The Central Defense on Germany
You’d think they’d get sick of each other. U.S. Under-20 central defenders Ryan Cochrane and Chad Marshall seem to be basically attached at the hip. On the field they play next to each other, off the field they sleep next to each other (on separate beds of course), even the states they grew up in – California for Marshall and Oregon for Cochrane – are next to each other. Luckily for the team, the two college standouts like each other, and it shows on the field. The defenders have been the rock in a constantly changing backline, as during their two years with the Under-20s there have been numerous players to their right and left. With 83 appearances between them, the roomies will be a crucial element in handling the rough and tumble play of Germany.
You guys are at the top of the list in appearances and starts for the Under-20s for the last two years. How has playing together so much helped you guys?
Cochrane: "I think being familiar playing with each other is extremely helpful because the chemistry at our two positions is extremely important. Being able to read each other and know how each other plays is key. It also helps the team because we have been there since the beginning and that allows us to be quiet leaders, which I think a lot of the guys look to during the game."
In the second half against Paraguay you guys were able to close down their attack. Did you make any adjustments at halftime that allowed you to do a better job of defending?
Marshall: "I noticed in the first half that our backline was really spread out, and they had so much space to work in. At halftime I told C.J. Klass and Zak (Whitbread) that we should try to stay more compact. Also, we needed to step up more because we were creating too much of a gap with the midfield. In the second half we did that, worked together as a team and it definitely helped us out."
How important was it getting three points out of your opening match?
Cochrane: "Getting three points was huge for us. We feel pretty good about the win and it gives us some added confidence going into the game against Germany. I think what is real exciting is that we are coming off three points, but I feel like everybody knows that’s not the best we can play. We still have a long ways to go if we want to go far in this tournament. We’re going to take it one game at a time, but getting three points puts us in front of the eight ball (Editors note: Ryan was making light of the fact that head coach Thomas Rongen frequently uses the phrase "behind the eight ball" when describing the teams situation after losing the first game of a tournament.)
There’s been a lot of talk that Germany doesn’t have a great team because a number of their top players couldn’t make the trip due to club commitments. What’s your initial reaction when you hear that?
Marshall: "Whoever puts on the jersey for their country is going to play with pride. In a middle of a game they’re not going to say, ‘Oh, we don’t have our best players, so we’re just not going to go out there.’ I do realize they are missing a few players and that may affect them, but they won’t use that as an excuse. And it definitely won’t change how we go at them."
How dangerous is Germany coming off their loss to South Korea in their first match?
"They are probably their most dangerous. They will be fired up to play. It’s pretty much a do-or-die game for Germany because they need a win, so we have to come out and not back down. We will be up for this game, that’s for sure."
How will you handle Germany’s physical play?
"I actually like games that are real physical and have dirty players on them that try to play little head games with you. When we went to Spain this year, we played against Italy and they had a few guys like that. It’s great because it gets me really fired up. I get into it, but it won’t throw me off my game. We know what we have to do to get the win."
Any danger of a letdown after getting a win in your first match against Paraguay?
"There’s always a danger of that, but I don’t think so with this team. Like I said before, I feel like everyone knows we can still improve and even though we got three points, we have a long way to go. No one has lost any focus and Thomas has done a good job of preparing us against Germany."
What is your biggest concern about Germany?
"We have to make sure we match their intensity and be solid on dead ball situations with them. They will be able to match our height, so we’ll have be on the ball for free kicks."