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U.S. MNT Head Coach Bob Bradley Discusses The Upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifying Matches Against Costa Rica and Honduras


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

Thanks to everybody for being on this call. I think the first thing on our end is, on behalf of the United States Men’s National Team, we want to send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Honduras after the devastating earthquake of two days ago. Beyond those real important issues, we are a few days into camp, our numbers are small, we have 12 players here right now. Sacha Kljestan and Johnny Bornstein will join us later today. The rest of our players are involved in weekend matches. The workout throughout these last few days has been good, however, those that have joined us have come in with a good mentality, are ready to get to work and are excited about the upcoming games.

On whether he views these two games as the more critical stretch than any other stretch in FIFA World Cup qualifying:
Bob Bradley: “We certainly view these games as being very important. We had a good start. These two games finish off the first half of the final round. Quite obviously, Costa Rica and Honduras are tough opponents. We understand the challenges in these games. We feel very strongly that we have a great opportunity now to really finish the first half of this round and put ourselves in a good position as we go into the last five matches.”

On the condition of Frankie Hejduk’s groin injury and his availability for the upcoming games:
Bradley: “Frankie missed a game against San Jose on Wednesday. I don’t know exactly how it’s been put but I think he is questionable on the weekend. We are having direct communication with Columbus with the trainers on both sides. Our plan is still to get him in here, either Saturday or Sunday. The initial thought was that the groin was going to probably take seven to 10 days, or somewhere in that period and make some decisions.”

On how he is using FIFA World Cup qualifying as preparation for the Confederations Cup:
Bradley: “Throughout World Cup qualifying there are different challenges. In reality, World Cup qualifiers, especially road games, are almost always tough games. We’ve had good experiences. We’ve grown as a team, but we’re also very aware of the fact that Costa Rica and Honduras have played well thus far. Both are very talented teams. Both, athletically, have great qualities. We know that these are important games and we are preparing the way we always do. We focus on each opponent, we understand what each game will be about and we continue to build on the way we’ve done things over the last couple years.”

On the considerations taken when making lineup changes from one game to the next on double dates:
Bradley: “Whenever you play the first game, when you’re done, you obviously have to assess. How did the game go? Physically, how did you come out of the game? What’s the situation with cards? We feel like, up until now, we feel good about the different decisions that have been made. That may mean changes and that may mean in some cases a decision to stick with a certain player. We recognize that this is a unique double fixture date starting because the schedule was changed to take into account the Confederations Cup. We understand the different challenges that go with this one. When we get back to Chicago, playing at home is important. This particular occasion, Honduras comes in rested. We’ll need to look at everything and, as always, try to assess where we are physically, mentally and make the decisions at the appropriate time.”

On how the artificial turf impacted training and the impact of artificial turf on the game:
Bradley: “Honestly, before I get into any details, I think for the most part the players will tell you that the game is not the same on artificial turf. We’ve been very fortunate in the United States to have good options when it comes to places to play our games, and I think we always feel that the game is best on a very good natural surface. The game on artificial turf depends on a few things, one is the quality of that turf. Is it old? Is it new? How hard is it? The second factor is, is the turf dry? Has it been wet down? Is it raining? These are all things that affect the speed of the game, the bounces, it affects how much give there is in terms of players, when they’re cutting or going to the ground. We do a little bit of preparation work on the turf. The way the rules work, when you are playing the game on an artificial surface, you are allowed to have two days in the facility, so we travel early on Monday and we will train both Monday and Tuesday at Saprissa Stadium.”

On whether he’s glad to have so many games the year before the FIFA World Cup and whether he will have two different rosters for the FIFA Confederations Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup:
Bradley: “We are excited but it does produce challenges. We understand that it’s necessary to have a big pool and if you look at what typically happens in January of every year. It’s an opportunity to look at different players, assess the depth of our pool and that comes in handy at this time when you’re going from one tournament to the other. There are some possibilities in terms of players that may be able to do both. You have to understand the demands of the different clubs around the world and in MLS, the part of the season that MLS is in and so we will weigh all those things. Certainly, it is our view that it’s going to take a bigger pool. I wouldn’t want to go so far as to say that it will be two separate teams because, as I mentioned, I think there are some possibilities of some players that could participate in both, but these are the kind of discussions that are ongoing and we’ll need to look at the beginning part of the schedule with the Confederations Cup and use that in terms of making some final decisions with regard to the Gold Cup.”

On Peter Nowak taking a job with Philadelphia:
Bradley: “We were aware of that development. Peter is a great friend of ours and has been a very important part of the work that we’ve done as a staff. We are very excited for him and his family to have this type of opportunity. We are big believers in the fact that the work that we have done over the last few years, as it takes hold, as players take bigger roles, as everybody gets to know each other, that now at a particular moment if one person steps out, it doesn’t change the overall effort that is going on. The communication between Peter and myself has always been excellent. We’re great friends. We’ve worked together in different ways. Even with his new challenge I know that he’ll continue to provide valuable input in things that we’re doing.”

On Estadio Saprissa and the challenges it presents:
Bradley: “Costa Rica has had great success at Saprissa Stadium. It’s loud. We’ve already talked about the turf. They’re very comfortable there. They have great confidence there, and we are aware that we’ve never won there, so when we look at different challenges and talk about things that we still want to achieve, this is a good example. We know that these kinds of games require a real commitment as a team, a good game plan, and finally just good efforts on the day. It’s a big challenge but one that we’re very excited about.”

On how Jonathan Spector has grown as a player and what he brings to the team:
Bradley: “It’s very good to have Jonathan back in our team. He’s always a guy that we appreciate what he brings in terms of his experience, his versatility. He has done very well to overcome some injuries and deal with some of the tough moments that have come his way. He’s a very good guy, as a person, one that makes the group better. We’re excited that he’s back with us and look forward to seeing him on the field.”

On Jozy Altidore’s progress and what he expects from Maurice Edu:
Bradley: “Jozy has been in training over these last few days. Obviously, he has not played a competitive game in a while but I think he’s done a good job. He’s been in constant communication with Pierre Barrieu, our fitness coach. I know that Jozy was pleased with all parts of the last camp. He showed a great level of maturity in terms of how he trained every day and it paid off, first in his performance as a substitute in El Salvador and later as a starter against Trinidad. He has come into this camp and has picked up on those efforts and the only factor that is still out there is that he hasn’t been able to play in matches. 

“As far as Maurice is concerned, it’s the same for any of the players that now are busy on the weekend. We’ll play attention to their matches, watch as many of them as we can. There’s always the process with them when they arrive of assessing where they are, physically, having a couple days to work in terms of the recovery and the regeneration and make the decisions about the best team for Wednesday.”

On some of the difficulties that Honduras poses:
Bradley: “I think they have a good balance in terms of their teams. I start often and talk about the fact that they are an athletic team, quick, strong, you look at all their strikers, athletic guys, Carlos Costly, [Carlos] Pavón, in this particular case, [David] Suazo is out with injury. You look at what a guy like [Wilson] Palacios brings into their midfield. Their defenders are guys that, physically can meet different challenges. That’s their starting point. Technically, they are a good team, they have experience. I know Amado [Guevara] as well as anybody and he’s still a gifted player, capable on any day of making some very special plays. They’ve been together as a team. They’ve had some ups and downs but if you look at their games throughout qualifying there’s a realization on their end that this is a great opportunity for them, that it comes at a point in all of their careers when they’re all able to take advantage of where they are in their careers, the collective experience that they have an try to make a big push. We know what they’re all about and we have great respect for them.”

On whether he’s seen any of Jonathan Spector’s games live and his impressions of his performance:
Bradley: “I have not been able to see Jonathan live in this last stretch but I have seen all of the games that he’s played, either on DVD or on regular television live or on the computer. Again, I think that he’s been able to get back into the team. It took him a little time, not only to get back from injury but to establish himself with a new manager, Gianfranco Zola. It’s a credit to Jonathan that’s he’s been able to do that. I mentioned earlier that he is a versatile player and a guy who does a lot of little things on the field to help his team and we appreciate that. We’re excited that he’s back with us and we’ll be together, not only for these two qualifiers but for Confederations Cup, and I would assume that this is going to be a good opportunity for him.”

On how Jonathan Spector has dealt with his injuries:
Bradley: “Anybody that knows Jonathan sees the maturity that he possesses. He’s an intelligent young man, he has a great family. When you are a player at the high level there are going to be tough moments, there are going to be injuries. You’re ability to handle those situations really has a lot to do with the length of your career and, ultimately, what you’re able to accomplish. When you put it all together, Jonathan has a great ability to deal with these things and it’s that type of maturity and intelligence that really typify what he’s all about.”

On his lineup against Honduras:
Bradley: “Whenever you have these double fixture dates, what we do as a staff is we lay out some different scenarios, but of course we then wait to see, first, what shape guys are in when they arrive in camp. I mentioned the fact that we have so many guys playing this weekend and we’ll need to assess that, and secondly, what happens in the first game. What is our situation in terms of cards. So we lay out some scenarios, but at the end of the day, there’s a process at the end of the first game of looking at the game over and over, of discussing things within the group and then making decisions in terms of adjustments for the second game.”

On how much the experience of playing in a qualifier in Costa Rica four years ago for players will pay off in the match on June 3:
Bradley: “We try to take into account the experiences that our players have had. We have a good group of guys that have played key roles in the qualifiers and, really in some cases, in the qualifying for the last two World Cups. Whenever we’re together we talk about the challenges and what to expect in certain stadiums against certain teams. The fact that we have a number of guys that have been to Saprissa Stadium, that have played matches there, that will certainly be part of what we discuss when we get the whole group together.”

On what Javier Aguirre will bring to Mexico and whether he expects a changed team:
Bradley: “We would expect a changed team. Javier Aguirre is experienced. He’s been successful and whenever a country starts out poorly in qualifying, when they make a change, there’s a lot of responsibility on the new coach, the responsibility to immediately re-establish certain ideas, what the team is all about. It comes in the form of that person’s personality as well as decisions he makes, players he brings back in, players he gets rid of. Aguirre has never shied away from these moments. I think that’s the reason they felt it was necessary to make a change. He’s someone that is not afraid to make tough decisions and put a stamp on the team. It will be interesting to see how the team responds in these next two qualifiers.

“Look at what he’s accomplished in his career, where he has coached. I think you can always tell a lot about a coach by the personality of his team. The teams that he has handled have always had strong personalities and I think that comes from the top.”

On players looking for different club situations:
Bradley: “The past season I think, like most others, there are areas that you look at with a good feeling. I spoke earlier in the day with Carlos Bocanegra, who has one match left in Marseilles, but I was at the French Cup final, where Carlos scored the first goal but on the night, Rennes couldn’t keep the lead and ended up losing a heartbreaker. But, we talked about the experience of playing in that final. I know we are all thrilled for the fact that Tim Howard is coming off of a huge semifinal performance against Manchester United and is now playing in the FA Cup Final. We’re excited about the success that Rangers has had and the way Mo Edu has contributed there. I think it’s been an excellent season for Clint and Carlos and I have talked about the way Michael’s season has gone at Moenchengladbach. Halfway through the season a lot of people had counted them out, so every game for the rest of the season had so much on the line. Carlos and Clint experienced that at Fulham, and we talked about how much that meant in terms of their development. So we have those kinds of things that we’re excited about and we could talk about the guys that have had tough moments. I think it’s always important, and we saw this with Jozy in the last camp, that when things aren’t going well with your club and you’re given the opportunity to come in with the national team, that you appreciate being there. That you appreciate that you’re someone who is valued even though it might not be going the way you want it, that you still have the qualities that in the long run count. We were excited about the way Jozy responded. Every time we put a roster together there are tough decisions. There are times where a player hasn’t done well and it works against him, but there are times where we show faith in a player and believe in what he’s done. We factor so many different things in at the end of a season when the players come into camp, there is the ability to transition from whatever the pluses and minuses of their club season, what that was all about and be ready to represent the United States. I’ve always seen that it means so much to them to get play and play for the United States. This summer, that quick transition out of their club seasons and into two important qualifiers and the Confederations Cup, (will test) our ability to work through that transition and figure certain things out. It will be all the more important when we qualify for South Africa, so that next year we are able to use the experience of this summer to prepare us for the World Cup in 2010. There is a lot there, the challenges are exciting to all of us and we are ready to get going.

On specific players who will be looking for a better club situation:
Bradley: “I think a good example would be DaMarcus Beasley. This last stretch with Rangers has been, for him personally, not what he was hoping for. He continues to be excited about the success that the club has had, but he knows that as he goes forward that a change is going to be important for him.

On the team’s current situation at the fullback position: 
Bradley: “We now have some decisions to make. As you mentioned as we were getting into action last summer, there was a string of games where we had kept the same group. But, if you look at the past couple of years, I think we have been able to build depth with the number of guys who have played together in important games and we understand that this is part of a (FIFA) World Cup qualifying round. We’re not able to put the same team on the field every game. As I mentioned, we have some interesting and tough decisions to make, but there are always things that you feel good about. Jonathan Bornstein for example has had a good first part of the season with Chivas USA and, if you look back to 2007, he’s a guy who gave us a lot of good minutes. We were also very pleased with the way DaMarcus Beasley played at left back against Trinidad & Tobago and that’s something that we feel can help us in the future. Heath Pearce is a player that has had a disappointing club season but he has worked very hard to keep himself in good shape. The minutes and experience that he’s played for us are still are important. Steve Cherundolo is recovering from an injury but it’s been great to have the experience of Frankie Hejduk and we’ve talked a lot on this call about Jonathan Spector and the fact that he is back after different injuries. Similar to Bornstein, Marvell Wynne has had a good first part of the season. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to look at all of these players at one time or another and get them games and those experiences along the way help us when we don’t have our full choice of players.”

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