CHAD WINGER - Thursday, September 23, 2004
After seeing both his Preston North End side and the USMNT get off to a poor starts to their respective campaigns, midfielder Eddie Lewis is looking to put the past behind and gain some momentum in the upcoming months.
Despite having already seen the departure of head coach Craig Brown less than two months into the season, and the introduction of Billy Davies in the interim, Lewis sees the change as positive and is encouraged by the team's newly found focus.
"Bill has brought a faster tempo to everything, and not just the way we play. But also the training and the attitude," the California native told YA. "That has been good, it's sharpened a lot of guys up and the players have had a lift."
"There was a spell just before Craig left when a lot of players heads were down. Even when things were going well on the pitch, they were playing with a lack of interest and now that's changed. In general things have picked up."
Though PNE has a 2-0-2 record since the change at the helm, the 30 year old Lewis thinks the team is headed in the right direction, but also knows that in English soccer there are limits to having a smaller club, and realizes the business aspect of the game.
"I hate to really put it down to business side of things, but in the end, the money and the players you bring in, and the size of the squad you have really determines how you'll do in this league."
"In our league, if you put the money in and you really have a go then most of the time it pans out," the World Cup veteran continued, "But having said that there is a downside - there are a lot of clubs in a lot of debt. It's a tough business."
"I think if we can add one or two or even maybe three players to really strengthen the squad, and just start to bring things forward in more of a positive light, then I think the club will do better. It isn't going to become a powerhouse club overnight, but we're certainly not worthy of where we stand in the league now."
If the struggles domestically weren't challenging enough, internationally hasn't been much better.
Although the US has gone unbeaten through the first five matches of World Cup Qualifying, the team has not looked anything remotely similar to the squad that stormed into the quarterfinals in Korea two years prior, disappointing even the most optimistic of supporters.
A fact not lost on Lewis.
"Yeah, it's been tough. We didn't play well in Panama at all," he surmises. "Overall, we're not in a bad position, we just need to turn it up a little."
With two of the next three matches at home, Lewis feels that it would be a good opportunity to distance themselves from the group and advance to the hexagonal final - provided the "experiments" are over.
"I'm definitely a believer in picking your best squad and playing your top team," he states. "We're not together very often as it is, and its hard to create the sort of symmetry needed at that level. We need to try and get some sort of cohesion."
"I think Bruce [Arena, US head coach] thought that we were better than El Salvador and he wanted to give some guys a rest for that game. Although we were [better], we still haven't had much time to gel in terms of our play. We need to improve."
Despite the poor performances, Lewis and the team are confident that they'll get the job done and secure advancement, but he believes it won't be without a fight.
"We feel we're definitely better than all the teams in the group, but at the same time it's qualifying that matters," Lewis concludes, "They are difficult games in difficult environments."
"We just have to match the other teams willingness and our quality will take care of itself."