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Post-Match Quote Sheet: U.S. MNT vs. Italy

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
On the team’s performance against Italy:
“Obviously from our end, we are really pleased with the game and with the result. If you beat Italy on their own soil then that means a lot. For us, the goal was to learn – to come here to learn. The challenge that this game gave us – especially on the tactical side, to read the game ahead, to always think one step ahead – for our players, it was big. It was a big step for them to be constantly on high alert for 90 minutes. I think they’ve done an awesome job today. I think they take a lot from the game, not only because they won the game, but from an experience point of view because we said months ago we want to play the biggest teams we can so we can improve ourselves. I think if you saw the players tonight, they were trying to give everything they had and they were trying hard to make that happen. Obviously as a coach you’re pleased because you see them progressing. You see young players stepping up and playing against these amazing, experienced Italian players who have won the World Cup and played big tournaments year in and year out. Obviously it was a big step for us.”

On the things he liked from the game:
“What we want to see from a game like that is really that the players grow into such an occasion, that they see what the next level is for them. Italy is the highest level. If they get the ball going and play the penetrating balls, if Pirlo or other players just look for the strikers, they put them over the top. This is what you need because it shows you this is different here. Players like Fabian Johnson, Brek Shea, and Danny Williams are young players and they need this experience. Obviously we had some experience with our centerbacks and with our right back Steve Cherundolo. They have played games like that. But for our youngsters, this is big. We wanted to learn here a lot from a tactical side and we did. Overall, it’s a good atmosphere in the locker room.”

On the performance of Brek Shea:

“He’s one of our biggest young talents we have. We want to build him slowly. We don’t want to overshoot him, but he’s special. That’s why at the end of last season, I sent him to Arsenal and to Arsene Wenger, my former coach, so he could have him for three weeks to learn. Brek knows that he has a lot to learn still. If we hadn’t had a couple of injuries happening before the game he would have played against Mexico with the Under-23s, but I had to call him in – I was running out of players. For him, having time in a game like that teaches him a lot, and we have the goal of building him one step at a time, but he’s definitely a player that we will see grow over the next one or two years. That’s why we build him. We just really want to introduce him to these types of games so he has a chance to grow. It’s a growth period that is not going to happen overnight.”

On the back line:

“I think we were in a good shape defensively. Carlos and Clarence have a good understanding for each other, Steve has a lot of experience, and then Fabian is another big talent that is growing with every game. He’s technically very gifted, he reads the game ahead of time, so tactically he knows what he’s doing. I was not worried about that. I was worried about, how can we stop those balls from Pirlo all the time? How can we read the game ahead? How do we behave against them when they are on a passing roll? Then it gets really difficult and I think we were prepared for that. We tried as much as possible to prepare them and they did well.”

On the performances of Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu:
“They played to their maximum. Mo as well, but Michael had an outstanding game. It’s similar in his career. Half a year ago, he had a difficult situation with his club then he came over here. When he told me he was going to Italy, I was really pleased. I said, ‘Michael, this is exactly the step that you need now is to go to Italy and learn the whole tactical side of the game. Really read the space, read the game in advance and you will learn a hell of a lot.’ He does that. Today, this was a moment he wanted to show that. He made a huge step forward in his own career coming here because it’s big. Coming from a different environment, he was in Holland, then in Germany, then he went to Aston Villa and now he’s at Chievo Verona. Every step, you are learning. He wanted to show that tonight, and he did. He was all over the place.”

U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder and Budweiser Man of the Match CLINT DEMPSEY:

On getting the USA’s first win against Italy:
“It’s just a confidence builder. We’re just trying to move in the right direction and trying to get as sharp as we can for the summer and the World Cup qualifying games because the goal is to qualify for the World Cup. It’s important to come to places like this and play big teams on their own soil and get results. At times it wasn’t pretty but we grounded out the result tonight.”

On his game-winning goal:
“It was a good ball in. It was chipped to him. Initially I was going to stay where I was but I saw the guy who was covering him had moved, so I moved to my right to try to get open so he could play me the ball. He did a great job of holding it up, playing me, so I tried to hit it low and hard at the far post and it went in.”

On the U.S. moving in right direction and closing the gap between other countries:
“It’s a work in progress. We try to get there. For good spells, we were under it today, having to defend a lot, especially in the second half. When we got the ball, we did show quality. I think we just need to do a better job of being on the front foot, keeping the ball, playing with confidence. The more chances we create, the more goals we’re going to get. I like to think that we’re closing the gap and hopefully one day we can do something special.”

On his role under Jozy Altidore:
“Anytime I get to attack, it’s a role that I enjoy. I just tried to play off him as much as I could, at the same when we had possession, trying to tucking back, getting into those channels, into those spaces for Michael [Bradley] and Mo [Edu] to find me. But also defensively, to shadow [Andrea] Pirlo because every time he got on the ball, he was just pinging [shots] for fun, finding his men. I just tried to frustrate him a little bit because he’s a great player. At times I would do that and at times I wasn’t. It was a little bit of a workout tonight but we got the result.”

U.S. Men’s National Team captain Carlos Bocanegra
On what the U.S. did well against Italy:
“I think we kept our discipline real well. I think the midfielders and the forwards, they defended from the front backward. Our shape I thought was really good tonight. There was a lot of teamwork. Everybody fought for each other. You saw guys blocking shots, sliding. Tim [Howard] made some good saves. In front of me, particularly Michael and Mo I thought had really good games and they were very disciplined. You have to be against these guys.”

On the number of times Italy was offside:
“I think in the first half they got behind us a few times, but we knew that was going to come. That’s Pirlo. That’s like Brett Favre dropping balls on these guys’ feet when they’re running. It’s frustrating when you think you have a good position. He just has time to do that and he’s a good player. They had a few chances but we limited them, especially if their runs were a little bit away from directly at our goal. We did pretty well with keeping our line and that was a part of our shape. It’s a credit to the whole team.”

On if the win was any more significant because of last-minute roster changes:
“I thought Fabian did great coming in at left back. He’s played there a few times with his club, but he did well. He’s confident. It feels good. We don’t want to get carried away – it’s a friendly. But it definitely feels good and we’ll be excited about this one and hopefully it gives us more confidence going into the summer.”

On Clint Dempsey’s goalscoring form:

“He’s definitely in form at the moment and he’s got loads of goals with Fulham and he’s carrying it over to here. He’s one of the players that we count on. He’s a big player on our team. He finds the ball if it’s a tough game. He does a lot more than scoring, too, but obviously he’s on fire at the moment.”

U.S Men’s National Team midfielder MICHAEL BRADLEY

“We fight for respect every time we step on the field, so every little bit helps. When you come into tonight and are able to play a game like that, it’s a good result. At the same time, we’re not going to sit here and act like just because we won a friendly 1-0 that we’ve made it. We’ll take it for what it is and use it as a stepping stone.”

On what the team did well tonight:
“In our good moments, I thought our soccer was good tonight. We were able to move and find little ways to play into each other and get balls out of tight spots. Like always when you play in these kinds of games against big teams, you have to be able to suffer as a team. You have to be able to manage the game in difficult moments, and I thought when we needed to keep the ball in front of us and defend, block shots and manage those things we did well.”

On the partnership with Maurice Edu:

“Mo and I have a good relationship. We’ve played a lot of games together in the center of the midfield. We said going into the game we wanted to try and win the center of the field, and that it would go a long way in helping us win the game. In every area of the field tonight we really got after them and closed them down and made it a hard game for them.”

On whether he was looking forward to the game because he plays in Italy:
Absolutely. Whatever you did yesterday doesn’t count anymore, so every single time you step on the field you’re fighting to show people what you’re all about as an individual and as a team. Nobody remembers Slovenia anymore. To come here and play a game like that and get a result is something special. For me, playing here in Italy adds to all that.”

U.S. Men’s National Team forward JOZY ALTIDORE
On his assist for Clint Dempsey’s game-winning goal:
“Clint’s always in a good spot. I just laid it off to him and it was a terrific finish, absolutely fantastic finish. It was a great goal. I think we look like a top team in the sense where we have one chance and we’re going to make it count. And that’s what you have to do to be the best team, so I thought that was good for us. It was a good exercise.”

On the USA’s first win against Italy and to earn it on the road:
“I think it’s a big step in the right direction. For me the biggest thing is – and everybody can say this – there’s clearly room for improvement. And we still go a great result, so I’m happy. I’m thrilled for the boys. To know that we can beat a team like this, not having our best day attacking-wise, I think is fantastic. For me, it was another great game, another great test. It’s always difficult when you come into the National Team and you have one day to train and then play, but the boys are fantastic. It’s a good exercise for us to work hard, dig deep and try to get a result.”

On his confidence:
“It’s huge. You play against players like this and you have the ability to make it tough for them, that’s always a good feeling.”

U.S. Men’s National Team defender FABIAN JOHNSON
On playing at left back against Italy:
“I’m used to it. I played there the last game for Hoffenheim also at left back, so it was nothing new for me.”

On providing the buildup that led to Clint Dempsey’s goal:
“I think it was a counterattack and I just got the ball and turned inside on the right foot and crossed it to Jozy. Jozy just played it to Clint and we scored.”