[USA-GUATEMALA: Reaction]Clint Dempsey says the difference between the U.S. performance on Friday in Antigua and on Tuesday against Guatemala in Kansas City was that he and his teammates did a better job keeping possession. Carlos Bocanegra, whom Dempsey set up for the first goal, said the attack did a good job of making Guatemala chase. For more on what the players said of the win over Guatemala and what lies ahead ...
Midfielder CLINT DEMPSEY
On the response to going down 1-0 early in the match:
“I thought we started the game well, but they hit us on the counter and got the early goal. It was not the ideal start for us, but I thought we showed a lot of character bouncing back from that creating chances and finishing the chances we got. You could see in the second half we were comfortable, they were sitting back and we were still trying to push for more goals. We’re happy to get to the next round. I think the key for us in the next round is to do a better job getting points away from home. It will take a little bit of pressure off us trying to get results at home.”
On his partnership with the forwards on the team:
“We have a lot of good forwards on this team, whether it’s Herc (Gomez), Eddie, Jozy, Alan who is doing really well in MLS. We have a lot of depth, so that’s good. It keeps people hungry, it keeps people working hard and keeps people trying to make sure they stay on that field. That’s what you need. You need that fire under you a little bit to know that your spot is not guaranteed and if you don’t put in a good performance you could find yourself getting dropped. It’s definitely important to build chemistry. It’s good for us to get wins and when we get wins we get confidence and when we get confidence that will keep carrying us forward. He (Gomez) works hard, he has a good engine and pressures their defense and causes them to make errors. We are able to get throw-ins and free kicks. He’s really good on set pieces. You can’t really single out one player, we have a lot of players who work hard. It’s important for the whole team to get chemistry, not only the forwards. I thought we put in a solid performance tonight.”
On ending the round with a good performance and entering the break:
“We know that there is still a lot of work to be done. We know that we can be better and sharpen up in order to qualify for the World Cup. We know the next round is going to be tough, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ready for it and not let this opportunity slip by.”
On the difference from the match against Antigua & Barbuda:
“We were able to do a better job keeping possession. The balls that you’re able to get were the balls that you’re used to. You’re able to get good touches on it and you know what kind of bounces are going to come your way. Instead of just a free-for-all where you don’t know what kind of bounce you’re going to get, you don’t know if it’s going to get stuck in the mud or your foot is going to slip in the mud. It’s a totally different game and you were able to see that tonight. I think that we’re able to show our quality on a field like this and that’s the way football should be played – on a quality pitch. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the teams playing because you can play the game in the right way. That’s what you love about the game, is playing the game you grew up watching. I didn’t grow up watching long-ball, kick it and Hail Mary and hit-and-hope types of things. You have to be confident on the ball, the ball is your friend. It’s not your enemy. We showed that tonight that we have that confidence on the ball.”
On being better in the next round:
“We know it’s going to be more difficult in the next round. No matter what, we got out of the round. Whether we played great, didn’t play great – we got the job done. Next round we need to be better, but we need to be better away from home. We need to get points away from home that will alleviate the pressure of getting points at home. Still, we want to maintain our dominance at home, it’s great to play in front of crowds like this. It’s important to keep that winning mentality and that fight that we showed tonight, we have to bring that every game. It’s difficult with travel sometimes, being able to have your energy levels at that peak level that you need to have it and we’re just doing a little bit better job at trying to manage that. It’s difficult for the coaches because they’re sitting and waiting for the players to come in and try to do everything with them, but you only have three days. That’s a dynamic that every team has to face. We just have to keep working on things and make sure that we get that chemistry and together that we can get the job done and get to the next World Cup and try to do something special there.”
Defender CARLOS BOCANEGRA
On the match against Guatemala:
“It was good. We played pretty well tonight and we did well with the ball and spread them out and moved it side-to-side. It was a good team effort.”
On responding to going down 1-0 early in the match:
“It was just a little bit frustrating because it was too easy of a goal to give away. We were a little bit spread out and that one pass beats us. It was early in the game and I don’t think anybody really put their head down. We knew we were going to get at least one back, they came quickly tonight so it was nice.”
On the team’s quality of performance overall:
“Minus the first goal, I thought we did pretty well. We were organized and the guys did well to hold the ball up. The attackers did a really good job of moving the ball from side-to-side and letting the ball do the work and they [Guatemala] had to chase.”
On the atmosphere at Livestrong Sporting Park:
“It was good. It was a nice field tonight. It was a big field, a great surface. With the pro-American crowd and the support here, it was a great atmosphere to play in.”
On becoming the highest-scoring U.S. defender of all-time with his goal against Guatemala:
“That’s cool. I didn’t think too much about that. It’s a nice honor. It was better for us to get the win. It was an important goal for the team to get us back on track. Luckily, it bounced to me and I was able to finish it off.”
Midfielder GRAHAM ZUSI
On the win against Guatemala:
"We talked about this game as being one where we didn't want to do the minimal to get the result. We wanted to come out, score some goals, take it to them and win the game. We were a little shocked they scored but continued to pressure them and were dangerous throughout the first half. We responded very well to their goal, got one back quickly and kept on going after that. I thought it was a very good performance."
On the movement of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson:
"When those guys are being as dangerous as they are, it opens up space for other people. I found myself in some decent spots and tried to whip the ball in when I could."
On playing at "home in Kansas City, where he plays for Sporting KC:
"It's a different opponent and different team. But it's familiar at the same time because of the venue and the fans. All in all it was a lot of fun for me tonight. It was just an incredible atmosphere and you'd expect nothing less."
On his growth as a player:
"I guess you can say it was a quick ascent but in my eyes I don't just look at this as the last year of work. It's been a long road with twenty hard years of a lot of dedication and work that went into this, so I'm extremely happy it paid off. I don't think I deserved to be here earlier [in my career] but as of late my game has evolved a little bit and, especially with my club, I've found myself in the position to play a lot more games, get my confidence up and make a difference. When you feel confident, you're allowed to take a little bit more risk and you can believe in yourself a little bit more."
Goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On Eddie Johnson's performance over two games:
"Aside from the two goals, which obviously stand out, I thought he played great. He was aggressive and got the ball. He was tight and played on the turn. He's playing with a ton of confidence, which is awesome to see."
On moving forward to the Hexagonal:
"We feel like we're the best team in the region. Mexico feels like they are. In order to prove that, we've got to go out there and do it every game. You can't have off games. We have to be better at putting together good performances more consistently."
On giving up an early goal and the response:
"It was just a sloppy goal. There wasn't enough pressure on the ball. We needed to drop our line and probably play it safe but credit to Carlos Ruiz who finished it well. You get frustrated but sometimes the best time for them to score is early on. The crowd's response was fantastic and we kept pushing the tempo, got back on level footing and that made it easier for us."
On how the team shook off the early goal to go on the attack:
"You never want to get scored on, of course and we get frustrated. But we're all experience enough to keep playing you don't let one become two, become three. You never want to give one up early on but credit to us because our response was fantastic. I thought we played well defensively besides that one hiccup. We were mostly solid, kept them out and on the balance of things deserved what we got tonight."