TSG spoke with Real Salt Lake fullback Chris Wingert Monday after his team ended up on the wrong side of a 5-0 scoreline on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The impetus of the conversation was to get a sense of just what happened with RSL’s snowball loss and to get an understanding of where the Jason Kreis’s team’s psyche was after the debacle.
Here’s the conversation with Chris with some pearls of insights on his teammates in closing.
Matthew, TSG: What the hell happened out there on Saturday?
You guys looked like Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year who unceremoniously fell to Roger Federer. Like the expectation was of the match between those two, you guys were supposed to have a lengthy tug-of-war, but instead one team seized on some momentum and it was lights-out of the opponent. You guys seem to collapse in the second half even before the cards showed up. What happened?
Chris Wingert: I don’t think we collapsed before the card; I’m pretty sure it was still 1-0 at the time.
Letting up four goals once we’re down a man is still not acceptable.
It’s something that we practice quite often in training [being a man down].
Last time we were there [SJ] down a man and a goal, we still had a decent amount of the play and we able to score and tie it up.
The belief that we could still get a result was there and then the wheels kind of fell off. We ended up giving up a bunch of set pieces and we ended up going three in the back; they kind of exposed us and got in a few more times.
TSG: What did you talk about going into the game and what were the tactics? You had lost two previous to San Jose. What did you change based upon those games?
Wingert: I don’t think there was a big change or need for in tactics. We had played well the past two games. We still had a lot of chances in both games; maybe twenty in that second game.
We spoke about being a little bit more focused and more sharp on the defensive end.
We felt we just needed to be a little sharper because they had scored on two set pieces in those losses.
Those should be things that would be pretty easy to fix. We played good soccer those games. We didn’t need to change tactics.
TSG: One of the nice things about Buck Shaw stadium is is how incredibly close to the teams you are and how audible the game is. Having been to many a game at the Buck, I can say that Saturday I watched a SJE opponent who was “the more audibly frustrated team I’ve heard there.”
Not saying the Quakes created it, but did you get the sense it was a more frustrating game as it progressed? Seemed like that from the press box.
Wingert: Not necessarily as it progressed, but right there in the first half. We just weren’t playing that well and the frustration was coming just from that.
We weren’t doing a good job organizationally in the back. We needed to clean some things up there.
But at halftime we went in and we said, “We’re not playing well, but we’re still only down one-nothing, we’re in this game. If we can turn it around in the 2nd half all will be forgotten.”
We felt like we were still in a decent position to do that.
It felt like we had a tough call with everything that happened and things got out of control, went down a man again and they were able to bury us.
TSG: Ok. In regards to Javi Morales — who you got into it with early in the 1st half and then after a stare down late in the first half–Javi seems like a guy that is generally very positive on the pitch, but on Saturday it was clear to an impartial observer that he had let’s say funky body language. That he had some really bad body language.
Is his body language that something you spoke with him about. Was it noticeable for the team? It did seem just very negative.
Wingert: Well, I think, you know, Javi is just a really intense guy and there are going to be times on the pitch when you are getting on each other. It happened with me and him, and Jamison.
You’re trying to sort things out and it’s not like [softer voice] “Hey, you think, maybe you could do this a little different.”
You’re going to get on each other; it’s nothing personal.
Javi wanted me to play the ball in behind.
I was trying to play it into the midfield and then out to the wing…and we were kind of having trouble getting it out there and I was saying to Javi: ‘I’m trying to get in first so we can keep the ball on the ground and knock it.’
It’s a situation where maybe we needed to play a little more direct. We talked about it at halftime.
We’re normally a possession-oriented team, a team that likes to keep it, knock it and for whatever reason that wasn’t working in the first half and maybe we needed to get the ball in there end and show ’em it down in there end to get things going.
But I don’t think that Javi was anymore negative than normal; it’s just more about being a competitor. There are going to be times on the field in a tense situation and you have to get things accomplished.
TSG: There was also a lot of hollering at a young player here, Luis Gil.
It could be said that Jason Kries unfairly put Gil in a situation where it would be difficult to success. Now I know he had an excellent game last weekend, but that was at home against the cellar dweller Portland Timbers.
Here was a young player on the road, against a seasoned opponent, against a veteran midfield that was on-form and in a midfield that would be tasked 4 vs. 3 as Javi, you know, usually pushes up pretty high into a forward role. Do you think Jason put Luis in a tough position? How do you think he played?
Wingert: Well, not at all. That just shows the fact that we believe in Luis and we believe in his ability. He’s not like he’s a rookie and this wasn’t his first match. He’s more than capable of getting the job.
We believe in his talent and his work ethic. The team as a whole we struggled. It wasn’t Luis’s fault.
Luis has done great for us, especially for his age.
Luis is already incredibly mature and he’s got a great attitude and work ethic and that’s part of being on this team and him having some success.
I don’t think it was an unfair position to put him in at all.
He’s going to be a really big-time player. He’s already a very good player. And he’s only what 18, 19. He’s really going to be big-time in a couple of years and hopefully we’ll be able to keep him around for awhile.
TSG: But do you think he played poorly though on the evening or was in a tough spot?
Wingert: Look, I don’t think that anyone played okay, but certainly Luis didn’t stick out as playing any worse than anyone else. No individual on our team had a good match.
TSG: Jason Kreis was remarkably quoteable in the post-game press conference, challenging you guys by saying many of you slept-walk through the game–which seemed like a fair comment.
In particular, Kreis singled out your backline mate Jamison Olave. Given that, like you said with Luis, no one played well, why do you think Jason elected to called out Olave, specifically?
Wingert: I think you’d have to ask Jason that. It’s not my position to speak about that.
TSG: What happened on the Cronin-Beckerman-red card situation from your vantage point?
Wingert: Well you know, Cronin stuck in on Javi pretty hard and it seemed to be a pretty dangerous tackle. Javi was down. There was a second there when the ref could have controlled the situation.
I think Cronin didn’t really know what to do. He was kind of hesitating.
The rule is now that the ref needs to sort it out. The ref didn’t. So Kyle tried to go in the play.
I saw the replay but I certainly don’t think it was a red card tackle. So Kyle got stuck-in on a tackle.
And then guys got into it because energy his high and nobody is happy on our team and they’re not going to back down.
Then it was a little bit of pushing and then next thing you know were down a man again in San Jose.
For me, I was more concerned immediately afterward at how we were going to change our formation so I went over to the coaches to see they wanted to do. At the time, we’re still in the match.
I was more concerned with organizing our team than the red card.
TSG: Something I mentioned before the match is that this is the type of game that RSL would win last year. Meaning a game on the road against a team that they might have felt “wronged” against previously. In fact, I picked RSL to win the match. Yet you guys didn’t make that statement on Saturday, in fact, it was the direct opposite statement that was made. An example is that game up in Portland earlier in the year.
How far is RSL off say it’s 2010 or 2011 form? Where specifically can you improve?
Wingert: Obviously our team is a little bit embarrassed by the scoreline and disappointed with the performance and at the same time it’s just one loss. As long as we don’t let anything more. The media will make a big deal and the fans aren’t too happy, but nobody is more upset than us.
We just need to make sure we don’t let it happen again. I have no doubt we’ll come out and put on a good performance next weekend.
Sometimes those things happen. We weren’t playing that well and combined with being unfortunate down a man, it looks like it’s the worst thing in the world. But the fact is he still have the second most points in the league and we just need to take care of our position.
A litte more specifically, we just need to continue to try and improve. It’s been our goal our whole year.
We’ve had ups and downs all year. I think we were a little bit unfortunate not to get some results a few weeks ago.
We came back with a great win at home against Portland and hit a bump in the road with a bad loss at San Jose, but that’s it.
TSG: Okay, that’s probably enough of the RSL game. Let’s move on to some softer stuff.
Does Kyle Beckerman listen to anything besides Bob Marley? He only tweets about Marley. I’m sure there is some Peter Tosh in there. Any insights?
Wingert: He listens to plenty of different music. He plays the guitar a bit. He listens to all different types of music, hip-hop, classic rock. He’s in to Jack Johnson.
TSG: Speaking of Kyle–obviously he got that red card–do players ever physically ask for their red cards–I would–and keep them as mementos at all? Not soccer balls or anything?
Wingert: Ha. No, not like that. I’ve only gotten one red card my career and I didn’t want to keep it. I don’t think that’s a memento that anyone wants to much.
Jamison popped a ball the other day in practice and that was pretty impressive. So tried to get him to sign that.
TSG: From an entertainment perspective, Will Johnson is one of the most fun players in the league to watch. He’s the MLS player version of a tea kettle. He just starts warming up and warming up until he blows.
What do you guys do to try and calm him down? Have you tried chamomile tea or a foot fixer or something?
Wingert: Will’s way beyond calming down at this point. I don’t think chamomile tea is going to help him. That’s what makes him so good; he’s so intense. It shows up in his fitness and how hard he works.
I think he’s been like that since 17 or 18 or before. I’ve spoken to the guys in Chicago, the guys he used to play with years ago when he first game into league. They were pretty surprised back then by how intense he was when we came into the league as a young kid.
I don’t think you can do anything to calm him down.
TSG: Can you actually talk to him on the pitch or is well beyond comprehending?
Wingert: Oh no, Will’s great.
He’s probably sick of hearing my voice. You know, we usually play together on the left side and I’m constantly talking to him. So he probably gets sick of hearing me.
Wingert: No, but actually….
Justin’s got a serious girlfriend here in Utah, so I’m sure that she’s psyched that he’s back and he’s psyched to be back.
But I’ve already had a friend hit me up–and he had only been here for a day–and a friend of the friend was asking if he was single, so I think he could get into trouble in Utah if he wanted to….
….but he’s got a serious girlfriend and I’m sure she’s happy to have him back as well as his family.
TSG: Do you think Johnny Steele was given his name at birth or do you think he changed it himself to get a few more tryouts with professional soccer teams?
Wingert: Man, I don’t know. But man does the name suit him. It’s perfect for him.
He’s a character. Great personality to have in the locker room. He’s been great for us so far. He’s scored a couple of game-winners.
We love having him around, name or not. But we all appreciate…..Johnny Steele.
TSG: Pick one team only. Who do you feel is RSL’s most hated rival now? Don’t punt on it.
Wingert: It’s tough. It’s tough.
I would say, not maybe the most hated, but our biggest rival, I would probably still say is LA, with Colorado being a close second.
The battles we’ve had with LA the past couple years. Us winning in 2009 and them knocking us out of playoffs last year.
I think probably still LA, but that’s a tough one.
TSG: Thanks Chris, appreciate the time.
Wingert: Ok, sounds good. Good talking to you.
Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake fullback.