Monday, May 30, 2005

Fire find their form against RSL

It was a game of firsts. The first MLS game at Rice-Eccles played on grass. The Chicago Fire were the first Eastern Conference team to visit Salt Lake. Not only was it Real Salt Lake's first loss at home, it was the worse margin of defeat all season, three goals to nil. And finally, it was the first time I had the opportunity to enter winning team's locker room.

There wasn't much good that came from the evening for RSL, except for the large attendance (17,861). The boys looked a step slow, and Chicago was full of energy for the majority of the match. Simply put the Fire looked as though they wanted to win more than RSL.

As for me, it was my best night of the season up to this point. The day before the match I prepared a list of several story ideas. Among them was the 200th career game of Fire captain Chris Armas. When he scored the opening goal of the game it was a no brainer as to what to write about.

Armas was one of the more fun players to interview. The conversation seemed to really flow naturally and he opened up to really share what he thought. He's a humble person, who puts his team first. That fact that they just got a 3-0 win on the road may have had something to do with his mood. Who wouldn't be happy.

The hard part of the night was watching the the RSL team file out of their locker room. While waiting for the Fire locker room to open up I saw about a half dozen guys leave. The overall mood looked to be bewilderment. Most didn't want to make eye contact with anyone, some looked as though they were sick. It's hard when you've gotten to know some of the guys on a recognition basis. You try to comfort them, but what do you say? I told the ones who I thought played well that they did, and then I was motioned to enter the Fire locker room.

Now that we have the first home loss in the books, lets get over it and get ready for Dallas. They have a great team, but will be without their diving team, Johnson and Ruiz. Ronnie O'Brien is ever so dangerous. RSL will be without Eddie Pope, Tiger, Rojas, and Dipsy. All are away on International duty.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Collapse in Columbus

I've sat here with my hands on the keyboard not knowing what to write for the last ten minutes. What do you say about loosing to one of the weakest teams in the whole league? I guess it's the same perspective that the Galaxy and even Chivas may have had when they came to Rice-Eccles and lost to us.

It's sad because it's our defense that keeps us in games, but it was a momentary lapses in marking that killed us on the goals. Both goals were scored by Frankie Hejduk, who is a quality player, but he is not a prolific goal scorer, and the RSL defense made him look like superman on Saturday. With the exception of those two mishaps the defense was solid. DJ only had to deal with long range shots for much of the second half. I forgot Edson Buddle was even playing in the game until I was checking the line up sheet late in the second half. That's probably why he was subbed out a few minutes later. But, I'd also like to think that Dunnie and Pope made the Crew striker disappear. They do that very well.

The real issue is that we can't score goals on the road. There is something about getting into the opposing 18 that twitterpates the RSL offense and causes them to do everything but shoot on frame. They're "like jo-jo, the indian circus boy with a pretty new pet!" The best shot of the game, hands down, came from our right back Rusty Pierce. Rusty kept carrying up the line and not a single Crew defender bothered to pick him up. Finally he got within about 20 yards and decided to have a go, something the RSL boys in front of him should have been doing all game. It was a fantastic shot that dipped to bounce off the top of the crossbar. It was close enough to make Jon Busch jump. Nice shot Rusty, keep 'em coming.

We dominated much of the midfield play and possession. For a most of the second half we kept Columbus in their defensive third. The problem is that the Crew have Chad Marshall. In case you weren't aware the kid is 6'3", 190. For some reason RSL wasn't aware. For much of the second half they felt that crossing into the box would do something for 5'10", 155 Jason Kreis as he had Monster Marshall on his back. Jason is awesome and all, but there isn't much you can do with that kind of a size difference on high balls into the box. Each cross was routinely headed out by the Crew defense. Though when we inserted a larger target in Dante Washington there wasn't much of a change. So, maybe my theory on size difference isn't as accurate.

Well that's my take on it. The Fire come to town this week. Grass is being installed at Rice-Eccles even at this moment. It should be beautiful to see a game played on a proper pitch. Let's hope the local fans show up in numbers to remind the RSL boys that they are our team, and that we have never seen them lose in person!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Part 3: "Mexican Super Star"

RSL got revenge on an embarrassing performance against Chivas in LA a few weeks before by downing the fellow expansionies 2-0. What I'll remember most is the interaction with Ramon Ramirez. Before the locker room opened to the media I stood as spanish language telivision crews tried to explain the importance of Ramirez to the Mexican people. The man acted more like a star than any player I have interacted with. He was the last out of the shower, and took his time dressing. All the media inside simply waited around patiently among the Chivas players changing into street clothes. As I really didn't have anything to ask anyone else, or really desired to talk to anyone for entertainment value, I joined the other media in waiting. Though I do not speak spanish, so I was silent during the duration of the wait and interview with Ramirez.

Thanks to the Chivas PR director, who translated as Ramon spoke to the large group of media, I was able to get an english recording of the interview. It was choppy as translations usually are, but I wanted to get the words of the team captain, and one of Mexico's finest players.

Part 2: "Hardest Approach Ever"

RSL was on the giving end of late goal heroics this night. Entering the Galaxy locker room after the match, everyone had the look of 'we just lost to one team Chivas has beaten.' There was increased media in the visiting locker room due to the presence of Landon Donovan. We found Donovan with his feet up on the bench, arms wrapped round his knees, and his face buried in his arms. With out a word or even eye contact he was screaming 'don't bother me.' For a moment I didn't want to. I've respected and even admired Landon's abilities and what he has done for soccer in the United States for years, and now I had to walk up to him and ask him why his team stunk that night.

I stepped up, introduced myself and shot my first question to him. There was ten seconds of silence as he stared at the floor. Slowly he answered and the interview went fine after that point. It was the first comeback victory played by RSL, and all I'll remember from it was the image of a frustrated Landon Donovan.

Part 1: 'Crash and Burn'

The last three home games brought great results for RSL (two wins and a tie) and three very distinct and memorable experiences on the job. Like the team it self I feel that I am improving with each time out. Still the biggest weakness to my game is interviewing, but that is slowly getting better with each attempt. Each of the events described below usually involves a specific player, but I will group them by game incase others make cameos in the stories. The titles are more connected with the memory itself and don't necessarily describe the game. We'll first start with my blunder.

1. "Crash and Burn" - San Jose Earthquakes. 30 April 2005 (Day 2 on the job).

The Earthquakes tied the game late on a goal from Alejandro Moreno. After the final whistle I joined up with the Quakes PR director who had Brian Ching and Moreno set for TV interviews on the field. Since Alejandro was with the TV crew when I arrived I first talked to Ching. I stumbled through a few questions and ran out of things to say. The Quakes PR then asked Ching a few more questions. It was then that I realized my questions sucked and needed a lot of work real quick.

When Moreno became available it was suggested we conduct the interview while walking to the locker room. To paint the picture in your mind, we started at the north end line and the locker rooms were behind the south end line. The interview with Moreno started as the one with Ching ended, I continued to stumble through questions and then the worst happened. My mind went blank. Nothing, not a single thought entered my brain as to what to say next. I even vaguely remember muttering something about having a brain fart. That comment received an odd look. Finally I asked something about whether it was his first trip to Salt Lake. By this point we're at the half way line and this is how the conversation went:

Moreno: I've been here (to Salt Lake) before for a youth tournament.
cvmacboy: that's probably about it.
Moreno: That's it? You don't have anymore? Come on man? (with a big grin) You can do better than that?!
cvmacboy: well, you know, it's only my second day...
Moreno: oh, there you go. (still with a big grin).

I then rambled on about the learning process and how great MLS players were to interview. At that moment I wanted to die. I felt completely incompetent and wished that I was by the locker room rather than having to walk an awkward fifty yards with a guy that was thinking I was a complete moron. To be honest though, I think that was a turning point in my interviewing. I mean, how much lower can you go when a player makes fun of you to your face!