Quotes from Steve Sampson and John Harkes

Steve Sampson's Teleconference

The following is the transcript of Steve Sampson's teleconference with U.S. media April 14: About his roster selections for the Austria match: "There is a mix of European-based players and domestic players on this roster, and obviously there are a few players missing, most notably John Harkes, Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Roy Lassiter and Brad Friedel. "With respect to Eric and Joe, as we know, they are both recovering from injury, and I hope to have them 100 percent and ready to go down the road. With respect to Roy, I have said that players will have the opportunity to show they belong with their play at the club level; at the same time they have the opportunity to play themselves off the national team. Roy's recent performance in MLS has not been sufficient enough for him to be called into Austria, but he is still a strong candidate for World Cup '98. For Brad Friedel, it is more important for him to concentrate on his efforts with Liverpool right now so that he can continue to show he deserves to be the starting keeper with Liverpool. "In regard to John Harkes, we had a conversation about a month ago as part of the process to begin informing players whether they are or are not in my plans for the World Cup. I told John in a half-hour meeting that I am not intending on him going to France. This is a decision based on his performances on the field, most notably since our Jan. 5 training camp, and on some leadership issues. In regards to that conversation, it will remain private between myself and John, but I will address the technical issues in regards to my decision-making process." On how long this decision has been in the works: "Decisions about positioning by the coaching staff must be respected and embraced. At times, John has respected the decisions of the coaching staff, but did not embrace the position, and that is particularly true about the left back position. I've always stated since Jan. 5 that this team must play as a unit. Everyone must play their roles and embrace their roles. I felt that John could have helped us, but even as recent as the Holland match, I don't feel he accepted his role with any kind of vigor or enthusiasm." On the open position of captain, and whether Thomas Dooley will be the next choice: "That decision will be made during the month of May when we start training in San Diego. Certainly Thomas Dooley is a candidate. For the Austria match, I'll make that determination when we begin training next week." When asked to describe the weaknesses in John Harkes' game: "He has attacked more frequently than he defends, but there has to be a balance there, especially in the midfield. He has at times expected others to get back and cover for him, in many instances that is appropriate, but in other cases it isn't. Any individual willing to accept the role and sit in and play defensive midfield behind Claudio Reyna, who is going to be the playmaker of this team. The key area, though, has been in working back defensively and accepting the role tactically during the course of the match." On the status D.C. United defender Carlos Llamosa and his citizenship: "I am hopeful that he will become a citizen of the U.S. very soon, but he will not be available for Austria, but we are very hopeful about his availability in the future. It is especially attractive to me that he plays alongside Eddie Pope at D.C. United." On the status of French defender David Regis and his citizenship: "He has not received his citizenship, but he has a green card, again very similar to Carlos Llamosa's situation. I'm not privy to what is absolutely needed for Regis to become a citizen, but I know that it is being taken care of by U.S. Soccer and we are very hopeful that he will be available before we leave for France. We have to have some kind of indication he will become a citizen, then he can begin training with us." On who is the team's No. 1 goalkeeper: "Kasey Keller. By virtue of his most recent performances, he would have to be considered our number one goalkeeper. But the most important thing is who arrives into the World Cup playing his very best. Right now, Brad Friedel is making a strong case, but if I had to choose one today, it would be Kasey Keller." On using this decision as a motivating tactic for John Harkes: "I would never use this type of tactic to motivate him or any other player. It is to serious a decision. It is a decision I have contemplated for months now, and one that I don't take lightly." On the reaction of John Harkes during their face-to-face meeting: "His reaction was that of any other player, there was an enormous amount of disappointment. Had he reacted any other way I would be surprised. I think John realizes that there are some things in his game he needed to improve upon. At D.C. United, he has shown that he is a more complete player, and they will reap the benefit of a new John Harkes and reap the benefit of this decision." On the meeting: "We spoke on the Monday following the D.C.-Kansas City game [Monday March 23]. I flew en route to Germany and had conversations with all the D.C. United players about their status with the U.S. national team." On his replacement in the lineup: "It has yet to be decided who will replace him. I think Chad Deering is a strong candidate, and hopefully he will stake a claim to it against Austria. "On the left side of midfield, Cobi Jones is playing the best soccer of his career, and both he and Ernie Stewart have shown they can play that side. I think we do have many options. If Claudio were to get injured or lose his form, I think we have players that can step in and play the attacking role, whether it be Tab Ramos, Chad Deering, Joe-Max Moore or Preki, who have all shown they can play that position." Asked about Harkes' role on and off the field: "I think we have enough personality in this team that will carry us into the World Cup. This will be an excellent opportunity for many players in the U.S. team to relax and express themselves more both on and off the field." Asked about Jovan Kirovski: "Jovan has been very inconsistent with (Borussia) Dortmund... His play for the U.S. against Holland was not convincing... He's playing in a position with the national team where we have a great deal of depth. I think it's important that he remain in Dortmund to get as much experience as possible .... He will remain in contention for a World Cup slot, but as one of the young players..." Asked about chemistry: "I certainly think chemistry is one of the most important elements in a team being successful. Critical to that is a leader that instills confidence and discipline in the team." Asked about Thomas Dooley: "Thomas is a leader on this team and is the most respected player in the entire squad. I would lean on him heavily to lead us into the World Cup... Right now, I would consider him more as a central defender than as a defensive midfielder." Asked about Deering's lack of playing time in Wolfsburg: "It has not counted against him because I think he's being punished for coming into the U.S. National Team camp for the Paraguay. match. It is unfortunate because he missed an important match for his club, but he did play for his country... Because of this, however, I think he's been forced to sit on the bench... If you look at Wolfsburg's best results, they cave come with Chad Deering on the field. I have to base my decision on things that I have seen recently, and he has played very well... He could solidify a position for himself by playing well against Austria." Asked about Alexi Lalas: "It's difficult any time a player moves from one team to another. I don't want to base my decision of naming Alexi to the World Cup squad solely on the performances he's had with New York. His greatest attribute for us is that he's one of the most experienced players we have in the back. We need players that have the confidence to play well. Recently, Alexi has not played as well as I would like him to play." Asked about Tab Ramos: "I don't expect Tab Ramos to be 100 percent fit and I cannot expect him to start for us in France. I am prepared to give the responsibility to Claudio Reyna. If Tab can demonstrate that he is fit, then I have no problem giving him that role." Claudio Reyna: "I really didn't feel Claudio's level of play with the national team was at the same level as his play with Wolfsburg. I want him to carry this team more and be more responsible for the overall performance of the team. This decision will only help Claudio be more dominant for this team." Asked if Harkes has a chance to get back into the squad: "From where I sit today it'll be very difficult for him to make the team, but who knows. There are always cases where players get injured... Maybe John Harkes will play exceptionally well for D.C. I would say it would be very difficult for him to overcome the leadership concerns that I have."

Quotes from John Harkes

On Steve Sampson's decision: "It's Steve's decision not to include me. I have to respect the decision at the moment and just go with it and hopefully be given a chance to get back in there. I'm just going to continue to do the things that I've been doing with D.C. United." On his future with the national team: "Well, I believe it's a current situation going to Austria and if things open up...all I can say is I'm ready to be called on. Hopefully that will work out in the end." On losing the captaincy with both the USA and D.C. United: I don't know about that. I think the door's still open. I think passing on the captaincy here was a good decision because it allows me just to play and be more free to concentrate on the national team duties." On Steve Sampson's reasoning: "He has his reasons, and I'll just have to go with that at the moment. I support the team. I hope the team does well -- I'm friends with every single one of them. I'm always here for them."

John Harkes

ò 90 international games (sixth all-time for the U.S.). ò First appearance in 1988. ò The team's overall record when Harkes plays is 40-32-18. ò Harkes has been captain for 27 matches in his career. ò Has no points and two cautions in seven games this year, playing every minute. ò A veteran of the 1990 and 1994 U.S. World Cup teams. ò Six goals and 11 assists for the U.S., ranking fourth all-time in assists. ò The last time Harkes scored a goal was against Mexico on June 18, 1995, in a 4-0 win; it has been 36 games since his last goal.
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