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Open Cup

2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Q & A: Seattle's Sigi Schmid and Sporting K.C.'s Peter Vermes

2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
Pre-Match Quote Sheet
Aug. 7, 2012

Seattle Sounders head coach SIGI SCHMID
Opening remarks:
“We’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for all of the wonderful things that the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup represents and the opportunity it presents for us as a team and the opportunities for all the teams that represent this country. It’s a great competition. Our congratulations to Kansas City for the great season that they’ve had so far, in not only the Open Cup but also in league play. It’s going to be a tremendous final. We’re looking forward to it. We’re very honored to be in the final and we’re honored at the opportunity that presents itself for us. Having been able to win the past three finals and the opportunity to maybe win a fourth is unique and special. We know the competition is going to be very difficult tomorrow night and playing away from home also makes it a little bit harder. It’s something that’s going to be exciting and I think the fans are going to have a great time. I think the nation is going to see a great game.”

On forward Eddie Johnson’s motivation returning to Kansas City to face his former team:
“Eddie has been motivated the entire season. For him, his career overseas didn’t go as he hoped and had expected so this was a chance for him to put his mark back on soccer to show people that he could still play. He’s been motivated from the beginning of our season and I don’t think there’s special motivation for him because he’s going against Kansas City. I know he still has friends and people that he knows in the area and people that he knows that have played for Kansas City even though there aren’t many left from when he was around. His motivation is the same as it is every game – just showing that he’s still a very good soccer player, and he’s shown that so far this season and he wants to show it again tomorrow night.”

On if Seattle’s three straight U.S. Open Cup triumphs haven’t received enough recognition:
“It’s a little more difficult than people can imagine. It’s a straight knockout competition, so there are a lot of things that can go wrong. You can get some bad bounces, bad calls, you can run into a hot goalkeeper or have a bad day at the office and you’re out. That’s why when you look around the world, there are very few countries where you see teams repeat as cup champions. You’ll see a Manchester United repeat as league champions or a Barcelona or Madrid go through runs in terms of league championships. Of major countries, you very rarely find a team that wins their open cup competition a number of years in a row. From that standpoint, it has flown under the radar a little bit. The other thing for us is that it’s a lot of hard work because it qualifies you for the Champions League, so at this stage of the season for us, we’ve played more games than any other team in MLS. We’ve had to juggle more, we’ve had to come through injuries and we’re healthier now. On the same token, when you add those games and you continue to see that we have success over three years in that competition - it’s something that people certainly don’t rate as highly as winning the MLS Cup - I think winning the Open Cup is a championship that should get a little more recognition than it does around the country.”

On the issues Sporting KC’s defensive back line presents:
“It’s more than their defense. It’s their attacking play, as well. They’re a team that plays with a tremendous amount of energy. They like to press you and put pressure on you. They’re very quick going forward and on the counterattack. They like to get the ball into your end of the field. They like to get numbers forward and it creates a lot of problems for us because they force teams out of their normal rhythm or normal shape of how they play. That is what helps their defending because at times they don’t have to defend as much as they would because of the offense that they generate. When you do have a chance to go at them, they have a pretty accomplished defensive group. They’ve got a great goalkeeper who organizes well and who does a good job positionally for them. They’ve got a hardworking group in front of him. They’ve got good defenders with [Matt] Besler and [Seth] Sinovic and others, but also a midfield that works very hard and even their wingers will come back and help them defend. When you’re going at them, oftentimes you’re looking at nine guys back and sometimes 10 if the center forward drops. On the same token, their best defense is their offense. They put pressure on you on the other end of the field and that’s what really helps their defense. For us, the important thing is to get into a rhythm of play, to possess the ball when we can, to look for our opportunities and take advantage of those when they present themselves. It’s a game where you’ve got to be alert, very focused and concentrated.”

On how the veteran teammates have educated those new to the tournament and playing in a final:
“I think they’ve realized the importance of the Open Cup to the organization as we’ve gone through each round of the competition. At this stage of the season, they’re very aware of the importance to the team, and we have enough players with experience that can help them manage the situation and get them accustomed to what they need to do within the game itself. In terms of preparation for the game, they know what’s important. They’re telling each other what needs to get done. They’re a good, professional group. They’re going to be ready to step on the field and take care of themselves, be prepared physically as well as mentally. There’s enough experience out there on the field for us, coupled with guys who haven’t played in an Open Cup final before, that I’m not worried about it.

On making sure there are no letdowns following a convincing 4-0 win against the LA Galaxy in MLS play:
“We started talking about the Open Cup game about five minutes after the Galaxy game. We gave them five minutes to enjoy that one and let them know what the next task is at hand. The one thing is we’re a group that over the last two years has gone through playing a lot of games. Like I said earlier, we’re the group that has played the most games over the last couple of years of any other team in MLS. We’ve gone through the experiences of having to manage from one game to the next and focus on the game at hand and not get ahead of ourselves. Sometimes as a coaching staff we need to get ahead of ourselves a little bit. We need to look and say if we play this group in this game, then there might be these changes for the next game, or there might be these changes for the next game. We try and look three games ahead. But as a group and as players, we try to get them really focused on this next game, and then we’ll make decisions as we approach the game after that. So for us, the moment the LA Galaxy game ended our focus was on this game with Kansas City and the Open Cup final.

On raising the profile of the U.S. Open Cup:
“I think it rests on everybody’s shoulders. It’s not just one group or another. I think what we’ve done in hosting the last couple of finals, and with the attendance figures that we’ve gotten, I think we’ve definitely raised the bar. It’s great, and it’s extremely significant, that it now goes into another city and you’re looking at a stadium that’s going to sell out as well. That raises it to another level and that draws attention to it. I think drawing upon the history of the event, drawing upon the uniqueness of the event and that this is something where all levels of the sport can compete against each other for one trophy, which is unique in sports to the U.S. in comparison to the other major sports. Transparency is important, getting the word out there, having the teams that participate and host games doing a stronger job in terms of putting it into the appropriate venue, the appropriate-sized venue, the appropriate attention to it so they create an atmosphere and create an event around the game. I think all those things are important. It rests on everybody’s shoulders. It rests on the shoulders of U.S. Soccer, but it also rests on the shoulders of the teams that are participating. It rests on the shoulders of the media to make people aware of the uniqueness of this tournament this year. With the success of Cal FC, there was a little bit of that story line that got through – here is the David that’s advancing all the way up to play these Goliaths. That’s part of the intrigue and part of the fantasy of the Open Cup, and that’s something that a lot of the American soccer public – the newer American soccer public – is not aware of. We need to educate them there.”

On preparing for the possibility of overtime in an Open Cup format:
“It’s going to be hot, so I really don’t want to be out there 30 more minutes. That’s in my thinking. We don’t want to play any overtime. It impacts your decisions as to players that maybe have little aches and pains or little nicks, and so forth. I think it impacts sometimes who you start and don’t start because there’s the prospect of overtime being played at the end. There’s also the situation as you make your substitutions in the second half, you may be depending on the score line and where the game is at that particular moment in time. What you’re trying to achieve might impact whether you’re still holding a sub because you’re seeing the game maybe going into overtime. Maybe one day FIFA will come to the recognition that if we allow three subs in 90 minutes, maybe we should allow four if it goes 120. That’s my one soapbox statement for today. But it does affect what you’re going to do substitution-wise. It does impact sometimes the decisions you’re going to make with your starting lineup.”

On the event’s winner earning a CONCACAF Champions League berth:
“I think it’s important for the competition and for U.S. Soccer to maintain that a Champions League spot goes to the winner of the Open Cup. I think it adds value to the competition and it makes it something that becomes more meaningful in everyone’s eyes.”

Sporting Kansas City head coach PETER VERMES
Opening remarks:
“I would like to echo the same sentiments in regard to U.S. Soccer. I think this is a tremendous competition and we are nothing but thankful and very excited to be a part of it. In regard to Seattle, I think that, and I’ve said this before, they have not gotten the attention that they should in regards to the incredible feat that they’ve accomplished by participating in four Open Cup finals in a row. What an incredible feat that they’ve accomplished as a coach, a group of players and then as an organization. It’s incredible. So, congratulations to them. In regards to tomorrow night, we are very excited for a number of reasons. Obviously, being able to participate in the final is a tremendous step in the right direction for our organization and something we’ve committed ourselves to doing – trying to be able to compete in MLS and also in the U.S. Open Cup and then potentially one day in [CONCACAF] Champions League, as well. It’s a great step in that direction. It’s a great opportunity to bring a tremendous event to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Our ownership group investing in this new stadium that we’re so fortunate to be able to play in week in and week out deserves an event like this. I think it’s great for the game, it’s great for our league and U.S. Soccer, and I think it’s great for our fan base. We’re excited. We’re looking forward to the incredible matchup tomorrow night. We have the utmost respect for Seattle. We just hope it winds up being a very entertaining game because that is a part of this that we have a responsibility in.”

On the health of his team heading into the U.S. Open Cup final:
“As I’ve said all along, we are definitely suffering right now from the injury bug. This competition especially is one in which you need to use every man on your roster. We’ve gotten to the final by rotating our team around. I really believe that this is a competition that everybody in this league wants to be in the final if they have the ability to. The difficulty from a manager’s perspective is being able to rotate your roster and put the right group of players on the field each step of this competition that can get you the result you need. It’s not an easy feat. We’ve used quite a few different lineups going into this competition and we’ll have to do the same tomorrow night. We’re going to put everything on the line and every guy who’s going to be on the field or get a chance to play will give everything they have.”

On what the young players can gain from the experience of the U.S. Open Cup:
“Last year, when we played against Houston in the Eastern Conference final, we learned a lot as a team. We were a very young group, myself included, and with that we really did learn a lot from that game. The difference is that we understand that it’s a final. That game last year was a final and this year, this game is a final. We don’t have to approach it from the perspective that we’re at home. We need to face it from the perspective that it’s a final. For us going into it, guys like Graham [Zusi] and Teal [Bunbury] and any of the guys all realize that it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to win a championship, it’s an opportunity to win prize money and get a berth into CONCACAF Champions League. All of those things are understood. The key is that this isn’t something that we look at as the end-all-and-be-all. It’s a great opportunity for us to win a championship during the course of our season that’s still young. I think they’re all excited about it, but they’re definitely a lot more experienced than they were last year.”

On how much pressure Seattle’s past success in the U.S. Open Cup puts on Sporting Kansas City:
“They’re not the defending champs – they’re the three-time defending champs. We’re coming up against a formidable opponent. They’re in this position because of players and leadership and we realize that. It’s going to be a very tough game for us. No doubt it helps to be playing at home with our fans, but we don’t think that’s an overriding factor. At the end of the day, good teams can win anywhere; Seattle has proven that time-and-time again. We know that we have our work cut out for us and we’re going to have to be at the top of our game to be able to compete. We’re going to do everything we can to be able to play at a very high level tomorrow night, but we know we’re up against a very strong team.”

On midfielder Roger Espinoza’s status coming back from the 2012 Olympics playing for Honduras:
“It’s early. Roger did have a [shoulder/clavicle] injury coming back from London and he was actually dealing with it in the Brazil game as well. He’s gone through a lot. Roger is a beast though. He finds a way. He’s someone that is important to our team, but whether he’s going to have enough for the entire game and come the following weekend is something I’ll have to assess as we go through each game. He’s a strong guy, but I just think it’s something we’ll have to assess as we get closer to the match tomorrow night.”

On the problems posed by Seattle’s attacking players:
“They’re an all-around team. They defend very well along with their tremendous attack. Eddie [Johnson] is extremely hot right now; [Fredy] Montero is a player you can play through and does so much for them at holding the ball and bringing other people into the game. [Mauro] Rosales has great movement off the ball. There’s not just one thing you can focus on. You have to be alert to all the moments in the game and you can’t lose concentration because players like that can hurt you at any time. I also think that they have players that now how to manage the game very well. They know how to manage opportunities for fouls to get quite a few set pieces. You have to be very smart with how you deal with them in that regard. I think it’s just being alert and concentrated on every roll of the ball will be the issue for us over the course of 90 minutes.”

On the U.S. Open Cup providing a boost for Sporting in league play:
“That’s a big goal of ours. There’s no doubt, if you are to win at this point of the season it would give your team a psychological boost. All of that can be a big help. But make no mistake about it – getting to this point is a big accomplishment for our team. We realize how difficult it is, especially with the managing of the roster and the number of games we’ve played as well, so we’ll deal with everything else tomorrow night.”

On Sporting Kansas City’s efforts for a prominent soccer culture and impact:
“This new ownership group has taken a different kind of commitment and approach to where they see the sport on a global level – not only nationally, but here locally. It is commensurate with who they are. All five of our owners are entrepreneurs. They’re gentlemen who take risks. They haven’t really changed that philosophy at all with the rebrand of this organization, the building of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, and we actually have a brand-new training facility on the horizon that we’re working toward. They’re constantly pushing the envelope and see the future of this sport not only here locally, but nationally and internationally, and believe that we can be a really strong player in the years to come on the international market. Because of that, they not only have a plan, but they have also executed everything that they stated they would do. That has become evident in the way that the club and this team are, and the way we approach stepping on the field and continue to try to compete for competitions as we move forward. This is the first one that we’re sitting in the final of. It’s the type of event that we want to bring to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and into the Kansas City area.”

On how Seattle has impacted the U.S. Open Cup in recent years:
“Seattle has definitely raised the complexion of this tournament. There’s no doubt about it. Each year they’ve had the final at their place, the spectacle of it and the environment have been first class. That’s already been done. I think what it’s doing is it’s bringing it to another part of the country, but I still think from a media perspective, the actual history of this tournament needs to be portrayed a lot more and the way the competition works, meaning that USL, NASL and amateur teams can participate. It’s a competition that doesn’t exist in any other sport in this country when it comes to the major sports in this country. I think from that point of view, it’s an incredible story to tell. But there’s no doubt in my mind the spectacle tomorrow night will be tremendous as well, and it will continue to raise the level of this competition in this part of the country.”