Before facing England last Saturday, U.S. coach Bob Bradley was worrying about a hinky World Cup ball; star Landon Donovan had other concerns
DP:What are the reasonable expectations for the U.S.?
BB: I think our first expectation is to advance out of the group. We've put that pressure on ourselves. We understand how in the course of those three games you give yourself a chance to play in the knockout stage. So that's the first goal.
DP:How do you beat England?
BB: I think that in a first-match situation, we have to find a good balance between being aggressive [and being] smart. I think they have a great player [in] Wayne Rooney. We have to keep a close eye on him. It's not a one-man job because his movement around the field is very good, so it takes a collective effort. But I think a lot of it comes down to the mentality on the day. One that involves confidence and going for it, but also doing it in a smart, disciplined way.
DP:How's that new World Cup ball? Have you guys had problems with it [moving unpredictably]?
BB: The ball has taken a little time for players to adjust to. I think it goes together with the fact that the altitude here means the ball flies a little bit more than usual. But players understand by now that the more the ball moves around, the more excitement people think the game can provide. It's not easy on goalkeepers, but I think they recognize that nobody makes a ball to fit their needs.
DP:What beer should I drink while I'm watching the match tomorrow?
BB: I'm a Guinness man, so I'd tell you to have a Guinness and enjoy the match.
DP:I get the feeling the English media is looking past the U.S.
LD: Well, when you think of the history of the World Cup, England is always a team that has always done relatively well and has always gotten out of its group. And a country like the U.S. to them is a guaranteed victory. There are some people [in England] who you can tell there's a sense of nerves about them that maybe [they] could lose this game. But for the most part, most of the press and probably most of the players think that as long as [they] show up and play a decent game, [they're] going to win this game.
DP:Who's their best player?
LD: Wayne Rooney. He's had an incredible year. He scored 30- or 40-something goals in 45 or 50 games [34 goals in 44 games]. When he wants to play and when he's in form, he's one of the best players in the world.
DP:Tell me if you're going to make the Final Four and I'll book my travel now.
LD: Dan, we went through this before. It's not the Final Four in soccer.
DP:What do you want me to call it?
LD: The semifinals.
DP:Well that doesn't sound impressive. O.K., when you get to the semis, I'll book my travel. Are you going to get to the semis? Because I can book it now.
LD: If we get to the semis, I get to host the show.
• World of Hurt
Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton was very frank with me when discussing the past 2½ years, a time he called the darkest in his life because of the chronic back pain that caused him to contemplate suicide. "Life was not worth living with the excruciating, debilitating and relentless pain that would never go away," he told me. "When you have nothing and the pain just won't go away, [suicide can really seem to be] the clearest thing. Just [end the pain] yourself."
Following Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup--winning overtime goal (page 66) NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick, the face of the Blackhawks in the early 1990s, choked up on the air. Fans in Philly (where he played three of his 20 NHL seasons) accused him of being partial to Chicago. "[That's] totally obscene and preposterous," he told me. "The amount of blood I spilled ... I lost my teeth, I broke my nose, I broke bones ... to win a championship [for both cities]."
Line of the week
Announcer Bob Costas is among those who have been impressed by Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg: "He has a chance not just to be a Hall of Famer, but to be a guy who's in the discussion with the all-time greats."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Slugger Albert Pujols discusses the fine art of hitting.
2. The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, talks ... Notre Dame football.
THE FINE PRINT: The NCAA slapped USC with a two-year bowl ban and four years' probation. Here's the really shocking part—there's still an NCAA!
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
MARK J. TERRILL/AP (WALTON)
BOB MARTIN (COSTAS)
SIMON BRUTY (BRADLEY)