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One-on-One with Bruce Arena

Bruce Arena sat down with reporters on Saturday, a little more than 12 hours after arriving in Korea.  Included below are some highlights of the discussion that followed:

Question: “Will the U.S. Team go back up to the DMZ this trip?”
Bruce Arena:  “We may.  We have a date put aside if we want to do it.”

Question:  “Because many of the players missed the trip there last time …”
“That hasn’t been number one on our list of things, I haven’t got into the social calendar yet.  We obviously want to give the players a little bit of time away from the field and the hotel as well as a team. Something like visiting the DMZ would be outstanding.  Visiting our base here would be great as well. Hopefully that is all part of the experience as well.”

Question:  “Is staying downtown in a city a decision in response to last time (France ’98)?”
  “It’s a response for my state-of-mind, as well as the players'.  I’m not a big believer in being isolated.  In our case, with the make-up of our players it would be detrimental.  That is my own opinion, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that we as a group enjoy being locked up 24 hours a day.”

Question:  “Will the team have any restrictions as far as being out and enjoying the city?”
Arena:  “I think they’ll be in and around the city for sure.  I think it is important that we don’t walk around draped in American flags - for security reasons.  We want them to get in the city and enjoy the culture of Korea and Seoul, as well as just enjoy the thrill of being at the World Cup.”

Question:  “What qualities does Claudio Reyna bring to the field as a defensive midfielder, if you decide to play him there?”
  “He’s a midfielder.  He’s a midfielder that has both attacking and defending qualities.  That in itself would separate himself from a player that you might label as a traditional defensive midfielder.  I guess he gives you all the attributes you would need in a defensive midfielder and has other qualities to help the team in attack.” 

Question:  “Claudio has had some tough times in the past two World Cups.  Do you think he feels he needs to prove himself in this World Cup?”
  “I think the guy to ask that to is Claudio.  I expect him to demonstrate that he is a quality player in this World Cup. I think he is a world class player, and without putting a whole lot of responsibilities or burden on his shoulders, there is no reason he can’t demonstrate that he’s an outstanding player in this World Cup.  It certainly wouldn’t surprise me.” 

Question:  “You’ve said before that you would have a starting line-up by June 1.  Are you still on that timeline?”
“Not really.  I haven’t thought about that date a whole lot.  That is just my way of keeping people off my back, and I threw out June 1.  Who ever knows with that?  So many things happen.  Like with the English team, I saw today on CNN that England has 17 players available for training today (Saturday) and three of them are goalkeepers.  Why set timetables?  Our timetable has 11 players on the field on June 5, and how we go about doing it could vary.  Things change, so I think you can’t be set on particular dates and particular combinations.  You have to play it out over the next 10 days.”

Question:  “Do you know who you would pick as a starting goalkeeper right now, if you had to?”
“You look at the last three World Cups - ’90,’94,98 - we’ve played a total of 10 games.  We’ve won one game and tied one game in that stretch and we are 1-8-1 in that stretch.   The only goalkeeper that has won a game in this group is (Tony) Meola.  The only goalkeeper that has tied a match in this group is Meola.  And Meola won't be the starting goalkeeper in the first game.  There’s a variety of options.  One is that we go with the same goalkeeper all three games. Two is we split them in games 1 and 2. And three is that we take it one game at a time.   And the reason I say you can do that is: one, because I really believe that they both deserve to play. And two, I don’t think it impacts our team one way or the other.  We are going to doing that in the field, so that’s still a possibility.  There is a bunch of options open and in all fairness I’ve let the goalkeepers know that.  I told them that I don’t know how to make the decision today.  I told them that yesterday.”

“I don’t think the team is going to react one way or the other.  They are prepared to have both of them and they are comfortable with both of them.”

"If you look over the last year the strides that Friedel has made have been tremendous.  He is a much better goalkeeper in May, 2002 than he was in May, 2001.  And obviously having the experiences and opportunities at Blackburn have obviously aided his development.  And Kasey is not a quitter.  He’s a guy who didn’t play a whole lot in the fall and then got the opportunities with us in the Gold Cup and some other internationals and then came on and demonstrated at Tottenham that he is their best goalkeeper.  These two guys are outstanding goalkeepers.  They have strong personalities, they have a lot of confidence in themselves and they both want to play.  I think this time along they clearly have great respect for each other.  It is so obvious in training, they look at each other and they are both very good.  That maybe has not been the case all along over the last decade with our goalkeepers.  In each World Cup campaign they felt that one guy was always head and shoulders over the other.  I don’t think that either one would debate the fact that they are both very good goalkeepers and could get the job done.”

Question:  “In what ways has Friedel raised his game as a goalkeeper?”
“I think he has a lot more confidence in himself, more experience.  He reads the game pretty well. His distribution is excellent.  One of the big things in the game today – especially in England with the different weather and the field conditions – is the feet the goalkeepers have, and he is rock solid.  He gets his team out of a lot of trouble when they have to play backpasess under pressure on tough fields in tough conditions, and he has demonstrated to be great at that.  He reads the game well and has had some timely saves. Keller does a great job organizing the team.  He pulls off some miraculous saves at times.  In the game against Holland, Friedel makes an unbelievable save in the first half going to his right that not too many goalkeepers are going to make.  And then Kasey came out one time and snuffed the one player that one time that beat Regis.  Two outstanding saves and then the goals - our goalkeepers can’t be at fault for any of those goals against Holland.  And against Uruguay the goal that we gave up, Friedel did everything he could possibly do.  The other thing about this competition, in the games - with this ball - there is going to be rebounds.  Keepers can just make the saves. It is going to be icing on the cake if they can catch some of these shots, because this ball flies.”

Question:  “Do you worry about losing one of the goalkeepers when you make this decision?”
  “No, I don’t.  I don’t think that is going to happen.  They’re big boys.  There are going to be some players that are disappointed that they aren’t in the starting eleven.  I don’t know why we single out our goalkeepers as being so fragile mentally.  They are probably a little stronger upstairs than most of our players.”

“We think it is a luxury, a real advantage to have these two (Keller and Friedel), not a disadvantage.  I’ve also sat on the bench and thought I should be on the field.  And I also knew that when you get on the field you better show you belong there.  You look in this World Cup and there are some pretty damn good players that aren’t going to be playing when the whistle blows in each and every game, and we are no different than that.  You think there are any players on France that could get on the field somewhere?  Or Argentina?  Maybe Batistuta doesn’t play a whole lot. Imagine that.  Or Crespo.” 

“This is about your team, this isn’t about anyone in particular.  This is about your team and if you lose sight of that then you don’t have a chance. And if you look at the history of the US team, when players put themselves before the team things didn’t work out real well. And if you need to look back in your history book and figure out when that last occurred …” 

Question:  “Is part of the reason you say you’ve thought about splitting time with the goalkeepers because you feel both deserve to start?”
  “The decision is going to be based on who gives us the best chance to win.  Period.   It’s not sentimental. It is not anything else.  It is who gives us the best chance to win.  If it was sentimental I would probably try to play.  And that would not give us the best chance to play.”

Question: “Now that team is in Korea, is this work or fun?”
  “This is more fun to be honest with you.  This is what you work for, and all the planning just to get here has been very detailed and draining, and now that it’s here now all we look forward to is playing games, which is nice.”