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Bob Bradley

U.S. Soccer Conference Call Transcript: Bob Bradley and Tim Howard Discuss Upcoming Match Against Mexico

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach BOB BRADLEY:
On the problems that altitude can cause and why the U.S. isn’t arriving earlier or training at altitude:
“We have worked for a long time with different people, different experts, on altitude training, including many from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The research we have stuck with is one that says if you don’t have enough time to acclimatize, which can take 10 days or so, then going in late is your best bet. So that is the way we’ve scheduled things, knowing that in a single fixture date, players have only arrived on the last day.”

On Giovani dos Santos’ performance in the Gold Cup final and how to prevent him from playing that well again:
“Giovani had a very good Gold Cup, when you look back at our game in the final, certainly over the first 50 or 55 minutes as a team, I think we defended pretty well. After we fell behind, we allowed the game to become very wide open, and that’s when good players can take advantage. He has very good ability; he likes to tilt often times to the right side, he’s very good at coming in on his favorite left foot, we’ve played against him before and we know the kind of talent that he possesses.”

On the chances that the U.S. can earn a seed for the 2010 World Cup draw:
“I think, again, when you look at the final round, this is the first game of the second half. A game that we knew all along would be important in terms of the goal of qualifying. We understand certainly the fight to finish first in the group and the potential of a seed, but we don’t get caught up with too many of those things. We try and concentrate always on where we are as a team. We felt we had a good stretch with the Confederations Cup, we’ve talked a lot about the Gold Cup, a different group of players, a group that I think came together very well and did well to advance to the final and obviously some lessons were learned in the last 35 minutes of that match. All things that we’ll use as we prepare.”

On where Mexico has improved since Aguirre has taken over:
“Certainly, a couple wins give them confidence. I think that he’s an experienced coach, they now put together a few good results. I think some of the different players that he’s brought in have taken advantage of their opportunities, and that makes them a team that I think is moving forward in this whole thing.”

On the Mexican midfield and any particular players that the U.S. will pay attention to:
“[Gerardo] Torrado plays a big role, as captain and a real leader on their team.”

On Stuart Holden’s performance in the Gold Cup and what he can contribute:
“Stuart, I think, is a player that continues to move along in a very good way, I’ve mentioned a number of times throughout the Gold Cup that he was in January camp, but had an injury and didn’t get an opportunity to play at that time. I think he gave us good play throughout the Gold Cup, he’s a player who I think finds good spaces to get the ball, is confident, capable of scoring, producing a final pass or a cross, so a guy that we’re excited to have with us as we get ready for this game.”

On what he expects to be different from the Mexican squad we saw in February:
“I definitely think that there will be a number of changes. Form, injuries, they all play a role. As I mentioned earlier, I think that Aguirre has called some different players in and they have taken advantage of their opportunities. So there are always difficult decisions. As his players come in, his assessment of their fitness, of their form as well as who’s played together in some of their recent qualifiers and the Gold Cup are all factors. So it’s not easy to pinpoint their lineup, but certainly we expect some changes.”

On possible lineup changes compared to the team they saw in February:
“I think we have a pretty good idea of certain guys being on the field. We see some similarities, even when they change players, in terms of things that they like to do. As far as pinpointing the eleven, yeah that probably is not so easy at this time, but we hope over the next couple of days to still pay attention and have a pretty good idea for our team in all ways.”

On the impact of the crowd at Azteca compared to Estadio Ricardo Saprissa:
“It certainly is a factor. The size of the stadium, the number of the people there, at the same time there’s a little more room around the field. You know, each of these stadiums have their own feel, and when you put it all together, Azteca is a stadium that we all know about and we all are excited about the challenge. We know the history there, and we’re ready for it.”

On whether people are incorrect in painting Mexico as desperate:
“I think that since Aguirre has taken over, they’ve grown in confidence, and for both sides this is a big game.”

On his experience in dealing with the altitude of Azteca:
“This will be my first trip to Azteca, but I have talked to Bruce Arena and Pierre Barieu, who handles our strength and conditioning, has been there. As I mentioned earlier we have communicated with a number of people around the country that have expertise in this area. When you talk about the soccer part of it, I think it’s important as a team to stay together. You don’t want a game that gets stretched all over the place, it’s very important to have a good solid base of organization and then the ability to play from that.”

On the keys to victory in Mexico City and what he hopes to accomplish with only two days of training:
“As far as the number of days of training, we’ve learned throughout the qualifying process what it means to come in at times and only have a couple of days, that’s the way every single-fixture date works. And in those moments, you rely on the work that you’ve done in the past. You rely on the experience of the group, you have a strong routine in terms of how you do things. You come back together, and you pick up on those things. As far was what we believe is important, a lot of it is about mentality, going into a tough environment, being excited about the challenge, believing in your teammates and the way we go about things, and sticking together on the field and trying to do something very special.”

On the U.S.’ position in the table and whether it puts less pressure on them as opposed to Mexico:
“I don’t think that would be our way of looking at this game. Without a doubt, when you think about the history, when you think about the rivalry, everyone is excited about this game. And we understand throughout World Cup qualifying the pressure that exists on home teams to get three points. That is something that can become a factor at times during the game. You make sure that as a team we’re aware that if the game is tied, they may still, on the day, be willing to take chances and take risks. So we try to cover those bases but our approach is to get the details right and be ready to go so that we have a chance to take three points from this game.”

On where the team has grown since before Confederations Cup:
“I would say it’s our ability to deal with different situations in the game. As you play against very good teams, when you play in tough stadiums, tough atmospheres, it’s important in every game to be able to deal with different situations, situations that you can’t always spell out before the game. You rely heavily on your group to be able to trust each other, their ability to understand the flow of the game, be able to solve situations that now help you get through different stretches, and I think that all then gives a team confidence, it gives a team a sense of knowing how to win. That’s the area I think we’ve grown the most as a team.”

On the attacking options of the team:
“Over the next 24 hours or so, we have to make some difficult decisions. I think that Brian Ching is a player that always gives us a strong effort up front. Conor Casey, as we’ve used him throughout the year and watched him in MLS is someone that we continue to feel good about. I think the play of Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies in the Confederations Cup showed what they’re about, and the qualities they bring. We’ve been able to use, at times, Clint Dempsey and Landon up front, to give us different looks and different possibilities. So we count heavily on those guys, players that I think understand what these kinds of games are like and players that are capable of scoring goals in big games.”

On what Kyle Beckerman needs to do to get considered for the full squad more often:
“I think the Gold Cup was a good, solid tournament for him. He’s a player that we feel worked very hard who brings a good mentality to the field, that part of the field is also an area where we feel we’re lucky with some different options and talent. So we’ll continue to assess all those things every time we come together.”

On the U.S. tendency to have trouble in the second half of games and whether that will continue at altitude:
“As I’ve mentioned, we understand the challenges of playing a game at altitude. Certainly when you get into the second half, your ability to still concentrate, make substitutions at the right time that might help in the flow of the game, are all things that are important. I think as a team we have generally been fit, and I think that our efforts over 90 minutes have been good. Every now and then you run into a stretch of games where certain things come out. We’ve played in two finals this summer that fit what you’re saying, but both were very different games. In Johannesburg, a 2-0 lead at half. The thing that hurt the most that day was the fact that Brazil scored so early in the second half. Then they pushed the game, and we, I thought, did very well in stretches dealing with it but over the course of 45 minutes their pressure was enough to finish us off in a very tough final. The game against Mexico was different in this fact: The game was 0-0 for 55 minutes. And when we went down, I think there was a real urge to get back into the game, and yet the way we went about it opened ourselves up. So we learned from that. We let the game get very wide open and Mexico was able to take advantage of that. So again, when I mentioned earlier the ability to deal with different situations in the game—different score lines, your ability to make sure that within your squad, guys know the importance of, when they’re not starting, coming on the field as reserves and making a difference. Hopefully we can rely on all those things and find ways in this second half of games to come together and be strong because we’ll need that as we continue through qualifying.”

On the short preparation time for this game:
“As I mentioned earlier, the experience of this group and the fact that we’ve had single fixture dates thrown at us before, and we’ll continue to deal with them, gives us an understanding of how we come in, the things that we do in our routine, the fact that we rely on teams we’ve played in the past, training sessions we’ve been through, so that the foundation of everything is there and that we can handle this. It gets rehearsed a lot, so we have confidence. I think the experience of Confederations Cup, the experience of these players helps in all areas that give us the best opportunity when we come together for only a couple of days.”

On the defensive changes that were made in the Confederations Cup:
“That group certainly came together very well, and we were pleased with the performance in the Confederations Cup. When you come together in this time of year, obviously we’ve been in touch with our players throughout their preseason, sizing up exactly what they’ve been doing, seeing how many matches they’ve played, but we certainly feel that that group gives us good options, but we also know that we’re flexible enough that we can make some changes there. But I feel very good about the way that group performed. I would also add that it was important for us to get Steve Cherundolo back into action with us in the Gold Cup, even though Hannover pushed for him to be back for part of their preseason. After a period of injury, Stevie came back into our national team and I thought played very well. So we’re excited for the different options that we have.”

On whether this is the best chance for the U.S. to beat Mexico in Azteca:
“I hadn’t thought about this as the best chance. I’ve spoken to so many players who have been part of past games, and talked about the challenges, talked about the games. I think we’ve tried to learn from that. Again, I’ve talked to Bruce, I mentioned the experience that others in our staff and in our team have had there. So when you put it all together, you know, we’re excited, and I guess in a way it’s a complement to the growth of our team and the things that have happened over the years in U.S. soccer to think that this is our best chance and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

On the summer as a whole and how it might affect the face of soccer in the U.S.:
“This summer has been exciting in a lot of different ways. We knew going in that it would be busy, it had different kinds of challenges, but I think that these experiences pay off. If I go back to that whole period that began with the two qualifiers through the final of the Confederations Cup, that was a good amount of time for us to be together. Tough matches that help us look hard at strengths and weaknesses. I think the kinds of discussions, both with individuals and with the team that are important in terms of development and growth. So in those ways, that was an excellent period. When you play against teams like Italy, Spain and Brazil, you’re tested to do so many different things. We took a lot away from those games, we were proud of our overall performance but nonetheless disappointed that we had a two goal lead in the final and didn’t win the Confederations Cup.”

“We needed to switch gears quickly with the Gold Cup, for the most part it was a different group. We had, I think, a good opportunity to see some different players; I’m pleased with the way some of those players performed. Chad Marshall and Stuart Holden are part of our group here, and they’re two good examples of players that took advantage of those opportunities. As I mentioned earlier, at the end of the day we still look back at a final that got away from us. So when you set your sights high, you try to make sure that on one hand you see pluses, and that players understand the things that are improving, but ultimately we must also look hard at the things that need to be better in order to not only win those types of games but also to continue to be in finals and have better chances to win. So a lot has gone into it, it’s been a strong, collective effort on the part of so many people, and I think it helps us as we move forward.”

U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper TIM HOWARD:
On whether he has any experience playing against Giovani dos Santos in the Premier League:
“No, not in England, just in our last World Cup qualifier.”

On his impressions of dos Santos:
“We all know he’s a pretty good player, so that didn’t surprise any of us. We’ve seen enough video and film on him, so my impressions were the same as I thought they would be.”

On how the Gold Cup final has affected the team’s psyche:
“You know, that’s a tough loss for anybody who has a part to play with the U.S. National Team. It’s never easy and it’s never fun to lose a game, particularly in the final. So there’s disappointment there, but we’re not in a position to really look back much in all honesty, so the game will be assessed and compared, but the 90 minutes we have to play on Wednesday is really our total focus and is, at this point, most important.”

On playing in Azteca and how it might compare to other big venues:
“No, I have not played there. I have had the good fortune of playing in a lot of pretty big stadiums in front of big crowds, and that’s what you hope experience is all about. And we’ve got, not just myself, but a team of guys who at this point have played at a very high level. A lot of guys have played in Europe and played in big games, so we’re going to hopefully use that experience to our advantage. It won’t be easy, but certainly the atmosphere and the occasion is not going to be a hindrance to us.”

On the chances that the U.S. can earn a seed for the 2010 World Cup draw:
“I don’t exactly know how teams get seeded for the World Cup, all I can say is that when you get to the World Cup, you’re going to get a difficult group. That’s just the way it works. I don’t think the seeding necessarily guarantees you an easy ride, and it never will be, so it’s not something that we’re focused on. At least I’m not.”

On the mood in camp since their Confederations Cup success:
“There’s a little bit of a different attitude, because this summer I think both in the Confederations Cup and in the Gold Cup final, we’ve been in quite a few very tough matches as a group. That can only harden you, and give you a lot of experience and our aim is to take the lessons that we’ve learned and put them to good use going forward, not just for the Mexico game but for the rest of qualifying. That’s why we play the big games, and hopefully we can learn those lessons.”

On playing at altitude as a goalkeeper:
“I haven’t talked to anybody about playing at altitude, we played at altitude this summer. As a goalkeeper, I don’t think a lot changes to be honest. The flight of the ball is a little bit different, but I think you get used to that pretty quickly. But in terms of the physical effects, it’s not too bad for us.”

On what he recalls from watching the 2005 game at Azteca:
“I don’t really remember too much about the game, but it’s always a place I’ve thought about playing. I think as a U.S. National Team player, it’s almost like a rite of passage, to really get your feet wet and to play in that type of atmosphere, so I’m looking forward to it.”

On the inconsistency of the U.S. squad and its ability to play at the same level as it did against Egypt and Spain:
“I suppose what you’re saying has a lot to do with opinions. As a group, of course there are always things you want to work on to get better, the best teams have things they want to do better, but we took a lot of positives from the last four to five months. Things don’t always go your way at the highest level, so you kind of have to take those things in stride. We don’t have the luxury of sitting down and overanalyzing the way you guys do sometimes, so we’ll take the good things and try to improve on them, and as I said before hopefully the harsh lessons that we’ve learned, we’ll also get better from those; that’s what the best teams do.”

On Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos:
“I think they’re both very talented players. Obviously Vela is starting to get his opportunities on a very good Arsenal team, and showing that he can play there at that level. I think Giovani has shown that he has the ability and the talent to do some really good things, and I think he’s starting to come into his own as well. So, two very talented guys.”

On the role of ‘bulletin board material’ at this level:
“I don’t think we need any extra motivation for the game. We know what’s at stake, and our goal is to qualify for the World Cup and do it as quickly as possible. So any of the extra stuff is just that, it’s not something we’re going to rely on to motivate us. We have what we need within our team.”

On whether the U.S. is motivated by the chance to damage Mexico’s chances at getting into the World Cup:
“I keep saying it because it’s true; who gets to the World Cup in CONCACAF isn’t any of our concern as long as we’re one of the teams. That’s the most important thing to us. So those other outside factors, I suppose they’re nice to read and write about, but it’s not something that motivates us in any way, shape or form.”

On being the first group to win in Mexico:
“Yeah, it would be special, no question. We know the history, we’re well aware of it, which makes the challenge that much more special. Come Wednesday night, we’ll hopefully be up for that challenge. We’re excited about it and if the result goes our way, that’d be a great thing.”

On Guardado’s guarantee of a 3-0 win:
“That’s for him to worry about, he’s the one who said it, not any of us. No one can predict the score line, so we’ll see what happens.”

On facing Cuauhtemoc Blanco:
“I think Blanco is a very good player, he’s shown that over the years. He roams a little bit and gets the ball in dangerous areas because of the freedom he usually has in those roles, and I think he brings his teammates into the game really well from deeper positions. I think we have ability to deal with him, but he’s certainly someone who, if he’s on the field, needs to be watched.”

On feelings of revenge for the Gold Cup loss:
“No, I don’t think so. As I said before, we don’t have the luxury of looking back. They won the game fair and square, and that’s fine, but it’s in the past and we have our minds focused on Wednesday night and for us at the moment that’s the most important issue to think about.”