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Real Salt Lake CONCACAF Champions League Final Preview Conference Call - Garth Lagerwey



Did you miss out on Monday's conference call with Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerwey, Javier Morales and Nat Borchers?  Never fear because I am here to bring you all the details (thanks to the good folks at RSL &MLS Communications):

Since there is simply so much information I am going to break this down into three parts, one for each participant, so to start us off here are the questions that were asked of RSL GM Garth Lagerwey.

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." 

more from Garth after the jump:


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."

There you go, the thought of RSL GM Garth Lagerwey before the big match, by the way if you haven't heard any of the many interviews with Garth, you are missing out.  He is one of the best interviews in MLS, and a heck of a nice guy.