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MLS Teleconference Call

The following are quotes from an MLS teleconference call held on Wednesday, December 18, 2002 at 2:15 p.m. ET regarding the signings of World Cup stars Landon Donovan and Brian McBride to multi-year deals with MLS.

Today’s guests:

MLS Deputy Commissioner - Ivan Gazidis
San Jose Earthquakes forward - Landon Donovan
Columbus Crew forward - Brian McBride

Ivan Gazidis' opening comments:

"Christmas came early for Major League Soccer this year. Today is a huge day for us. MLS' most important asset and the thing we're most proud of is the quality of people that we have as athletes in our sport. Nobody exemplifies those qualities more than the two players we are talking about today. Landon Donovan has made a commitment to grow his game and grow the game in the United States regardless of the financial implications for him. That kind of attitude is very refreshing in today's professional sports business. Landon is the real deal and I can't say enough about this man's character, commitment and loyalty. Without his drive to stay with the San Jose Earthquakes, a deal to keep him here would simply not have been possible. We're also indebted to Bayer Leverkusen who wanted and needed him there. They had a string of poor results and Landon would have clearly been an important part of their team. But ultimately Leverkusen acceded to his wishes and made the deal possible. We're indebted to them. It's an enormously important statement for MLS that Landon Donovan believes in the quality of MLS and that this League can develop his game as one of the world's best young players. With respect to Brian McBride, he is part of what makes MLS what it is. McBride and MLS are synonymous with one another. He was the first player ever drafted in MLS and has been with the Columbus Crew ever since. He has become synonymous not only with MLS but also with the city of Columbus. Day in and day out Brian gives to this sport, whether it's giving up his body or his autograph, he is absolutely selfless. He is someone any young player should look up to as a shining example of what it means to be a professional without losing a connection to the roots of the game. We believe Brian will be a critical part of the U.S. National Team for years to come and we're delighted to have him committed to the Crew and the League long term. It's tempting to say that Landon is the future of U.S. Soccer but the truth is that both Landon and Brian are the future of U.S. Soccer and we're very happy that both will be representing their clubs and U.S. Soccer for years to come."

Landon Donovan's opening comments:

"It goes without saying that I'm extremely excited to be here. I know there are quite a few people, my family included, who are extremely happy to have me here. But I am by far one of the happiest people on earth right now. I need to first and foremost thank three parties who made this possible: my agent Richard Motzkin who without a doubt kept me sane and kept me believing that this was going to happen all along. He made numerous phone calls to Ivan and Bayer Leverkusen and took many flights to Germany and New York to speak with people and really made it happen. I'm truly thankful. I'm grateful to MLS and Ivan for doing their part. They didn't have to step up and make it happen and they did everything in their power to accommodate me and make it work out for me. Lastly, I thank Leverkusen. As Ivan said they've had a string of poor results and a tough first half of the season. It would have been easy for them to say that one way to help turn the season around is to bring Landon back and maybe that would make things better. They chose the better, more humane option if you will, and said they would look at me as a person and not only as a player and that if that was what I wanted to do they would help accommodate me. I am forever indebted to them for that because it's definitely not a decision they had to make. I'm truly grateful.

"Lastly, I'm happy to be back with San Jose. I love it here. I love the team. I love the coaches and I love everything about my life in San Jose. I think it's going to be a very fun two years. After two years who knows what happens. But I'm going to have a wonderful Christmas now knowing I'm going to be staying here for two more years."

Brian McBride's opening comments:

"Congratulations Landon. This is a lot of fun to get back talking about soccer. I'm really excited to be a part of the Crew for a lot longer. The city and the organization itself have been great to me. I hope to continue playing soccer here for a long time."

Donovan on whether the lack of playing time for U.S. players overseas factored in the decision:

"After the World Cup a lot of people have come to me, including people from Leverkusen, saying 'you come back now you're going to play for sure' and this was before they started the season poorly. Obviously that feeling escalated now that their season is not going as well as they had hoped. Many people said I'd go and play and make a lot of money and everything would be great. But you never know. I don't know that I'm going to start every week in San Jose but I know that regardless I'm going to live a good life and be happy. Maybe three games from now, if I had gone back to Germany, they fire the coach and a new coach comes in and he doesn't like me for whatever reason and I'm back in the same situation. You can't predict those things. What I can predict is that I'm going to be happy in San Jose, in America. It wasn't appealing for me to go back to Germany, at least not now. A lot of U.S. players overseas don't play for whatever reason and I can speak from experience that it's miserable when you're not playing."

Donovan on coping with the responsibility of being a World Cup player:

"It's obviously different now. To be honest, at the beginning of this year I very much didn't know if I was going to be on the World Cup team, much less playing or starting. It's different too because we've gotten a lot of press and media coverage. We've gotten a lot of good vibes from people who are interested now. There is a little bit of pressure and going forward people are going to expect us to win. It is different. I haven't really dealt with it yet because I haven't played with the national team yet but I expect it's going to be different."

Donovan on CONCACAF earning the opportunity to compete for a fourth World Cup berth:

"I think it's completely right. To have three teams from CONCACAF go in 2002 (Korea/Japan), all of which competed extremely well in a difficult group with Mexico and the U.S. going through past the first round, I think it's warranted and we deserve it. There are a lot of good teams (in CONCACAF). Honduras was a team I thought was the best team during qualifying and they didn't go to the World Cup. I don't think they should take a berth from Asia and give to CONCACAF but to let the teams compete for it is awesome. With three spots it might be more competitive because it's one less spot, but now teams who maybe think they never had a chance will have a little more hope to make it."

Donovan on U.S. Olympic teammate Alecko Eskandarian:

"I saw Alecko this week in Florida (for Under-23 U.S. Olympic camp) with the Olympic Team, just yesterday actually, and I've seen him play for a couple of years now. I think he's a wonderful player and a good person, which is just as important. I think Alecko will do just fine. I don't know where he's going to go, and his playing time will depend on who you're playing for and who the other forwards are. I think eventually Alecko will be a very good player and I think he definitely made the right decision to stay in MLS."

Donovan on his U.S. National Team goals over the next four years:

"I think the most telling factor for a national team is to be consistent. You look at someone like Cobi Jones who has been to just about every camp you can ever look back on and I want to be someone who's consistently there. Whether I'm playing or not playing I want to be part of it and I want to be part of that team. I don't want to be someone who's periodically in and out of the team. That's all I can ask for. As far as the team goes, there's a lot more pressure now. We're not hopeful to win games but we're expected to win games. That's good because that's what makes you better. Now that the World Cup is past us, everyone is a lot more comfortable going in to play games like the El Salvador game in November. It was less pressure … The goal for the 2006 World Cup is to win it. If you don't set your goals to win it then you're selling yourself short."

Donovan on whether the performance of the U.S. at the World Cup affected his decision:

"I wouldn't say it was a deciding factor but it was definitely a factor in that now is the time for American soccer. Now is the time we need to capitalize on everything that we've achieved. To back out and walk away from it would be wrong. I think we can maximize everything and this is just another step toward getting soccer to where we all want it to be."

Donovan on how the prospects to play in the 2004 Olympics affected his decision:

"Unfortunately, but fortunately I had to leave camp to head to San Jose and now I go to New York later today for media appearances. Unfortunately I won't be able to play with the Olympic team in the next two games but it was good to see the guys and be there for a couple of days. I left unexpectedly early but that was a good thing as well. For the future I'm extremely excited. I spoke to Glenn Myernick (Head Coach) yesterday. It's good because now I'm in a different situation. In the beginning of the year I didn't know if I was going to be on the World Cup team. Now with the Olympic Team I feel I can be more of a leader and teach the guys what guys like Brian (McBride) had taught me when I was at that stage. I'm really excited about it and I think it's going to be a lot of fun with that team all the way to Greece."

McBride on how the break from the El Salvador game in November allowed him to rest:

"Anytime you have a national team game it matters. But after we won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Bruce (Arena - U.S. National Team Head Coach) gave me the option if I wanted it off. It was nice to have this long of a break for myself and my family. I'm looking forward to getting back at it. I've been concentrating on the fitness aspect lately and I'm looking forward to camp."

McBride on the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup:

"It should be a lot of fun. The last one we played in Mexico was a big deal for us. We came off a bad World Cup and it was a chance for us to come together as a team at a high level. The difference this time around is that there will be high expectations for us. Going into this one we'll have a different attitude but it'll have the same meaning because it's a major tournament. Whoever goes will definitely have a great time. I'm sure it's going to be a hard-fought tournament."

Donovan on the upcoming match-up in 2003 between Mexico and the U.S.:

"Our most important game generally is against Mexico because of the pride factor. I know we've done well against them lately but as everybody knows, all the stats are thrown out the window when we play against Mexico. It's about who wants it more that day. It's always exciting and I'm looking forward to it."

McBride on what the U.S. has to do in the 2006 World Cup to improve upon the '02 performance:

"As with every team coming away from the 2002 World Cup, every team is going to want to get better, especially technically. One of the biggest attributes going into the 2002 tournament was that we were all fit. Fitness is always going to play a large part in it. Technically I can only see us getting better. With MLS being the way it is and the players we have based over in Europe we should have a lot of talent to pick from. Bruce (Arena) has always done a great job of pulling a group of guys together and having them play together as a team. So it should be pretty exciting."

Donovan on his outlook for the San Jose Earthquakes ahead of the 2003 season:

"We were fortunate last year to this year that we lost very few players. We lost Ronald Cerritos but we got a great player in Ariel Graziani. But I think a big part of it, and you saw it in all the great D.C. United teams in the beginning of MLS, is having a team that can stick together and that can play year after year with most of the same players. It was very helpful for us in 2002. I hope we're going to keep the same core of guys and we're going to have just as good a chance as anybody."

McBride on his outlook for the Columbus Crew ahead of the 2003 season:

"The biggest thing for us is going to be health issues. If we keep everyone healthy we should have a great chance. Things are still going to be happening in the offseason for every team. To say what exactly it's going to look like from now I don't know. Everybody has the same goal and that is to win a championship. For us in 2003 it will now become an even bigger issue. For a long time we've talked about winning a trophy. Last year having won the U.S. Open Cup, now our main focus is to get to that MLS Cup and win it."

McBride on the respect American players have gained in Europe:

"Every individual is different. There is bound to be more respect just because of the World Cup results. The play of our goalkeepers in England has been strong for a long time. It's a matter of getting the right players in the right spots. My time there (with Preston North End) was a short one but I spent it with a great coach. I saw the desire and the ability that someone like him can have an effect on the game and push everyone forward. I personally enjoyed it and it was a great time. It takes the right player with the right team and the right coaching set-up and unfortunately a lot of times that does not fall into place."

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