Clark: 'I take full responsibility'

[U.S. REACTION] The mood was somber in the U.S. locker room after its 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana knocked the Americans out of the 2010 World Cup. Players thought about they could have done differently. Midfielder Ricardo Clark took responsibility for turning the ball over on the play that led to the first goal and put the Americans in a hole one too many times. For what Coach Bob Bradley and his players had to say ...

On the match as a whole:
“Once again we gave up an early goal and put a lot into it to get back to 1-1. I thought at that point we had the chance to finish the game. When you go down early another time (in the first overtime period), it’s just a case where you’ve put yourself in that spot one too many times and already expended a lot of energy. At that point it was just trying to see if we could create one more chance, but I think we hurt ourselves by giving up the early goal again.”

On the choice to start and remove Ricardo Clark:
“We go through the same process before every game sizing up options. We felt that fresh legs in the center of the field would be good and felt that Ricardo had, against England, been disciplined in the way he helped plug certain holes, we thought that would be important against Ghana. Took him off in the first half which is something that we almost never do, but I was concerned about the card. When we’re already down 1-0 and now you’re trying to push the game in that part of the field, when you play that role playing with a card is incredibly dangerous. I told him that the decision is solely based on the card. Ricardo, such a good man, said he felt badly about the ball he lost and I said that’s part of soccer.”

On Ghana’s team:
“Ghana’s a talented team. I said yesterday that I thought their coach Milovan Rajevac has done a good job in terms of organizing that team, of course they’ll have a tough game against Uruguay but they’re a team that’s capable of moving on.”

On giving up early goals in three of the four World Cup games:
“It’s certainly something we’re aware of. You try to manage games early, once again in the early part of this game we felt like we were doing a solid job but we paid the price for a turnover. We recognize it, but just talking about it doesn’t always change it. It’s a hard lesson and one we’ll hopefully be able to improve upon.”

On whether the tournament has been a success:
“I think the first thoughts for all of us are simple. We felt that in the first round we showed a lot of good qualities, you get through the first round and give yourself a chance now to go far. We felt that we had that ability and we’re disappointed that we didn’t get past this game and continue to test ourselves.”

On whether the late comebacks just cost too much energy:
“It’s possible, but I think the real feeling is that we put a lot into getting this game to 1-1. I think we had one very good chance when it was 1-1 before regulation finished, Jozy had a good chance. When we talked before overtime I think we felt good about physically where we were in the game, but the fact that we gave up a goal so quickly—I think that’s the time that’s a feeling that there’s not that much time, you’re deep into the game and it’s going to be hard to get it back. There’s a few chances after that, maybe you need a break. I thought on the night there were so many attacking plays that seemed to just miss—the timing would be a little off, the last ball was a little off. Some of our crosses weren’t as good as they needed to be. So I thought there were some plays that had potential, but often times it just seemed it was a little bit off.”

On what U.S. fans should take away from this team and this performance:
“Well, we would like to thank the fans. The support that we’ve seen here in South Africa, and we know that people across the United States have been behind our team. At the moment, it’s a feeling of disappointment for the team and for all our fans that we couldn’t go forward.”

On whether their performance in this tournament has raised the profile of United States soccer:
“We always understand the responsibility we have as a national team to show how far the game has come in the United States, to fight for respect. We certainly felt that we moved things along with our performance in the Confederations Cup. As we went through the first round, we felt that we were continuing to go in that direction. But it comes down to every match now that gets tested over again, for tonight all we can do is look hard at ourselves and continue to try to move the game forward.”

On what the team takes from this tournament:
“I know after the Algeria game our emotions were high, Americans’ emotions were high, and for us it’s a bit frustrating because we were right there, right there to push on to the quarterfinals. It’s frustrating as a group because we feel like this is something we can do, and it just didn’t go for us today. We tried to push and push, and I don’t know if we just didn’t have anything left because we’d been pushing so much the entire tournament. Just didn’t go our way today.”

On comparing the feelings of this tournament to 2006:
“I think last time around, the tournament as a whole was not so good for us. We had a great performance against Italy, but other than that we were pretty inconsistent. This time I thought we played pretty consistently, unfortunately that meant going a goal down and having to push almost every single game. But I’m really proud of these guys, to be a part of this team and how everybody pushed for each other and fought for each other. There are no individuals and everybody put the team first and we can hold our heads high and go away saying we left everything on the field and sometimes in sports it just doesn’t go right.”

On the game:
“Obviously we’re very disappointed. I think the way we went out is frustrating because we played a pretty good game, but made a couple of mistakes and got punished for it. It’s a tough lesson to learn when you don’t get a chance to redeem yourself. I guess the warning signs were there, getting scored on early, and it came back to bite us.”

On whether the energy spent fighting back for three straight games took its toll tonight:
“I actually don’t think so. I thought we were the fitter team and had more energy in the second half and into overtime. But when you’re consistently behind in games, it’s very difficult to get back into it.”

On his thoughts immediately following the match:
“The finality of it is brutal. You realize how much you’ve put into it not just in the last four years, but your whole life. There’s no guarantee there’s another opportunity at that. It’s disappointing.”

On the team’s mentality:
“We had a team on the inside that really believed in each other. We were confident in ourselves, we felt we had a team that on any day could win any game. I think we had our chances today, don’t get the goal to go up 2-1 and then they scored a good goal and that’s a hard thing to come back from.”

On the game as a whole:
“I thought we had the better play, especially in the second half and overtime, but unfortunately we couldn’t connect. That’s just the way football is sometimes.”

On what Bob Bradley said to him after taking him off in the first half:
“He just said that he took me off because I had a yellow card, he didn’t want to risk me getting another one and being sent off.”

On his performance:
“It wasn’t the best performance for me. I had good moments, but unfortunately one of my bad moments led to a counterattack and to a goal. A player of my caliber and my experience should not be making those mistakes.”

On what he saw on the first goal:
“I kind of got the ball stuck in my feet. I think they played it in the midfield and I got caught in my decision-making and didn’t react fast enough. The guy stole the ball and it’s unfortunate because it led to a goal. I feel like I let my team down and I take full responsibility on that goal.

On the team’s response that led to Donovan’s penalty kick:
“I felt good about the game after the PK, I think as the game showed we were pressing and pressing and should have had maybe two or three goals but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

U.S. Goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On the team’s progression over the last four years:
"I think we’ve gotten better. I think that shows in the last month and certainly in the last year with the Confederations Cup. We’ve gotten better but still have a ways to go."

On whether tonight’s game was a missed opportunity:
“It was certainly a missed opportunity because we felt like we were in the game and at times we were the better team, but that means nothing because they put in the performance that won the game.”

On taking control of the game:
“We were on the front foot, I felt like we were on the ascendancy when we got the goal. We got a few chances and really pinned them back in the second half which we knew we would. It was just a bridge too far for us. We can’t keep producing these magical moments because you just run out of gas.”

On Ghana’s two goals:
“The second one was definitely hit hard. They took their goals well, they didn’t have many opportunities. Overall, we all could have done better in a lot of instances but they caused us problems so our hat is off to them for sure.”

On the early goals:
“Too often right after the whistle blows we get hit and if you do that enough times you’ll pay for it. We have had the good fortune of not paying for it before, but we did today.”

On the team:
“It’s a good group. We’ve talked about that for four years. It’s a good group, it’s a good bunch of guys who never give up and that’s not a cliché, we’ve proven that time and again. Of course we’re proud and disappointed, but we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure things out.”

On what he thinks the team will learn from this experience:
“I think it’s about seizing the opportunity when we get it. We had good opportunities, we felt like, in all the games. We were certainly right in the thick of it and I think that’s the next level for U.S. Soccer. Before, it was always being the underdog and I think if you look at the last four games we were right in the thick of them. We need to get to the point where we can start dictating the tempo and telling other teams to get on our playing field.”

On the mood in the locker room:
“It’s quiet, guys are keeping their thoughts to themselves. For me, I was thinking about plays that could have gone differently for us or chances we could have capitalized on, but I guess we’ve got to wait four more years to get another shot at this.”

On Ghana’s strong start in the match:
“They started the game, I remember thinking at one point that they were running really hard. The second half slowed down and I think our fitness came out a little bit more at the end of the game, but we definitely dealt with a lot at the beginning. They got an early goal which is what we were trying to not give up. I thought we gave ourselves a lot of chances to win that game, and just didn’t do it in the end.”

On the overall feeling of the tournament:
“I think I’ll probably be more proud in the next couple of days, thinking about what went down over the four games we did have. There were a lot of ups and downs, obviously the way that third game ended put everyone on a high. It’s been a crazy trip, a great experience for me for my first World Cup and I’m looking forward to looking back at these games, enjoying them on video and learning from it as best as I can for me personally moving on as a player. Hopefully in four years we get to come back and do it all again.”

On Ghana’s second goal:
“When you have sharp forwards that sit on your shoulder, they wait for balls like that. For defenders, we have to worry about the ball in front and the ball behind, and sometimes you get caught in two minds or you just get caught in the space and have to react. The athleticism that they have on that team, they were able to react a little bit quicker than us and showed good strength and a good finish.”

On what he takes away from this tournament:
“There’s always disappointment when things like this happen, when great tournaments like this come to an end. That’s natural. But it’s a really special time for U.S. Soccer at the moment, and I think it’s a big responsibility for the players to show that and to appreciate that. There’s a reason the U.S. sold more tickets than any other country to come here. These people care and want to be a part of these environments. If we can try to embrace that as players and try to keep them coming to the stands and coming to these tournaments and supporting us, then that’s going to help us grow as well as a team. But to show appreciation, win or lose, is always the important thing. Today is a day that, even when disappointment is probably at its highest, is the time to show the most appreciation.”

On what he might say to fans sharing the disappointment:
“I think all of us have said all along that the support has been absolutely amazing back home, something we’ve never seen before. Especially the people that have been around on this team the past four years, we’ve seen the atmospheres grow, we’ve seen the fans start to pay attention. We’ve seen people believe in the performances that got us here and that’s a major step in the right direction for U.S. Soccer. We have to continue to embrace that and they have to try to continue to embrace us because we’ve shown that together, as fans and as players and as a country, we can come together and make really special things happen like we did in this tournament.”



10 comments about "Clark: 'I take full responsibility'".
  1. Charles Kluz, June 27, 2010 at 7:34 a.m.

    What everyone seems to be missing is that it was a poorly placed pass to Ricardo from Michael Bradley that seemed to put him off balance, reaching back, against his momentum, that was also at fault. Watching USA matches, I am often struck by the number of bad passes, weak passes, shots taken by outside of right foot instead of properly with inside step of left foot, etc... that constantly put the team in bad situations or miss opportunities. One clear wrong-footed chance was when Altidore was on goal with goalie diving to save - if he had planted his right foot and shot with his left, he would have scored or at least taken a penalty foul, but instead scuffing with his outside-right goalie had every right to come in and block. Other way around, clear penalty.

    It's not all your fault Ricardo. No one should be blaming him.

  2. Manuel Trejo-von Angst, June 27, 2010 at 8:48 a.m.

    Clark bears some blame but I agree with Charles. Bradley's pass was brutal and the people who are supposed to cover mistakes like that behind him were even more brutal. It's not like he coughed it up 12 yards from goal or something. If we're being honest Howard should have been able to save that shot with relative ease. The center backs were pretty well positioned to make it a shot that had only one possible angle and Howard opted to not cover that angle and cheat towards an impossible angle.
    Clark bears blame but he's not solely to blame for this. There was plenty of apathetic play out on the pitch Saturday.

  3. John Roode, June 27, 2010 at 9:33 a.m.

    Guys help me here because I don't recall and didn't record the match so I can't go back and look. But didn't Clark attempt a turn with the ball (into pressure) instead of playing it the way he was facing? What was wrong with Bradley's ball? Was it weak? We definitely play more than our fair share of weak balls. Problem is, many of our guys aren't used to handling firm passes so they don't get them by their teamates for fear of giving them too hot of a ball to receive.

  4. David Lorenzi, June 27, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.

    I see no point in debating one play in what turned out to be a 4-game tournament. The bottom line was that the US simply was not good enough. We are consistently told that making the 2nd round is a huge accomplishment, but at some point we need to do more/win more games if we are to be taken seriously as a soccer nation. At the international level, you cannot give up early goals and expect to win games, especially at the world cup. The bottom line is that we need better athletes playing soccer and more depth in team. Bradley had very few options on the bench to provide a change when change was definitely needed.

  5. Ric Dahlstrom, June 27, 2010 at 11:59 a.m.

    Bradley didn't have great depth on the bench but worse than that he was blind to his son having a bad day. Bradley junior is usually a force behind the US attack but he was still at the hotel against Guana. Not only did he leave Clark exposed, his weak passes all day left his teammates cleaning up after him. I was hoping to see Holden but B senior couldn't make the correct decision.

  6. Scott O'Connor, June 27, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.

    The early goal served to wake these guys up from their "manage the game early" slumber. After dominating the play in the second half, without getting the 2nd goal, they again let up and started "managing the game" and gave up another "early" goal. Every time we try to "manage a game", it ends up costing us a goal. Does anyone think we were going to win a penalty shoot out? The only guy on our team that ever takes a penalty under pressure is Donovan. It would have been exciting but equally disappointing I think.

  7. David Huff, June 27, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.

    Clark was correct to apologige and should have been joined by Findley and Banal Bob for his lineup decsisions concerning those two. Banal Bob (aka 'MLS Bob') needs to be held accountable for his starting lineup decisions in the most important match of WC2010 for Team USA. Clark was a known quantity in terms of his inability to maintain possession and make bone-headed mental mistakes and Findley is a north-south sort of speedster who simply cannot finish. Edu and either Buddle or Gomez should have started.

    The USSF that brought us Bradley should also be held accountable for their failures, Sunil Gulati and Dan Flynn need to be gone. Recall it was they who were unwilling to give Klinsmann suffient control of the program so that he run things to bring it to the next level. They also refused to look at bringing on board other similar coaches of quality such as Argentines Pekerman and La Volpe who conducted themselves well for Argentina and Mexico during WC 2006. Why doesn't the men's program deserve a foreign coach who can raise things to a new level? The women's program has benefited greatly since bringing in Sweden's Pia Sundhage to replace the awful Greg 'Long-Ball to Abby' Ryan back in 2007 after the Hope Solo fiasco. Coach Pia has that team playing attractive soccer that uses the full range of technical skills. A seriousa house-cleaning needs to be done at USSF if we are ever to get past having a mediocre men's program. I want to see the US win a WC during my lifetime, do the rest of you feel the same?

  8. Juan R, June 27, 2010 at 10:44 p.m.

    I think the US could have won this game and maybe even a matchup with Uruguay, but we have a lot of work to do. Defense was porous, midfield lacked a lot of quality outside of Dempsey and Donovan, though Bradley is still growing as a player, he's only 22. Our strikers were not top quality, though Jozy can be a better player if his work ethic improves at the club level.

    Bob Bradley did make tactical mistakes to start the game, but his reasoning for Clark was rational. But too many changes. I'm happy with Bob's reign, but we need a change at the position, especially for those Michael Bradley haters. We need a coach who doesn't have that tag as his father. Plus we need better tactics to start a game. Coach B adjusted well, but didn't do a good job of getting them ready. But, then again we have a lot of work to do for this soccer nation. Or actually, more to do to make soccer fun for kids, where they will play in the parks, in the streets, without coaches, figuring things out on their own, playing with older players on their own. MLS is doing a good job, and the academies are doing good things. Though I can't wait for that day that we have promotion and relegation. But our boys did us proud, and fought when they were down. Now we need to have players that aren't afraid of messing up, but play with intensity from the beginning.

  9. Christian Navarro, June 27, 2010 at 11:58 p.m.

    Clark did it again...he cost us the match with Italy the last cycle and he did it again. He needs to retire from international Futbol and leave it to the real futbol players! BB just blows as a coach and Ridge needs to get off both their knobs!

  10. Christopher Wimmer, June 28, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.

    Never one players fault for a loss. The U.S. team had a strong showing this WC and looks like the National Team program is making progress, now just need to build on that progress and try to start developing more talent here in America within our own clubs and professional organization (MLS).

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