Jesse Marsch, New York Red Bulls
I would like to congratulate Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City for making it to the Open Cup Final. Peter’s done a great job with his team and obviously, they’ve played in many finals since he’s been there, so they’ll have good experience.
For us it’s a big opportunity and we’re very excited. We haven’t had as many finals and big games to play in as Sporting Kansas City, so we’re really looking forward to a great night. We know the stadium will be full and the energy and the crowd will be fantastic and we know we’ll have a really tough opponent. We’re really excited about this opportunity.
Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City
Good afternoon everyone. I would echo the same sentiment, Jesse, congratulations to you and to the New York Red Bulls. I’ve always said that the tournament is very special and I think it takes a very well-coached and determined team to get to this point.
It’s not easy juggling both league play and this competition but the teams and the players are serious about it and ambitious, they’re able to navigate both and I agree, it will be a very, very good match. I believe it’s two teams that try to play and the stadium will be a great environment. I also think a final’s a final and it should be a great atmosphere for both teams and I think it’s exactly what you want in a game like this. I think both teams have had a pretty well-tested run to get to the final, so look forward to the match, look forward to a good match and I wish Red Bulls the best of luck.
Brian Straus, Sports Illustrated
Peter, we talked before about the evolving style of play for this team and I’m curious how it is you think that you guys have been able to now contend for another trophy and be at the threshold of another trophy while undergoing this evolution. Sometimes a team would perhaps take a step back during that process, but you guys managed to now get yourself to another final. What does that say about the long-term plan and vision for the club that you’re able to do that during this transition?
Well, I think it always comes down to players. I think over the years one of the strong points of the team has been the consistency of the core group and when you’re able to add some pieces, some players that can assimilate pretty quickly to what you’re trying to do, it’s always a big help but it really comes always down to the players. If they have the right mentality and the right attitude, I think you can accomplish a lot, but more importantly you can build and evolve to what your vision is much quicker than a group of guys that are half-bought-in if you will. I think we have a group of guys that are just bought in and they believe in what we’re doing and at the same time they have great qualities individually and they believe in each other.
There’s obviously a history with the Red Bulls. You’ve talked about it; your players have talked about it. Is the way you’ve built this club, it’s no longer a club with sort of the big-name DP’s, the superstars, is the way that you’ve tried to build this team both in terms of the roster and the style of play perhaps more conducive to getting over that hump and winning a knockout competition than maybe it was before? Is that something that’s informed your decisions as you’ve gone along building this group?
Yeah, I would hope so. I will say, how it pertains to the Open Cup, when I first came to Red Bull, I was aware of the fact that this organization and many of the managers that coached here had not always taken this tournament seriously. And you know, when you’ve won this tournament, whether as a player or a coach, you understand the value it has and you appreciate what it means. When I came here, this was going to be something that we emphasized, and you know we’ve played a lot of good line-ups in my three years here in the Open Cup tournament and this year we managed to survive four tough games and now get ourselves into a final.
How it pertains to the style of play, both of our teams are trying to have an identity and trying to play to something, to be something specific that our players can understand how to play the way we want them to play. And I think it helps both clubs be successful in recent history and I would hope that whenever you’re building an identity or a style of play that ultimately what you want the identity to be about is winning… Ultimately your style of play and your identity should be about winning, so it’s an opportunity for us, a big opportunity for us I think to be in this moment and hopefully take advantage of it.
Michael Lewis, Front Row Soccer
Tim Melia? What did you see in him in 2014 that you were willing to take a chance to put him on the roster and then in 2015 making him a starter? Let’s face it, he did not have very much MLS experience before that, I think he had six games. Where have you seen the growth in him as a goalkeeper over the past three seasons?
In 2014, we suffered a bunch of injuries with all of our goalkeepers and we needed to bring in a league pool goalkeeper at the time and it was Tim. He wound up staying with us for almost a two-week period. During that time, obviously it’s not just him sitting on the bench for a game but it’s about him training with us and you could easily see that he had some really good qualities as a goalkeeper. Very powerful, good on his line, good shot stopper, just had a lot of good qualities. And so, as the season wore on, he was with DC in the playoffs and then when they got knocked out, we had him immediately fly to Oklahoma and had him train with Jimmy Wilson. He was supposed to train there for five days and two-and-a half days in Jimmy called me and said “Listen, there’s no doubt that this guy can play, I think you should sign him.”
I wanted to get someone else’s opinion outside of ours and I trust Jimmy immensely and obviously, his identification and his evaluation is fantastic. The one area that I think Tim has really grown in and that is for any player and especially a goalkeeper is that when we did put him in, he started to play on a regular basis in 2015 especially, he deserved it. He was playing very well in practice, he was working really hard, he was just in form. And the one thing I loved about him is when he got his first opportunity, he never looked back. And what I think happened after ’15 is that in ’16, he now was labeled as a no. 1, it was a growth year for him and I think now this year, he truly feels as if he’s the guy. Even though he’s a little bit older, I think what’s happened to him is that he’s really taken on to understand that he’s the no. 1 and the guys respect him and have an amazing amount of confidence in him.
Sam McDowell, KC Star
Peter, talking to your guys, they all mention that just the experience of playing in three of these in the past five or six years has helped them. Are there tangible ways that you notice that playing in 2015 and further back actually helps you guys Wednesday night?
The only thing I’ll say to that is that I think experience is great, only if you know how to use it. You don’t know how to use it, it doesn’t mean anything. The fact that we’ve been in a couple of these, as long as we know how to use the experience that we’ve gained from it, great. But if we don’t, it really doesn’t matter. I do know that every game is different and you have to be prepared for everything. We know that we’re going up against a very, very good team and we’re going to have to be prepared for everything.
Brian Lewis, NY Post
Jesse, I’m just curious for an update on Daniel Royer- his health and would you expect him to be available, and either way, could you just expand on what kind of impact his loss had on your offense?
Yeah, when we lost Danny, it was unfortunate because he was playing quite well. He was just coming off being Player of the Month, scoring a lot of goals. And then when he was injured we kind of create a time frame that we thought would line up with the Open Cup Final. He’s in full training and we’ll have to make a decision. I don’t think he’s ready to start but I think he’s a consideration for the 18 and then we just have to evaluate where he’s at physically and how he feels and then also looking at our international restrictions, you’re only allowed five in this tournament so you have to then try to get the balance right of which foreigners you’re calling on.
So, the only way that we can really put Danny on the roster is if we feel like he’s 100 percent and he’s ready to go and I think he’s close. That will be a decision that gets made in the next day.
Jeff Carlisle, ESPN
Just looking at your lineups throughout this competition, (you’ve) tended to play a lot more first team players it seems than maybe some other teams, why is that and how have you tried to strike that balance between taking this competition seriously and also doing well in the league?
I would say a couple of things on our side. We only played MLS teams, so we knew that the matches were going to be very tough and we had to be prepared for them. That’s one and the other is that I think everybody who goes into this competition anymore goes into it with everything they have. The games are very difficult and I also think our players have to get to a place where they can play three games in a week, with at times, a little bit of roster rotation and other times with a lot, but your main guys need to be able to play on a regular basis. It was something that we worked towards in the off-season, making sure that we were in a position to be able to play Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday if you will and be able to do it with our main guys.
I think in this age you see more teams playing their regular line-ups. We played a lot of MLS teams as well and every MLS team we played, played their full line-up. Made for some really difficult games, made for some good games, but I think that teams understand this is a real trophy and this isn’t just a throw-out tournament and certainly, like I said before, anyone who’s won this tournament before, who’s won this trophy, I think values it even more. We’ve used it in many ways, I think it’s actually helped really solidify what we’re doing with our season and the success we’ve had in this tournament I think has given our team confidence and the belief that they can win in big games, so that’s been important for us in the progress of our club and our team, especially with so many young guys.
Sean Hartnett, CBS NY
You had the opportunity to lift this trophy four times as a player, is there a different joy that comes with building an identity with this Red Bull squad, getting the players to buy in and going on a run like this?
Like I just spoke, it’s benefitted us greatly. I think it’s given the guys confidence. They’ve had moments in this tournament where their backs have been against the wall and they stuck together and found out a way to merge. I think it’s also well understood that the New York Red Bulls and going back to the MetroStars days have never won a trophy. There’s been some Supporters’ Shields, but there’s never been a trophy. So, this is a big opportunity for the club and for this team, and I think, again, that it’s something we’re taking seriously and it’s something that’s helped us grow into this team and into our season in a really good way.
Charles Boehm, MLSSoccer.com
Both of you guys have talked in the past about your clubs not maybe getting the recognition that you deserve, especially in the national spotlight, where does the Open Cup play into that, how does this tournament help you maybe put yourself on the map or is there still something more out there that needs to happen to get the respect you deserve?
I don’t know if maybe I agree with your statement. I don’t really speak too much about whether we get respect or not, I think the big thing for us is that we go into every season realizing that there’s three opportunities to win something. There’s the Supporters’ Shield, there’s the U.S. Open Cup and there’s the MLS Cup. And all three of those championships have an incredible value to us. And any time you have a chance to play for a trophy, it’s a privilege. For us, we leave it up to everybody else to decide what they want in how they perceive our team and what they think but at the end of the day for us, what’s important to us is what we believe, how we think and how we go about our business day-in and day-out and I think that’s our biggest focus as a team and more importantly, as a club.
Mark Fishkin, Seeing Red Daily
Can you talk a little about the Red Bulls’ playing style, their high press challenges you guys to be your best and how you like to work around a pressing system?
I think that they have great energy, they are very courageous, they get forward, they have very technical guys that are great in combination play. I mean, it’s easy to see when you watch their games, you know what’s coming and it’s not something to stop easily, that’s for sure. They also have some very hungry players on their team and they play at a very high tempo. As I stated, I think it’ll be a good game, we have the utmost respect for what they’ve done and how they play, and we know that it’s going to be a battle.