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Bruce Arena Previews Gold Cup in Conference Call

CHICAGO (Wednesday, January 16, 2002) - Selected quotes from today's U.S. Soccer conference call with U.S. head coach Bruce Arena, previewing the team's Jan. 19 and Jan. 21 first round Gold Cup matches against Korea and Cuba, respectively.  Both matches are being played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and are available on pay-per-view at 3 p.m. PT.  The U.S. has been training in California since January 5 in preparation for the Gold Cup.

Opening comments:
"I would like to welcome Glenn Myernick to U.S. Soccer.  He has been hired as a full time assistant for this year. He will have responsibilities in scouting and other areas with the team this year, and we are happy to have a person of this experience on our staff.  We are rejoined after our 1996 experience at the Olympics.  I am happy to have Glenn and he has been a great addition to the staff.

"We have been in camp for 11 days and it has gone quite well, I have been quite pleased with the effort of our players. We put a great deal of emphasis in the first week of training on physical conditioning and it has really shown.

"We are much sharper as a team and obviously much fitter.  I think it will show in this Gold Cup that we are a team a little bit ahead of where we were in Korea in December as well as November in Trinidad.

"We have a wide range of players here, the young ones who have shown awfully well and a late addition this week in Kasey Keller.  And we are happy to see that Kasey has made himself available to participate in the tournament.

"All in all we look forward to the game on Saturday against Korea and the game on Monday against Cuba and we are eager to have a good showing in the Gold Cup."

On his emphasis for the team as the Gold Cup gets underway:
"We think every time we play it is important, especially this year where we are in our final preparations for the World Cup.  We are looking at both some of our team concepts, and more importantly some of the individual performances.  This camp is going to be critical for some of our players if they wish to remain in the hunt for the final roster for the World Cup."

On Clint Mathis:
"I’m not sure if he’ll make our 18-man roster or not. Originally, we weren’t even going to bring him into camp at all, because there was a question mark if we were bringing him back too early with his knee.  He struggled a little bit in our training camp in December for the Korea game and we were concerned that he was coming back too early. But in the interim he continued to make progress.  He came into camp a few days late and we continued to work on his conditioning.  We started moving him into team play and he’s shown well.  If he continues to make progress, there is a possibility to see him in our final 18 for the first two games.  If not, if we move along in the tournament, there is a chance we can see him on the roster for the third game."

On how many spots are open for competition on the World Cup roster:
"If you asked me this question in January, 2001, having seen what happened in 2001, I don’t know how I can really answer that question.  A lot of things can happen during a year. If we experience the same number of injuries that we experienced last year then 15 spots could be open on this roster.  So it is hard to for me to say in January 2002, how many spots are open.  We are hopeful Mathis comes back at full strength, Wolff comes back at full strength, Pope comes back at full strength, McBride, etc. There are so many questions about players at this point and things are going to happen during the year like they happen every year.  I think I’d be foolish right now to lock myself in and say we are set at a bunch of positions. I think we still need to keep an open mind and watch players move along during the year before we get locked in to anything.

"In camp this week we have had a pretty good showing from a few young players that I would not anticipate being a part of our final 23.  But if they get the opportunity in the Gold Cup and show well, I think they get put right back in the mix.

"Obviously, if you look at our pool of players, you have to think that if Friedel and Keller are healthy, they are a part of it.  You have to think that Reyna is part of it.  That Stewart is part of it.  There are probably 10 of those guys that I can think of off the top of my head that we would clearly pencil in as being part of the roster, but there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before we make our final decision."

On questions in the line-up:
"Depending on how we play, our backline has never been intact.   Again, in this tournament Pope is a question mark and Llamosa is not available to play.  At left back we have basically used one player throughout qualifying, David Regis.  If there is injury there, that whole thing opens up again and we don’t have depth at that particular position.  And in midfield, depending on our final alignment, it will be interesting to see which players surface at the end.  I’m happy with the group of midfielders we have, how we place them on the field remains to be seen.  Our pool of forwards, no one has really stepped up and separated themselves from the others.  There are a lot of players who have to show what kind of form they are in this year before we make any final decisions."

On MLS contraction:
"I think that it only makes the league better.  The quality from players 1-18 has improved due to contraction.  Let’s face it, New England and Colorado were handed a bunch of players to make them stronger, and those are traditionally the weak teams.  The face of the league has changed. It looks like, instead of having teams that are not in the top tier, that on balance, there are 10 teams that on a given day are equal to each other.  That kind of competition game in and game out will make the league more attractive to the fans and will make the year very exciting.  It will really help me in terms of making some final decisions and evaluating some of those players in the MLS pool because game in and game out the players are going to be tested."

Comparing the current Gold Cup team to the team at the 2000 Gold Cup:
"You have to remember that we lost in penalty kicks to a good team in Colombia, and for the most part I thought we played pretty well and it was an exciting game. I was not disappointed in our performance.  We had two wins and a draw in three games in 2000.  So I did not walk away form that competition disappointed.  We had more Europeans players available on that roster.  The team then was a little fitter and a little more complete than we have going into this competition."

On some of the younger players who are standing out in camp:
"In the back, clearly Califf and Bocanegra have done well.  In the midfield, Beasley has done well, as has Brian West. In the goal, Tim Howard, who I haven’t seen play that much in the last year, has shown quite well.  Bobby Convey has done a good job, and we have played him as both a defender and a midfielder.  They have played well, I don’t know how many will get into games this week, but they have played well this week.  It speaks well for the rebuilding process that will take place after the World Cup.  I am optimistic about the future of U.S. Soccer."

On the use of a flat back four on defense:
"There is always a chance we can see other alignments, and we play for the most part with four in the back.  We are fairly committed to it but we train in different systems throughout the week, so if we need to make adjustments we can make adjustments.  There are going to be situations in the game when - for tactical reasons - you may go to three in the back or five in the back.  Our players are prepared to play that way and we train in those types of systems."

On using Landon Donovan as a forward or an attacking midfielder:
"He has and he has been playing both spots in training.  I think there is a chance that Landon can play in both positions.  Landon is a very versatile player.  He hasn’t shown real well as a forward in international games.  Physically he hasn’t dealt well with aggressive marking, and sometimes you wonder if has to mature a little more physically. He is probably the fittest player on our team.  When you put him in midfield he can do a lot of good things there as well.  He’s a very good passer of the ball, and he’s done that with his club team.  So he has qualities that make you think he can play in either position on the field, and he has done that with his club team in San Jose and he has done that with us.  As we move forward this year we need to make a decision, do we put Landon at one position in the field or is he someone who can give us cover in several positions.  And if that is the case it only helps his cause. The various ways we have used Landon he can deal with it and it helps his cause in trying to make our final roster."

On facing South Korea again on Saturday:
"It is a little strange to play Korea twice in a row and twice in the past six weeks.  With the make-up of our team, they are not going to be seeing the full U.S. Team, but they basically have their team and it is almost the same team we played in December, plus one or two players.  Their real strength is their fitness level."

On the CONCACAF Gold Cup:
"It is not a true continental competition, because there are outside teams.  That is the way CONCACAF runs it.  It is still our confederation championship, though, any way you look at it.  It is labeled that way, the winner gets a spot in the Confederations Cup and a spot in Copa America, so it is truly our confederation championship. Regardless of the kind of roster we put on the field, we still feel it is important and we are going to do our best to win the competition."

On Frankie Hejduk’s return to camp:
"Frankie has a lot of international experience, and he certainly has qualities at the right back position that make him someone we want to look at there, since that is a position we have been unsettled out across that last year."

On Zach Thornton:
"Zach has a chance to play, depending, on the situation with Keller.  We need to size up the condition Kasey is in when he arrives here on Thursday.  If he’s feeling alright, it is likely he will play and then I simply need to decide on the back-up ‘keeper and Zach is certainly in the hunt for that position."