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Exclusive World Cup Interview: Patrick Ianni

I recently had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with current MLS player, Patrick Ianni. Ianni is one of the bright young stars of American soccer and played with almost half the current 2010 team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I wanted to get his perspective on his current season with the Seattle Sounders, as well as his thoughts on Team USA’s run through the World Cup in South Africa.

Here is the transcript of that conversation:

Cory Ritzau: You made the switch this season from a center back position to a holding midfielder. How has that transition been for you as a player?

Patrick Ianni: I started my career at UCLA there my freshman year and have played there at times throughout my career, so I am feeling pretty comfortable. In the first game fitness was a bit of an issue as you have a different work rate than a center back, and that has probably been the biggest transition, but I feel like I’m there at a good comfortable place now. I feel like I am able to show my strengths and be a physically imposing presence in the middle of the field.

CR: With Jhon Kennedy Hurtado going down, are you one injury away from stepping back into the center back position?

PI: The position has surprisingly become one of depth for the team. I honestly don’t know what would happen but even last year I played in the central midfield role during the Open Cup, but then center back for MLS games. So it wouldn’t necessarily be one or the other.

CR: The Sounders have switched back and forth throughout this season between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3. Do you have a personal preference to the lineup? What do you think has been most successful with the team?

PI: You know we started with the 4-4-2 and were struggling to produce, so we switched to the 4-3-3 and saw some good results immediately but then hit a lull with that lineup. More important than the lineup, is the preparation and intensity of us players, and if we come out mentally and physically prepared, than either way we should be in a good position to earn victories. From a personal standpoint, the 4-4-2 provides two holding strikers that are able to stretch the defense a little bit more and are able provide a bit more space to operate for myself up the middle.

CR: You guys are currently playing in the MLS, Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League; is there added priority in one of the contests over the others?

PI: Priority is really in the game at hand no matter what contest it is a part of. The emphasis for the MLS is always in making the playoffs and doing well in MLS allows you the opportunity to earn byes in the Open Cup and enter into the Champions League for the following years so those may have added significance. Luckily we really have a strong 24-man roster and feel like we can be successful in all contests no matter what lineup may be called upon.

CR: We’re two weeks into the World Cup, I’d imagine you have been watching all the games for Team USA.

Patrick Ianni getting his inner Ivan Drago on. I MUST BREAK YOU!

PI: Definitely, I have been watching all of the games and have a lot of good friends and former teammates on the squad.

CR: As a player, what did you think about some of calls that went against the team?

PI: You learn pretty early on that those types of calls are going to be a part of the game. The referees are human and are going to make mistakes. The key is that there is no point in dwelling on the mistakes and you have to move on to what is at hand.

CR: How do you think the guys did in that regard?

PI: They did a really good job. Being around the guys, I had confidence that they would, and Bob (Bradley) isn’t one to make excuses, and the team really does take on the personality of the coach. I’m sure his leadership helped put them in an advantageous position.

CR: Despite some of the calls against them and the near misses, could the drama and controversy have worked out any better for the team in gaining national attention and making themselves water cooler talk?

PI: It definitely worked out great. The popularity is really fun to see. The only thing is that it is probably not great for the team in terms of an energy standpoint. They put a lot into the Algeria game to earn the goal and they only have two days off until Ghana so their energy and fitness will be challenged.

CR: Speaking of Ghana, how do you like Team USA’s chances against them?

PI: In watching them, they look really confident and it you tell that they really believe in themselves and what they are capable of. In seeing their celebration on Wednesday, you can see the excitement and confidence in their eyes as a team.

CR: What do you think their long-term expectations are at this point?

PI: I think that they have to keep moving forward in order to keep up the support. I think the common American fan would be much more sympathetic to a loss against the likes of Brazil in the semi-finals rather than to a Ghana or Uruguay. So for true success, in helping USA soccer take the next step, two more victories would be huge, but it won’t be easy.

CR: In seeing the French squad fall apart, have you ever been a part anything like what we are seeing?

PI: Their expectations are so high. At UCLA we lost in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament and there was a lot of disappointment. But never to the degree of what we are seeing with the coach and management in France.

CR: Have you been watching the Swiss team with your new teammate, who will be ready to join you after the World Cup, in Blasé Nkufo?

PI: I watched most of his games thus far. We are really looking forward to him coming out and hopefully contributing immediately, but playing for your country and playing for your club are two different things. We hope he can bring some talent and experience in helping us win this season.

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