In addition to what will appear in the Saturday print edition story (available on washingtonpost.com late tonight), USA national team boss Bob Bradley addressed several issues during an hour-long discussion with Wash Post editors and reporters today. Some excerpts:
On Pachuca midfielder Jose Torres, who grew up in Texas but is also eligible to play for Mexico.....
"Have we watched him? For sure. Have we communicated? Yes. It's an interesting one these days because, to some degree, you only want to bring a player in if you really believe that he can play for you in the future. But there are more and more cases of countries that are capping guys as a way of locking them up and we try to be on top of these. The lines are open with regard to Torres and we will see what happens."
On monitoring young players.....
"There are now clubs from all over the world who scout here. There are scouts at the Dallas Cup, at the developmental academy showcases, when our under-17s play, there are scouts all over the place. It includes the idea that Mexican clubs have contacts in certain places to run open tryouts. ... I think we understand the importance of being on top of these different situations. Torres went to Pachuca when he was 16 and this is the first year he has played real games with the first team. He got himself on the field for a few minutes last year, so again there is a part there where, just because there is a name of a Mexican American or a German American on a roster somewhere, you still like to find out, is he playing, is he good enough?"
On Guiseppe Rossi's decision to choose Italy over the United States.....
"At the end of the day, the feeling within the family was that he wanted to play for Italy. He went there when he was young. He was part of some U.S. programs ... but then he went to Parma when he was young and it's his desire to play for Italy. Some things you can't control."
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His assessment of Freddy Adu.....
"It's incomplete. He made the move to Europe, which I think for him was important because so much has been said and written about him. ... At this point, nothing that has been said or written matters. The only thing that matters is, can you establish yourself and prove yourself that you are a good player and a good person? If you look at everything, based upon the past year, it's incomplete. I don't know what it is like there [at Benfica] day in and day out. Is he playing enough to really move up the ladder? No. For all of our players, we want to see players establish themselves and play important roles on teams that win something and are successful. That's what I mean by incomplete; that's not happening."
On getting players released by their clubs for national team matches.....
"They [Euro clubs] tend to go by the rules and the only tough moments are when the rules are in our favor and it's a fixture date but it's a friendly and there is a situation where the player will suffer by leaving. I think we have taken all of those things into account. You try to have a decent relationship, but at the same time, let's face it, the managers there are under great pressure. They are typically going to look out for their own needs and the issue is always whether a player is in good enough standing in a club to push, and that varies. Some guys can go in and say, 'Playing on my national team is really important and I feel like I need to go and play in this game.' Other guys are just not in position to do that. It's all part of the job. This is the case with clubs and national teams all around the world. We are not unique. The only challenge is assessing which of your players have the ability to push a little harder. That's where we are."
On whether MLS scheduling league games on fixture dates and at the same time as international tournaments is problematic.....
"Sure, but the league is important. You try to work with the clubs. It's certainly easier to talk to the different coaches and tell them what you are thinking and have meetings with the MLS people. In terms of our upcoming schedule, the question is, do you take an MLS player away from his club for what would amount to be a month in a heavy part of the season? I've concluded nothing yet, but the idea more than likely is to try to rotate a little bit in the first three games [England, Spain and Argentina], so then that we can have everyone we want in the camp for the qualifiers in June. There is a core of European guys that are there from May 22 on and then we have everybody we want starting June 9."
On the perfect storm in August, when the national team has a qualifier, the under-23s are in China for the Olympics, three overage players join the u-23s, Euro seasons are getting underway and MLS is in the meat of its calendar.....
"That's a tough one. Peter Nowak and I talk three times a week and go through rosters and names. It will depend on a player's status with a club. Will he be able to say to a club, 'The Olympics are important to my career, I'd like to do it'? We could have a number of players transferred this summer and if they are now in new clubs in Europe, trying to establish themselves, it's going to be more difficult for them to have the ability to push hard. It's not clear at the moment where that is leading. As for the overage players, we have discussed a number of names. I don't know who is going to be there. In a perfect world, you are going to manage to put strong teams in both places. It's not that easy to come up with a name and say he is going to be here or there at the moment. As we get a little bit further along in the process, that will happen."
On evaluating players for possible call-ups.....
"One of the things we talk about every Monday morning is, 'Is there anybody we need to have on our radar screen? Who has played well so far? Who is moving up a little bit?' I think we do a pretty thorough job of trying to stay on top of players all around the world. That's a big part of what we do."
How about a player like Marc Burch.....
"He's on our radar. He's been on our radar for over a year. But with Marc or any other player, what you always have to do now is size up all aspects of a player's game. You are trying to always determine if the things he is doing at the level he plays are going to fit at a higher level. We've had many conversations, even in camps the past year, with different players about what it will take to move to a higher level. You have certain guys who have gotten to a certain level based upon things that kind of come easy and things they like to do, but it's not that often that a player is going to keep moving up the ladder based on the things that come easy and the things he likes to do. Those are important conversations for players in the development process to understand. A lot of is based upon: Here is what the games look like on the highest level, here is what they demand. Now, how do we end up creating an environment where, little by little, we are moving guys in the direction to play in those games? We've shown 10 minutes of video and said to guys, 'If next week we put you on the field, how are you going to play? Are you going to play the same way you play here? Are you going to understand the differences?' This part of it consumes me the most. I did it with club teams, but now in the national team, every time we are in a camp trying to get our players to understand, if we are going to be a good team, this is what it has to be like, this is why we have to have players who can play in those types of games."
On Americans playing for struggling clubs overseas.....
"We don't have enough players who week in and week out play important, significant roles in teams that win. This year we have three [Howard, Onyewu and Bradley]. Eventually we need guys who are playing on teams in Champions League."
*We also discussed, at length, the player development system in American soccer. I will post Bradley's thoughts on that subject early next week. SG
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