From the U.S. locker room ...

[REACTION] For U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley and his players, one of the most rewarding aspects of their game against Algeria was the huge support of U.S. fans at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. For what they had to say about the game ...

U.S. Soccer President SUNIL GULATI
On the team’s persistence:
“It is so trite to say, but so true—the American spirit came through. In the 91st minute, in a game that you have to score, where you’ve been frustrated the whole game, when you’ve had an injustice done in the last game, to a lot of people saying these guys aren’t good enough -- and then going out and getting it done. They didn’t stop fighting the whole game. To come from being down 2-0 in the last game, to give up a goal early against England and come back, that’s the American spirit.”

On the multiple scoring opportunities for both teams:
“It’s a match where both teams need to win, so it turns into a very wide open game. Algeria is a very good team, skillful and well-organized, but the game now takes on a different tone just because of the need for both teams to win.”

On the frustration at missing so many good scoring chances:
“You think two things: when you’re in the game long enough, there are times when that happens and you just say ‘it’s not our night.’ But the real thing that you do as a coach is you keep trying to think of what’s going on in the game, are we still creating chances, how many changes do we have left, what else can we do to keep giving ourselves a chance to get the goal? In the end, it’s just the efforts of the players that make the difference.”

On what makes this team so special:
“It’s a lot of things. In this last cycle, guys have grown, taken leadership roles, as a team we’ve grown stronger, we’ve had experiences where we’ve been hardened. Landon said the expression ‘the part you can control.’ We believe that in soccer sometimes you can’t always control a call or a bounce, but you can control what you’re all about as a team, what you put into it, how committed you are to giving everything in the game. I think that has become the special quality of this group.”

On the team’s motivation coming back to South Africa:
“The experience at the Confederations Cup was important for us. We played very good teams and we had to fight through the group, ultimately we had a great victory against a team like Spain. But at the end of the day, we remember that we had a 2-0 lead at halftime against Brazil and we didn’t come away as champions. So there’s a disappointment, but that disappointment comes also with the belief and the hope that we’re coming back in a year and we’re going to try and take it a bit further. It’s those experiences that help us grow.”

On the impact of this win in the U.S.:
“Soccer continues to grow in the U.S. Some of the sports, like football, basketball and baseball have long histories and great traditions, but soccer is developing history and tradition. One of the nicest things tonight was when we were coming to the stadium, the street was lined with U.S. supporters—waving flags, dressed up, chanting USA, knocking on the bus and we don’t always have that. To have that happen at the World Cup, in South Africa, I think that was a really special feeling tonight. To finish the night with a great win to go hand-in-hand with the kind of support we do have, that shows we’re making big steps.”

On what’s made Landon Donovan the player he’s become in the past year:
“Without a doubt Landon has grown in so many different ways. From the soccer end, he mentions the low after the World Cup in 2006. But there was also the challenge of taking a bigger role, being more responsible as a leader. I think these kinds of challenges came at a good time for him and he’s never shied away from challenges. If you look back to 2002, he’s young and being in your first World Cup is pretty exciting. 2006 now is, for him, one where he learned a lot. But to have the chance then to come back in the prime of your career, there’s a special feeling when you play on a team where you know people are really counting on you. Your character, your personality is really at the core of how that team does. Some players play their whole careers and never experience that. When you have that, it takes time to get a feel for what that’s all about. But over these years, both on and off the field, I think the fact that he’s grown and matured and accepted these types of challenges has made a huge difference.”

On the game as a whole:
“Sometimes in soccer you have games like that, where you get a lot of chances and they don’t go in. To be fair to them, they had a few chances as well, especially early on. But the only thing you can control is if you keep going. We knew that they were pushing and we had to take some chances, and the guys in the back did an unbelievable job of stopping counter after counter from them and giving us a chance to score so we could finally get it.”

On his feelings upon scoring the game-winning goal:
“I’ve been through a lot in the last four years, and I’m so glad it culminated this way. It makes me believe in good in the world, and when you try to do things the right way it’s good to see them get rewarded.”

On the goal:
“I have to look at it. I knew that they had pushed a lot of numbers forward so when the ball broke, a lot of us had almost cheated, for lack of a better word. Like I said, we had to rely on our back four and Michael, really, to do a good job of stopping their counterattacks. When the ball came I wanted to take a good touch forward and be aggressive right away, and I had a lot of options. At the moment I chose Jozy, and he did a good job of putting a dangerous ball in to Clint, who did a great job of making an effort to get in front of the goalie and then it just bounced there.”

On the lowest point of the past four years that has served to motivate him:
“There were two really. Soccer-related was immediately after the 2006 World Cup, personally was in July of last year. But those experiences can harden you and help you grow if you learn from them and if you look at them the right way. I’ve spent a lot of time and done a lot of work to get something out of those experiences, and I think it all came together tonight.”

On anticipating their opponent in the second round:
“Depending on when we get back to the hotel, we’ll watch as much of the games as we can. We’ll take whatever’s there. Obviously, there’s the chance I think to play any of the four teams, and the goal now is to recover physically and emotionally and get ready for whoever comes.”

On the goal:
“I thought Timmy [Howard] did a great job of getting the ball to Landon and from there it was just executing. We did everything perfectly. Landon took the ball down, I played it across, Clint made a good run and it fell to Landon, who put it away.”

On the resilience of the team:
“The mentality of the players is great. We all believe in each other. We believe in our abilities and the leadership is good here. With that, you’re never out of any game.”

On feeling any frustration about missing the chances before finally breaking through:
“At halftime, I told Mike [Bradley] that I’m going to create another chance – I want to win this game. I was waiting for a little sitter like that all tournament. When you watch games you say ‘how can a guy miss one like that?’ Now I know how it feels, but I’m just happy we were able to make another chance and win that game. Now we can move on.”

On how he felt during this game:
“Whenever I step on the field, I know what I do to help the team. Be a presence, have a big impact on the game in the center of the midfield. I think I did that in the England game and the Slovenia game, and it was no different today.”

On the fine line between going home and winning the group:
“You know that. You know that about sports, about big tournaments, that you can come and all the preparation can be perfect and on the day you can feel great and the tactics can be good but if you hit the inside of the post, or the other team’s goalie has a great day, it’s going to be close. I think the thing that really can push it one way or another is the mentality. I think the fighting spirit, the pure commitment from every guy to not give up and keep going, I think that can push it one way or another. It’s pushed us on the good side of that line a few times now.”

On recovering and preparing for the quick turnaround to play Saturday:
“We’ll be ready. We could play tomorrow and we’d be ready.”

On the feeling of seeing Landon score:
“I can’t describe it. It’s something that, to be honest, the 23 guys and the coaches that are on the inside, it’s something that only we really know and feel. To share that with each other, when you’re so committed and passionate about something and you put everything on the line to win a game like that—that’s why you play.”

On his disallowed goal:
“No, I didn’t think I was offside. When he shot the ball, I made sure I was even with him, so I couldn’t believe they didn’t count it. I had another chance to score and hit the post, it just didn’t look like my day.”

On what it means to have won the group:
“I think the two best teams went through in the group, and that’s the most important thing.”

On how aware they were of the England-Slovenia score:
“At halftime we knew what the score was, but you can’t worry about other people’s results. We knew we needed to win to go through and we weren’t going to wait on anybody else to do it for us.”

U.S. Goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On the game:
“First half was a little bit touch-and-go, second half wasn’t a soccer game. It was more like a track meet, back and forth. Both teams are so desperate because when you come to the last game, you know you have to throw caution to the wind.”

On the impact of this game in the United States:
“We were saying this, and not in a bad way, but this is going to capture more people’s attention than if we had won 3-0 and if it were easy. I think that emotion and passion is what American sports fans thrive on, so I think it’s special.”

On the team’s identity:
“We always talk about our perseverance and resilience and I think that was the other side of it today. Fighting, scrapping—there’s something to be said for it and I think it’s part of our foundation as a team, and we shouldn’t shy away from it.”

On his distribution helping out the offense tonight:
“I was trying to push the tempo a little bit, particularly when we knew the other score and knew we needed to win. It was a little easier tonight because they needed to win as well, so they pushed so many numbers forward and Jozy (Altidore), Landon and Edson (Buddle) ended up staying really high, playing man-to-man. We liked our chances with those three guys against their three defenders, so we were just trying to get the ball out to them. Landon knows me very well, he knows when I get the ball that if he pulls wide I’ll try to find him.”

On his feelings on seeing Landon score:
“It was really emotional. I looked over at the sideline referee, the center referee to make sure it wasn’t called back. I didn’t even know who scored until after the game, to be honest. I felt so much pride, I couldn’t even really think. I was getting a few tears in my eyes and I knew we still had a few minutes left and had to defend, but it was amazing. We’ve worked so hard to get here, and we felt like if we didn’t advance it wouldn’t have been a successful tournament for us and we would have let a lot of people down. When it went in, it was just the culmination of all this hard work. It was a pretty special moment.”

On winning the group ahead of England:
“I don’t think any U.S. team has ever won the group, five points I think is something that hadn’t been done either. Obviously with England, a big power like that in our group, to win it is a fantastic achievement but now this is where the fun starts.”

On making his World Cup debut:
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in a World Cup and I got to start in what was, for us, a very important game. I am definitely very excited, and I can’t speak enough about how much heart and character we’ve shown throughout this tournament. Even when our backs were against the wall at the last minute, we pulled through. It’s always until the end with us.”

On whether the team was getting frustrated by not scoring:
“To be honest, we had our chances in the first half and we probably should have converted them but that’s soccer. It just speaks volumes about our team. We just kept going at it and never doubted ourselves. Landon did what he’s been doing for his whole career and made a big play, but I think the strength of this team is the group and we’ve been showing that.”

On the performance of the defense today:
“It’s a matter of just running with them and battling. As a back four we worked well together and kept a good line and that showed as the game went on. When they broke, we still had been behind the ball. That’s a great thing when you have the firepower going forward that we have.”

On feeling if luck was on their side after Algeria’s first shot hit the crossbar:
“Yeah, maybe a little bit. These first 10 minutes, it’s always funny to get used to the ball and the big punts in the air – trying to judge them. Today was no different and to have that chance hit off the crossbar was a little bit of luck on our end finally. After that, we played our way into the game and it was fairly comfortable after that. We just had to match their work ethic and we more than did that and we did more than enough going forward creating chances.”

On the team’s propensity to keep pulling out results:
“We want to do something special here this whole time, and I think we’re on our way to doing that. But I don’t think we would consider ourselves a team of destiny, I think maybe that’s more important for our opponents. I think teams might start to look at us and think ‘this team is on a serious run, they’re a tough team to beat, things seem to be going well late in the game for them.’ But we’re not concentrating on that.”

On being labeled a team that nobody wants to play:
“I couldn’t care less. I just really want to make the quarterfinals right now, win this next game and move on. How we’re labeled, who we play, at this point it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t want to play us right now, but you have to play somebody. At the end of the day it’s 90 minutes, and breaks either go your way or they don’t. It’s a soccer game and I think the bigger you make it, the harder it is to achieve your goal to move on to the next round. It’s soccer, it’s 90 minutes, you create your own luck I believe in this sport. So we really have to concentrate on ourselves and continue to do the little things right in the next few days and more importantly in the round of 16. Hopefully the breaks go our way again.”

1 comment about "From the U.S. locker room ...".
  1. Terence Chu, June 24, 2010 at 2:19 a.m.

    "the team that nobody wants to play". I love that tag. It speaks tons about what other teams think of us and out propensity to get a result.

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