So after practice today I was able to get a few minutes alone with Real Salt Lake captain and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. I avoided asking the same questions about the yellow card and having to miss the match on Wednesday, he has answered that far too many times in recent days, it sucks for him and it sucks for RSL to have to play without him. It was kinda funny that before we started he mentioned that he was interviewed by someone yesterday who had to ask him who we were playing, yes it is that kind of media circus around RSL right now as they have gone beyond the sports shows, into the mainstream of the local and national media.
Instead I used the time to talk with him about a number of topics, first up was to get his perspective on the transformation of Real Salt Lake from "lovable losers" to being the center of the attention both locally and of most of the soccer fans around the US:
It has been amazing, just to see the growth. When I got here it was clear that things were being done the right way, I mean I had been at teams that had more succes than Salt Lake but were doing it the wrong way, things weren't right, the little things, coming from the owner on down.
As soon as I got here you could tell the difference between the two locker rooms, the two staffs, and the two organizations I think it was a huge thing that makes you want to work, makes you want work harder. Then the work you put in practice is the right stuff that gets you ready for the weekend, we knew were doing the right things in practice and off the pitch so we felt that it was just a matter of time and we would see some success in and we got some in 2008, making the playoffs. Then in 2009, I didn't know it would come that quick, I thought if we didn't make the playoffs in 2009 that we were close to becoming a really good team, then we went on that run, and that carried into last year and now this year. We started from the day I got here, we put in the hard work and with Dave Checketts picking Jason as the coach, it changed the whole dynamic of the team.
more questions and two answers that will shock you after the jump:
I followed up with a question that has to be asked, what was it like to going from being a hated villain when you played for Colorado to being the captain, a hero, fan favorite, and one of the faces of the franchise here at RSL? Was it the hard work that you put in on the pitch that aided in the transition?
It has been a lot of fun; I wanted to make sure I got on the good side of the fans right away. It was one of the first things, it just good things to see the transformation, some of the fans were kinda hesitant to get behind me, but it has been awesome. I think the fans saw us starting to get some wins and changing the feel of the club and that eased them into liking me a bit. The fans have been so loyal to the club, knowing they believe in Jason and Dave and their vision, they let it happen and in the tough times they have been there, and now in the good times this is the reward they deserves.
The next question was about the whole Champions League thing and how over the 12 years the progress you have seen within the league and how we now take the tournaments like this a bit more seriously.
After 12 years in the league, you just really see the importance now, the media coverage is better now, there are better teams now, you have soccer stadiums now. It wasn't too long ago you played in a football stadium and that was the norm, but now there are fewer teams where you do that and it is like that isn't acceptable anymore. Huge strides for the league, we were the first to take it serious and actually advance and do well in it, it is taking on a whole new meaning, it is kinda like what they have in Europe and South America and that has been great.
At first I wasn't too keen on playing in this, when we won the cup, I was thinking we got fly all over the place, I would rather play in Superliga, we can play at home, more bonus money, that sounds good to me, but after going through this, the experience that we got, we have grown more as a team and gotten better as a team. It has helped us in our MLS play, some of the things we had to do overseas; it is kinda cool that we are blazing a path for the rest of the league to follow. It has been great the level of support, everyone getting behind us and realizing how big this tournament is and we are just kinda the first to start it. I think from now on we will see MLS teams that go far into this tournament; it is only going to make the league better and more recognizable around the world.
Yes you read that right, SuperLiga preferred over Champions League, well at first it was. I wondered about the extra matches and travel and what the players thought about it, clearly for Kyle there was some thoughts about the extra matches and travel not being a good thing.
What I thought was going to be my final question, I asked Kyle what his thoughts were about perhaps being called up for the USMNT this summer for Gold Cup action, and his reaction really caught me off guard, as clearly he has some strong feelings about this. I mention that how a lot of chatter online is that he should be getting called up, both fans and online media is that he is working hard and could really help the team out.
Not really, I have kind of given up hope, it seems like a lost cause. I go in and work my tail off, and then it just doesn't seem like it is a fair playing ground, in the past it has been if you are in Europe you get called in if you are playing or not. Now it just seems a bit odd, I am not going to get hung up on it and holding my breath, I love playing for the national team it is a great honor, it just doesn't seem like it is even playing field. The coach has his guys and that's that way it is, so I just really put all my energy into Salt Lake and that we can continue to be one of the best teams in the league, the people will continue to talk. Really it isn't a big priority, we are going to miss a number of players with their national teams and we will have some guys who will have to step up.
I sensed a great deal of conflict from Kyle on this one as clearly he has felt the honor of being called up for the USMNT, but some decisions made have clearly left him a little bit jaded. Many people have long whispered what Kyle said.
Then I ask it, the dreads. For the fans who don't know about RSL, they see you and want to know what is up with the guy with the dreads. Will they ever go away?
I don't know, some people like them, some people hate them; I didn't grow them to offend anybody. It is part of me, and I really don't think about it too much.
I toss one final question his way, I ask about the family atmosphere within this team, that appears to go beyond being teammates to something else.
I have never been on a team in 11 years that has been like this, I think it is a special group and it has a lot to do with the success we have on the field has to do with how we are off the field. It is pretty cool, it is great to be a part of, there are teams out there that don't like each other, but they are stuck together on a team. I really think it helps when new guys come in, they join this family we have here. The foreign players come in, and sometimes don't speak English and we have guys that are able to speak the same language and comfort them coming in.
At this point Jason walks by on his way to the locker room and I let Kyle go as I know it is time for the players meeting to get ready for the match. I thank him for his time and being willing to stop and answer some questions. Kyle is one of those guys who I am happy we have on the team, not just because he is one of the best d-mids in the league, but because he is one of the good guys who help make RSL a special team.
OFF MY SOAPBOX