The U.S. enters Sunday's second leg against Grenada (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET) with a 3-0 goal and a clear path to the semifinal round. Despite the seemingly comfortable lead, U.S. Manager Bruce Arena has evaluated the performance in game one and looks to reap the benefits of game two in St. George's. Arena discussed his thoughts with ussoccer.com from the team's beachside resort in Grenada on Friday afternoon.
ussoccer.com: Now that you've had a chance to watch the first game on tape, how would you assess the team's performance?
Bruce Arena: "I thought we played very well. We created a lot of chances, but were faulty in our finishing. Overall, a good performance. We're certainly in a good position to advance to the semifinal round."
ussoccer.com: Can you update the status of Conor Casey?
Bruce Arena: "Conor injured an obscure muscle that extends around the back of the knee. It's a very unusual injury in that the muscle itself is not really used. The prognosis for his recovery is four to six weeks, which is excellent news considering that we feared he had torn his ACL."
ussoccer.com: Obviously with Casey and Eddie Pope out, there will be some changes to the lineup. Are there others you have planned?
Bruce Arena: "It's likely that we will make anywhere from three to five changes for this match."
ussoccer.com: Is there a particular reason?
Bruce Arena: "I think the reasons are simple. We made the first changes to our roster because of injuries and yellow cards. The others because we have a lot of players that are vying for positions. It's very competitive, and a lot of guys are pretty comparable to each other. I think giving some other players an opportunity will help me solidify my thinking as we approach the semifinal round."
ussoccer.com: You said after the game in Columbus that you had 'choreographed' the game, in that you knew what to expect. What are expecting from the Grenadians in this game?
Bruce Arena: "The last game it was pretty obvious that Grenada was going to sit back and play with as many numbers behind the ball as possible. In fact, we saw that in their previous games against Guyana. I knew they were going to be a tough team to break down because of their size and athleticism. The way we're going to score goals was to break them down with crosses or catch them on the counter, which is basically how our goals were scored. In this game, one would think that if they have any interest in advancing, they have to attack more. However, I think they probably have come to terms that they aren't going to advance; however, they do want to win the game. We may see them come out in a similar posture, looking to hang around as long as possible and steal a goal from a restart or a counterattack, and maybe hold on for a narrow victory."
ussoccer.com: Does your game plan for this weekend change based on the first result?
Bruce Arena: "I don't think our thinking is going to change much from the last game, except that we don't need to go out and make the game as much as we attempted to do in Columbus. We've said a number of times that if we lose by a couple goals here we still win; however, that's certainly not our thinking. We will be content with any kind of victory."
ussoccer.com: Although you haven't been to Grenada, you've had many games in this type of Caribbean environment. What do you expect the conditions to be like?
Bruce Arena: "I think the conditions in terms of temperature and humidity will be similiar to what we've seen over the last couple of weeks of training in Columbus and Long Island. We'll find out when we get to the facility tomorrow, but it's likely the field conditions won't be as good as we're accustomed to."
ussoccer.com: Coming into this game with a three-goal cushion, is it difficult to keep the players focused?
Bruce Arena: "Our players, for the most, part are pretty good professionals. I think our younger players don't fully appreciate the complications of qualifying, but our experienced players do and they will be pretty well focused."
ussoccer.com: Besides the result, is there something to be gained from this game?
Bruce Arena: "There is a lot to be gained from this game. You see how your team travels. It's dealing with the issues on the road and the conditions in the Caribbean, and seeing how your players respond. There's also dealing with referees in away games, because the officiating Sunday will look different than it did in last week. So there's a lot we can take away from this."