032013_isi_usmnt_usmntjt0320131034 John Todd/isiphotos.com
The Hexagonal

Bradley, Dempsey, Gomez Speak Up on U.S. Turmoil

In the wake of an article that quoted numerous anonymous sources and threatened to tear the U.S. men's soccer team apart, three key players addressed the issue and tried to refocus their attention.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
March 20, 2013
11:24 PM
DENVER—A day after the release of a Sporting News story citing dozens of sources who questioned the direction of the national team under Jurgen Klinsmann, several U.S. players lamented the fact their teammates took matters "outside of the inner circle" and insisted the team is fully focused ahead of Friday’s qualifier against Costa Rica.

“For me, it doesn’t help anybody,” said Michael Bradley, speaking slowly and picking his words carefully. “It doesn’t help anything that we’re trying to do this week.

“When you play in a team you have a chance every day to give everything you have, and part of that means having the balls to say things to guys to their face, having the balls to say things in front of the team," Bradley said. "I think in those ways it’s really disappointing that now in a week as important as this, in a week where so much is on the line, that now you’d have something like that happen.”

The matter was dealt with internally, said both Bradley and Clint Dempsey, who will wear the captain’s armband with Tim Howard absent because of injury. The players declined to elaborate but each of the half-dozen players interviewed after Wednesdy’s training session said all attention is completely focused on Friday night.

“That stuff doesn’t matter, really,” the new captain said. “The thing that matters is that we get three points, win the game and that we qualify for the World Cup. That’s the thing that matters the most.”

“Look, unfortunately this stuff happens,” Bradley said. “The challenge of every guy in our team right now is to step on the field Friday night and make sure that for every American watching there is no sign of anything that has gone wrong this week. It’s our job to represent ourselves and to represent our country in a way that makes everybody proud."

While the publication of the piece clearly rattled the team internally, it’s difficult to sense any dissonance in the team. When asked if the report would add any pressure to win Friday, forward Herculez Gomez noted he’d been through far worse.

“If this is pressure, I’ll take this any day of the week. I’ve been in some tricky situations, I’ve been in some real pressure, and this right here?” he said. “This is fun. I enjoy coming with the national team. I enjoy seeing my teammates. These are great people. I enjoy seeing the coaching staff. I enjoy coming and playing in front of these great crowds. We’re playing at home. We’re playing in a beautiful city, and we have a chance to put a hurting on a good team.”

The Santos man contrasted the atmosphere in the States after the report with the pure havoc that would’ve ensued had a similar situation taken place with Mexico.

“It’s funny because they’re making a bit of a hoopla right now out of it, and it’s almost, in a sense, ‘cute’, but if this was Mexico, this would be on ESPN all day,” he said.

Gomez went on to say he loved the increased media scrutiny when compared with past World Cup qualifying cycles. “It’s about damn time you guys took some interest and started asking some tough questions,” he said. “I think that shows us growing as a footballing nation, I really do.”

Gomez still expressed frustration with the situation, but expressed optimism about the future. “I think this for us is a learning experience,” he said. “I think we get out of this, and we will get out of this, we’ll be a better team for it.”

Klinsmann did not speak to the media but will give a news conference Thursday.

What do YOU think? Do you share Bradley's outrage at the players who didn't speak up within the team but instead complained to the press? Share your thoughts below.

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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