Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake take on Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final. I was on a conference call today about the match. The calls take a long time and to give everyone a fair shot, reporters are only allowed a question or two. It takes even longer to write up the quotes, and just as I was finishing, MLS sent out a quote sheet.
I could have saved so much time. Anyway
, here's my finished article. And here's the MLS transcript, if you're curious.
Opening remarks from Real Salt Lake Owner, Dave Checketts:
When the vision of this club was created over seven years ago I never imagined this day would come as quickly as it has. We are honored to play Monterey. We know they’re a very good club. They, like us, are anxious to move on and we expect a tremendous battle.
To reach this point is gratifying but we are not satisfied.
We have great respect for our opponent. We know it is going to be very difficult, but we love being the first at everything. We love these occasions where people can say about us no one has ever advanced this far. In reality, we’re just a club from Salt Lake City, Utah that has tremendous players from nine different nations, is well-coached and is fully prepared and fit and ready to play our best football and see what we can accomplish.
Jeff Carlisle, ESPN.com – Given the strength of the opponent, will you reign in your attacking instincts or will you continue to play the same way?
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis:
I am a big believer that in soccer, if you attack well enough, you will limit the amount of time you need to defend. We’re not going to change our philosophy now that we’re in the final and we’re not going to change our philosophy because we’re playing a fantastic opponent. We are going to ask our players to be very mindful when we have the ball and be very good with it …We need guys to be focused and sharp and get back and defend quickly because if we don’t, this is the type of opponent that can kill you in a heartbeat.
Jeff Carlisle,ESPN.com – How will you prepare for Aldo de Nigris and Humberto Suazo?
We haven’t seen Suazo as much as we’ve seen de Nigris. De Nigris is more of a box forward in my opinion. He has really good size and really good speed and probably better feet than most people would think a guy of that size would have. Typically box forwards lack the technical ability that he does have.
Suazo is a bit of a bulldog and can drop into the midfield more and turn and make plays. He has a lethal, lethal shot.
Both of those players we’re going to have to be extremely mindful of and they have some midfielders that are quite special on the ball as well. It just depends on which four they play because they’ve been using a lot of different players throughout the last four or five matches.
Steve Davis, SI.com – How will the warm weather affect training?
For this trip we decided to come earlier, and were able to train yesterday and train today and we’ll train tomorrow. That should be enough to acclimate our guys.
Michael C. Lewis,Salt Lake Tribune – What has it been like to have such support from around the league?
The support from fellow owners, from player to player, from coach to coach has really been extraordinary. I’ve heard from almost all of my fellow owners. They all recognize what’s at stake here for the league. We are flying a banner that not only says Real Salt Lake but also Major League Soccer.
I was driving with my daughter who’s 17-years-old and I was telling her how big this game was and she asked just how big it is. I said it’s the game of the century. This is it. This is the biggest game ever. She said, you know, dad, you say that about every game. Other than the MLS Cup, we’ve never played a game in our history that’s as big as this.
When I talked to Jason about becoming the head coach, even though he’d spent most of his career in Dallas he said I don’t quite understand why, but I care very much about this club – Real Salt Lake . This is an opportunity to stamp Real Salt Lake’s presence on the entire world of soccer. I don’t anyone could have imagined that. It’s an incredible opportunity.
I’m looking at this as a tremendous opportunity that we’ve achieved through all the hard work over several years… Going to the World Club Competition would easily be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Brian Straus, Sporting News –What is it about this RSL team that has been able to do what no other club has?
The first thing that we need to credit is that we’ve built a very deep team. There have been teams in the past built on the starting 11 and once you got past that, the depth and true quality of the players went down drastically. I would say at Real Salt Lake we’ve been supported on a different level by our ownership and we’ve been supported on a different level by the League because of how much emphasis and how much help they’ve been willing to give us and put some weight behind this CONCACAF competition. Finally, I would say the League has made some very good decisions over the past five years about raising salary caps and making it possible for teams to get more depth and more quality to number one to number 30.
I agree with Jason that the steps the League has made have been critical. Also, several weeks after Jason became the head coach he jumped on a plane to Argentina and came back with three players, two of which, Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola, have been critical to our success. That’s where it started. We began adding pieces all under the banner that there aren’t any superstars on this team. There is a tremendous team chemistry and I think you see it in the way they play, the way they move the ball, the way they attack, the way they endure adversity. A lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of people is what gives us the chance that’s in front of us.
Josie Pereira, Salt Lake Tribune – Will the pressure of game and size of the crowd affect the players?
We have a very, very mature group. A team that is extremely experienced. Quite a few of our players have played with their national team in World Cup Qualifier matches in some of the hardest environments to play matches in. So, I don’t think it can get any more pressurized than the multiple experiences they’ve already had. We’re very well prepared for it.
Ron Blum, Associated Press: Should MLS consider adding more roster spots?
No. We have a possibility of 30, but we’re only using 28. For me, the number is about right. The MLS has made multiple decisions so we can compete on all fronts. The one thing I would urge everybody to consider is increasing the salary cap. It’s all well and good to continue to add roster spots, but we need the proper salaries to be able to pay the players so we can get quality players to compete in all the matches. So that when you’re using what a lot of people would term your second team which is a term I hate, you’re not talking about players that are playing their first professional matches. Instead, you’re talking about guys that have played in other places and can contribute in a seamless fashion.
Ridge Mahoney,Soccer America - Won’t it be important to keep the ball away from Monterey and is that something many MLS teams aren’t capable of doing?
Some of the best defense you can have is to be good on the ball. I think it’s going to be critically important when we have the ball we need to recognize we need to keep it for long stretches. We need to be very mindful of not giving it away cheaply because when you play an opponent as talented as Monterey they will punish you for that.
Mahoney - Do you think it’s important to train in the stadium you’ll be playing in?
I think it’s critically important. It’s something we do nearly everywhere we go. One good thing about CONCACAF is they force every opponent to allow you to train in the stadium the day before the match and we’ve used that every place we’ve been.
Luis Bueno, Riverside Press Enterprise: MLS teams have never won a meaningful match in Mexico, what makes it so hard for MLS teams to win down there?
Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake captain:
We are all searching for the answer. These teams know how important these tournaments are and they are used to this type of tournament. I think they feel a big part of pride over losing to an American team. I think we are going to have to keep at it and keep believing that we can get one over on these guys. It’s tough and the atmosphere is great, they really support their home team, it makes it tough, but we just have to give it a go.
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper:
It’s tough, as Kyle said, we have seen it first hand at Cruz Azul but I don’t think we are afraid to come in here. We were the underdogs before and we know what it is like to come into an environment and not expect to win or pull a result out and I think we have the guys who can do that. There is nothing that says we can’t go in in there and get a result. We don’t have to win but getting a result would be good for us.
Jonah Freedman, MLSsoccer.com - Before MLS Cup 2009, Dave Checketts told you guys that You never know when you are going to get an opportunity like this and you have to take the opportunity and make the most of it . Has he given you guys another such inspirational talk and if so, was more urgent than 2009?
He hasn’t yet, but in the beginning he let us know how important this tournament is. That is not only coming from Dave Checketts, but it is coming from our coaches and the League. The more we advance through each stage, we as players know how important it is and how important it will be for ourselves and for MLS to put this stamp on the league. We want to represent this team and do well for ourselves. This tournament will open eyes around the world. It doesn’t just take the voice from our owner to tell us that. This is a good opportunity for us to prove that MLS is for real.
Andrea Canales, Goal.com - What in particular has Jason done as a coach done to mold you guys into such an effective unit in a short period of time?
Beckerman: He had the experience. When he was playing, he didn’t like the way things were done and when he became the coach he had the chance to change it and do things the right way. It has really been a joy to work with him. Everyone who has come to the team really enjoys playing for the club because things are done right here and I think he gets the support from the owners and it trickles down. I feel that from day one when I came to RSL, we began to do the right things; in training and off the field. We started to see the success come from the hard work we put in and Jason deserves a lot of the credit
Andrea Canales, Goal.com - Nick, do you have the details of what are these right things that make a difference for a team?
I think the first thing is that we had to become a team we couldn’t be individuals. We had to go out there as a team and win as a team. There is no I in team. As cliché as it may sound, everyone on the team buys into that. There are no stars, we are all stars on this team. We are a team that fights for each other on and off the field and that’s what he [Jason Kreis] wanted to grow here at RSL and that is exactly what he is doing. We want to fight for Jason and for our teammates and when you have a bad seed giving the players that want to play and want to fight and want to be on the same page, good things happen, that’s exactly what has happened on Real Salt Lake
Josie Herrera, Salt Lake Tribune - Have you been out on the field yet practicing, if so what is the field like? If you haven’t, how is Monterrey?
No we haven’t been on the field yet, tomorrow is our first day. We have everything over here. The weather is not too bad, we expected it to be a lot hotter, but it wasn’t bad, we practiced last night and the weather seemed great. We have plenty of fluids, good food, and we are all ready to go. It is the time now to get ready for the game and we are ready to go.
Josie Herrera, Salt Lake Tribune - Will the crowd and the Monterrey fans be a challenge for you guys?
Rimando:I think wherever you go there is always the challenge of dealing with the fans, but I think our team has dealt with that in competition already. You know when we play at home the teams have to deal with our fans and fans of the league.