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US Soccer

The 12th Man is against us and that could be the key to the game: USA coach John Hackworth

Written by: Punit Tripathi


The US Coach believes that it is going to be a game of Indian attack Vs US defence.

The USA U-17 national football team is set to face India in the second encounter in Group A of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. With the Indians looking ready to take a go at the team which were the finalists of the CONCACAF Championships 2017. In a press conference, a day before the game, the USA manager John Hackworth and star player Josh Sargent interacted with the media.

The first question was obvious, asking the manager about his opponents. Hackworth started off, “I would start by saying that they’re one of the hardest working teams that we’ve seen. We played them a little over a year ago here in India. The way they play and compete has improved and they’ve done a tremendous job in the last one year. We come with a lot of respect in the game. The 12th man is also against us and that could be key.”

The next question went to the captain and the brightest footballing talent on the US flag, John Sargent. A media person asked Sargent about his homework against India and his feeling about playing in front of a crowd of close to 60,000 supporters. Also, can India upset his team? Sargent replied, “India is a very good team and our team is also ready for them. I can only say that it will be a good game.”

Sargent was then asked about his experience of playing at the U-20 World Cup, where he scored four goals as well. He added, “It was a nice experience at that tournament (FIFA U-20 World Cup). I know India is going to be ready for their first World Cup ever and it’s going to be a great game.”

Sargent travelled to India with the US team which defeated the hosts 4-0 in the AIFF Youth Cup 2016. Talking about his experience, the US No. 9 said, “The weather here is extremely difficult and it the trip last year was good preparation for the World Cup this year. It will not be very difficult for us this time around, having known the area well.”

On interest in him from Werder Bremen, the soft-spoken but deadly striker said, “It’s a huge honor and a proud feeling that such a big club is interested in me. Currently, though, I’ll do my best and will continue to give in my best.”

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Coming back to Hackworth, he seems to have a problem of more than enough attacking options. Is there a case of the happy dilemma in his mind? Hackworth quipped, “I think that’s more of a problem before we get to this stage. We’ve a plan in place at this point with the players we have at our disposal. We’re going to pick the best 11 to do well against India. The roster is deep and the selection process was difficult. The team is as prepared as it could be.”

 Hackworth was asked about his approach to the tournament – whether he was thinking ahead or was he taking it one match at a time, to which, the 47-year-old replied, “Playing the host nation on an opening day in front of that huge audience is a huge challenge. The group is very difficult, with traditional powerhouses Colombia and Ghana. Ghana, at this level, has been very strong.”

India coach Luis Norton de Matos had claimed that this game will be a battle between India’s defense and America’s attack. Hackworth opined that he looked at it differently. Speaking about his approach, he said, “I think it is going to be a game where my (the USA) defense needs to play at its best, to ensure that the attack gets the kind of confidence and freedom to attack. We know that India’s No. 10 and center-forward are good players and we need to stop them or they’ll hurt us.”  

Talking about the challenges he’s facing in India, Hackworth voiced an opinion similar to his captain. “We’re very thankful to US Soccer for helping us with the resources made available to us. The culture and environment are well known, we having played here in the recent past. Any team which is not from this region from across the world will find it difficult to acclimatize. We’re lucky to have had the opportunity to play here.”

Ending the press conference, Hackworth talked about the US Player Development program which comes to an end after this tournament. The manager said, “The player development program started in 1999 and the target was to create a footballing culture. That has been created already, and a lot of clubs all around the country are working on the grassroots and development aspect of the game. We’ll continue with the detailed selection procedure even after the program is over.”


Published: Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:20 PM IST


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