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Interview with RSL President Bill Manning (Part 2)

So as promised here is the second part of my sit down interview with Bill Manning.

Question:  So Robbie Findley has been getting a lot of attention and people think that 2009 was a break out year for Robbie, I disagree but think that 2010 could be the real breakout year for Robbie, your thoughts?

A) When everyone talks about Robbie, and how he could replace Charlie Davies they talk about his speed, but what they miss is his heart and everyone on this team knows how much heart he has.  He is a competitor, he works hard, and he has heart and I will take a player with heart over a player with speed any day and Robbie has both.  Unlike most strikers, they tend to be individualistic,

Robbie scored a bunch of goals for us this year but he is a team player.  I think there are a lot of intangibles out there that the media has missed, his heart, his willingness to be a team player.  He has had a good year, but he has the potential to have a break out year, a lot of things can keep a player from having a break out year, but he has the work ethic, the intangibles, and athleticism to have a break out year and he is an important player for the team.

More after the break.

Q) With the Combine and Draft coming up shortly, RSL off the success in 2009 has is the 16th, 32nd and 48th pick.  I think the attitude towards the draft has changed over the last two years, your thoughts and are we looking for particular positions?

A) You can't judge a players worth until after 3 years, Tony Beltran is a good example of a draft that people had good first years but 3 years in I would put Tony up against anyone in that draft.  What we have talked about last year and again this year is where we are in the draft is after the 5th pick it is hard to get a player who will make an immediate impact. After the 10th pick you say what player that will give us some depth, the player that has an upside

The NFL throws around this term of best available athlete, who is the guy on the board that can make an impact.  Last year we had Jean rated highly, we knew he wasn't going to be a starter in year one, we thought he had upside and could play for us.  Going into a year with CONCACAF Champions League, players like Jean and David Horst become important for us, do we think you can get a replacement for Yura Movsisyan or a starting midfielder with the 16th pick, not going to happen, you might be able to get a backup keeper someone that challenges Kyle Reynish. I think we are going to look at who is the best soccer player available with that 16th pick, irregardless of position, who can make our team, and add to the depth of the team, we aren't saying we are going to take a particular position and get a player who can't make our team, were not going to do that.

Q) With CONCACAF coming up and the rosters being down to 24 men from 28 in 2008, any word on the roster spots going back up.  Only one of four MLS teams made the quarterfinals of that tournament, and only two make the playoffs.

A) I think you saw Columbus do the best job of using their entire roster not only during CCL but during the entire MLS season.  You saw them sit one of their best players in the playoffs because he had played in a CCL match earlier and they were holding him back for a home game. I think they did a good job of using their depth and other teams didn't do it as well, maybe they didn't have the depth.

This is why we brought in players like Jean Alexandre and David Horst to the franchise that we feel can compete and now they have more matches to compete in, but roster sizes I can't comment on because of the current CBA negotiations.

Q) We know that there will be at least 3 home CCL matches, and one of the 8 MLS teams that will qualify for the US Open Cup (Bill stops me to say we have to qualify for one of the 8 spots, we don't advance directly you have to beat 3 MLS teams to qualify), how will these matches impact the season ticket  package and the desire to bring in a big name international match?

A) The three Champions League matches will be included, a US open cup or international match, and a 2010 MLS playoff ticket will all be part of the season ticket package.  A big match would be a standalone match,  do we bring in a team from France or Spain, not one of the big four, or a team from South America to play on a Tuesday night, We have to look at the fixture schedule, does it make sense to play them just to play another game, no, that is what we have Champions League for.  So we have to look at the schedule and if the right team on the right night is available and makes sense, we look at the Chivas de Guadalajara match.  We didn't sell out, but we sold a lot of tickets, it wasn't part of the season ticket package, we made some money on that night and that game was a success.  It also was a test on the field, that game allowed the team to make the run at the end of the season.

( I mentioned how I thought it was the key to the playoff run as the team began to really step up for each other.  I point out the fact that Olave didn't get fouled before his red card, it was Andy who got fouled but Olave stood up for his teammate)

That game was it, Garth and I talked about it this morning, guess what Olave said you hit my teammate you have to deal with me.  Jamison was a guy who really changed his perspective about his role on the team, you saw a leadership at the end of the year from him that wasn't there earlier.  I think part of it was that he began to feel comfortable, he felt good, and he let his emotions get to him earlier in the year.

We aren't going to go out and schedule 3-4 European teams, it will have to be the right team on the right date as a stand alone match, and if they make sense.  It all depends on other factors, who will be in the US and available, but both Club America and Chivas have said they want to come back.

Q) What other big events will we see at Rio Tinto in 2010?

A) We are going to get between 3-5 concerts, we will experiment with high school football a bit, we will have the high school championships (soccer), probably rodeo or the monster trucks. We are always very cognizant of the field, but the one thing that is the balancing act is if the building is empty there is no revenue, and we will have a debt service on the stadium and that is part of what you have to generate money for.

No national team match like last year, but this is a stadium that we think they will make a regular stop.  A women's national team match is in the realm of possibility, but that team has a bit of an identity crisis without the big 5, but it will be interesting to see how that team progresses over the next 5 years or so.

Q) Any updates on where we are with the new practice pitch?

A) Yes, we have 3 bids out and at our last board meeting we are working it into our capital budget.  It is important to the franchise, we will get it at the right price but we will get it.  We have to do it right, so we might not be able to use it until September, but we want to do it right and make it a field like we have here at Rio Tinto.  We do think the new field is a place for the future of the franchise is important.

We go off topic a bit and talk about the busy off season for the players and Bill tells me the following story

So the other day on the Tuesday before Christmas we had an appearance at the team store with Nick Rimando, the line to get into the store was out to the parking lot and that didn't happen last year.  Nick has built up a nice little fan following.

Q) Expectations for 2010, have we prioritized one thing over another (MLS, CCL, LHUSOC)

A) I think putting the playoff ticket into the season ticket package should send a message, we want to be a franchise that consistently competes for championships.  We want to be a team that in September knows we are in the playoffs, we want to prove that we aren't a fluke.  Am I going to sit here and say we are going to win MLS Cup next year, of course not but is that the goal, of course it is, that is the goal every year.  We are going to be a franchise that consistently performs at a high level.

Garth and I talked about this and we will talk about it with Jason when he gets back, whenever our team steps on the pitch we want to win.  We have had lackluster performance in the US Open Cup, the CCL is important to the franchise, if you can win you go to the Club World Championship.  You have a 30 game MLS season and a 6 game CCL season, we are looking at it as a 36 game season, and with the Open Cup we want to make some noise.  

You are going to see our depth be tested, we saw it in the MLS Cup with Grabavoy stepping in, Clint Mathis coming in and us not missing a beat and actually we took over more of the game.  Last year we played 14 to 15 players and this year we will have to play 17, 18, and even 19 players deep.  With more games, there will be more opportunities for our players last year who may have been loaned out to get games here, but that loan option will still be considered.


Well that is it for the interview, and I have to say as always Bill may not give you the answer you want, but he always has given an honest answer.  I think I asked some decent questions and I think we got some solid answers, to me the most important thing was that comment that we want to be a team that plays to win every time we take the pitch. That is what I would expect from Bill, Garth, and Jason, it is part of what they are building with our team and so far the results have been good but with the confidence of 2009 behind them the 2010 season could be our best one yet.