DAVID SMITH - Friday, June 12, 2009
Barely a week after donning the red, white and blue for the first time in over a year, Jonathan Spector is primed repeat his success in Confederations Cup, with an eye towards making the position his own on the long-term.
Spector had spent much of the last few seasons struggling with injury and forced outside of the national team picture, however his return to the field for West Ham during the spring coupled with a minor injury crisis in Bob Bradley's back line gave him the chance for his first start since the 2007 Gold Cup final.
"It's great feeling," Spector says of his return to the field for the US. "I've had some bad luck in recent times which has been disappointing, but at the same time it's driven me to work harder and to make a spot for myself in the national team."
With both Frankie Hejduk and Steve Cherundolo forced to miss this summer's trip to South Africa, the Illinois native knows that he's been presented with a rare opportunity to make a case for a resumption of his starting role at right back - a position which he held for much of 2007 before being slowed by a number of injuries.
"There's great competition for places in the team, so we have a lot of strength in that," the former Manchester United prospect explains.
"So I'll certainly be looking to cement a spot in the team."
Faced with the difficult task of slowing two of the world's top teams in Italy and Brazil over the next few days, Spector sees this current trip to South Africa as more than a high-profile set of friendlies, but an indispensable tune-up heading into next summer's main event.
"It's obviously setting us up for the World Cup which we still have to qualify for, but it's a good practice run for what we can expect."
Even after this summer's festivities are finished, the Bradenton product is fervent in his intention to finally make an impact at the club where his three-year stay has been a frustrating mixture of promising flashes marred with long spells on the sidelines for injury.
"Absolutely," he affirms of his future with the East London club. "I've got two years left on my contract and I still intend to see it out and stay at West Ham," said the former Manchester United player. ""It's a fantastic club, and the supporters are great."
"Obviously there's a new owner that just took over recently, but I think the management is staying and they have done a great job with the football club."
Spector is expected to start when the US faces Italy in their opening match of the tournament on Monday night.