedication he now has is going to be a real positive as he attempts to break into the lineup. Having Clint around and where he is today only makes us a stronger team and Clint is going to position himself to compete to be a player on our first team and I’m excited to follow his progress throughout the year."
On his strategy going into the game against Grenada:
"Well that’s difficult to answer now because we don’t know what kind of strategy our opponents are going to employ. You never know what could happen. We could be chasing the game from the early going if we give up an early goal. I think in the early going both teams will feel each other out and we’ll sort out the defensive posture Grenada takes and deal with it accordingly. However on Thursday I don’t know what that strategy is. We’re going to use the same strategy on Sunday that we’ve used against our last 3 or 4 opponents."
On Grenada’s ability to counterattack:
"That’s going to be one of their strengths. They have two competent forwards that we need to keep our eye on: Jason Roberts, who has a pedigree in England and has played in the English First Division, and is a big strong forward, and a young player by the name of Ricky Charles who is a very mobile forward and probably their most important player when they get out on the break. He's got good speed and is very active."
On the team's recent success in the last three or four games:
"Simply, we’ve rebuilt the team in a lot of ways since 2002. We've used 2003 and the first half of 2004 to introduce the National Team to a number of new players and give them experience as well. Most notably guys like Conor Casey, Bobby Convey – getting Beasley and Donovan even more experience at this level – John Walker, Cory Gibbs, that group, and now as we move closer to our opening game of qualifiers, we've been able to mix that group of players and our MLS players with our foreign-based players. As we’ve moved closer to this date, we’ve added experience and talent to our group and it has shown on the field because obviously we've been a little bit more successful as of late."
On the release of Pablo Mastroeni:
"We continue to work with them (MLS). I have no problem in a situation if an MLS coach chooses to go by the letter of the law with the FIFA regulations on call-ups. It is very appropriate and Tim chose to do that. I think the only confusion is that it was a last minute issue. Since February, we communicated with the MLS coaches the qualifying dates and when we were going to bring players into camp and sent out a pool of players maybe three weeks ago as to who was going to be likely to come into camp and finalized it perhaps a week ago. There was plenty of time for anybody I think to express a desire to not allow a player to come in. Tim communicated to our team administrator on Thursday night that they wanted to keep Pablo back, and in all honesty on Friday morning we had to move quickly, because we had players traveling around the league and we had to deal with that real quick."
"In the future we just need to make sure the timing is right. When these coaches express a desire to hold back a player, they do it in a more timely matter. I understand what they go through, I had the same issues with DC United. I typically lost anywhere from five, six, seven, eight players I think at one time to National Team call-ups. I know it's part of the process, so I understand their concerns, and I respect the fact that they wish to follow those guidelines when they think it is in the best interest of their club. I have no problem with Tim. I have no problem with Pablo, or with any of the players who were left of the roster this time around."
"In the particular game, it is hard for us to bring in players from one club and not the other, and I don't want to be in a position where I'm handicapping games. I just felt that that was the right thing to do. I called Kansas City on Friday morning and spoke to their general manager and wanted to alert the players before they got on the plane to go to L.A., because they were going to L.A. and then back for the game in Colorado and then Columbus. So there are a lot of issues besides the one player that needs to be dealt with. And obviously we had to replace Tony (Meola) with John Walker. We had to do a little bit of scrambling on Friday to get this thing organized, but at the same time I have no hard feelings and I certainly hope they don’t either."
On the expectations surrounding the team, compared to being an under dog in the past:
"Even the last time around in this round, the U.S. team would be a favorite anyway. Those things haven’t changed. What I see in our pool of players is that they embrace the opportunity to play with the National Team and they really enjoy it and they’re excited about it. That’s wonderful to see as a National Team coach, that these players want to be here. Sometimes when there’s conflict between club and country sometimes players don’t have the right attitude coming into camp, but what I've found since I’ve taken over in 1998 is that these players have always embraced the opportunity to play for the U.S. That’s great to see and I think with the success from the last World Cup they have an air of confidence about themselves and they’re very excited about this thing kicking off on Sunday and that they’re ready to go. However you want to frame it, obviously there's a different approach for all players having tasted a little success, but at the same time they realize there’s a lot of hard work ahead and its going to be a difficult road to try to qualify for Germany."