Saturday, August 23, 2008

FOR REAL: Clint Mathis Part 2

21. What have been some of the highlights of your career and what have been some of the lowlights? Probably the biggest thing is playing in the World Cup, you know playing in it and scoring in it. It was just a great accomplishment. Just a great feeling and something I’ll never forget. And also playing in the Bundesliga. It was a great experience and I loved it. You know if I’d never come back and played for Salt Lake I’d probably still be playing in it. So that was probably a downfall of it. But back then I’d made a promise to John Ellinger and I’ve always been a man of my word. Even though it cost me a lot. You know it cost me a big part of my career. Because people say since I came back I haven’t been the same. So that was probably my biggest downfall at the same time.
22. Was that kind of a mental letdown at the same time – you’d been playing in Europe at the highest level and then you come back here? No. I was excited. I knew what I was coming back to and I’d always played in the MLS. But things didn’t work at as well. I took a lot of heat. So I think it kind of took a blow to me personally to know that I was being a bigger person to know that I wasn’t doing this for money. You know I stayed for a promise that I’d made 10 years before. And I don’t know if you can point to too many people that would have done that.
23. I’m not familiar with that? Well when he was my coach at the World University Games I said if you ever get a head coaching job I’d leave wherever I was playing to come play for him. And I still had 2 ½ years left on my German contract, and I was able to talk them out of that. And then to come back here.
24. Some of the top American players still see Europe as the place to go in the prime of their career. Do you think that stunts the progress of this league? I don’t think so. I think the progress of this league is getting bigger. Obviously it’s getting more notoriety worldwide. If anyone in this league was to tell you that the Premiership or the Bundesliga is not better, their lying. I mean this league is only 13 years old. When you’re dealing with leagues that are over 100 years old you know it’s hard to compete at first. You know we are continually getting better. We’re producing guys. I mean, you look at guys like Jozy Altidore who just gets bought for ten million dollars. If this league isn’t progressing and this country’s not progressing what are we doing with players like Jozy who are able to get sold for ten million dollars? The progression in this league is getting better. We’re getting more teams, but you are also still seeing the Blanco’s, the Beckham’s that can still play in their careers. You know in the old days they would have been 38 or 39 coming over here. These guys can still play. So I think it does show the progress of this league, but at the same time it does show younger kids that want to play in a more competitive league, a higher paying league and just a more notarized league world-wide.
25. Probably getting that exposure and experience helps American Soccer. For sure. It does help. It helps the National team. The better the National team does, the better that MLS progresses. It’s like a chain reaction.
26. If you were commissioner for a day, other than changing out the referees, what do you think could be done to help this league move forward? I think with the single ownership. I think it’s eventually gonna happen. I think from a player standpoint, we’re owned by the league and that’s tough for a player, you know you have no rights. Without the single ownership you can still do a salary cap. Other sports do it. Let the front office decide what a player gets paid, when to trade him, if they’re not happy then they are pretty much just screwed.
27. Do you think that will be the biggest point of contention with the collective bargaining agreement? It will. I think if it’s up to the league it won’t be up for discussion. It will just be a flat no, because the league ends up losing their power in that regard. But I think this league and the owners are going to realize that this league is going to get big enough to where the guys in the front office of the league are going to have to decide to give it to the owners and pull back. And then the owners are going to have to hire their people to do scouting, etc. And then I think the league will take a big step forward.
28. You mentioned the ’02 World Cup as being one of the highlights of your career, what do you take away from that, what do you remember the most? Scoring the goal. You could hear a pin drop. It seemed like everything was silent when you couldn’t hear before. When it was 65,000 people screaming, you couldn’t even hear on the floor, and as soon as I scored it got dead silent. And then I could hear the few American fans on the other side of the field, so it was pretty cool.
29. Since that point, it doesn’t seem like you’ve been in the mix much with the national team. Any reason for that? Well I played till 2005. When I was in Europe I was still playing with them. Obviously a lot of the Europeans didn’t come back to the US games, but I was playing in all of the games over in Europe. I think January 2005 was my last camp and that’s when I came here. So I didn’t have the best beginning of the season and that was pretty much it.
30. You were portrayed as a bad boy or wild child when you were here and earlier in your career, do you think that was unfair? Not at the beginning. Here I definitely wasn’t. I was here with my fiancĂ©e. Never really left home a whole lot, but people still portrayed that I think because of my days in New York. So be it. That was fine and I could take it.
31. So do you think that persona is totally behind you? Yeah it’s been gone. Plus I have a two week old, but it’s been gone before that.
32. You have a lot of passion on the pitch and sometimes even a bit of a temper, has that changed as well? Ah, I still have it. I’m a little more mellow as far as what not, but I’m still very competitive. So you might see tempers, but sometimes I think that’s good. It shows that I care. If I don’t have that I think I lose a little bit of my edge and competitiveness. So I want to be calmer and not get stupid yellow cards or talking to the referee or getting into tiffs that distracts me from playing. But at the same time I want that competitiveness and fire to go out there and win.
33. We see that passion from Kyle Beckerman, do you think that’s something that you have to add to the team? It could add a little bit. I think if people see an older guy that has experience going at there, that he’s not known for his fitness, to go out there and run my balls off and show that I want to win no matter what and be the new guy, then so be it. Then I’ll go out there and do that. But I want to lead by example and I think that’s the most important way to lead.
34. What do you think the strength of this club are, and what are some of the weaknesses? I think they’ve been very consistent in the games. I mean they are always in the games. Even this last weekend against Houston, we weren’t able to hold onto a 2-1 lead, so maybe that’s our weakness but we still stuck in the game. Creating chances, we still pulled within one. And I think that’s the thing, from the games I’ve seen that’s their main thing. They are always in the game. If you watch the games, they are always in it. You might not win all of them and you may tie some here and there, but they always keep themselves in the game.
35. It’s been said that the turf in Rice Eccles is the worst in the league and you have played in New York, is it really bad? New York’s bad too. Any turf’s bad if you ask a soccer player. It doesn’t matter –Boston’s probably got the best, but it’s still bad to play on. Turf is turf. You know the bright side is as you go out there and finish these last 3 games off. That’s what this franchise was built on, playing at Rice Eccles at the University of Utah, but now we’ll have our own home. You’ve only got a few more games in there and then we have our own stadium with grass.
36. As a player what does that mean to you moving into the new stadium? It’s great to be a part of. It was great to be a part of this organization being in its first year even though we didn’t do well. But to be a part of that was something special. And to be able to come back around the second time with this organization and move into the stadium is great. Any time any one of the teams in this league can get their own stadium it just makes the league that much greater. It’s better. It makes it better for the players, they want to play more, they have their own home. It makes it better for the fans. And the atmosphere is going to be ten times better than what it has been. Even though the atmosphere is good, and the crowd’s good – it’s not gonna compare to when they get their own stadium. With it soccer specific, it’s gonna be loud, it’s gonna be great.
37. I think the on-field advantage will be great and having an onsite training facility will help as well. Definitely. It makes it easier and you have more of a sense of pride to know that you are playing at home. You know whereas Rice Eccles is home, but you feel like a visitor there.
38. What adjustments as a player do you make when going from turf to grass, are there any changes you make? No not really. Usually it’s the other way around. You have to make changes there. We train on grass every day. When I was here the first time we trained on turf every day and it just beats up your body. You know over that long season, training on the turf every day just causes more injuries. It’s just not good. You know the situation with training on grass every day is nice. So I don’t think there is much of a change going from turf to grass like there is going from grass to turf.
39. Our next home game is against the Rapids, how much do you hate those guys? I don’t ever have any bad blood with anyone. I still have a lot of good friends on there. That was really the one call – to get traded from there was my call. I talked to Fernando and said “hey I’m just not fitting in here, and I’m not happy here. Is there anyway that you’d let me go to another team? And he said which team would you want to go to, and said either back home to LA or to New York where I played and have some family.” And he was nice enough to grant me that wish.
40. I’m not sure if it existed much when you were here, but this is turned into quite a rivalry. When I played for Colorado I was on the Colorado side. And I was at the game when Mr. Checketts almost got in trouble. Actually I think I kept him out of trouble.