It isn’t quite like Super Bowl hype, but the long week of MLS Cup talk started on Monday with a pair of media conference calls featuring the coaches and a select player from both the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew.
On the Red Bulls side was Juan Carlos Osorio and wunderkind Danny Cepero, while the Crew was represented by Sigi the Scarf and the ageless wonder, Frankie Hejduk.
Nothing spectacular happened, no bulletin board material (that’s probably the only part of Dane Richards’ call-up to the Jamaican National Team that makes Juan Carlos Osorio happy). But there were a few highlights and we’ve got them here.
Schmid was particularly engaging, cracking a few jokes during the Crew’s call.
On his return triumphant return to Los Angeles
For me, personally, there’s for sure 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 also great. In that regard, that means that I’ve got to come up with a lot of tickets for a lot of people.
On what drew him to the job of Columbus Crew head coach
I was sort of unemployed, so that probably helped. No, obviously I was coaching the (United States) Under-20s at the time…Especially at the Under-20 level, don’t tell (U.S. Soccer president) Sunil (Gulati) this or (U.S. Soccer Secretary General) Dan Flynn, it’s a little bit of a kickback job. I was probably a little bored.
On his impressions of Cepero’s debut against the Crew at Giants Stadium
I can’t remember, did he score against us in that game?
On if it’s unfair to label the Crew "the offensive team," and the Red Bulls, "the defensive team on Sunday.
I don’t know if you can say that. I know Juan Carlos takes a lot more notes during the game than I do. I think you can say that.
On his time with and departure from the Los Angeles Galaxy
I thought I would have a tenure at the (Alex) Ferguson has had (at Manchester United) and (Arsene) Wenger has had at Arsenal…Being fired and all that, OK, it happens and as a coach you know you’re going to get fired, I guess. But the only thing that bothers me was the insinuation at the time that we didn’t play attractive enough soccer, that we weren’t offensive enough. That moniker was sort of hung on me and that bothers me because at the time we were the highest scoring team in the league…That’s Bruce Arena’s baby now, he’s working at that part and my baby is Columbus Crew. We’re playing on Sunday and we’re very excited about that.
On Eddie Gaven’s turnaround
I don’t know how you could be washed up at 20 and be the franchise player at 18. I think sometimes we throw too many expectations on young players’ shoulders and sometimes throw too many expectations too quickly on them.
Hejduk on finally playing in his first MLS Cup
Obviously for me it’s been a long time coming. I think being here in Columbus for six years, it’s been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hard work. But with Sigi coming in and taking the reins and pointing the organization in the right direction. A lot’s changed.
Hejduk on his ticket allotment concerns as a California native
I just (got tickets) for my family because normally my friends, depends on how the waves are taht day if they’re going to come to the game or not. Different this year. I’ll have a strong contingent of fans out there.
Hejduk on the emotions of making the MLS Cup
Getting to an MLS Cup doesn’t happen very often…Winning the Eastern Conference finals, one of the most emotional times I’ve had on a soccer field. Even with all the national team games and everything that I’ve played in, that rates up there as one of the greatest moments for me. Just to get a chance to win the Cup, I can’t even explain right now in words how that would make me feel.
Osorio was especially guarded, but the impression that I get is that he isn’t a fan of these conference calls. I asked him about Dave van den Bergh’s contributions, but he wasn’t in a mood to praise any one individual. The same happened later when he was asked about Diego Jimenez’s play.
On having three players (Richards, Jorge Rojas and Gabriel Cichero) called up to national teams during the midweek
I think it’s difficult. It’s something that will always be a dilemma, because I think those players benefit from the experience of the national team. But, on the other hand, they can always hinder what you’re trying to do at a club level… Not to have Dane Richards, Jorge or Gabriel is difficult, because we want to plan this next game starting today.
On accusations that his team plays negative soccer or is too defensive
Some people out there have said that I’m a very defensive minded coach and I take it as a compliment. I think, as Danny mentioned — and as I always say to the players — if we keep it to zero, keep a clean sheet, we’ll always have good chances because we also work very hard in attacking topics and top level football, as I keep saying to the players, you only have to win one-nil.
Osorio defended his philosophy by using Chelsea FC as an example, that the Blues might have spent millions of pounds on attacking players, but won the English Premier League crown in 2003 with 18 1-0 results.
On what has changed in his team of late
I think it has taken some players longer than others to realize that that’s what it takes to play professional and to get results at the professional level. And I just have to be responsible enough and intelligent enough to make the decisions that we need to do at any game
Cepero on if he ever imagined he’d be thrown into this situation
In terms of thinking I’d be thrust into playoff situations and be looking at an MLS Cup final, absolutely not. At the same time, though, it’s a dream come true. I’m having fun with it. I’m on the field and having fun and enjoying the guys around me.
On his Cuban heritage
I keep up with the politics. We’ve been planning or hoping to plan a trip over there. Obviously it’s kind of difficult to get over there.
On his education at the U. of Penn
When I was on loan in Harrisburg earlier this year I took a class once a week so I drove back to Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania and would take a class. I’m currently doing the same thing right now. So I’m taking my final class right now once a week at night. I just drive back there. I plan to graduate in December.
On being a New Yorker on the Red Bulls
It’s incredible to be able to be in your home area where you were born and raised in and to be part of a special organization and a great club like I’m at right now. it’s been great to have my family supporting me in person coming to the games here at Giants Stadium…I think it’s also been a point of pride to be a part of a New York team having been rooting for the Metro Stars since I was younger and being part of the New York sports team has been a dream come true. So it’s pretty tremendous and a special feeling.