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Conference Call Quote Sheet: U.S. MNT Head Coach Bob Bradley Discusses the Upcoming Matches Against Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Bob Bradley

Opening statement:

“I would like to thank everybody for being on the call today. We’ve had a couple of good days here in Miami. Certainly it’s important to have some time training in heat and humidity because we know that’s part of what we’ll be up against in our match on Saturday. We’re very excited as we prepare for this game. Obviously, it’s the second match in this round and we know it’s important in those ways, but we’re also excited about the opportunity to represent the United States in a historic match in Cuba. It’s a unique opportunity for all of us and we are very appreciative to have this honor.”

On how he cautions the team to focus on the match while in Cuba:

“We have found a very good routine and a way of working. We don’t deviate much from that. We understand how to prepare for every game, details in terms of our opponent, how they play, things that we need to do. And, we have experienced players who have been through World Cup qualifying and help keep us on track in terms of the understanding that every game is difficult and what we need to do, especially on the road, to win.”

On whether he has talked about the politics of the game with the players:

“We have talked about it a little bit. I think there’s an overall level of excitement about the opportunity.”

On whether he is concerned about the weather before the match:

“We certainly, like everyone, are tracking these storms. We’re very fortunate with the information that we get in terms of trying to be one step ahead. We certainly feel good in terms of our travel there today and things do look fine through the match on Saturday. Hopefully everything will then go smoothly in terms of our travel out of Cuba on Sunday.”

On the decision not to bring in Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore:

“In terms of the roster, many different factors get weighed when you put a roster together. We feel that we have an overall good pool of players in which to draw upon and you weight different things, which can include where a player is in his season, in his club, how much he has played lately as well as just a feeling about the group that we bring in for a match to cover bases in terms of who we think might start, how we plan on subbing in these matches. All of those factors get weighed and come into play when you see an 18 or a 20-man roster.”

On whether there is a sense of the U.S. and Mexico having an unfair advantage when they play against smaller CONCACAF teams:

“Obviously, when you look around the world in FIFA World Cup qualifying, what makes it exciting and interesting is the fact that everybody has the chance to qualify. We can certainly find results which serve as warnings to never take an opponent lightly. Teams tend to rise to the occasion. There so much on the line. We have tried to establish a good way of preparing for matches and make sure that we do everything we can to be successful.”

On Michael Bradley signing with Borussia Moenchengladbach and how he will benefit from the move:

“Like is often the case, his situation came down to the wire. We had some other players who were also possible transfers right to the end. Moenchengladbach was a club that knew him very, very well. When Herenveen was still holding the price high, Moenchengladbach showed real interest with their pursuit at the end. The opportunity at a club like that, with its history, with it’s incredible fan support, in the Bundesliga I think will be a good next step for him in his career.”

On the Bundesliga and whether something specific about the style of play will develop Michael Bradley’s play over the next few years:

“Certainly, it is a good league. I think the ability for him there to be a two-way player and not be sort of categorized as one kind of player is important for a young player to develop. With any of our players, the opportunity to go to a club, compete, get on the field and play helps that team be successful is ultimately the key to the players’ improvement and playing big roles with the National Team.”

On whether the team is getting used to playing in unfriendly circumstances in difficult environments:

“We have, I think, done a good job of dealing with the different environments and understanding the difficult conditions that you face in away games in qualifying. We’re fortunate to have players like Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Howard who have been through these kind of games in the past. Their experience really makes a difference in terms of our whole team being ready.”

On Eddie Johnson and his role in the upcoming matches:

“First of all, I think, the loan to Cardiff comes at a great time. I keep saying this, but it’s important that our players are playing and I think the opportunity for him there will be a good one. We still felt that Eddie showed good progress in the month that we were together. That includes the England game, Spain, Argentina and both games against Barbados. He unfortunately came down with a virus and missed the second game with Barbados. The progress in that period of time, in his overall game, together with the fact that he still physically gives us something different, those are factors in his selection and those are things that we consider when we put our lineups together for these next two games.

“As we go into these games, we feel that he brings a different quality. Whether or not we should use him as a starter, or whether we feel that as a reserve he changes the game with his physical qualities, those decisions haven’t been finalized yet. When you play two games in a short amount of time, it’s very important to have different players who give you different options and provide different challenges for your opponents and I think that’s where Eddie comes into play.”

On Jimmy Conrad’s status in the Men’s National Team player pool:

“Jimmy was in the January camp. He played the first half against Sweden in our game in January. Like others, we continue to watch him play week in and week out with his club team and assess how he’s doing and where that fits with our group. We obviously have shown a lot of confidence in Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu. I think they have done a very good job giving us stability in the center of our defense. We’ve tried to build on that and at the same time create some depth that we can use going forward.”

On the advantages of playing in Chicago:

“We’re excited to play in Toyota Park. It’s a great facility. It’s a place where the players enjoy the atmosphere, the crowd. We’ve always had very good support in Chicago and we’ve had some success there. I think those are all factors that work in our favor.”

On Cuba and the challenges they present on the field:

“Cuba has a good mix where they’re athletic, you can see some of the qualities of the Caribbean teams, but where there’s still some Latin flare. We’ve looked back at the games they played last year in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The team’s not exactly the same but nonetheless the opening match against Mexico, I think they impressed a lot of people with their all around abilities. We’ve looked at all those things. We have, also, the situation where we played against Cuba in Olympic qualifying so in that match we are familiar with some of their players. As I mentioned earlier, Trinidad & Tobago is an opponent that we have played many times. They’re always a challenge because of the physical qualities that they have. You have a player like Cornell Glen who has played very well for them lately, played in MLS. I actually coached him with the MetroStars. We’re fortunate that when we look at the rosters for Trinidad & Tobago, look at the lineups that they put on the field, that we really have a high level of familiarity with them.”

On the challenges of trying to scout Cuba:

“You do run into a situation where at times it’s not as easy to just go and see the team in person. Other than that, we have been able to accumulate DVDs. As I mentioned earlier, there have been some recent games, the Gold Cup in 2005, the U.S. played Cuba. We saw them play in the 2007 Gold Cup. Now you add on the Olympic qualifying. I think we still have a pretty good idea of their team and we’ve been able to get around the fact that our pure ability to send someone to Cuba for scouting is not that easy.”

On what impressed him about the Cuban performance against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup:

“That’s a game that we point to that I think impressed a lot of people. You could see the individual ability that they had, the players that they had on the attacking side of things in that game. They created a lot of trouble for Mexico so we certainly expect that type of effort. Any time a team loses its first game at home in a short qualifying round, the expectation is that the team is going to do everything it can to respond strongly, so we’re ready for that type of response and we have a lot of respect for the way they play and the talent of their players.”

On Brad Guzan and his move to Aston Villa:

“I think it’s any exciting move for Brad. Always, the ability to challenge himself in the (English) Premiership and to learn from somebody like Brad Friedel, he’s just getting started with things over there, so it’s a little early to make a lot of comments. Anyone who has seen Brad develop, anyone who has had the fortune of working with him knows that for a young player he has a tremendous mentality. He’s a great competitor and I really think that he has the qualities to be successful at Aston Villa. And the fact that he can go there and not have the full responsibility on his shoulders at the beginning, I think, will help, but at the same time, he’s a competitor and I know he’ll be pushing very hard to get on the field.”

On whether Guzan provided feedback about the 2008 Olympics:

“We’ve had a great opportunity to talk to the different players who were in Beijing. Obviously, Peter Nowak is here with us and so we have always tried to look at these different experiences, look at the games and make sure that we are using all of these big events to grow. I think in that regard, Peter did an excellent job with that group. At the end, for sure, it was disappointing because the team showed that it had the ability to move out of a very tough group and be successful against top teams. We were not satisfied with the end result but we certainly felt that the experiences that the players had will help us.”

On whether he feels that players are being held accountable for cards they have received:

“We’ve emphasized since the start that there’s always accountability. And yet, we balance that part with the overall understanding that these are situations that do take place in soccer. We try to point out all examples. We’re very big on going back through games, showing players individual edits, going through point by point with our team to see areas where we can do better. There is a growing process, in that regard. Anytime you play in an event like the Olympics, like the World Cup, cards come into play. It’s the reason that it’s important to have depth in your roster. We try to see all sides but at the same time it’s important to try to get our teams to understand areas where we must improve in order to be successful.”

On whether yellow cards are a factor in determining whether a player will be selected for the following camp:

"I think it depends how that card is received. There are moments where you will see a player make a strong effort to react defensively in an effort where the team needs a strong reaction and it may be that a yellow card in that situation gets treated differently than a yellow card which is more lack of discipline. Again, I think it’s important that players understand the need for concentration, the need for discipline on the field. Where there are situations where those things are not handled well enough, then that requires extra special attention.”

On his feelings coming back to Chicago:

“We have a number of players on this team that have been fortunate to have some experience in Chicago, whether it was growing up there or playing for the Fire. It’s a special place for all of us. Again, if you think back to 2007, the idea that we won the Gold Cup there in really a great game against Mexico, the idea that we had the opportunity to play Brazil there, it only adds to the excitement that we have whenever we see on the schedule that we’re going to Chicago. In this particular case, we said earlier, the atmosphere in Toyota Park is really a great one. The fans are right on top of the field; the playing surface has been very good. We’re very exciting about going back to Chicago and seeing some friends but continuing to focus on the importance of these games.”

On the overall level of excitement of playing in Cuba:

“It has a slightly different feel. I think that will really hit us when we get there later today. Certainly all of us have heard different stories of what it’s like to go to Cuba, what to expect just in terms of how we’ll be received and just physically, the beauty of the country and that part of it. I think that will really hit us when we get there. But again, I think what we always try to do is make sure that, while we enjoy those aspects, we keep ourselves focused on the preparation and the experience that we have in our team helps us in those ways and we want to find the right balance to make sure that we take in everything from this unique opportunity and at the same time we never lose the concentration need to be successful in this game.”

On his experience during his first FIFA World Cup Qualifying match as opposed to other big tournaments:

“We expected a difficult environment in Guatemala. We expected Guatemala to come out with a great amount of energy and fight in that game. I think that we had a good, strong response. Down the center of the field, where it’s so important, we were very strong, very stable. I think the leadership that we had with Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Howard gave us a very good starting point for playing in a tough match. I think that was important. We certainly know that this game against Cuba is an opportunity to start this round with six points coming out of two away matches and that would go a long way towards our ability to move forward. We are concentrating on this opportunity, knowing that it’s an important step.”

On the perception that the Semifinal Round is more difficult because only two teams advance to the next round, whereas there are four teams who advance to the FIFA World Cup after the Final Round:

“This round ends up being six games as opposed to the 10 in the next round. That means that you really must concentrate because it means that the slightest slip-up can really hurt yourself. As I mentioned, I think the team has done a good job focusing on each game knowing that especially early on three points on the road really is important.”