Conference Call Transcript: April 25

Morales, Borchers & Lagerwey expound on ultimate match of CCL to national media

Transcript:
Real Salt Lake CONCACAF Champions League Final Preview Teleconference

April
25, 2011

Courtesy
of MLS Communications

 

Participants:

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.”