Coach Kreis Q&A

RSL skipper talks philosophy of opening camp in advance of scrimmage v. Whitecaps FC

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Photo Credit: 
RSL Communications

With the first of Real Salt Lake’s pair of Arizona-based training camps
almost in the books, caught up with Head Coach Jason Kreis on Monday (aka "Day 9" of 10) to
get his thoughts on how his team has managed the preseason throughout the first
two weeks. On the eve of RSL’s first exhibition match of the 2011 preseason against
Vancouver, Kreis explains why only one number on the scoreboard will matter on
Tuesday and what Álvaro Saborío said to make him laugh, among other topics …

What were you looking to accomplish during this camp in terms of fitness
and tactics, and do you think those goals have been met?

“We learned from the first day of preseason that we didn’t
have to focus a lot of time or energy on fitness, so we haven’t done that. We’ve
done essentially two fitness exercises since we’ve been down here and
everything else has been about having the guys play and get back into a rhythm.

“Our sole focus on this entire first trip has been on
defending and breaking it down from one player, two players, three players, and
building it up back up to the entire 11.  We’ll go into Tuesday’s game completely
focused on that – how we defend as a team – and we won’t critique them on how
they do with the ball.”

Have you seen the level of sharpness out of the group that you were
hoping for?

“When you talk about ‘clicking’ and sort of the subconscious
play and understanding, I think you’re really talking about what you’re doing
with the ball, which, again, has not been our focus. I have been really pleased
with the defensive work they’ve put in and that there hasn’t been many too many
stoppages in the middle of the sessions to get after them and to tell them what
we’re expecting of them. Quite frankly, they almost all have a really clear
understanding of it now, especially with the majority being here now for
several years. We haven’t had to spend a whole lot of time in regards to
philosophy of defending and where we want to win the ball and those sorts of
things. It’s helped that they all have a real good understanding of each other
and where they are supposed to be defensively.”

What are you looking to get out of Tuesday’s scrimmage against Vancouver?

“We just have to be focused on what we’ve worked on as a
group and not be overly critical of them or get after them if we feel they aren’t
good enough with the ball. We can’t expect them to be excellent on the ball and
make great decisions when we have it because we just haven’t spent time
focusing on that. We’re going to be very intent on watching what we’re doing as
a team when we don’t have the ball and hoping that we’ve got that correct.”

With incredibly meaningful games taking place in just three weeks’ time,
will you be placing any importance at all on the result on Tuesday?

“Not at all … although I think that’s probably a little bit
of a lie because the one part of the scoreboard we will be looking at is
defensively. We’re looking for a zero, and that challenge will be placed in
front of the players.

“We’re going to play two entirely different groups between
60-70 minutes, and each of them will have that challenge. The team that goes
into the second half of the three periods, we certainly wouldn’t be unrealistic
and ask them go chase the game if we’re down; we’re just going to say you’re
entering the game at 0-0, and that’s how we have to handle it.”

Have the new players in camp been undergoing a bit of an accelerated
learning curve during these first two weeks?

“I think that any of the draftees or trialists that came into
our camp thinking that it wasn’t going to be an extremely difficult challenge
to try to blend in and make this group probably wasn’t sure what Real Salt Lake
is about. It has been extremely difficult for those guys to blend in, and I’m
sure it’s been difficult for them to understand so quickly what we’re after,
but that’s just the reality of the situation.”

Álvaro Saborío and Chris Schuler both trained on the field with their
teammates on a limited basis for the first time today. Do you think that will
help them mentally as they progress through the rest of the preseason?

“I think so. They were both really itching to get involved in
the training in some way, and in speaking with both of them afterwards they
came through with flying colors. ‘Sabo’ mentioned that he’d like to play a
little bit tomorrow … of course I laughed and chuckled! But it really was
encouraging to see them training a little bit and, even more so than that,
coming out on the other side positively.”

Has there been anyone that has surprised you at all with their
performance during the opening camp?

“We have some players that are really stepping forward and
showing how badly they want it. I feel like it’s all of them, really – I wouldn’t
single any of them out individually.”