ussoccer.com: What are your thoughts on the overall roster that you’ve assembled for this camp?
Bruce Arena: “I think we have a good group, and in my case I’m still in the early goings with this team and I haven’t seen all of our players. This camp gives me the opportunity to see six new faces we haven’t had in with the team yet – Brad Guzan, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Ethan Horvath, Bobby Wood and DeAndre Yedlin - which is good. It’s also great that we’re able to bring back 21 players that have been in with our program already in 2017. There’s some continuity there as well as the fact that we’re getting to see some new faces, which is important.”
ussoccer.com: The World Cup Qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico occur in the span of four days. How do you plan on managing the tight turnaround?
BA: “That’s certainly going to be challenging. The reason for that was Mexico’s participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup. It was proposed to us, and as difficult as it is I think it’s a level playing field for both teams. As part of the agreement to switch the day, we have the opportunity to play at night as opposed to the afternoon so I think that’s a plus for us, but it will require that we have a number of players ready to play. I can guarantee we will not be playing the same team from game one to game two. There will be a number of changes for the game in Mexico, so we’ve built a strong roster to allow us to do that.”
ussoccer.com: How will you be utilizing the Venezuela game on June 3 to get ready for the pair of World Cup Qualifying matches?
BA: “It’s part of our preparation for the games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and we get to play a South American opponent with some very good players. They’re bringing in a number of their first team players, so it should be a real plus. We get a little bit of a taste of playing a game in altitude, and no question about it, it’s low altitude in comparison to Denver and Mexico City, but it’s a starting point. It’s one where we can take advantage of the friendly rules and play up to 16 field players, so it’ll be a real plus in getting our team prepared for the two World Cup Qualifiers.”
ussoccer.com: FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges has earned his first call-up to a World Cup Qualifying Camp. What has he done to impress you and your coaching staff this year?
BA: “Matt has arguably been one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer over the last couple of years. It was unfortunate that he suffered an injury in January Camp and wasn’t able to play in the friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica, but we’ve continued to follow him. He was a consideration for the camp in March, but we decided to go with a couple of defenders that have had a little bit more experience with us. We can’t ignore the fact that Matt’s been a good player and he needs an opportunity with the National Team. Bringing him in is a plus, it’ll get him a foot in the door and hopefully allow him to move forward with a bigger role in the U.S. team.”
ussoccer.com: In Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando, you’ve called back the MNT’s veteran pool of goalkeepers along with bringing in Ethan Horvath. What do you see with their form coming into camp?
BA: “Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are certainly very experienced goalkeepers and have proven that they can play well for the U.S. team. They’re all doing well. Obviously, Brad had an opportunity to play a number of games at the end of the season with Middlesbrough. Playing on a team that got relegated, it’s not surprising to see that his goalkeeping statistics might not be that impressive. I thought in those games he played well and it’s good experience for him. Rimando is back from an injury and played well over the last week, and Tim Howard has had a good start in MLS. Coming off a suspension has played well of late. I think we’re going to camp with three good, experienced goalkeepers. In Ethan Horvath’s case, he’s one of our young, promising goalkeepers that we need to see. We won’t have the opportunity to see him for the Gold Cup, so we wanted to see him in this camp and he’s also from Denver so it worked out pretty well.”
ussoccer.com: With the European season coming to an end and MLS well into their campaign, is it a good time to bring the entire pool together for this camp?
BA: “I think so. The issue with the players from Europe is they’re completing a long season that started last July or August depending on their club team. They’re at the end and they’re probably a little bit beat up, but I know they have another two weeks left in them. It’s no secret that we won’t be using many of them during the Gold Cup because they need to have some rest before they start for the new season. The MLS players are at a point where they’re getting pretty fit and sharp, so I think it’s a good time. We have a roster that has good balance all over, we have good young players and hopefully it’s a team we can put together to get us points in both games.”
ussoccer.com: DaMarcus Beasley continues to stay in the National Team picture. As the person that gave him his first National Team appearance in 2001, talk about his career longevity and the potential for him to become the first U.S. player to appear in qualifiers for five different World Cups.
BA: “I think he’s had a great career and the longevity speaks for itself. He’s still been a good player in Major League Soccer, and that’s why we still have him on the roster. We haven’t found any players that can push DaMarcus out of the position he has right now with the National Team. He’s not only a good player, he’s a good teammate and he’s going to do whatever is necessary to make our team successful. It’s a real plus to have him, and it would be a fabulous accomplishment if he becomes the first U.S. player to appear in qualifiers for five different World Cups. Looking down the road, it would be incredible if he played in another World Cup. My hat is off to DaMarcus. He’s had a terrific career.”