Transcript: Real Salt Lake CONCACAF Champions League Final Preview Teleconference
April 25, 2011
Courtesy of MLS Communications
RSL Midfielder Javier Morales
RSL Defender Nat Borchers
RSL GM Garth Lagerwey
Does the loss of Kyle Beckerman involve quite a lot of reorganization of the midfield, or is there someone that is going to just slot in and you can carry on and approach the game the same way?
Morales: “Kyle is a very important player for us, but last year when we played some games without him due to his foot injury. Fortunately we ended up doing really well. Luckily we have a strong and large roster with great players waiting to play, so let’s hope that whoever gets on the field plays a great game and helps the team the same way as Kyle would. [But] without a doubt, we have lost the leader of the team.”
In the first leg, did Monterrey surprise you in any way with the way they attacked you or the way they defended? Were there any tactical surprises in the first game?
Morales: “What surprised me the most was the way they attacked which made it so hard to defend because they rotate their positions a lot, and we can’t easily hold them back. In both attack and defense, they are a very complex team, but we’ll try to counteract their play on Wednesday and be in a position to win the match.”
Do you have a sense that Monterrey is lacking any confidence right now? They’ve been struggling in the league, the late goal to tie the game last week and a number of injuries
Morales: “They probably aren’t coming here in their best shape. I believe they haven’t won a game in about five or six games, we scored on them in the last minute, and their league performance is not the best. Also, I know that this is a one-time only opportunity for them, as well as for us, so I believe they will come and give it all to win the final, because this could be the only thing left for them to win this season.”
What do you think about the support from fellow MLS teams? It seems like the League and the teams are really joining together and are really supporting you.
Morales: “It is very important for us. Last week I was very thankful for the video they made with messages coming from players, coaches, and people from the League office supporting us. It really means a lot to us, and beyond representing Salt Lake City or the state of Utah, we feel we are representing MLS in CONCACAF. I really want to thank everyone again for their support.”
Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis is known for his single-mindedness about soccer, the famous story being that he didn’t know who Jimmer Ferdette was, do you have any other examples that you guys tease him about along those lines?
Borchers: “I actually do, I have a perfect one. Super Bowl Sunday comes along and you have Green Bay and Pittsburgh and I believe this question was posed to him a couple of days before the game was played, “Do you have any idea who is playing in the superbowl?” and he had not a clue. So there’s your example, Super Bowl, biggest game of the year and of course we had training during it, so sometime that’s how it goes.”
From a player standpoint what is the benefit of having a guy who is so locked in his job like that?.
Borchers: “I think that one of Jason’s best characteristics is that he is detail- oriented he considers every angle over every situation for every game, every training situation, everything outside of soccer that we would have to worry about, Jason has those things covered. So it is just really taking the time for us, especially when it comes to getting ready for teams, he’s got every angle covered, and it really gives peace of mind to us as players.
Has the side felt disrespected at all by Monterrey in their preparations for this match?.
Borchers: “No, I don’t think so I think my initial thoughts when the substitutions were made was that they were tactical in nature because I feel like they felt they could find some space behind us and behind the back line. They pulled de Nigris out because they wanted to get him behind us and Pereza had no explanation for that one during the game. After the game I saw the comments and there was quite a bit of criticism leveled at their coach. I believe those substitutions had to be made because obviously they had some issus, I believe they were both hamstring issues with some guys and obviously when it comes to addressing what Vucetich said about our team, I don’t even think it is worth mentioning. We as a team have to just play our style, play our game on Wednesday and play our game the way we play and we don’t need to respond.”
What have you noticed from this ground-swell of support from fellow MLS teams. You battle them week in and week out and they are rivals, but it seems like certainly the league and the teams have joined together and are really supportive of your success.
Morales: “It is very important for us. Last week I thanked publicly the video they made with messages coming from players, coaches, and people from the League office supporting us. It really means a lot to us, and farther from representing a city such as Salt Lake City or the state of Utah, we feel we are representing MLS in CONCACAF. I really want to thank everyone again for their support.”
Borchers: “I think it is fantastic when you go on twitter and you read some of the things that players around the league are saying about your team and about our guys. I think we feel like we are really getting a lot of support from the rest of the league. It gives us confidence to know that they’ve got our backs in this competition; everyone wants to see us do well-it’s a great feeling. We understand who we are playing for, we understand that we are not only representing Real Salt Lake and the city of Salt Lake and the state of Utah, but we are representing the league and on some level American Soccer.
What was your take on how you defended Suazo in the first leg and are there things you think you can do better come Wednesday?
Borchers: “There are definitely things we can do better. I think Suazo is a very dangerous striker he likes to tip toe that line, not unlike a Jeff Cunningham, and he’s pretty lethal in front of goal. After we played the game I went on YouTube and looked up the highlights and I just saw how calm and collected he is once he gets in that penalty box. I think we are going to have to do a better job on getting pressure on the ball in this leg. I think too often we were passive in our pressure and it made it easy for their midfielders to chip those balls in over the top that beat our pressure and allowed Suazo to get the ball turned on goal in there. There were a few instances where it was really close and I think he was on-side in one of those situations where he was called off. It’s really important to get that pressure and the communication has got to be big on us in the back, the back four need to communicate a little bit better in terms of making sure Suazo isn’t getting between us and beating that offside line.
How much does that complicate it by the fact that sometimes he drops into the midfield to get the ball?
Borchers: “We prefer him to get the ball at midfield but we just do not want him to get the ball at midfield and turn. It’s important to be able communicate with the rest of the guys, and make sure whoever is in the midfield is aware of where he is and preventing those passes from coming in to Suazo. But there are going to be times when he gets the ball and if he gets the ball we want it as far away from our goal as possible. If he can get the ball at midfield, then that’s probably not the worst place for him to get the ball.”
How has Jason [Kreis] set priorities for you guys? Are you even paying that much attention to league action?
Borchers: “We haven’t played a league game in quite some time, so our focus hasn’t been there. I think we said from the outset before this competition even started that this is a priority. Our owner came out to the press and us saying that it is a priority and it has be re-iterated numerous times in subsequent meetings we have had as a group so I think everyone knows what we have on the line. This is it, we have to get a result in this game if we want to appear in the big dance, and everyone is aware of that. I don’t think it gets much bigger than this and we are ready and we understand what is on the line.
Can you talk about the atmosphere at Rio Tinto, is this as excited as you have seen your home team fans?
Borchers: “This is definitely not as excited as I have seen them. When we won the MLS Cup, that was the most excited I have ever seen the city, when it came to a sports event and that was quite special. The fans have been really up for this series, you can’t look in a newspaper or on TV without seeing Real Salt Lake and seeing us on TV or in the papers. It has been fantastic. Our fans are special, they are not like fans in most sports markets. I think they are more loyal, I think because we live in a smaller city and there are only two major sports. I think that they really developed a relationship with Real Salt Lake and we developed one with them and it’s just been fantastic to see that grow. We are in a situation now where if we get a result Wednesday and represent Salt Lake City and represent Utah and represent the United States on the biggest stage. I think the fans are aware of that and I think they will be out in numbers on Wednesday night.”
Can you tell us a bit of what Jason [Kreis] has told you as far as still finishing this off and there is still 90 minutes to go?
Borchers: “We haven’t sat down for our team meeting yet to actually talk about this game. We have been preparing for this game like the way we prepare for any other game, in terms of what we have done with training and in terms of our build up. I know when we play at home we like to come out and be aggressive, I don’t think there is any other way to come out and play against a good team like Monterrey. If you sit back they are going to pick you apart and be able to possess you, you won’t even be able to see the ball. We are going to have to put our stamp on the game and create chances against these guys if we want to get this result. I think everyone is aware that 0-0, 1-1 or win is going to do it for us, those are three scenarios. Everyone on the field is aware of that and I expect it to be a great task for us.”
Do you all talk internally about how you are going to stick together for 90 minutes?
Borchers: “I think it’s going to be a different game, when you are on the road in an environment like Monterrey, you are going to have let downs, we were definitively fatigued in that game. Being fatigued and the fact that we didn’t possess the ball well on the evening were reasons why we sat on our own half and had to deal with wave after wave of Monterrey attack going through, so I expect it to be a different game here. We don’t sit back they are going to have to deal with our altitude, our energy, our fans and those are all positives for us and we are going to have to make sure we get the game started on the right foot.
Ten years ago the Galaxy won an incarnation of this competition and received very little attention. Do you remember when the Galaxy made their run and could you talk about how the competition has grown and how MLS has grown?
Lagerwey: “I remember as a player [the Galaxy’s victory] was a big deal. Everyone was cheering for them, you wanted to them to show the rest of the world that ours was a good leagueback then. Now, there is a collective sense of pride that we’re building something here and every year it’s getting better. We have a lot of work to do and hopefully we can justify all the support we’ve received from around the league and get a result on Wednesday.
“In terms of what it means historically, I think it really makes a difference if we win or not. We’re well past the point of moral victories. We’ve gotten some press. The U.S. World Cup team got some press, but no matter how you view how that finished, everybody thought we could have beaten Ghana and everybody’s going to think the same thing – we could’ve beat Monterrey - if we don’t win this game. We’ve knocked on this door: 2002 the U.S. goes to the quarterfinal of the World Cup and got bad call on a handball and lose to Germany. But every time U.S. Soccer has been so close. In the Confederation Cup final we upset Spain and were up 2-0 at halftime against Brazil and we don’t finish it. All of those are arguably highpoints for U.S. Soccer, but in each case we weren’t able to finish. We haven’t had that Lake Placid moment like the 1980 U.S. hockey team - but that’s the opportunity I think we have. I think we have an event of that scale that can put the world on notice that American soccer is taking another step forward.”
Does the team feel more confident after the result in Monterrey since it’s normally so daunting to play in Mexico?
Lagerwey: “We felt we should have beaten Cruz Azul. We were disappointed by how that game finished and we felt we let it slip away. So I don’t think we were intimidated by playing in Mexico. Some of the stuff in Mexico is based on crowd or field or altitude or temperature, but I equate it a lot to MLS teams flying across the country and playing away matches – some of it’s just inherently difficult. Obviously we’re playing the best team in Mexico and we played a darn good team in Cruz Azul and we beat them in a home and away series to win our group. I don’t think any of us are intimidated at this point, we’re ready to go to battle one more time and win this thing.”
Do you think more coaches are going to put more emphasis on this tournament because of the success RSL has had?
Lagerwey: “I think we’re carrying the flag right now and we’re the vanguard, but each organization has to decide how much emphasis to put on it. The incredible emphasis that we’ve put on this competition has proved worthwhile for us. To state the obvious, DC United and LA Galaxy won this thing in the past and what followed was a 10-year draught. One of the important themes here is that even if we are fortunate enough to win this thing, if you want to permanently altering the landscape you have to have consistent MLS success in this tournament. The league has created a number of incentives to make that possible: lightening the schedule, providing allocation money for the teams in the tournament. Those are things that help and show everybody that this is for the benefit of the league. I sincerely hope, fervently hope, that other teams will take this competition seriously because I think the competition merits serious attention and for the long-term future of the league, we need fans of soccer in the United States to pay attention to our league. Right now they don’t. A lot of those people are going to deny, deny, deny and say they’d rather get up on Saturday morning and watch the EPL and that American soccer sucks. I just don’t believe that. I think we get more respect outside our country than we do inside it and I think we’ll win over a whole bunch of fans who simply can’t ignore us if we’re able to win and achieve consistent success. We cannot expect to be given respect. We have to earn it.”
How will your team cope with the loss of Kyle Beckerman?
Lagerwey: “In the 37-game unbeaten streak at home we’ve played 10 times without Kyle Beckerman. We’re 7-0-3. So 10 out of 10 times when we’ve been in this position, needing the result we need we’ve succeeded.”
Do you feel you’ll be able to exploit Monterrey to some extent given they’re missing some players, including De Nigris?
Lagerwey: “We’re going to focus on us. We’re going to play our game and rely on our fans to cheer us on and pack the place and we’ll do what we do at home.”
We’ve all heard the anecdote of Jason Kreis not knowing who Jimmer Fredette was, do you have any other examples that illustrate his narrow focus on the team and his job?
Lagerwey: “He organized a training session on a Sunday in February and I had to walk into his office and tell him that was Super Bowl Sunday and our players would probably care. He gave me the dirtiest look and said “Come back in my office when you have something serious to talk about.” I say it with great affection that Jason is completely focused on his job and it’s something that served us very well as a club and it’s severed him very well. He’s unbelievable at conveying what’s important to our players and he’s been conveying how important this tournament is for the past nine months. He’s done an awesome job managing the group.”
Have there been any new interest from international clubs in obtaining the players or even the coaches since MLS Cup and this tournament?
Lagerwey: “During the course of this tournament we haven’t received any inquiries about any of our players. After MLS Cup, we had one serious inquiry about one of our players. I wouldn’t say there’s no interest in our players, but there’s no interest in paying for our players so far.”