RSL: We understand postponement, but friendlies not for us

GM Lagerwey says club focused on "trophies, not friendlies" mantra

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RSL Marketing

Monday night’s World Football Challenge match between the Vancouver
Whitecaps and Manchester City was important in building the profile of
both the MLS club and the league.

However, Vancouver's 2-1 loss to the EPL side had a previous
casualty: Saturday’s league match with Real Salt Lake, which was
postponed because a temporary grass surface that was laid on top of
Empire Field's turf was waterlogged following heavy rain.  

Because Manchester City requested the grass surface for the WFC
tilt, the postponement raised some criticism as it gave the appearance
that Vancouver valued that match more than the league game. But RSL's
general manager didn't Lagerwey didn’t necessarily agree.

“I’m not in Vancouver’s shoes, and so it’s impossible for me to
speculate.” Lagerwey said. “It’s a league decision — ultimately it’s up
to them on how they decide. They made the call [to postpone the match].
It wasn’t Vancouver postponing the game.”

Lagerwey also explained that under the conditions, the decision to postpone the match was unanimous.  

“We agreed to the decision to postpone the game,” Lagerwey said.
“Jason [Kreis] was there. He walked the field, and he said that it was
potentially dangerous. Certainly we all wanted to play the game, but to
play it on an unsafe surface would not have been a good choice.”

Lagerwey said he understands the importance of MLS team’s taking on
high-profile teams in friendly matches, even if those games fall during
the league season.

“I think specifically for new teams, [it’s important],” Lagerwey said.  

RSL played a high-profile friendly themselves during their second
season, taking on Real Madrid on Aug. 12, 2007. Although Lagerwey wasn’t
with the club at the time, he said he recognized the importance of that
match to RSL’s development as a club.

“I think playing Real Madrid in the [second] year of the franchise
was a big deal,” he admitted. “That was a really good move, and
something that really increased the profile and attention that the
franchise received both locally and regionally. So I do think that there
is a real viable role for playing these friendlies.”

At one time the team regularly brought in foreign clubs — such as
Club América, Boca Juniors and Everton — for friendlies, but he admitted
that they’ve switched strategies.

“It was based on feedback from our fans,” Lagerwey said. “The phrase
that they used was, ‘Trophies, not friendlies.’ We got that in meeting
after meeting with supporters' groups and with different elements of our
fan base.”

This has been the reason that RSL has given so much attention to the
CONCACAF Champions League — and the various avenues to qualify for that
tournament.  

“At the time, when we shifted focus a couple of years ago, we
honestly didn’t know how it was going to go," Lagerwey said. "We
qualified for CONCACAF, and I think it’s been a phenomenon as to how
well our community has received that. So we’re going to do our darndest
to try to get back into CONCACAF, to try to give our fans what they want
— and try to win our franchise some trophies.”