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U.S. Men's National Team Manager Bruce Arena Conference Call Quote Sheet - August 31, 2005


U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena discussed the upcoming matchup against Mexico at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

On the upcoming match against Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 3, on Columbus, Ohio:
“Obviously we look forward to the game on Saturday for a couple of reasons. Mexico is certainly and arguably our biggest rival in CONCACAF and that always makes for a good game. More importantly, any kind of positive result for the U.S. qualifies us for the next World Cup and that’s been our objective since June of 2004. We obviously look forward to the game. We love playing in Columbus. We anticipate a great crowd, and one that’s very supportive of the U.S. team. I’m confident we’re going to field a strong team and play well.”

On the factors that shaped the roster:
“The previous game against Mexico played no role in selecting this roster. The roster is selected based on the fitness and form of our players. We felt that this was a good group that was available and that’s why we made the selection. We’re simply selecting players who are in pretty good form and are pretty fit. That’s the reason why we have this particular roster of 26. Bobby Convey is not eligible for the game against Mexico. That’s the basis of the selection of this roster. One obvious deletion from the roster that was part of the Trinidad game is Tim Howard. The reason that Tim is not with us is because he is expecting his first child in the next couple days so we felt that it was only right to leave him back in Manchester.”

On Beasley, Johnson, Bocanegra coming back from injuries:
“If you follow them, Bocanegra and Johnson played 90 minutes last weekend for their club teams. Beasley came back and played about 35 minutes. In particular we know that Bocanegra and Johnson are capable of playing 90 minutes. Beasley is a question mark, therefore we have not made a decision on his status yet for Saturday.”

On the USA-Mexico rivalry:
“I think anytime there’s a rivalry in sport, whether it’s the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox or the U.S. and Mexico in soccer, what have you, it’s great for the sport. I think this particular rivalry is terrific for soccer in the United States. And, coming off the 2002 World Cup in which, obviously, both countries met in an important match that sets the stage for this game. I think it’s good for the sport. And, obviously, with so many Mexicans now making the United States their home, the game is of great interest to, not only people in Mexico, but Americans and Mexican-Americans in our borders. So I think it’s fantastic. In terms of a heated rivalry, every time we play an country in World Cup qualifying, it’s a very competitive game and I don’t find, for me personally, the Mexico game any more heated than the games are with Trinidad, Costa Rica or what have you. I think it is a great rivalry and it’s great for the sport and, hopefully, it helps give the sport a boost and allows us to continue to grow to where we want to go.”

“I don’t know if you were in RFK when we played Honduras four years ago. That was a very heated game and obviously a very favorable crowd for the Honduran team. There’s a lot of countries we play, when we play El Salvador we get the same thing, I really don’t see it any different than a lot of the other games we play in World Cup qualifying.”

On getting a home-field advantage when playing Mexico anywhere in the U.S:
“You’re always going to have people supporting the visiting team. In this case, I think Columbus is as good a venue as we can select. Is it 100 percent pro-American? Obviously it won’t be, but I think it’s a very good venue for the U.S. team to play in.”

On the importance of getting a result against Mexico based on game against Trinidad:
“Every game we play we try to win so it is important that we get a result. Trinidad game we played very well. I was very pleased with our effort. Obviously the score-line could have been a little bit more generous in our favor, however I thought we played very well and got the three points. In the game against Mexico we have one objective: to win the game. Whether that’s in the early minutes of the game or in the ending minutes of the game that’s fine with me. Our motivation and our objective is to surely win the game on Saturday and have our tickets written for Germany.”

On whether the players get more fired up for the Mexico game:
“I don’t think it’s any different, to be honest. I think our players were very read to play against Trinidad. I think you’re going to find that Trinidad is going to win some games before this is all said and done. Every game, and it’s critical in World Cup qualifying, you cannot afford to take any country lightly. We’re prepared to play each and every game and hopefully I think one could look at our record over the last couple of years and realize that our guys are prepared to play every game. Obviously this is a big game and they’ll be ready for it but it’s no different than the previous six games we’ve played so far in the last round.”

On the team’s performance and possibility of qualifying with matches still left to play:
“Last time around we were 4-0-1 going into game six in Mexico City and lost there, then lost against Honduras and Costa Rica and we were 4-3-1, so I’m not counting on anything right now and I’m not commenting on anything. Until you can show me that mathematically we’re qualified to go to Germany, I don’t have any comment on it. It may go down to game 10 for all I know.”

On the U.S. possibly earning a World Cup seed based on the FIFA rankings:
“In all honesty, I don’t put any stock in it. I don’t have enough information that would lead me to believe that the U.S. is in position to be seeded. I’ve been told that FIFA looks back over the past World Cups to make a decision on seeding. If that was the case, 2002 looks good, 1998 and 1994 don’t look that good so it doesn’t seem to me that we’d be a seeded team.”

On the game having to go up against the start of college football this weekend:
“I’m happy, first of all, it is live on an English-speaking channel. I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s the job of supporters of soccer in this country to be better supporters of the game. Not only U.S. games on television, but MLS games and be better consumers. When we demonstrate ratings, I think we will have an argument for primetime. I can see both sides of it. I understand where television is coming from and I understand where supporters are coming from. But the bottom line is that the television companies don’t put these games on as non-profit exercises. I think it’s time that the American public that supports the sport of soccer steps forward and supports our game by watching on television and getting ratings, by attending games and by buying soccer products; being good consumers as we have seen in other sports, whether it’s college football, the NBA, what have you. It’s time for us to put up or shut up.”

On Mexican players who concern the U.S. the most:
“The obvious one is [Jared] Borgetti because he’s a goal scorer. I don’t think you can argue his effectiveness. He scores goals in big games and that’s what a real goal scorer is about. Obviously he’s one player that we have to focus on. The strength of Mexico is that they have a lot of players that feel comfortable on the ball, they have good ball movement off the ball. They are very good at pushing numbers on the attack and it’s not one particular player you single out. However, at the end of the day you often see Borgetti’s name in the scoring column. It’s a combination of things. I think they have a good compliment of players around Borgetti that helps feed him the kind of service he needs to score goals. Defensively, I think Sanchez has played very well in the goal and obviously Marquez is a good player whether he plays in the back or in the midfield. A lot of good players. They will lose [Pavel] Pardo. They’ll be hurt by his suspension. Pardo is their captain and he’s an excellent player. Additionally, losing [Salvador] Carmona for the suspension for illegal drug use is going to hurt them because he’s been a fixture on their team for a number of years. But, at the end of the day, certainly, Borgetti is the guy that we have to watch, as well as [Francisco] Fonseca on the attack. A bunch of good players and it’s going to make for a real good game.”

On the importance of home-field advantage based on the USA and Mexico’s record against each other:
“The homes teams win and the visiting teams don’t. I think the other factor that I like am the fact that we’re not playing at altitude. Any way you look at it, Mexico City is a very very difficult venue to play in for a visiting team because of the altitude and the combination of smog and heat. We have no excuses. We’re playing at home. We’re playing in a stadium we like and we need to step on the field and win the game.”

On Eddie Johnson and the difference he makes in the lineup:
“Certainly Eddie is about speed and having that kind of speed up top and having a guy with the ability to get behind defenses is important. Additionally, Eddie is, physically, a strong player. He can hold the ball and he’s proven to be a very good finisher. So when Eddie is 100 percent and in form, he makes us a better team. I think we need to be patient with Eddie. He’s just starting to come back. He’s only played a couple of games since his injury in late May, so he’s not completely in form at the moment. However, I think any way we use Eddie, it helps our team because of the things I addressed previously. He’s an outstanding player and he stretches the other team. That can only benefit us.”

On McBride being familiar with Columbus:
“I think that helps. We have a number of players on our roster who are comfortable in Columbus. Two current players in [Frankie] Hejduk and [Chad] Marshall. Cunningham, obviously, played here previously, and McBride. I think that’s only an advantage.”

On the players coming in from Europe:
“I think those players come in confident. I think Claudio in particular is off to a fabulous start with Man City and their standing in the table is very impressive after four games. Eddie Lewis is doing quite well at Leeds. I think the move for him was a good one. I think Convey is off to a fantastic start with Reading and his preseason with Reading. His preseason with Reading, I thought, allowed him to come into the camp against T and T with a lot of confidence and he showed that. The fourth player you mentioned, McBride, obviously Brian has played well and he’s getting into some pretty good form and I’m hoping that’s something that carries through to next year.

On Jeff Cunningham:
“I think he’s a more seasoned player. He’s learned from his experiences. I think generally what happens in a national team camp is that it’s very difficult for any player to come in initially and feel comfortable in the setting. It’s new teammates, new coaches, new environment, new challenges. From one player to the next, they all deal with that in different ways. But, generally, it’s a slow process and that was the case with Jeff. This time around, we had him for the last camp and he felt comfortable and I thought he did a good job. In this camp, he feels more comfortable. When Jeff is comfortable, he is confident, and when he’s confident, he can play well. I think the last couple of camps have been good for him and, obviously, his season to date with the Colorado Rapids has been good. So, I think, Jeff is a more experienced player and a player that comes in here with a lot of confidence.”

On the team’s mindset compared to four years ago:
“There’s a different level of maturity. Positive experiences. Previous teams have had experiences in World Cup qualifying but not necessarily as positive. I think we’ve had momentum since the 2002 World Cup and over the last four years or three years, however long it’s been since we played in the World Cup, I think, we’ve made steady progress. It hasn’t always been perfect but you can see that there’s an air of confidence in the program. Our veteran players continue to lead the way and show that they want to be here and show what it really means to be on the national team and I think that spills over to the younger players. Our younger players have come in with a good attitude and have learned from these experiences. And, also, without a doubt, add much needed depth to the program and a lot of talent. The combination of our veteran players and the experiences we’ve had plus the injection of new blood into the team, I think, has made us better. That allows us to have the kind of confidence that we have when we step on the field and believe we can win each and every game. Therefore, I think Saturday is a challenge for this group. They’re not intimidated by the challenge and look forward to it and I think they have the kind of confidence they need that they can step on the field and win.”

On concerns about players being over-eager for this game:
“We don’t build this up into a game that’s any more special than any other game. All of these World Cup qualifying games are equally important and this just happens to be Mexico this time around. I think the guys will step on the field with level heads and they’ll prepare the way they need to prepare during the week. I think, you can never predict results but I think they’re going to step onto the field with the proper confidence and they’ll be prepared accordingly and play a good game. If they can do that, they’ve put themselves in position to win.”

On how far the U.S. has come since France 1998:
“It’s come a long way since ’98 and I think you need to recognize a lot of people for the progress of the program. The starting point, we often don’t talk about this, but the support from the U.S. Soccer, our administration, management, however you want to call it, has been superb. They’ve given us all the things we need to be successful. Whenever we ask for something, we get it. And from Dr. Contiguglia, Dan Flynn, Jay Berhalter, the group around my team, my coaches and my support staff are outstanding and it’s all led towards us being successful. But, obviously, the key people in the success in the drive to get better are the players. They are talented players and they have the right kind of character and desire to be successful. When you saw this team after the World Cup in ’98 and how low the program was at the time, it took special people to move it forward again and a lot of those people are still today, from Claudio Reyna to Kasey Keller, Brian McBride. I think it’s been a collective unit, both on the part of management and the players to say, ‘This is a time of disappointment,” in ’98 in Paris and we want to get better. A lot of people have worked hard to make us successful and I think they all deserve a lot of credit. I’m just hopeful now that we can get this qualifying past us and be qualified for Germany and then go back to the challenge of trying to do something in the next World Cup. A lot of people are responsible for our success and most notably, though, the players at the end of the day. They’ve done a great job and I give them a lot of credit.”

On dealing with the MLS and European players’ fatigue:
“Well, it’s a good question and you know this from experience. The only way you ever learn to be a national team coach is on the job. It’s on the job training all the time. I’ve had enough of these experiences and what happens, you’re right in saying that the MLS players have been fairly taxed. They’re at the end of their regular season and a number of them are tired. At the other end of it, we have many of our players in Europe that are coming off playing as many as three games a week since the Trinidad game. We have, I know Reyna, for example, and Eddie Lewis and Convey and Hahnemann at Reading and McBride, they’ve played games since we played Trinidad on Aug. 17. They played the following Saturday and then played Tuesday and Wednesday and then played this past Saturday. They come in equally as tired with the travel across the ocean. So you have a whole group of players that are, in all honesty, a little bit fatigued. Our objective during the week is to slowly build towards the game on Saturday against Mexico. Given the right combination of rest, training and awareness of our opponent, we know how to do that at this point in time because we’ve been doing it a long time. I, as a coach, have been here for seven years doing it. My coaching staff has been with me for a long period of time. We know the players, we know how to get a sense of where they’re at and we do what makes sense once we get them into camp. But, I think, the experiences over the last seven years allow me to understand how to make those kind of decision to move the team forward and have them prepared for the game on Saturday.”

On Santino Quaranta’s development:
“He’s doing well. He’s a kid with a lot of talent. I think he’s gonna emerge to be a pretty good player at the national team level. Obviously he needs to continue to grow and get experience with his club team. One of the challenges is finding the right position for him, where he feels most comfortable playing. If he can do that at the club level and it ties into the national team idea of where he plays, he’s only going to grow and get better and better. I think he’s a kid with a lot of talent. As you know he’s been a very promising player over the last five years with D.C. United. We’ve seen bits and pieces of what he can do. And I think, as he continues to move forward, he needs to be a little bit more consistent. But, he’s a kid with a lot of talent. He’s a very skillful player and I think his best quality is his ability to run at players with the ball at his feet, something that’s pretty rare for our group of players. I think he’s a kid that offers us something and I’m hopeful, as he continues to grow with this club team, he’s only going to get better and better and help the national team.”

On the absence of John O’Brien:
“He’s injured. I think John’s an outstanding player. We would miss him, but having said that, since the 2002 World Cup, the first time he played for us, well, not the first time, he played one time for us against Venezuela in either 2003 or 2004, but we hadn’t seen him for a couple of years and then, obviously, he played in the Gold Cup as well as the last game. The one good thing: he hasn’t been a fixture for us. He won’t be noticeably missed by a lot of people except for the coaches and the players who know what a special player he is. And he is outstanding. When he’s on the field, he makes us a better team and, not having him, yes, I guess you could say we’ll miss him. But if you followed our team over the last three or four years, every game we’re missing players so it’s not an excuse for not being successful.”

On soccer supporters in the U.S:
“I think, without a doubt, the national team program has improved. We see that by our success on the field, rankings, what have you. MLS is getting better. There’s no reason why it’s not supported at a higher level, in my opinion. We have so many people involved with this sport in this country so we need their support. Again, as I stated, whether it’s turning on the television and watching games and helping ratings or actually go to games and support their teams. I think it’s critical. If we want this sport to grow, if we want to truly position ourselves to one day win a World Cup, we need support from the people who follow soccer in the United States. I’m hopeful that it’s just going to get better and better. I think the product is good enough at the national team level as well as in our domestic league to get more support.”

On what it means to have Claudio Reyna back and what he brings to the team:
“Leadership and his ability on the field. He’s an experienced player. He’s in very good form right now. He gives our players confidence. He allows us to be more aggressive going forward. There are just a lot of things that Claudio offers our team so we’re real happy to have him here. He’s an outstanding player.”

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