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MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 9, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to all of our journalists on today's call.
Kicking it off we will have two representatives from the Colorado Rapids. They will be with us for approximately the first 25 to 30 minutes, and then following that we'll have two representatives from the San Jose Earthquakes.
We will go ahead and get started with the two gentlemen from the Rapids, some brief introductions for those of you on the call. First, we have with us Colorado Rapids head coach Gary Smith. He has the Rapids back in the MLS Playoffs in the second season as the club's head coach. He joined the squad prior to the 2008 season as an assistant coach with the Rapids. And I'm sure you're all familiar with his background as a former player as a coach in England, and just prior to the Rapids, as a scout for Arsenal.
Joining us from Denver today, is the Rapids Captain Pablo Mastroeni, certainly a World Cup veteran, 2002, 2006. He's in his 13th season, which is hard to believe since he's been such a prominent member of the Major League Soccer family and certainly the Rapids for so many years. He's also the lone remaining player from the last Rapids playoff team from a few years ago. And most recently, he scored the incredible goal in the 1-0 victory over Columbus in the first leg of the playoffs just a couple of weeks ago.
A couple notes, the Quakes and the Rapids faced twice this season, a little trivia. Each team won at home 1-0, and this is their first ever meeting in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
So with that we are going to go ahead and get started. Our journalists, we are going to have some brief comments from Gary Smith, and then Pablo Mastroeni, and then we'll open it up for Q&A session.
Gary, give us your thoughts, how is the squad looking after Trent coming out of training today and your thoughts on San Jose, they have made an incredible run through the regular season and playoffs to meet up with the Rapids this weekend.
GARY SMITH: With our first day back back after the victory at the weekend, the guys have had a couple of days to rest some weary limbs, and everybody looked as you might well imagine, pretty enthused and confident after the weekend's events.
The morning was pretty straightforward and low-key to be honest. You know, just making sure that everybody is still in good shape and we don't get any physical issues on top of such a tough weekend. Tomorrow will be a little bit more strenuous and probably incorporate some more structural stuff towards the game at the weekend.
All in all, it's a very buoyant atmosphere and I'm probably not telling you anything you wouldn't imagine after such an exciting victory. We are in good health. We are looking forward to the weekend.
Our form at home's been very, very good this season. The games that haven't quite gone our way have been extremely tight and I think we have continued to make our home-field advantage, or to take that advantage to a better level than even last year.
So you know, we'll be looking to try and reinforce that at the weekend. But we also know that San Jose, I'm sure, will be very confident after the fabulous win in New York. And looking at some of their stats across the season, their away form has been very decent.
And I would think that given the environment they are coming into, they will feel pretty decent about the way things have gone for them, but I'm sure they will also realize this isn't an easy place to come. We will be doing our absolute utmost to make the game as tough as possible; along with obviously the environment that is all a very difficult one for incoming teams.
THE MODERATOR: Pablo, can you give us your thoughts on the squad, and you've played with and against a number of those athletes who are with the San Jose Earthquakes, whether Bobby Convey with the U.S. National Team or Ramiro Corrales going back to your Miami Fusion days. Provide a little insight into the group, Pablo.
PABLO MASTROENI: I think from our perspective here, we excited as a team. Obviously it's been a couple of years since we've been in the playoffs. It's great to see such positive work in the preseason and the belief in one another. Actually to fruition and now we find ourselves in the playoffs.
So from that perspective, it's a player's dream to see it play out like you write it up on the board in preseason and it kind of plays through like a good movie script.
So you know, we are happy with where we are at, and I think there's a lot of work to be done still. And so everyone comes in every day ready to work, and that attitude has not changed at all.
As far as San Jose, like you said, I played with Ramiro Corrales in Miami, a great player, he's been a great veteran in this league for many years. And so you know, he brings a lot of leadership to that team and you have a guy like Bobby Convey who is reinventing himself and coming into his own as an experienced player and obviously in that San Jose victory was instrumental in everything they did.
So this is a team that cannot be taken lightly, has proven time and time again, that they are a resilient group. So we are looking at this like one of our greatest challenges of the season, and we are preparing as such.
So the vibe is in the Denver area is such that everyone is interested in what's going on now, and we are excited to be hosting a Western Conference final and hopefully do everything we can to get the result that we feel we deserve.
Q. How do you plan to contains Chris Wondolowski?
GARY SMITH: You make it sound like he's a one-man team. I would think that he's very complementary to his teammates for the service he's been supplied with all year. He's one part and probably the pinnacle and peak of that group, and he's had a wonderful season. He's in confident form and looks in a confident mood.
However, he's just one player, and I would think if, as we have done, on a number of occasions on our home field, we can force the issue and get on the front foot, then it negates an awful lot of what any opposing team can do coming into this place.
Given the opportunity, I'm sure he's going to try and take full advantage of that. But we have a very strong and disciplined outfit. The supply in to Chris will be a feature of the game that we'll certainly be trying to stop its assaults (ph) -- and (laughter) did I say something I shouldn't have done there?
Most important of all, I think it's about us than them. Chris has had a great time this year, but we'll be doing our utmost to make sure it doesn't season.
Q. You have just done everything in U.S. soccer and I wanted to address this to you. How impressive from your vantage point or perspective is it for the Quakes to go this far as a third-year expansion team?
PABLO MASTROENI: Well, interesting question, you know, this league is -- since the time I've been in here, the parity has been remarkable. You know, any team can win on any given day in this league, unlike the Premiership where you have teams spend ridiculous amounts of money usually dominate the headlines and are in the upper tier of the league.
I think coming in '98, Chicago had an amazing team and they were an expansion team that year. And if I'm not mistaken, they went on to win it --
THE MODERATOR: You are correct, Pablo.
PABLO MASTROENI: Okay. So the fact that they are where they are after three years doesn't strike me as something that's out of the order being that this league has always been founded on many mysteries of teams going where they go because of one catalyst or another. So I'm not surprised, especially with the type of players that they have where they work hard and they battle and they never give up.
Q. How would you describe them? If you know, if you've seen them enough, the team, as many MLS teams, players come, players go and by the playoff time you finally see a unit out there. How would you describe this one?
GARY SMITH: You want me to answer that?
Q. Gary or Pablo, whatever wants to jump in.
GARY SMITH: Well, with regards to the group that frank's put together there, and I think that's the question you're asking, the couple of years that I've been involved, and it's easy to see when certain coaches are respected and you know revered in certain places because of the efficiency of their work.
And it was easy to see quickly that Frank always had a plan. I'm sure he'll have one at the weekend. But also, at additions to the group are incrementally better and the squad gets stronger and they have more competition. We've seen, I'm sure, before all of us, where teams reach a peak very quickly but there's no substance to that group. The foundations that they are built on are very shaky and subsequently, they fall just as rapidly as they rise.
This group has come together over the course of two or three seasons; this is the first year in the three I think that they have been back together again as this franchise, that their success has come through. But if you look at the players in the group, it's gone very heavily for good forwards; forwards that do have some history and background. He's got a lot of pace and physicality around the group. And you know, they really are a very genuine and hard-working group.
But on top of that, because of the glut of forwards that they have, they are always very capable of scoring goals. Just recently they have added Geovanni as a DP and it just enhances the creativity within that group. And you know all in all, it really wasn't a surprise. We played them preseason over in England and straightaway, you can see the bodies that were available for them, even when they started making their changes, the group didn't get any weaker.
And lots and lots of times, you can see the strength of the team by who they have got on the bench; and regularly they have got four or five guys on that bench that would probably get into most MLS teams.
Q. Gary, just a general question about the playoffs, as the league looks to add new teams next year, would you like to happily expand the number of playoff teams? Is eight enough? And what would you like to see, a single table or conferences?
GARY SMITH: Well, with regards to the playoffs, I mean it has to be a challenge to get into them, part of being in the playoffs, and I would think this year is more difficult than any other just because of the amount of teams that are in the league and the places that are on offer.
So as we move forward to get into that post-season and be one of those eight teams competing for the MLS Cup, it's got to be a challenge. And to get there, you know, there's some success and some reward for actually achieving that.
So I don't honestly think that those places need to be extended or expanded. You know, we are thoroughly excited to be where we are, and believe that we are moving forward in gaining one of those post-season berths; so don't give them away.
With regards to a one or a single table, honestly, I think has the league is expanding, I think it would be a better route to go. I understand some of the reasons for keeping the Eastern and Western Conference, but all in all now, we are going to play each other home and away.
It's not like even when I came into the league, what was it, 2 1/2 years ago, where you actually played some of your closest teams on three occasions. And Pablo will probably tell you, when they are playing four games against each other in one season, it is home and away. It doesn't make any difference.
And I do -- I do think that the support of shield (ph) should have a bit more attached to it, because all in all, I think everywhere else in the world, that team that is the most consistent and finishes at the top of the single table overall, is the best and most consistent team in the league.
We are in a Cup competition right now, and if you ask me, this is the most important thing going on, of course, because we are in it.
But I think most coaches and managers will say that to putt a group together and to battle out through the season and be the best team, is a particularly big honor.
Q. What would reaching the MLS cup mean to you this late in your career?
PABLO MASTROENI: You know, I think it's -- obviously it would be a big milestone in my career obviously as a player, when you come into a league, your goal, along with your personal goals, the pinnacle of the sport is to not only reach it, but to win it.
And so every preseason, you set that goal for yourself to do whatever you can to help the team to reach that MLS Cup, and not only reach it, but win it.
And for me this year, it's been the year where it's probably been the most realistic feat, and you know, in the years past, where we have reached the playoffs, there's always been a little bit of doubt for: Do we belong here; did we do enough to get here. And I think this year, there's no question in my mind or anyone's mind in this club, that believed that we shouldn't be here, and now the fact that we are here, we have to do something with it.
For me, it would be a great milestone but more importantly it would be great for all of the hard work that we have dedicated to the cause from game one in preseason to where we find ourselves today.
THE MODERATOR: Couple quick notes regarding competition format, etc., such as single table balance schedule and other items. Our Commissioner's State of the League teleconference call where he will discuss some of those items is actually being moved from next Monday to Tuesday November 16. It will now take place at 1:30 PM.
From a competition standpoint later today, we will provide full details on the re-entry draft that will take place in early December. So be looking for that after this teleconference call.
Q. Gary, can you talk a little bit about the growth in Omar Cummings' game, and what that's meant to everything that you've accomplished that year?
GARY SMITH: Well, season on season, not only have his stats improved, but the player I think has grown. And I think more than anything, the experiences of playing regularly and week-in, week-out, being part of the competition that takes place, and I think the players learnt an awful lot about himself the last two seasons.
The group, growing and improving along with his own personal improvement, I think has added to his game. And also the fact that the guys that have remained as the sort of backbone of the group and the additions have come in, I do honestly think that the players have a fabulous spirit and rapport amongst themselves. It just aids his product at the end of the day.
But a lot of credit has to go to the individual, of course. He works hard. You know, he's daily working on his individual game, and moments within that, and whilst there are still times that we can all scratch our head and go, what happened there, I think there's more and more occasions that we are seeing something really exciting on the end of some of our play, rather than something that just happens out of pure fortune.
And again, that's due to the player's understanding and now the team and the quality he has around him.
Q. Pablo, can you talk a little about at addition of Jeff Larentowicz to your midfield and how that's helped you guys?
PABLO MASTROENI: You know, I think Jeff's been a great addition to the team. Along with all of the stuff that he brings onto the field, I think just the fact that he's been a part of a franchise in New England that has repeatedly made it to the playoffs and finals has brought that extra bit of belief to the group, along with Brian Bolen (ph) who joined us late in the season.
So we feel like we have a formidable group but more importantly we feel like we take great pride in the midfield to be hard to play through, and Jeff brings an extra bit of grit. He's just a good partner in to play alongside, just a real honest player, and more importantly everyone that plays in that midfield is pretty selfless.
So he's been a great addition. He's a silent leader, and he's a guy that has definitely impacted our season this year.
Q. Wondering if you can describe your emotions and your thoughts as you sat in the hotel room in Columbus watching the New York/San Jose game knowing that one of the things that hung in the balance was a home game for you, if you could get your business done in Columbus. And then, also, what you thought of the decisive nature of that game that the San Jose -- they really took New York apart and won emphatically.
GARY SMITH: You speak an awful lot, and when I tell you, I don't agree with what you're saying there, I'm sure you'll have a little chuckle.
I thought San Jose went out with a very aggressive lineup to try and win the game and started off extremely well, and then that early goal, as we've seen in these playoffs in a couple of occasions, and in our game, as well, makes a big difference. You know, the team, getting back into the game, sometimes takes their foot off the gas, or just feels as though that pressure has been released. I actually thought that New York controlled good periods of the game without actually making as many clear-cut chances at San Jose.
However, what I do have to say is that one or two of the San Jose players on the day, were the difference. And Bobby Convey was outstanding. His contribution to the game, I think along with Wondolowski's winner, was as big as anything else that happened in that game.
The big difference here is, San Jose will come to us at the weekend on a clean slate. And whilst Frank has an awful lot of forwards in his group, maybe dictated to, in some cases, as to who he can and who he can't play, because of omissions; what he knows is that if he plays too many forwards on that pitch, and they don't get it quite right, they will be very vulnerable to a team that have been, you know, almost dominating at home for the majority of the season.
The game that we watched was exciting on Thursday. You know, I tip my hat to the result that San Jose got because that is not an easy place to go and get a result. But all in all, I still felt as though there were many occasions in that game where the balance may well have tipped in the other direction. I can remember, you know, Mehdi Ballouchy's opportunity, and if he scores, it's a completely different complexion on the game.
The young boy up front hits the post in a wonderful individual moment, and I'm not sure Jon Busch knew too much about it. Very fine lines. And we saw it at the weekend in our game, as well, and I have no doubt we'll see it in this weekend. But you know, all in all, there's some decisions to contemplate coming here and I think you know that, as well, John.
Q. Apologize; I was full of pharmaceutical medication at the time?
GARY SMITH: Well, you should have been here, anyway. If you had been here watching it live, you might have made a little bit better assessment of it (chuckling).
THE MODERATOR: We are going to have one final question for Gary Smith and Pablo Mastroeni before we actually reset and have Frank and Bobby join us. So we are going to wrap up this portion of the first part of the call.
Q. Just a question really about where this fits in in terms of your career as a coach. Obviously you're a game away from a big final, pretty early n your career and I wonder as well if you can talk about who have been influences on you during your time as an assistant coach and player and so on, that's given you ideas about coaching and so on and whether Martin O'Neill was a particular influence or not. Wonder if you can talk about those early days as well a bit.
GARY SMITH: Well, I'm not sure you've got time for me to go right back to the early days. But guys like Martin O'Neill are unforgettable. In the early days of my playing career, they had such an impact on the way that they conduct themselves, there's no way of forgetting that.
Moving further forward, in my coaching realm, Terry Burton who is currently at Cardiff and when I first broke into the coaching at Wimbledon, was then assistant and first team coach to Joe at Wimbledon. A fabulous coach, wonderful way about him. Great ideas. And that whole system there, and what I found in a very short space of time as a coach already, if you can get together a group of people and virtues that we don't often talk about in football too much, like loyalty and trust, you know, give you very nice foundations to work from. And it's a great opportunity to throw ideas around with people that are not going to walk out of the room and be snipping or back biting behind your back.
But getting back to the question, Stewart Robson was there, Stewart played at Arsenal and commentary at West Ham was a real bit of a revolutionary coach. He had fantastic ideas and would conjure up sessions that I had never seen before, based on, you know, maybe a build-up to a game or a failure in a game that he wanted to work on. Even further back than that, Ray Harford when I was at Fullham.
So there's plenty of people that over the years have had an impact on my personality and even the way to address people and conduct yourself with, you know, senior players and experienced players.
With regards to my own future, and I mean this with all sincerity, my job is here. I've said this before. You know, my main aim would be to win some silverware with the Rapids.
Wherever -- wherever my career takes me after that, I would always feel as though I'd missed a fabulous opportunity to have some success, because the group that we have now, and the coaching staff that are here, not only deserve some success and to be able to celebrate what they have put together here, it would be an absolute travesty at this point to not be able to somewhere along the way, raise the Cup aloft, and the gentleman in front of me is the person that deserves me more than anyone.
I've honestly thought not much further ahead. I'm excited about what we are in. The potential of this club and where it was when I first came in and where we are now, is you know, so exhilarating that I would be a fool to look outside it.
THE MODERATOR: Like to thank our representatives from the Colorado Rapids for joining us. Best of luck this Saturday when you play the San Jose Earthquakes.
Speaking of the San Jose Earthquakes we are fortunate to have with us Frank Yallop. Frank you are all very familiar with him. He is the winner of two MLS Cups, 2001, 2003 with the Quakes. The Quakes will travel, I believe are scheduled to travel to Colorado on Thursday and will train on Friday in Denver.
Also joining us from San Jose, the gentleman who is a finalist for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year, that award will be announced tomorrow. He had two goals and one assist versus New York last Thursday. He had ten assists during the season. It was the most assists he's had in his MLS career. Hard to believe he's a ten-year pro as he's only 27 years old and that's Philadelphia native Bobby Convey joining us today along with frank.
Frank, if you could give us the pulse of the team and some thoughts on the Colorado Rapids. Going into Colorado playing in altitude against a team that is certainly on a high, give us your thoughts.
FRANK YALLOP: Well, obviously very excited to be in the final four of the league, and I think that the series we had against New York was exciting. For us to get through that was not easy. So we grew as a unit. We believe in ourselves and we are looking forward to the game on the weekend.
So, yeah, things are good with the team. We have trained well this week and we are just all gearing up for that big game on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Bobby, your thoughts, the team, certainly compared to last year, a massive turnaround. On the field, that incredible victory and you heard Gary Smith say, a very, very tough place to play at Red Bull arena. You had a tremendous game. Give us your thoughts on how the squad is doing and also you've gone up against Colorado and played at Dick's Sporting Good's Park in altitude, give us some thoughts on that.
BOBBY CONVEY: I think Frank said it, it was a good week in training and exciting for everyone. It was a good series in New York for us, and we had a game plan and we stuck to it.
Like you said, it's going to be difficult in Colorado with the altitude and good to get there a couple days early to train. We are all looking forward to it and everyone is excited to be one game away from the finals.
Q. Are you handling this one game final differently in terms of when you travel the team into Colorado than you would normally do because of the altitude?
FRANK YALLOP: Not so much the altitude. It's more making sure we don't have any travel worries the day before the game. I think we are going in sort of Thursday evening, late-ish, to just get to bed and have a good day there of light practice and just get ready for the game.
So we are going a little bit early than we normally do because of the enormity of the game. We can't be sort of stuck in an airport or be waiting for flights with a big game coming up. So that's why we are doing that on Thursday.
Q. And Bobby, for you, a side of me thinks that every now and then, that you have a good performance, people come back to you, start asking about the national team and it's happened maybe once or twice during the season. Does it tick you off only in the sense that you feel maybe that you've performed at a high level all season and people just take these opportunities to notice you; I get the sense from listening to your comments, what are your feelings about how you're perceived in terms of your performances on the field.
BOBBY CONVEY: I'm excited about how the year has gone. I'm happy with how I've played and how kind of we've played as a team.
So I'm just enjoying playing soccer again. It's been a lot of fun this season. It's exciting to get in the playoffs, exciting to be with a bunch of guys that you really like and can win things with, and if I go with a national team, that's fine. If I don't, you know, all I can do is control how I play and let that speak for itself.
Q. Just my question for you, tomorrow you are in the running for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, and should you win that, I guess, one, what would that mean to you given your past year and just the past two years, and also moving forward?
BOBBY CONVEY: For me, I'm excited to be up for any award. Obviously it's a great thing to be up for an award, and you know, with my being injured, it's great to be able to be back and play at a high level again. I'm just excited to be out on the field. If I win, that will be great. If not, there's a couple other guys in it that deserve it, as well.
Q. Do you feel like you're miles away from that injury? Obviously that was definitely a setback, but do you feel like that's far in the past now with your current position and with the current success that that's something that you've definitely put in the back of your brain?
BOBBY CONVEY: Yeah, 100 percent. I've only missed I think like five games in the last two seasons. So my knee is definitely behind me. The only disappointing thing is it ended my career at England earlier than I would have wanted, but I'm happy here in San Jose and really enjoying playing back in MLS.
Q. Are you guys drawing a lot of inspiration from Real Salt Lake last year; if you're really thinking that what they did last year, coming from the eight seed like you did, or you are going right now, is an inspiration for you guys.
FRANK YALLOP: You've got to tip your hat to Salt Lake, what they did last year, it's not easy doing that. We ended up 8th in the rankings and 11 points with Colorado and only a few points behind a lot of teams in the playoffs.
We don't think we are miles behind people in our performances this season. I think that a lot is said about our seeding and whether you're eighth or first and all that stuff. We don't look at it that way. It's a brand new season and we have had two good results or a good series against New York, we got through, got a tough game against Colorado coming up, and we'll be wanting to try and win.
For us to sort of think about last year, that's over for Salt Lake, too. They had a great year last year and did really, really well in what they did.
But we are just concentrating on what we are trying to do this year. We have been talking about making sure that we have the right mind-set every game we play. After a poor performance, we tended to really pick ourselves up and play well and fight and I think that that's been our spirit all year.
I think nothing's going to change, but looking forward to the game on the weekend and not favor anybody and we'll come out and play that way.
Q. Last year you played Colorado back-to-back games and both of them ended in rather controversial circumstances. As it turned out, you made the playoffs and now you spin ahead 14 months and you're both not only in the playoffs but one game away from the final. Can you change -- which you give me your perspective of how they have changed, how they have improved? They have had a couple players in the middle, but can you give me your impressions of the upgrades they have made compared to last year?
FRANK YALLOP: Yeah, I like Colorado's team. I think they are very well balanced. They have obviously dynamic players up front, but not only up front, but wide. And certainly are very athletic at the back now with Marvell Wynne's addition. I think Larentowicz has made a big difference to them as well in the middle of the pack. And I like them. They are a good side. They move the ball well. They are dangerous and difficult to contain, especially at their place.
So we have our hands full, that's for sure, this in this game. But Gary has done a good job, too, of making sure they stayed focused and get their results and when they needed to this year.
As any coach will tell you in this league, it's not an easy league to coach in, and I think he's done a fine job of that. They deserve to be there. I thought they looked good all year. And it wasn't a surprise that he this made it and 14 months later, we had two ties, two penalty kicks against us late. But that's last year so, we are just looking forward to this game on the weekend and.
Gary mentioned it earlier in his interviews, that anything can happen in games, early goals, different things happen in matches. We have just got to be ready for anything, and adjust or do well once that thing happens.
Q. Your impressions on how San Jose has changed from a year ago because you've added the Brazilians; are you a more varied team because you have those creative players in the Brazilians, as well as you pushing the ball from midfield or wherever you start from?
BOBBY CONVEY: I think so. We have gotten better from last year and added better players, and I think as a team, we are much more together and have a better mentality this year where we don't want to lose and we want to try and win every game.
I think it's been growing throughout the whole year, we have gotten better, and really have come together now here at the ultimate time at the end of the season.
Q. Gary mentioned earlier that supplying Chris would be a key the to team and your experience supplying Chris in the first game against New York; what is your comment on that?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, I thought I got some undue schtick from some of the MLS guys about the tactics we had, but as a coach, what you do, you do a game plan and hope it works out.
Chris had three chances of scoring that game at home, and didn't. He had two chances to score in the New York game and scored one at New York, away. So for me, it's about adjusting and not worrying about what the last game was. Chris will play in a position that he can score goals, whether it's wide or up front or wherever we put him.
So Chris has found a way to find the net in a number of positions and he's very good at finding open space and drifting and making it difficult to pick him up. Obviously you saw in the game, the goal at the weekend, fantastic service by Bobby but a great run by Chris.
So he'll find his spaces, wherever he plays, and we are excited to have him here. He had a great year and I feel really proud to be his coach and hopefully he gets the MVP.
Q. Any updates on Jason Hernandez' injury or he's 100 percent?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, he's still having treatment but we expect him to play, yes.
Q. The MLS Cup is in Toronto this year, you have two teams, one in Vancouver and one in Montréal entering the league; drawing on your experience as at former manager of the Canadian National Team, what's the state of professional soccer in Canada?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, I think it's fantastic to have three professional, full-blown MLS teams in Canada. So very exciting. I think that there's two -- there's going to be three, hopefully, but the development of the game is going to be what it needs to be.
We have fallen behind in that front. The U.S. showed that you get a professional league and you really put money into the program that you can do great things. So hopefully the Canadian Soccer Association can do that and really make sure that they fund the right areas, which is the national team, and make sure that we can build and be a lot better and be more competitive.
But it's great that obviously the finals is in Toronto. Vancouver is joining and Montréal is joining the following year. So good times. Hopefully it really turns into Canada doing well in the World Cup qualifying.
Q. Just to follow up, is there a sort of, in your mind, a blueprint on how to make the most of it? It didn't happen with one move, with just the development of MLS, obviously MLS has gone through some different growing pains and now with these expansion teams, it can be as Toronto has shown, it can be a bit of a struggle in the beginning. What do you see as sort of being the keys and how important is patience?
FRANK YALLOP: Hopefully we can attract more Canadian players playing out of the country back to playing MLS. This league is an excellent league and it's great to play in and obviously coach in, but it's a high standard.
And I think that the more we can get more Canadians back into the league, playing at the level that is similar to CONCACAF Qualifying, the better, and hopefully we can do that the next few years and make sure that the top players that are out of the country come back. It will only help. It will really help and I think the public will get involved, and I think it will really drive on the CSA to make changes.
Q. You've seen the Quakes transition from expansion team to being one game from making the MLS cup. You have one player in the expansion draft, Jason Hernandez. Can you talk about his development over the years and also how important he will be in the game plan in stopping the Rapids' two-headed monster of Cummings and Conor Casey?
FRANK YALLOP: Jason's a player you look from afar, he's a very good player, very quick, aggressive player. But I've seen a real maturity in Jason over the last three years we've had him and he's become one of the team leaders. He's a terrific kid off the field. But he's a good teammate and leader in the locker room, and I think that's been his growing up, if you like.
He's a winner as well, doesn't like losing and I think all of those attributes have really started to sort of come to the top now where Jason is becoming a good -- really good, solid player and defender in our team and in our league. I'm very pleased for him. He's a humble kid and it's good when good things happen to good people, and he's certainly a good fella.
Q. How do you expect to utilize him?
FRANK YALLOP: He's going to have to run fast, that's for sure, because those guys are quick. But I think it's about, you know, and Gary mentioned it, on that field, you've got to be able to make sure that you're tactically alert, because any kind of break down from us and losing the ball in a bad area, they are going to break on us, and they have proved that they are good at that.
So we have got to make sure that we are clued in and make sure that we are aware of Omar and Casey the whole game, and you know, one slip-up, you could be in trouble. But we feel confident we can do that, but obviously, it's a tough, tough matchup, for anybody in our league.
But in a semi-final or conference final, we are excited to have the chance to do that, and hopefully we can come Saturday.
Q. Question on tactics, the rabbits experimented with moving couplings out wide and pulling a lower striker up front and then decide to go back to the 4-4-2 with their two big strikers up front; do you think they are more dangerous in that formation?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, I think with two forwards, you're going to be almost more dangerous in most attacks. I expect Gary to play the same system or pretty close to it that they have played in their games towards the end of the season and in the game against Columbus.
I don't see a big change. Obviously they are going to be difficult to contain, but again, we have got to be on our game like we were in New York, and ride our luck a little bit at times, but hopefully we can come out on top and stop those guys.
Q. Touched on this already, too, but what is the big challenge in facing Colorado?
FRANK YALLOP: I think all three. I think they have moved the ball quickly, and on that pitch, they are good in possession but they are not only keeping it, they are looking to break you down.
So we have got to be sure that we can obviously stop their fluid game, but it's not easy. Again, I say it again, it's a big field. They move the ball well and they do break quickly.
We are aware. We have watched them. We know them like they know us over the season. You know, so we kind of know traits and good and bad things that happen for every team.
But again, they are at home. They are kind of expected to win if you like so we are going to go in there and hopefully just have a good game plan and a good game and hopefully come out on top.
Q. Could you comment a little bit on the way Gary has rebuilt this team, the pieces that he's added and the way he's assembled this team and how it might compare with where it was a year ago.
FRANK YALLOP: I said before Gary has done a great job of doing that. I think he had some great assets to start with. Got them playing well. Added the pieces that he felt was going to help their team to be more stronger and competitive, and win more games in our league. And I think he's done a good job of balancing that. They are pretty much injury-free and they look good.
And I said it all along, they are a side that I enjoy watching play. And the balance is always good in their team. And you know, we have got to -- again, we have got our hands full, but we feel our balance is pretty good at time. I think it will be a good game. It will be an open game. We are not going in there just to sit back. We can't do that. We've never done that. We didn't do that in a game like this. So we decided to test them out and see what happens.
Q. You say you enjoy watching them play; what is it that gives you pleasure when you watch them play?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, I think the dynamic going forward; the quickness of the passes they play is good to watch. I think they are crisp, clean, they move the ball sharply. They are good moving it off the ball, and that dynamic in the final third when the two forwards get going, they are very good to watch and very good movement. One is a bit of a dribbler and one is very good at attacking crosses and all those things.
So I just enjoy watching them and I think that, you know, they have done a great job of building that team and that's it.
Q. What this playoff run is like, just with your experience and being in a promotion battle with England, and also, can you give a sense of perspective or enjoyment now that it's more given that the first part of your MLS in career in D.C. when D.C. wasn't very successful?
BOBBY CONVEY: Yeah, it's always good to be a part of a winning team. It's always good to get experience, and it can only help you for the future.
I think the experience in England can obviously help me grow up and helped me become a better player. You know, hopefully can help some guys here with maybe some nerves or whatever. But I think we have a good bunch of guys here.
We have a good mentality and you know, going into the playoffs, nobody thought we were going to win against New York, and you know, we did well and I think everyone is confident right now, so you know, it's just another game here for the final.
Q. Does the promotion -- the battle for promotion feel like playoffs in the regular season when you're in it?
BOBBY CONVEY: Yeah, we won the league with four months to spare, so it wasn't really a battle for us to go up. But the Playoffs are extremely, you know, exciting time for everyone, because you know you're only a few games away from winning the championship.
So you put the rest of the year behind you and just look forward to showing up on the day and whoever shows up that day and plays better will win the game.
Q. Wondered if it crossed your mind the possibility of meeting the Galaxy in the final and in broader terms, the way things ended there that you're proving a point this season about your qualities as a coach?
FRANK YALLOP: I'm not thinking past this weekend for obvious reasons. We have got to get threw this game and win. So we are not thinking about anything other than Colorado right now.
I never doubted myself as a coach. You obviously have some great times and then some dark times in my profession, playing, coaching, so it wasn't the greatest of times. I learnt a lot about myself in that time, but you know, I never doubted my own ability to lift a team or build a team.
So I felt pretty good about what I was doing so far here at San Jose so far with John Doyle. And I think what we want to try and do is not just be a one-hit wonder.
We want to build a team that's going to grow, just steadily get better and better and be challenging each season, that is our first year back in the playoffs and from our third year as a team, after expansion, and we have done well to do that.
We have sort of limited our resources to start with, but I feel now that the ownership group has seen us produce some good results and look like a team that could challenge. They are ready to sort of back us and make sure that we get what we need. So feel good about a lot of things.
Again, I want to make sure that we finish on a high this season and hopefully build for the future.
Q. You mentioned that you learnt some things about your receive; what are one or two of them?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, when you're not winning, it's not fun; and it's how you address the group and it's how you conduct your own self. I think I'm a positive person and I stayed positive. I could easily have crumbled and not been strong. I've felt I'm a bit of an island down there at times, with what was going on result-wise and all of the stuff going on away from the actual game, but I never doubted myself.
And I think the players gave me everything they had. And when it kind of calmed down a little bit, we had some great results in a row. That's what I go on. I made sure that I didn't crumble, and I'm a strong person and I made sure that the players knew that I had their back, as well.
Q. I've been asking MLS coaches about what they have the playoffs, number of teams in the playoffs; is eight enough? Would you like to see more? And as the league adds expansion teams for 2011 and beyond, would you like to see a single table or a different setup?
FRANK YALLOP: I'm not sure. I mean, I think that the divisions have been around. Obviously we used to have three divisions when I played, so maybe we could go back to that with a number of teams joining the league.
It would be nice to have more chances to make the playoffs because ten teams next season don't make it. And you know, there's nothing better than making the playoffs; and nothing worse than not. Maybe a wild-card system would be good to give some teams that are not quite in the top end of the table a chance to make the playoffs and have a great run.
So that will be one of my things I would say, I think, some sort of wild card to get into the playoffs. I'm not sure a single table would work, but it just makes it easy, you know, play each other home and away and away you go.
You'd have to ask obviously the guys at MLS and the people that make the decisions what's the best format. I don't really think about it. I just get given the rules and then obviously deal with it.
Q. San Jose earthquakes have the best record of any team in MLS history in Colorado, whether that was the at the old Mile High or Dick's Sporting Goods. You were part of many of those games, just wondering if you feel like you have become an expert on how to deal with games there and my second question, in your whole career, have you been in these one-game finals as a player, how many of these, is there one moment that you can equate with this one-game final situation?
FRANK YALLOP: To answer your first question, those games were years and years ago, and obviously even last season's games don't mean anything. This is this season. They have got a new team, we have got new players. We try and get our guys ready for whatever eventuality that Colorado are going to throw at us.
And just get them prepared. And I think Bobby mentioned it earlier; things happen early that change a game. Early goal, early goal conceded; whatever happens, you've got to be able to deal with it. We've actually shown that hopefully we can deal with things this season a little better than we had in the previous two.
One-game situations for me, I did play in the playoffs -- don't laugh at this, 1987, I think these the first playoffs, Ipswich played Cheltenham and we got knocked out in the first round by Cheltenham, and used to be called the First Division; it's the Premier League. And that was a one-off game for us.
Played in a few cup games, FA Cup, League Cup in England at Ipswich. But the only playoff stuff that I had had, other than obviously MLS, was the one against Cheltenham in '87. Not a lot of people were born then.
Q. I don't know how you follow that, but anyway, I'd like to ask Frank about the building process, or in this case the rebuilding process with the San Jose Earthquakes and if maybe Frank, you can touch upon what you had as a vision and it seems to me looking at bringing in players, I'm not going to call them all old or veteran, obviously Bobby has been around for ten years but he's started very early. You took loose ends from different parts of the country and different parts of the world; what vision do you have that you couldn't really have in Los Angeles to putt this team together?
FRANK YALLOP: Well, I think there's a number of players you would love to get from other teams at MLS but you have absolutely no chance of getting them. We inquire about players all the time and it's always an: 'Are you kidding me' or a 'no chance.'
Not often that players get offered up, but I think a couple of trades that we have made have really worked out well, obviously the Wondolowski one being the top of everybody's list of a great trade for us. And I said it before, you know, Chris didn't get a chance to play in Houston because they had a terrific team, they were winning championships, and they had a done of really good strikers down there.
Chris has got a chance to play with us this year and he's done perfectly well. But at that time, Dominic didn't need him and felt that he could move him on.
So stuff like that, I think that you just try to keep getting better with every trade and anything we've tried to do is always to better the team. It's not to get rid of people or to move them on. It's to make the team better.
I think myself and John have been allowed to do that. We have been allowed to do what we need to do, and I feel that the characters -- L.A. have done this, they have got some good characters and players that see them through games. I think now we are starting to feel that now a little bit and we feel the team is more mature; not in their age, just in the way we play.
But I think next year is another year and we have got to build on what we have done this year. No matter what happens on the weekends or after that, we have got to make sure that we are building and making ourselves stronger and stronger each season, and it's not easy, because you might lose some players. You might -- expansion draft is coming up, we have got some players that we don't want to lose that are going to be in there. So it's not easy, but we've done I think a good job of not panicking with everything and building slowly.
THE MODERATOR: We'll conclude today's media teleconference call.
End of FastScripts