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Sounders FC

Daily coverage of Seattle Sounders FC, MLS and world soccer.

November 6, 2012 at 4:10 PM

A stop and chat with RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey

Real Salt Lake Logo.jpgLocal reporters were able to catch up with Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey for a Tuesday afternoon conference call. Here is the transcript of that interview:

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(How have you been able to keep the core of this team together for so long, and what have been the biggest challenges?) “Uh, the salary cap? (laughs) … That actually was a quasi-serious answer. When you make the playoffs in consecutive years, you get less and less money every year to work with, because the money over and above the salary cap goes to the teams that miss the playoffs. It’s a world honestly that Seattle is about to hit hardcore. They’re very intelligent with how they manage their money and were able to plan very well for a couple of years with that expansion money, but when you start living in this world of having kind of no reserve and no extra, you have to make some very tough choices on an annual basis as to who comes back. You’ve seen it with us. Every year we’ve had to turn over a couple players. This most recent year Robbie Russell and Andy Williams moved on. It’s tough. It’s a tough system, but that’s the world we live in. You’ve got to constantly make decisions about what’s best for your franchise and best for your club and try to reward the guys who play well, and at the same time have the right attitude in the locker room for the group.”

(Knowing it’s so difficult to keep a team together. Why has it been so important?) “I think the way we play. With our short passing game and the way we try to keep possession and wear other teams down, I think it’s critically important to have continuity. Speaking as a former player — even if I was a goalkeeper, which doesn’t really count on this question — when you’re talking about guys passing the ball around, they have to know where their teammates are going to be, and if you’re constantly introducing rashes of new players, it makes it much more challenging. For us and the way we play, it’s very important to keep a core together as much as possible in order to maintain the kind of fluidity of our passing game.”

(How do you determine when it’s time to start fresh with a new core?) “We have a saying around here that the players always make these decisions. We’ve had a very successful season this year: 57 points was our franchise record for most in a season; 17 wins was a franchise record for most wins in a season; 46 goals scored was a franchise record for goals in a season. Just on its face, there’s nothing wrong with our team. The question is just, ‘Can we go as deep as we want to in the playoffs?’ We obviously have a very difficult match coming up on Thursday against Seattle. Just to state the obvious, we’ve played four games and there’s a grand total of one goal between the clubs, so clearly anything can happen. Either side can win. Both are good teams. We’ll just have to hope that we come out on the good side of things, but certainly you have to let the players play the games and make the decisions.”

(How much will this series affect whether you keep the team together?) “We get allocation money for qualifying for CONCACAF, and we’ve missed out on some of that by not qualifying for the quarterfinal. But there’s still more to play for if you reach the (MLS Cup). Again, this isn’t a preference one way or the other, it’s just a fact. We have a little bit more money if we’re able to advance to the final. That’s something that we all play for. That’s out there as an incentive for all the teams. Look, it helps. If your team has had some success and is able to advance, you get a couple more resources to keep the group together. That makes it easier. And look, at the end of the season, whenever that comes, win or lose, you look back over the last couple of years and say, ‘Have we made the progress we want to make and are we where we want to be?’ I think that that’s a much more complex conversation than just, ‘Do you score a goal on Thursday?'”

(How has moving into Rio Tinto Stadium helped the team?) “We’ve gone from right around 4,500 season tickets in Rice-Eccles to now over 8,700 in Rio Tinto, so we’ve nearly doubled the ticket base. I know talking to folks from Seattle that’s something that is really easily dismissed, and rightly so, but for us it’s still a source of some pride that by moving into the new building we’ve been able to really grow our ticket base. I think it’s now comparable to the big market clubs in the league, maybe excepting Seattle. It’s certainly helped us do that, and by increasing the season ticket base, we got larger crowds, which led to better atmospheres, which has helped us win more home games. In 2010-11 we went through a stretch of like 37 games in all competitions unbeaten and then Seattle ended the streak, so Seattle’s always played us tough in this building. As we said, it can go either way on Thursday. We’ll hope for the real roaring support of our home crowd and see if that’s enough to push us over the top.”

(As a former goalkeeper, what’d you think of Nick Rimando’s performance?) “Amazing. I think you can sometimes diminish a performance by trying to describe it, but I feel like one word — amazing. He was amazing, and my hat is off to him. Now he’s got to come back and do it again in the return leg. The other word I’d use is tough. For those of you guys who have played sports at any level, you get punched in the face and you break your nose, that doesn’t feel good. And to stay in the game and to tough it out the way he did, I think is really amazing. I was, to be honest, really disappointed in the Seattle fans that they chose to boo our goalkeeper on the ground with a broken bone, but obviously maybe they couldn’t tell the extent of the injury while he’s there. But I’ll tell you that Nick Rimando is tough. He’s not a guy that’s going to roll on the ground for no reason.”

(How much does the 2009 MLS Cup still resonate whenever you come to Seattle?) “When we walk into that locker room, it feels like home. That’s the place that got it all started. When we won that game against LA in the 2009 final, nobody gave us a chance. No one gave us a prayer. For us, every single time we come to that building and that locker room, it feels like we can do something special. It’s just a really happy place for us.”

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