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Sorber Scouting Report

CARSON, Calif. (January 18, 2007) - Following two weeks of preparation, the U.S. Men's National Team is just over 24 hours away from their contest with Sweden at the Home Depot Center to kick off 2008. During training camp, head coach Bob Bradley and his staff have focused on team cohesion. But with the match drawing near, it is important to know your opponent. sat down with assistant coach Mike Sorber, who shared his insights on the Swedish side and the challenge that the U.S. will meet Saturday evening. With all of the different factors surrounding a January camp – a long lay off for players, the need to build fitness quickly, many new faces – what does the coaching staff look to accomplish?

Mike Sorber: “I think our goal is to continue to build off of what we set last year – laying the foundation for how we want to play as a team, how we compete, and all the details that come in between. We continue to build off of what we started in 2007, and as we head into the Sweden game we look to be challenged on the things that we’ve worked on.” In many ways the Swedish roster is very similar to ours – lots of young, domestic players with a few veterans sprinkled into the mix, and an important tournament on the horizon. Give us a brief scouting report on the characteristics of the Swedish team that you will face on Saturday.

Mike Sorber: “Sweden has a good mentality and they know how they want to play. It seems like it’s easy or simple, but when I say that I mean they know how to be mobile and active. They make things difficult for the other team. It starts with the two forwards who work well together putting pressure on the defense, then the other block of eight behind them are all on the same page. The team is consistent in that approach, and though they don’t necessarily have the flashiest players, they are effective.” Sweden is a team that doesn’t necessarily score a lot of goals, but they they rarely miss out on qualification for major events and are always competitive. How do they go about scoring goals against the opposition?

Mike Sorber:  “They put pressure on you and stay in the game mentally, and break other teams down. They pick off bad passes, or win balls in the midfield. They’re quick on the transition and quick to get forward.” What are the key areas of the Saturday’s game that will help determine the outcome?

Mike Sorber: “The midfield is where the battle lines are always drawn. It’s such a key area of the field because that’s where the majority of the game is played. If we can have the right mentality, and if we can stick to it for 90 minutes, we can create chances out of that discipline and that competitiveness. Maybe picking off a pass or getting any window of opportunity – it’s about being a little quicker than they are.” Last time out against Sweden we lost 1-0 in Goteborg. What is one thing that the team can to improve upon to be more succesful this time around?

Mike Sorber: “Our reactions. The most important play is the next play. We’ve got to be connected to the game; to know where to go in relation to the ball and in relation to teammates. The better we can react, the more it will help us keep our shape, and the more difficult it will be for the other team to create chances. We need to be good in transition to create chances of our own.” With so few opportunities for these young, domestic-based players on both teams to make an impression prior to their country’s participation in major tournaments this summer, is there extra pressure on them to show well?

Mike Sorber: “You would hope every young player’s goal is to make the national team, to play in World Cup qualifying, or if you’re Sweden, play in the European Championships. I think the player involved has to have the fundamentals down and to understand how to play within the team. If you get the call for the national team, it is an opportunity to display your technical ability, your soccer intelligence, your competitiveness … all those little things that can set you apart from another player.” Do you like what you’ve seen from the U.S. group so far?

Mike Sorber: “I do. Last year it was a transition year, both for us coaches and a lot of players. Now coming into this year, the players know what to expect. Older players help younger players and everybody is adjusting well. I think physically, also, the team has been better as well.” You were in this situation yourself as a young player many years ago. What advice do you give to those young players that do get called up?

Mike Sorber: “For me, it’s always been about keeping it simple, regardless of what level you play at. Don’t try to do too much on the field, but always challenge yourself to be better, whether that’s reacting faster, thinking quicker, or making things difficult for the other team. Passing, creating chances, all the things that you as a player have done your whole career are still the same here. The difference is that there’s a spotlight on you, so to say. You still have to go out there and perform, but play within yourself, and do what you always do when you take the field.”