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Quote Sheet: Arena & Pope


BRUCE ARENA
U.S. Head Coach

On whether he would not start someone on Friday based on their card accumulation:
"It's a consideration. Certainly we need to place our best team on the field against Poland regardless of the card situation.  But we're going to look at the cards, we're going to look at the fitness of some players and certainly our opponent."

On the difference he sees in Poland at the World Cup, compared to Poland of a couple of months ago:
"Well let's be fair. They had an outstanding run in qualifying, so I think they haven't shown their best in this World Cup, and we have to anticipate that they will against us on Friday. (Emmanuel) Olisadebe in qualifying was outstanding, his speed and his ability to get behind defenses was something we saw in each and every game, the midfield was quite good, and Radoslaw Kaluzny who went out the last game with an injury, if he's in the game, he'll be a dangerous player. The left side of the midfield, number 18 who plays at Nurnberg with (Tony) Sanneh is a good player, and they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. So, there's a lot of good players on this Polish team, and we need to be ready for a real difficult game."

On his general thoughts on Poland's disappointing World Cup run:
"Some teams didn't get off to a good start in this World Cup. One of them was the defending champions, so some teams have struggled in the World Cup, and they're already gone.  I think that obviously the impact that Poland, by losing the first game, they had to face a very prepared team in Portugal as the second game so it was difficult.  This has been a very difficult group, if you haven't figured it out.  And although no one's given this group much credit, it's been very difficult and compounded greatly by the fact that the host country is here, so I think it's been a very difficult group, and Poland didn't get off to a good start, and it was tough for them.  And having said that, we talked about France, and we'll probably talk about some other big countries that had done the same."

On whether he expects a favorable crowd at the Poland game:
"I can't imagine why we would have a favorable crowd. I would think that there would be some U.S. supporters there for sure, some Polish supporters, and then there'll be a so called neutral crowd, maybe the Korean populace, and I think that they'll probably be cheering for Poland. I don't think it'll look anything like it looked on Wednesday, but I can't imagine it'll be a pro-American crowd."

On the ways he has seen the team's confidence grow in his tenure as head coach:
"I think, in my opinion, it started in January this year when we began to prepare (for the World Cup) and guys began to compete for positions on the World Cup team, and then the success in the Gold Cup helped us, and then we did well throughout the year, and I think even the games where we lost and played in Germany and Italy and Ireland, there were enough positive signs there top be encouraged.  And by the time May 1 came around and we got together for our camp, I think we had a group of players that looked confident.  We had a good training camp, we had three good games in May that prepared us for the opening game, and I would think that it's fair to say that we were confident going into the opening game against Portugal.  So I think, the guys have been confident, I think the results against Portugal, and the result in a very difficult environment against Korea has been positive, and hopefully that carries forward in the right way for the game against Poland on Friday."

On the fan reaction back home in the U.S. to the teams success, and the communication they have had with friends and families in the U.S.:
"We've seen some of the articles in the press, some of their reactions on television, and certainly the gathering of fans, for example, at Columbus Crew Stadium and a variety of establishments in the U.S., in the early morning hours to support the team, and the fact that we've gotten favorable ratings on television as well, all-time highs, that's terrific.  And I'm hopeful that it continues, I'm hopeful that our play in this World Cup will help the sport grow in the United States, help our professional league, and help everyone down the line (in soccer), as well. It's very encouraging to see that kind of support, we're real thrilled by it and proud of it."

On whether he plans on receiving updates from the Korea-Portugal game or if he will be totally focused on USA-Poland:
"I'm not planning on getting updates, I'm sure I will get them through our press people and all, but it's not important.  What's important is we focus on Poland, and we try to win the game.  We're not going to count on anybody else to get us into the second round but ourselves."

On the play of U.S. midfielder John O'Brien in the first two games and how he helped the team in the absence of Claudio Reyna against Portugal and Earnie Stewart against Korea:
"Well, John is obviously a very talented player.  I think he feels most comfortable in the central part of the midfield, he's played most of the season, especially the second half of the season with Ajax as a left back, he's good on the ball, a good tackler, a very good passer, likes to get forward, so he's a nice compliment to Claudio in that position.  When Claudio was not there we joined him in with Pablo, and he has the ability to get a little bit more forward and when playing with Claudio, they can pick they're spots, which is great.  John's a very good passer of the ball.  He's been part of big plays in both games. Obviously, the opening goal against Portugal, and the ball that he gave to Clint for our goal against Korea, so he's doing a great job, the last 20-30 minutes against Portugal he didn't defend as well as needed in the midfield, and I think he got that done against Korea.  He improved greatly in that area. I'm very pleased with the way he's playing, and he's a good two-way midfielder, and he's really helped us."

On whether he is thinking about giving DaMarcus Beasley a break looking forward to the second round, considering the amount of work he does on both sides of the ball:
"As I've said earlier, I think that we need to put our best team on the field.  I think if we get too cute and try to play ahead, we're going to get ourselves in trouble, and therefore, the decision of the starting eleven, not only DaMarcus, will be based on cards, which we know he has one, injuries, former players, that type of thing, so we haven't finalized anything yet.  Certainly it wouldn't hurt to give a couple of players a break because it's possible, if we do advance, we play on Monday and that's a quick turnover.  It's something we've talked about, but we don't play on Monday and Tuesday unless we win on Friday, and that's got to be our approach."

On what the U.S. needs to work on in this World Cup:
“We need to be better at possessing the ball.  We could have done better at that in the second half against Korea.”

On whether the first-place finish and extra day of rest is something that the team is thinking about in their attempt to advance to the second round:
“That is not something we are worried about.  My biggest concern is getting the result we need on Friday.  I don’t have control of what happens in the other games.  Right now we are the second place team in our group.  I don’t have control of the other game.  I don’t know if we are successful on Friday and get a point or three points, it doesn’t necessarily determine that we would be first or second.  So we don’t know.  We are just going to go out and try and win the game on Friday.  The advantages of finishing first are certainly the extra day (of rest).  We don’t know who the opponents would be, so you can just drive yourself crazy trying to think about all that stuff.”
 

EDDIE POPE
U.S. Defender

On whether they are uncomfortable with the tag of "favorite" as some media have dubbed them in the match against Poland on Friday:
"I don't know if you'd say we're the favorite, we're certainly not going to look at the game that way. We're looking at it like it's going to be a dogfight.  They haven't done so well in the first two games so they're probably going to bring a good team and a good game against us. No game in this stage is easy once you get to the World Cup, so it's going to be a battle for both teams and I don't think you can pick anyone as a favorite, especially since the way games have gone in this World Cup."

On the fan reaction back home in the U.S. to the teams success, and the communication they have had with friends and families in the U.S.:
"I would agree (with Bruce; see above).  I've heard the same things, people gathering at difficult times in the morning, at establishments in the middle of the night just to support us, it's helped that we've done a decent job so far.  And like Bruce was saying, this will help further soccer in the U.S., and we appreciate the support, and we know that it definitely trickles down, and that's what we need in our country."

On whether it is important to come out early and get an early goal to put Poland on their heels a bit:
"Yeah, that sounds great. Definitely, that is what we need to do. Obviously getting early goals makes it easy for everyone, defenders all the way up. Getting the early goal would be a great thing. That and just managing the game, and hopefully if that happens, managing the game, and knowing where we are at end of the half, doing well at end of halves, beginning of halves, at the end of the game."

On whether the thought that the team needs only a tie sticks in the back of your mind or if you play the game outright to win:
"Yeah, I think we better win the game outright.  I think it's dangerous to try and play for a tie.  That's certainly something that I don't think most of the guys feel comfortable with.  I think that if we go out and play hard and do the things we've done in the past, and do the right things, we have an opportunity to win, and I think that's the most important thing."

On the how the team transitions to prepare for Poland in their final Group D match:
“Their forwards are very good, and one forward in particular is extremely fast and that is something we will have to deal with.  And maybe when we have the ball, we can stop them from pressuring us and that is all about keeping position and making good choices while you are moving the ball and passing the ball, and that is certainly something we will have to focus on.  But there is not a big transition there, this is just a new opponent and we are learning what their strengths and weaknesses are, and that is what we are doing across these couple of days.”


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