On Thursday afternoon USMNT head coach Bruce Arena spoke on the phone with reporters about the current state of the team's qualifying campaign, the state of young star Christian Pulisic following an attack on his club team's bus this week, and the future of American soccer ahead of its potential co-hosting of the 2026 World Cup.
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On the potential 2026 World Cup co-hosted by U.S.
Arena was asked about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada bid for the 2026 World Cup, which FIFA in considering, and how U.S. Soccer has changed since the last time the nation has hosted the World Cup, in 1994.
"In 1994, I think the U.S. was looked at as this emerging frontier in the game, and FIFA wanted to bring the U.S into the world's game," he said.
"In 2026 we're going to be fully emerged into the game and a big player. I think 2026 will be the time where we're going to start talking about winning a World Cup. It wasn't going to be in 1994, it wasn't going to be in 2010. But 2026 could be our time."
On Christian Pulisic
Arena said that he and his staff had reached out to the 18-year-old Dortmund star following the bomb that exploded near his club team's bus this week, and that Pulisic was fine after the incident.
As to the possibility that Pulisic would appear for the U.S. u-20 team in their upcoming appearance 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, Arena said it was unlikely.
"I talked to [u-20 coach] Tab [Ramos] about it, and we didn't think it would hurt to have him on that roster. You never know. If the U.S. made it to the final, for example, maybe we'd send him. All plans are that Christian will be playing for us."
And when asked if working with a young Landon Donovan had prepared Arena at all to working with a young star like Pulisic, Arena was dismissive.
"I'm not looking back to 2000 or 2001. Christian's a soccer player. He just happens to be 18 years old, and we understand that and appreciate that. Christian's a different player and a different person than Landon, and we just act accordingly.
"But I'm really not using the Landon Model, to be honest with you."
Christopher HanewinckelChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA
On deciding between three qualified strikers
Arena was similarly dismissive that having three qualified strikers in Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey was a problem for the team. If anything, he thought they were short in attack.
"There are so many factors that come into play [with picking a top two]. There's form, there's fitness, there's your gut feeling. And there are two games in a short period of time, June 8 and June 11, where one would assume that you'd make some changes because of it. I think we're gonna find that we don't have enough forwards."
On the Jermaine Jones - Michael Bradley pairing
Arena addressed the criticism that the midfield duo of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley received after their performance in the 1-1 draw to Panama, saying that the refereeing and the field condition made it impossible for the game to get any flow going through the midfield. Though he did concede that, on the day, the partnership wasn't inspiring.
"On that day, it certainly didn't look anything special. As we move forward, we continue to look at different possibilities.
"You look at the game against Honduras and then the game against Panama, they were two completely different games ... it's hard to judge from one game to the other and come up with a perfect answer."
"...In my mind there are some clear choices of what we're going to do in the midfield, and then to see how pieces fit around them remains to be seen."
On bringing in new faces for the Gold Cup
Arena discussed the opportunity the Gold Cup presented with bringing in new faces, and balancing that with the ongoing qualifying campaigin.
"I'm not spending any time right now with the Gold Cup roster, but I think something that could come into play is how we do in these two games. What position is the U.S. team in going into the Gold Cup for World Cup qualifying? If we're in a desperate situation, we may need to go with the team that is somewhat the team we're going to play in September.
"If we come out of these games in good shape, we will have a little more flexibility to look at some new players."
He added: "My preference is to have some new faces in the Gold Cup."
On Fabian Johnson's injury
Fabian Johnson hasn't appeared for his club team in a month, and missed the last two USMNT qualifiers. Arena provided an update:
"The word from [Borussia Mönchengladbach] medical staff is that he hasn't responded that well [to treatment.] So that's a concern. We'll be checking his progress each week.
"Right now, it's not likely that he's going to be playing over the next week or two."