What’s your earliest World Cup memory? I was only five years old, but I remember the 1994 World Cup finals so well. My family taped all the games for me so that I could watch them when I got older. I watched the game at home in Florida, where we lived at the time. I can remember the Argentina team and the story about Maradona with drugs. And Batistuta was incredible up front for them.
Tell us about your recent visit to Haiti following the earthquake. It was organised by a charity to try and bring a bit of happiness after the earthquake. I went with Wyclef [Jean] for six days. Life has never been easy in Haiti and unfortunately it’s only going to get worse. My parents were both born there and I have a lot of family living there.
You are the youngest American to score in a World Cup qualifier and the youngest to score a hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier. Fancy yourself to score a treble in South Africa? I’m just very excited to be going. After too many injuries, I feel like it’s all coming back to me. I felt like I didn’t play properly for a year and a half.
I had a regular ingrowing toenail, but I had it for so long that it grew halfway around my big toe. That became very painful and it also became infected, to the point that every step hurt. Everything I did hurt. I had to get rid of it and have surgery. They cut my big toe in half, flipped it open, cut the nail and then burned the roots of it so that it never grows back.
I had joined Villarreal [for an MLS record transfer fee of £6 million] in 2008 and went on loan halfway through the season to Xerez. My intention was to do that so I would play at the Confederations Cup. That didn’t happen. I didn’t play a single game at Xerez.
How did Hull compare with life in Spain? I like it in the sense that the culture is more similar than Spain to how it is in the States.
How popular is football in the States now? The game grows every day and football really has come on leaps and bounds. Time will tell because the other sports that football has to compete with have so much history. It’s on the right track, though, and there’s definitely a lot more interest in the MLS and the national team.
Do you get recognised in the States? Actually, I do now and it’s not fun anymore. It used to be good doing the things you wanted to do and nobody caring about you. Now I have to be a bit careful, especially in my hometown [New Jersey] or in big cities where there are a lot of minorities – the type of people who like football.
The United States made light work of qualifying for South Africa… People were saying how difficult it was going to El Salvador midweek and playing on a pitch full of rocks. That was unbelievable, and it wasn’t easy to play in some of these countries and try to qualify. Playing in Mexico City at altitude was very difficult and a major reason why we lost. I’d love to see some of the European teams go to places like that and try to qualify. They were tough challenges, but we consistently showed that we were one of the better teams. We deserve our place in the finals.
Describe the US coach, Bob Bradley. He’s a very serious guy. He puts his emphasis on the team and how he wants us to play, but I’m not going to give too much away about our gaffer. I can’t be helping the English before we play you.
How well do you think England will do? Everyone knows that England have good players, but it’s not only about individuals. It’s how England do as a team that matters. Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney will bring fear to other defences. They are different, but bring pure power, pace and technique.
What would be judged as a success for the US in South Africa? We did ever so well to get to the quarters in 2002, but we didn’t get out of our group last time. I think we have to go with the mentality that we are going to try and win the World Cup. There is a strong togetherness in the squad: we’ve shown that in the past and it helps that a lot of our players are in the strongest leagues in the world.
Interview: June 2010.