Steve Sampson: 'My best games'
USA 4 Mexico 0
June 18, 1995 in Washington, D.C.
''It was at the U.S. Cup and it came right after we beat Nigeria 3-2.'' [Sampson was interim coach while U.S. Soccer was courting foreign candidates to replace Bora Milutinovic.]
USA 3 Argentina 0
July 14, 1995 in Paysandu, Uruguay.
''It got us into the Copa America quarterfinals.''
USA 0 Brazil 1
July 20, 1995 in Maldonado, Uruguay.
''Yes, it was a loss. But this semifinal of the Copa America marked a huge change in mentality for U.S. soccer. We attacked and actually forced Brazil to play defensively against us.'' [Sampson was named head coach in August.]
USA 0 Mexico 0
Nov. 2, 1997 in Mexico City
''A historic result, playing with only 10 men.'' [The first point the U.S. got in Mexico City in 17 tries since 1937.]
USA 3 Canada 0
Nov. 11, 1997 in Burnaby, B.C.
''We qualified for France '98''
USA 1 Brazil 0
Feb. 10, 1998 in Los Angeles
''We beat the defending world champion, at the Gold Cup.'' [First U.S. win over Brazil, first goal vs. Brazil since 1930.]
'Proud of ...'
''I feel proud that in spite of so much opposition to the American coach and his ability to succeed at the international level, this team has achieved the highest result in a major international tournament - the semifinal of the 1995 Copa America.
''That we qualified for France '98, one point behind Mexico, with a significant positive goal differential during a time of transition in the U.S. where there was no professional league to a very young professional league.
''I feel proud that I have vertically integrated all the national team programs. That there is now communication from the grassroots to the national team. And that there is a common philosophy in place.
''I'm proud that I embraced the Hispanic community and have campaigned successfully for Latin Americans here in the United States to support their national team - the United States.
''I am proud to have been open and candid with the media, both in good times and in difficult times.
''Obviously I'm very proud of some of the great results we've achieved.
''I'm extremely proud that this national team now plays to win, albeit it was a risk, but a risk worth taking, to play to win as opposed to playing not to lose.'' - Steve Sampson
The labor problem
''The last statement I made to the team when we left Uruguay at the end of the Copa America 1995 was, 'Please do everything in your power to get behind you the labor negotiation issue, because if that gets drawn out, it will impact our ability to prepare effectively for qualification.
''That is exactly what happened - the labor negotiations became drawn out. It became very intense, to where I believe they had a negative impact between federation officials and players, and it put me in a position where I could not prepare effectively for qualification. In our last preparation game against Peru, it was far from the best team we could have put on the field. It was a team unlikely to participate in World Cup qualifying.
''It ended formally a week or two before our first qualifier against Guatemala, but up to that point I didn't know if I was ever going to have the full team for qualification. There was even talk of using Olympic [U-23] players.
''It damaged the sense of unity. There were a few players who felt that I was supporting the federation's side of the issue instead of playing a neutral part. (Only federation officials know how neutral I was.)
''For a year and a half I was on an island where I didn't know if I was going to have the players I needed.''
- Steve Sampson
'What I learned'
''It's very important that we establish a broad base of talent. We only have 30 or so players who can compete at an international level. We need 60, 70, 80 players at a minimum who have quality international experience.''
''The key for me has always been, whether it's an American or a foreigner - everyone must support him. [But] Americans need to be exposed to the international level, and I'm a firm believer the U.S. will never win a world championship without an American coach in charge, because there are too many cultural nuances that play a part in a team's success....
''The next coach needs to play the very best opposition he can, focusing on the best European teams and the best South American teams, and have exposure to the best African teams.
''The next coach needs to go about his business, especially in the next two years prior to qualifying, where results are less important than exposing players to the international level. But that's going to be very difficult because this is a results-oriented society with commitment to sponsors and their desire to having a winning product....
''I would play only 20 percent of friendly internationals within the CONCACAF region.''
- Steve Sampson
This is part 3 of 3