BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, March 2, 2010
With his club team in the middle of a fierce relegation battle in the English Premier League, West Ham defender Jonathan Spector is happy to be back with the US national team this week in Amsterdam.
"It's nice to be back," Spector told YA Monday after the team's first practice. "We are a close knit group of guys. It's always nice to see everyone and get back to work, especially with such an exciting summer coming up for us."
Spector, who celebrated his 24th birthday with his US teammates on Monday, is well aware of the difficult challenge posed by the third ranked Dutch on their home field.
"We know Holland is going to be a difficult game," Spector admitted. "They are a really good [team]. It will be a very good test for us heading into the World Cup to see how we measure up."
Prior to the World Cup, however, Spector will find himself playing in extremely important games for West Ham as they hope to stay in the Premier League and avoid relegation.
The club currently sits in 13th place in the 20 team league however with only 27 points earned, they are clear of the relegation zone by only three points. The Arlington Heights, Illinois native says that he believes his team will succeed in staying up and that the team is better than their record suggests.
"Absolutley we can stay up," Spector insisted when asked of West Ham's chances to remain up. "I think we certainly have the players and the management staff. We definitely have the ability to stay up. We haven't had games where we have been easily beaten and we have been in every game. So I think we are confident things have turned for us now. "
One of the key strengths that Spector brings to both the US team as well as to West Ham is his versatility. Over the past year, between his time for both club and country, he has played every position across the backline. In past seasons in England, Spector has even seen time at defensive midfield.
Spector has been a regular at left back with the London club this season but last summer he helped lead the 'Nats to second place at the Confederations Cup by playing fantastically at right back.
Also, with the US having injury problems at central defense last fall, Spector was able to fill the void there in two friendlies against Slovakia and Denmark. When asked, he says he is just happy to contribute and he will play wherever head coach Bob Bradley plays him.
"It's hard to say of my preferences. My preference is just play," Spector said of his many possible roles. "I am just happy to be able to do what I love, obviously. But I would say I am probably most comfortable on the right but I am more than happy to play in the middle or on the left if that is what the manager asks of me. Defensively, they are very much the same [tasks] but going forward, [each position] asks different things from me, but I enjoy it."
Holland is sure to provide Spector and the Americans with a difficult test ahead of the 2010 World Cup which is now exactly 100 days away.
In South Africa they will face a difficulty series of opponents in England, Algeria, and Slovakia. Spector is pleased with the US' draw and he added that by playing in England with West Ham, the World Cup will give him a chance to play against many familiar faces.
"I think we are happy with the draw," Spector acknowledged. "England is a difficult game but it's one a lot of us are looking forward to, having played against a lot of those players. I can possibly come up against a lot of my teammates and that is an exciting prospect as well. The other two teams are there for a reason as well so we are looking forward to them."