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October 26, 2011 at 12:54 PM

RSL’s Jason Kreis on playoff structure, underdogs and more

Real Salt Lake Logo.jpgReal Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis was a part of a teleconference this afternoon that included MLS reporters across the country. He took question for about 12 minutes on an array of topics. Here’s the transcript:

* * *

(Do you think it’s fair that the playoff structure matched the No. 2 and No. 3 teams so early?) “No, I don’t. I don’t agree with the system, but I also accept what it is and recognize that I don’t get to make those decisions. So we’ll deal with it the best way we know how. I think you have to feel particularly aggrieved for Seattle, because after the season that they put together they’ve had to turn around and play us rather than what should be a wild-card team really. I think it’s a particularly poor place for them to be.”

(On buzz in Salt Lake having to play opposite a Utah home football game…) “That’s a question that I don’t know the answer to. I can’t tell you that I’m real plugged into the sports scene outside of our game, so I don’t know if everybody’s attention is focused that way. I can tell you that a few weeks ago we played a match at the exact same time, same day as Utah-BYU and we sold our stadium out. So I think that we are gaining our own specific soccer fans and certainly enough to support us in a meaningful way.”

(On Alonso/Beckerman and how they’ll influence the series…) “I think (they are) two very integral players for their teams, two guys that lead the team by their actions, two guys that cover an extraordinary amount of ground and win balls for their team and are pretty clean possession players and can often start counterattacks and attacks just by the way that they position themselves and win balls in particular areas. I also think two of the best — if not the two best — holding midfielders in the league.

(On if experience, cohesiveness can make up for a six-game winless streak going into the playoffs…) “For me that’s a question that’s best answered on the field. I don’t know how this is going to affect our players. I posed the very same question to them. For a lot of teams to not get a win in their last six matches heading into the playoffs would spell doom and gloom. For other teams they can look at those last six matches and take a little more of a realistic approach and look at all of the performances. For me, our team has had two very positive performances in a row — one where we got the exact result we were looking for and the other when we fell asleep for 15 seconds and didn’t get the result we were looking for. And then you add on top of that players coming back healthy and available and returning from suspensions, and I think we have a group that should head into this with a positive mindset. If we’re mature enough and if we believe in ourselves enough, we’re not going to let the fact that we haven’t gotten a win in six matches determine how we feel about ourselves. We determine that on our own. We control about how we feel about ourselves.”

(On embracing the underdog role…) “I’m not so sure about embracing the underdog role. I feel like that underdog role has been put upon us; it’s not something that we’re making up here. It’s the fact that the majority of the people out there — the pundits, the writers, the fans — believe that Seattle is a better team than we are right now. So the underdog role has been put upon us. It’s not something that we’re making up. The second part of that is that we’ve been here many times before, and I think that it is something that all sports teams thrive upon.”

(Would you rather play first or second at home, and which gives the most advantage?) “I really don’t know that I know the answer to that about who has the advantage. You have to think that (giving the higher seed the home game in the second leg) was a well-thought-out decision and probably a good one. I do think that the majority of coaches you would ask that exact same question they would say, ‘Well we want to come home and play at home to know exactly what result we need to advance. On top of that if we get ourselves into a strenuous situation and don’t get the result handled in the first 90 minutes, then we get to play the overtime and possible shootout in front of our home fans.’ So I do think that that is a decision that has been made probably the right way. I don’t know that necessarily I think that is the best thing for our team. But I do think for most teams, that is what most teams and most coaches would want.”

(On consequence in going quickly from grass to turf…) “The one consideration that I think you have to make is anytime you’re going to play three matches in a week — if you have the potential of moving on from the first round, then you’re playing again on the weekend, so that’s three matches in three week – and one of them being on an artificial surface, you’ve got to question yourself and question some of the players who have had lingering injuries as to whether or not they can make it through and be fully effective in all three of those matches.”

(On getting Morales/Beckerman midfield combo back together for playoffs…) “I’ve just never been a real big fan of talking about adding individual players and guaranteeing yourself a result or something like that. I think that both players are extremely important for us. Neither one has played together I don’t think since the very beginning of the season — that’s not an ideal situation for us. It doesn’t matter which two players we’re talking about, but when you’re talking about two of your central midfielders then it’s probably heightened a little bit. I just don’t know the answer. Again, that’s an answer that comes on the field. We’ll see how Kyle Beckerman and Javier dictate both matches against Seattle.”

(On any concern of Beckerman being too emotional on multiple instances…) “First, I guess I’d question you as to which multiple events you’re talking about.”

(In context of head-butt, reporter also mentions Portland, Julius James scuffle…) “I’m not sure I have an answer to your question really, other than to say that the group is led by an emotional coach, a very passionate coach about what he does and sometimes he probably lets himself get a little more emotional than he ought to. I don’t know if it’s the worst thing in the world for our players to care a whole awful lot and not really accept any other result than winning. That is what we’ve set down for ourselves as a club, is that we win here. And when we don’t, and things don’t go our way, or when we’re faced with multiple, multiple decisions by referees over a season that put us in very, very bad positions, sometimes we tend to boil over. Now, if we can accept responsibility for that, be accountable for our mistakes and move on, then I don’t think there should be a problem with that.”

(Is your team prepared for potentially three games in a week’s span?) “There’s no doubt it, it’s not an ideal situation. Again, it is what it is. I do believe that our players have now been faced with the same circumstance on multiple occasions throughout the season. Due to the circumstances we faced this year with injuries, suspensions and international call-ups, we have a very experienced team now. There really isn’t anybody on our roster, apart from maybe one or two 17- or 18-year-old academy kids, that hasn’t started a match for us this year and that hasn’t made meaningful contributions in meaningful matches. I do think that we aren’t going to be forced into a situation where we’re going to be playing somebody who’s never stepped on the field for an MLS match. All of our guys are ready, all of our guys are prepared to contribute and I believe all of our players are able to contribute.”

(Any motivation from just missing out on CCL title?) “I think it should be a very, very good motivation. I think it’s not often that you get second chances in this world and even less often that you get second chances in this game. So for us to have the exact same team that we had in that CONCACAF final in 2011, now this is a new opportunity for our players to perhaps make amends for that and win something extremely meaningful in 2011.”

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