Postcard from Europe: Findley still in Salt Lake frame of mind
AMSTERDAM — Sure, you can take the player out of Real Salt Lake. You just can't take the Real Salt Lake out of the player.
Just ask Nottingham Forest's Robbie Findley.
The 26-year-old US international's tour of duty with RSL earned him a World Cup start and a move to City Ground in January, but it also taught him that setbacks can't stop you if you don't let them.
"That's the mentality Jason [Kreis, RSL manager] and the coaching staff built into the team that year," Findley told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Nottingham. "Every game, you fight and stay focused and stay in the game."
Just like there were many trials before RSL's 2009 MLS Cup triumph, Findley's adventure in England did not reap instant rewards. In fact, a few days after sealing the transfer last year, he suffered a thigh injury in training and was sent to the shelf for three months.
And now Findley is also working to impress new Reds coach Steve Cotteril, effectively his fifth club manager inside the last two years.
"They've had three managers since I got here, so that's a little crazy," he said. "I'm just going to show him that I can make an impact and help score some goals."
With then-boss Steve McClaren running a 4-3-3 system upon his arrival, Findley was schooled in the ways of the winger. The assignment has expanded his game, adding a few dimensions not seen during his MLS days.
"I've gotten to learn a few new things," Findley said. "It was like a new position, so I had to adapt. Obviously, they felt I had some of the skills necessary to play there.
"I still do a lot of the same things as when I'm at forward, but at times I also need to be the back post guy, or remember to get back when the other team has the ball. You take all that away from it, and if it comes up again, then I know a little more."
Despite several strong relief outings and a joint-team-high four goals across all competitions from Findley this term, the Reds have struggled early. Tuesday's win over Middlesbrough was just their third in 12 league games this season, but it lifted the Reds out of the danger zone.
After closing last term with four wins to make the promotion playoff, better was expected of Forest. Sounding like a typical ex-RSL player, Findley admits that achieving success in the 24-team table just below the Premier League is easier predicted than done.
"It wasn't going to be easy," he said. "And now that we're in this position, it is what it is. We've just got to fight our way back to the top."
With 46 league matches and two domestic cups to contend for, Findley says the English second-flight season is an all-around team-wide mettle test.
"There's very little rest, so you've got to be able to take care of yourself," he said. "With so many games, everyone is going to get opportunities and you just make sure you're prepared."
One of Findley's favorite downtime activities this time of year is a peek at the happenings back at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I definitely follow them, the same as they do with me," he said. "It's definitely an exciting time of the year. I think they're a great team. I know they haven't had the greatest run down the stretch, but Jason will have everyone back on it. I think they will always be contenders."
There is also the matter of a new US manager in Jurgen Klinsmann, though Findley has yet to feature for the Americans since the German tactician took over. Predictably, Findley says it's his responsibility to force Klinsmann's hand.
"I'm just trying to stay focused here," he said. "Hopefully I can score some goals and make them want to call me up."
For the moment, though, Findley's primary uphill battle is to help Forest show they're better than a 20th-place team.
"We went out there last night and played the way we need to and got the result," he said. "Now, that needs to continue. Some of these games, we were fighting hard and it just wasn't happening for us. After last night, I think we got some confidence back. We need to play with that mentality now."