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Post-Match Quotes: U.S. 6, Panama 0

U.S Men’s National Team
Quote Sheet – U.S. 6, Panama 0
RFK Stadium, Oct. 13, 2004

“We obviously played quite well. Panama had a good first half. We scored a terrific goal. We knew when the game slowed down a little bit that our speed and our ability in the midfield would be factor. This game was all about our players. They prepared well.”

“What a great performance over twelve days for us. We’re rarely together, and it’s tough to make us into a team in a short period a time. Our players responded well to win two games. You have to put it on the line like we had to in these last two games, and to be qualified in the fifth game of this round is simply fantastic.

“All the credit goes to the players, no question about it. You can see that in time we have some young players that are going to be able to help us and play. What a great effort. My hat goes off to our veterans as well as our young kids - Landon taking responsibility as a captain, the veterans guiding him. What a great performance from our forwards tonight and our midfield. All around it was a fantastic performance, and give our guys a lot of credit. We look forward to the next game because we like playing these games, and we want to get better and we want the challenge. So we’re not, by any means, planning on rolling over in the next game against Jamaica.”

On whether this game was more intense than other qualifiers:
“First of all, the significance of the game certainly got our attention. We put out a team that has played together a little bit and that helped, and the speed of Beasley and Donovan in the midfield really gave them problems. Give Panama a lot of credit. Their pressure in the first half was terrific. But, again, we knew that they couldn’t sustain that over 90 minutes. I felt that if we got the second goal and Panama would open up, they were going to be in trouble. Obviously that was the case.

On the U.S. MNT’s passing:
“(In the) second half, very good. Moments in the first half, very good as well. We’re getting better and other things - a little better kind of field we’re playing on, ball a little bit more suitable for us. All these are little excuses, but the conditions were right for us. That’s why there’s such a thing as a home-field advantage. Six points at home, no losses on the road. If you’re going to go in the lab and plan out how to do it, this is how to do it. Again, give our guys all the credit, fantastic performance.”

On Landon Donovan’s leadership:
“I think the armband helps Landon realize who he is. So often we have a lot of players guilty of not giving themselves enough credit as players, and I stress to our younger players that they need to emerge a little bit, in particular Landon. Landon needs challenges. He’s a fantastic player. You challenge him, and he responds. You see the kind of player he is. Landon is a great player, I don’t think anyone can doubt that, and if we can find that consistency in Landon at the club level and the international level, he’s going to be a player to be reckoned with.”

On using the disappointment in Panama for inspiration:
“It wasn’t disappointment in Panama. Again, we got a point at the end of the game and hung in there. We’ve been able to stay in for 90 minutes each and every game in this round. To get a point at the end of that game was big, so we didn’t leave Panama disappointed in the result. Maybe a little bit disappointed in our play, but the conditions were difficult. We realized that’s the way it was on that night, and we moved forward.”

On making a team in 12 days:
“Making a team in 12 days is easy when the guys have the right approach, and they did that. (We had) fantastic leadership. We never worry when we lose players, even with a player such as Claudio (Reyna). Every camp I’ve ever had has been, to me personally, very gratifying. They bring great attitude. I could sense it this time around that there was a good chance that we were going to play well and get six points and put this thing away after five games, and they did that. On nights like this if you don’t praise the players, you’re looking in the wrong direction because they deserve all the credit.”

On Eddie Johnson:
“He’s a player with tremendous potential and, obviously, his physical qualities are outstanding. When you bring a player like that into a game with 30 minutes left and opponents chasing the game and defenders tired, basically Eddie is going to be extremely dangerous. He’s, technically, a good player. I think with more experience and the right attitude - he’s only 20-years-old - he’s going to be a very good player in the league and hopefully with the national team. (He has) a lot of potential. Eddie would be the first to tell you that he benefited from some work from his teammates in these last two games. It’s not like he carried the whole load himself. We told him to be set for getting into goal scoring positions and sticking the ball in the back of the net, and he did that. I though tonight McBride and Wolff had a great game. McBride won just about every ball in the air. When things were tough, and we had to play through the midfield, Wolff makes a great play to set up the goal. Our forwards came through. I think maybe in some previous games we weren’t really in the kind of form we would like. Give them a lot of credit."

On whether he was disappointed with shooting in the first half:
“You don’t make every shot but we had a couple chances to get the second goal for sure. It’s all part of it. At the end of the day, (we had) six goals. I think 12 goals (scored in this round), giving up two, that’s not bad. This was not a cupcake group. There were teams that were pretty good. You see tonight, El Salvador and Jamaica, they’re in the 80th minute and it’s 0-0. We beat some good teams, and we got results in some tough places. So, I think, we got through this round with flying colors.”

On the team’s maturity:
“It’s all business. We’re all about results and qualifying. Get the results, and you go to the World Cup. The experience of success in 2002, perhaps failing in ’98 with the group, sends a clear message on how you need to prepare and the kind of professionals you need to be. I think having our young players, such as Landon and DaMarcus, in 2002 helps as we move forward and try to change the team a little bit and try to introduce new players. I think they understand what it’s like. I’ve been happy for our young guys because they didn’t go through qualifying much last time. Beasley didn’t. He needed this and Beasley was fantastic last night.”

On playing Jamaica next and the players he will use:
“I’m a bit of an idiot. I don’t understand how you prepare to lose a game. The game ended maybe 30 minutes ago. I’m not the brightest guy in the world, and I can’t think that quickly. Obviously there are going to be a few different players in there. We have to weigh the MLS Cup final that week. We have players in Europe playing on Sunday. Do we want to fly them to Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday? There are a lot of factors, and we’ll have to see. But we’re going to put a team on the field that’s going to play to win, I can guarantee you that.”

On what the team has achieved this year:
“I commonly hear or read that you’re lucky when you score a goal at the end of the game. Whether it’s in the 90th minute or the 80th, that’s the reason you play 90 minutes. That’s all part of the exercise of playing games. The accomplishments over the year, we’ve played 14 games and lost one game. We cannot be that bad. And we lost in Holland against a very good team. If anything, when games weren’t perfect and we didn’t play to the level that we’re capable of playing, we hung in mentally, which is a fantastic exercise because qualifying is a grind. If you learn to play in those types of games and get results when you’re not at your best, or put teams away when you have the opportunity, those are all things that are important. The players have learned how to win and understand that this game is 90 minutes long, 94 minutes long, whatever the referee decides on any given day. I think that’s been part of the exercise this year that’s been so good. So all people who were critical of us getting the last minute results, like the goal against Mexico in the 90-something minute, a goal against Poland. By the way, that’s what we did against Jamaica and Panama. That’s an incredible skill, and you give the players a lot of credit. That’s a tremendous accomplishment to learn to do that. So give these players credit, they’ve had a great year to date, and we want to end it with a successful game against Jamaica.”

On playing at RFK:
“I think RFK has always been a great venue for U.S. Soccer, and especially when it’s not a situation that maybe puts us on guard a little bit by maybe not being the home team. Even we weren’t, it still has been a good field for us. A lot of our players, obviously from MLS and previous national team experience, have already played at RFK, so it feels like a home. And when you play in our nation’s capital, I think that adds a little motivation to the guys as well. So it’s been a great home. Obviously, I don’t know what the future is for us here at RFK. It’s probably not as good as we would like, but it’s a great home and perhaps when there is a soccer stadium here in years to come that can become another venue for us and hopefully a good one as well.”

On Kerry Zavagnin’s performance over the last two days:
“He had a good pass for the second goal. In El Salvador he had a solid game for really the first kind of game for him that really mattered and had that kind of significance. And tonight he got really going after about 20 minutes and was pretty good. That second half was very good on Kerry’s part. Defensively, rock solid. He positioned himself to win a lot of second balls and certainly the ball he played to Landon for the second goal was a great pass. And Pablo, as well, has done well. Pablo has been a little sick and had a bit of an injury and that probably took some playing time away from him. But I believe in Kerry, he’s a good player.

On his hat-trick:
“This is one of those games where everything went well for me tonight. I got in at the time of the game where their defenders were tired. Bruce told me the game was going to open up, and when I get the ball to run at those guys and use my pace to get some of the pressure off our defenders when I got in the game. It was a good night for me. I make hard runs in the box and at this level, nine times out of 10, if you make those runs you’re going to get the ball.”

On preparing for the match:
“It was a challenge to be ready for tonight after Saturday, but Bruce got us ready and everybody was very professional, not only getting ready physically but mentally as well. You see when we play well, what happens. When everybody plays well, this team is pretty good. We always stress getting the first goal in these games. That’s the most important. With one goal they can still play a little conservatively, but with two goals they have to come at us. I think those goals, every goal is important, but the second one kind of finished them off.”

On the importance of clinching:
“We’re relieved. You don’t ever want to go into the final game needing to get points to qualify. We’re not in any game to lose it, but the Jamaica game is going to have a lot less pressure now.

On his surprise at the score:
“Goal differential is crucial. You never know what’s going to happen. I thought they were going to at least bunker in a little bit and try not to give up too many more. And give us credit, we played well.”