Lewis: We will get better
Eddie Lewis took a break from Derby's relegation battle to score for the United States in last month's 3-0 victory in Poland. ESPNsoccernet caught up with the 33-year-old left back or left winger a couple of days later to talk about the USA team, his future and life with the Derby Rams.
ESPNsoccernet: Congratulations on the win in Poland.
EL: "It's a big game for us every time when play in Europe. It is a good test and we've worked hard to improve our record in Europe, so beating a team who have qualified so comfortably for Euro 2008 is a good result."
ESPNsoccernet: Are the World Cup qualifiers the next aim for the USA team?
EL: "Because the USA doesn't have a European championships or the like, qualifying for the World Cup is a big challenge. It's what we're building up to in June and hopefully we will progress."
ESPNsoccernet: Do you think you could still be around to play in the finals in South Africa in 2010?
EL: "For me, my targets are short term, year to year. I've had some good conversations with [coach] Bob Bradley and expressed that if I could be of help, I'd love to be. So I've been in a situation where as long as I could continue to offer something, I'd keep on getting called up."
ESPNsoccernet: How does Bob Bradley differ as a coach [compared] to Bruce Arena?
EL: "He offers a slightly different mentality as a coach, and his choice of players is slightly different. But they are very similar in that they want to progress the nation from only having seven or eight good players to a squad of 20 or 25."
ESPNsoccernet: He seems to value your experience.
EL: "It is important. Bob recognizes that in building a team with the younger talents who continue to get better and better -- and they are better than the generation before -- but you need to have a blend of youth and experience."
ESPNsoccernet: Does it feel odd for a Californian that you have traveled thousands of miles to play professional soccer, and now the world is interested in the L.A. Galaxy because of Beckham?
EL: "I suppose it is a little bit strange, but for an American soccer player, England is the place to be. It is a fantastic league, but also the culture surrounding the game makes it a special place to play."
ESPNsoccernet: So you would recommend a move across the Atlantic to any young American player?
EL: "Absolutely. The one thing about Europe is that regardless of which country you play in, or what club you're at, the sky is the limit. If you're playing well week in, week out in Europe, you will get to higher and higher levels. That is sometimes true in America, but it is different in Europe in terms of the visibility. There is certainly a limit in what you can achieve in America. It is a wonderful opportunity for American players to come to Europe, and it is now getting to a point where we have more and more."
ESPNsoccernet: It's really noticeable how the number of Americans in the English Premier League has increased in the [past] couple of years. That must bode well.
EL: "When it is a relatively young game for us, we will improve exponentially, generation by generation for the next four, five or six generations. We are at such an elementary level in our development, and as that continues to improve, we will get better."
ESPNsoccernet: How do you see your future? Do you think you could play in MLS?
EL: "I have another year on my contract at Derby, and we will see how things go after that. I certainly want to play at the highest level for as long as possible. At some point, to go back and play in Los Angeles might be right for me. There are two soccer teams in L.A. I'm focused on a year at a time at the moment, though."
ESPNsoccernet: So you see yourself going back to Los Angeles when you retire?
EL: "I think so. Both my wife and I are from L.A., so it is a natural home for us, but it is hard to say. While I don't have a firm idea of where I see myself, it would be silly to rule out being involved in the game."
ESPNsoccernet: How did your move to Derby come about?
EL: "Once Leeds went down, I knew that I would be changing clubs at some point in the summer. Leeds were close to doing a deal with two or three championship clubs, so I knew my days there were numbered."
ESPNsoccernet: Results haven't exactly been great. How would you assess the season?
EL: "I think 'difficult' and 'challenging' are the words. It was obvious even when I joined three or four games into the season that it would be difficult because the club had come up prematurely and without too much spending. We had to be realistic about the situation. We hoped to be more competitive, but we had a good idea we would be relegated. Now the big challenge is to get reorganized."
ESPNsoccernet: And to avoid breaking Sunderland's Premier League record low of 15 points?
EL: "Everyone has become aware of that, and from a psychological point of view we want to avoid it, finish well and take some positive sentiment into the offseason."
ESPNsoccernet: [Former Derby coach] Billy Davies signed you, but then Derby changed [coaches]. How has that worked out for you?
EL: "Certainly there have been some challenges, and when Paul Jewell came in, he assessed everyone to figure out who and what he needed, and over time I've proved my case."
Richard jolly writes for ESPNsoccernet and covers the English Premiership and UEFA Champions League. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.