Monday, November 17, 2008

Eastern finalists Columbus' conference call

Trying to make lunch and eat it while trying to prepare for the Eastern Conference champions' conference call has been a bit tricky but I'm here, right in time for Sigi Schmid and Frankie Hejduk. The sandwich was good, the yogurt not so good.

The Crew will arrive on Wednesday and will train out here on Thursday.

Herr Schmid will kick things off.

"We were very pleased to win the game and be the Eastern Conference champions. Chicago was for sure a quality opponent and played a very tough game. I think our team showed its resilient nature in being able to make up a deficit again and that's been something that has been very important this year for sure. For me personally there is a special feeling with the game being played at the Home Depot (Center); I can't deny that. Being able to come back to Los Angeles is always special. In that regard it just means that I have to come up with a lot of tickets for a lot of people. That part of it is not the easiest but it's also fun to be able to do that. Our team has played very well all season. We've been very consistent which is the thing that I'm most happy with. We've got a great mix of young players that have done very well like (Robbie) Rogers, (Eddie) Gaven, Brad Evans, Danny O'Rourke and (Chad) Marshall and then the veteran players obviously represented by Frankie (Hejduk) and (Guillermo Barros) Schelotto, (Gino) Padula, (Alejandro) Moreno, (Brian) Carroll and those guys. It's been a tremendous mix and that's been our success."

Now Frankie Hejduk on the match.

"For me it's been a long time coming. I think being here in Columbus for six years has been a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of hard work. But with Sigi coming in and taking the reigns and pointing this organization in the right direction, a lot has changed. It's going to be a very exciting game with the roots that I have in California, with all my family and friends there. Like Sigi said, we're going to need a lot of tickets. This year I did it a little differently. I just did it for my family. Normally my friends, it depends on how the waves are that day if they are going to come to the game or not. I did it a little different this year but I am going to have a strong contingent out there. Overall, just excited to be here. As you get older you get less and less of a chance to win championships and this team has something special this year. Each year a team sits down and has goals for themselves and obviously every year the MLS Cup is one of them. I have the chance to play in it and that doesn't happen every often."

First question for Frankie, what does it mean to play in MLS Cup.

"Getting to an MLS Cup doesn't happen very often. Every year you set a goal for your team and yourself, to try and win the cup and to get that opportunity, winning the Eastern Conference finals, is one of the most emotional times I've had on a soccer field. I'm being totally honest, even with all the national team games and everything I've played in, that rates up there as one of those great moments with me. To get a chance to win a cup, I can't even explain in words how that would make me feel. It still needs to be done. To be there and to get a chance to have that opportunity, I've just been very blessed... The reason that I've had the year I've had and that our team had is that it's been a team atmosphere all year. There have been no superstars or egos on the team. We've all had a great understanding for each other. We've all had that attitude of 'there is no I in team' for each of us. You don't really have it that often... We just had an all around attitude where at different points of this season or at different times at this season, someone has stepped up and has been a leader. It's been the whole team at one point or another. Not only was it that way on the field but we are very team oriented off the field, having barbecues and enjoying each other's companies off the field also, with the wives and the families and friends that we've had. We really have a close bond with the team and I think that carries over into the players, into the wives, into everyone and I think that's a reason we've had success."

Sigi on Hejduk:

"Frankie as well are is always evolving. With more and more years, he's played on the field, the experiences he's had continues to grow. He's been able to pass on that knowledge to the players... The amount of talking that he's done and organizing in terms of Eddie and that side of the field is maybe something I didn't notice enough in the past or appreciate much in the past."

Frankie on how the team has changed since Sigi has taken over:

"Being the team, being organized as a team, not only defenisvely but offensively also. The best offense is a good defense. We've really been a lot more solid defensively this year than in the past and in turn it's helped out or offense. We're second in the league in scoring and (second) in the league in defense... That's been something we've taken pride in and not a lot of teams can do that. Normally if you are scoring a lot of goals you are taking a lot of goals also or vice versa - if you aren't taking a lot of goals, you aren't scoring a lot of goals. This team has been incredibly balanced team both offensively and defensively and Sigi has really instilled that especially this year... He had a plan and a vision in his head when he took over the team three years ago, and that was to have the team where it is right now. First year was obviously a big rebuilding year. The second year it got much better and the third year, here we are in MLS championship. I think he truly believed that we could be here inside that plan. He made us believers and when you have a coaching staff that believes in their players and you have players that believe in the coaching staff you are going to have some good chemistry there and hopefully we can take that into the final."

Sigi Schmid on the process of building this team.

"The fist year ended up being a lost year with all the injuries... there were so many tings that went awry. We weren't left with a decent foundation. Year Two is where we really build the base of our foundation. We might have done last year what New York did this year and we might have surprised some people along the way. This year it has been able to come together. We were able to go into the offseason looking for pieces of the puzzle... finding a left back in Gino Padula and a holding midfielder in Brian Carroll... The guys have responded when I've challenged them. We have a very good locker room and a very good atmosphere when we've been around the team."

Now some questions about the Crew, how they are a model franchise and what drew Sigi to take the job. First Sigi:

"i was sort of unemployed. That probably helped. I was coaching the under-20s at the time.. to be very honest, i'm a bit of a workaholic and i missed the day to day. Coaching matioanl teams is fun and i enjoy the experience... at the udner-20 job, it's a little bit of a kick back job if you make it a kick-back job... The day-to-day was always fun and that's what I wanted to be back and the Crew had an opportunity at the time."

Frankie on the Crew:

"Them being the first soccer-specific stadium in America was huge. I've seen it just grow and grow and grow into an incredible organization... it could be a powerhouse and winning MLS Cup you could be close to powerhouse status."

Sigi on the Crew being the offensive team versus New York being the defensive team.

"I don't know if you can say that. i know Juan Carlos takes a lot more notes during the game as I do. They have in my opinion one of the premier strikers in this league, if not the best striker in this league in Juan Pablo Angel... They are a team that for sure maybe has defended more than we have in the last couple of games but they are a team that breaks forward well at times. The team that usually puts together more passes in the opponents' end of the field usually loses the game... They are very organized defensively. We are organized defensively... They have some very good offensive weapons and are not a defensive minded team."

Okay, that's all I've got time for right now. I may go back and add some more since so much has been said.

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