TSG writer Jay Bell on RSL’s new flank weapon.
Arturo Alvarez was once a US Men’s National Team prospect. Known by fervent US fans as a guy who could possibly own a place on the wing, a consistently thin position for national team. Alvarez eventually faded out of the US setup altogether and switched his allegiance to El Salvador in 2009. Alvarez already has 14 caps for the Salvadoran national team and should be an important player for La Selecta in the Gold Cup this summer.
Alvarez is entering his eighth year as a professional at the ripe old age of 25. He has played for the San Jose Earthquakes (twice) and FC Dallas before landing with Real Salt Lake in the off season. Arturo takes his different, yet American, perspective and style to one of the league’s top teams, who also deploy a different, yet American, style.
Now here is our conversation with the All-American Salvadoran as he talks about MLS, RSL and the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. Big thanks to Real Salt Lake and you can follow Arturo on Twitter at @artieart10.
TSG: What was it like for you on the day of the expansion draft?
Arturo Alvarez (AA): Obviously I was keeping track and seeing if I got picked up by anyone, by any of the two teams, either Portland or Vancouver. It ended up being that Portland took me with their last pick of the draft. I didn’t get a call from them or anything saying that they were going to pick me or right after the pick. I think they usually call people. Instead, I got an “801″ phone call and it was Garth Lagerwey and he just wanted to welcome me to Real Salt Lake. So I was pretty excited about that.
TSG: How did you feel when you finally found out that you had landed with Real Salt Lake?
AA: I was actually really happy about it. I know Real Salt Lake is a really good team. I think as a soccer player you want to be part of a good team like that and surround yourself with good players and good people. From the moment I found out that I was a part of Real Salt Lake, I was pretty excited.
TSG: What is it like going into a team that was already headed to the knockout rounds of the Champions League?
AA: That’s always a bonus, I think these other kinds of tournaments on this side of the world that you want to be playing in. I’m just happy to be a part of the team right now. I thought they had a great, successful run last year. Now that I’m a part of the pack, hopefully we can make it to the finals.
TSG: Is there a different dynamic or a different feel within RSL than there was with other teams that you have played with?
AA: Yeah. I think to be quite honest, from the get-go, I think they showed me how important this tournament was, the CONCACAF Champions League, to this team and to this organization. Usually a lot of people say that most teams don’t even pay attention to the tournament, but if anything it is one of the biggest tournament to be a part of because it can give us an opportunity to go to the Club World Cup. Just the fact that I just got here, I know we’re in preseason and all, but just from the get-go it was “win, win, win.” That’s exactly what we’ve been focusing on.
TSG: With the Champions League, you also have the MLS season coming up, how are you feeling as the season gets closer and closer?
AA: I think that MLS is just as important as this tournament. If anything we are going to have some games under our belt. [AT&T issues] start off on a positive note to continue well into the MLS season.
TSG: How did you feel last season went for you?
AA: Last season was a bit up and down for me. I kind of struggled a bit with some hamstring injuries at the beginning of the year, which I think kind of brought me down. I started off really well and scoring goals early. Then I had my injuries which made me miss a good [AT&t issues] in the year. First of all, I feel like I contributed to the run that San Jose had last year. Towards the end of the year I wasn’t in the starting lineup, but I think I would come in and do well. That is the way soccer goes sometimes. You got to keep your head up and just keep going forward.
TSG: What do you think your role is going to be this year with RSL?
AA: I think my role is going to be just scoring goals and get involved in a lot of the play, a lot of the attack. Early this year, Jason and the coaching staff have spoken to be me about maybe using me as a second forward. If anything that is going to put me closer to goal and I think I’m a natural goal scorer. So I feel I will get a lot more goals than in my years past.
TSG: Does RSL deploy a different system than you are used to?
AA: Yeah. Usually they play with a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the middle. Teams that I have been with before in the past, it was just a straight 4-4-2 with just a line across the middle. With the diamond it is a bit different. We’re lucky to have Javier Morales who is the center mid for this team. He is the guy that gets everything going for this team so he has more of a free role. I think there is a lot of movement for the attacking players and a lot of freedom, which is good. One thing that Jason asked of all of the players is to work hard and work hard for the ball and that is what I am looking to do.
TSG: Are you looking forward to anything specific this year? Any specific games or anything?
AA: My focus is just to come here, work hard and earn a starting spot on this team because I think this is one of the best teams in MLS. So it is good to be starting for a team like this.
TSG: Are you keeping your eye on the Gold Cup this summer?
AA: Yeah. Obviously that is a big tournament. [AT&T issues] that we qualified for the Gold Cup so I am looking forward to that. Obviously you want to be on top of your game for those tournaments. So I am definitely looking forward to it. It is going to be my first one so I am pretty happy about that.
TSG: As far as MLS goes, how do you feel it will go with the Champions League, the season finish, the playoffs and everything else. I know it is a long season, but how do you feel it is going to go?
AA: Like you said, it is a long season. Real Salt Lake is in the CONCACAF Champions League and on top of that we have the US Open Cup and MLS to look forward to, so it is a lot of games.
I think the coaching staff knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to that. I think one of our strengths, for Real Salt Lake, is that we have a really deep team; we have a lot of depth. I think any player can go in and do well for us, and that is a good thing.
TSG: Thanks man. We always like to end our interviews on a light note. I’d like to do a quick word association with you. I’ll say an MLS team, just give me a word to describe them to you.
TSG: I’ll start off with the San Jose Earthquakes.
TSG: LA Galaxy.
TSG: New York Red Bulls.
AA: Energy drink.
TSG: DC United.
AA: History, like history of the team.
TSG: FC Dallas.
AA: I don’t know what do say there. [AT&T issues]
TSG: Colorado Rapids.
TSG: Real Salt Lake.
AA: Nice style of soccer, I guess.
TSG: Is there anything else that you would want to add in at the end?
AA: Just, I’m looking forward to this year. I am excited to be a part of Real Salt Lake. I think we can do a lot of great things this year, not only for us, but for US Soccer as well. Hopefully everything will go as planned and we’ll just work hard.