Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catching up with Chris Wingert, Part I

While in Charleston, I was able to catch up with Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert. We chatted about his USNT experience, his contract renegotation, leadership on the field, and about this RSL team. Here is part I and check back tomorrow for part II.


KIR: What was your national team experience like?

Wingert: It was great. It was great experience for me. I had been hoping to get involved with the team for a while. It’s been a few years since I wore a national team jersey. So I was obviously real excited. It was tough. We trained a lot. The training was real intense which is good. The level was high. Pretty much it’s the highest level that I’ve played at. So it was good to push yourself, and challenge yourself, but overall it was just great to be a part of it. Hopefully I did well enough for them to consider bringing me back in for the summer. You know there’s a couple of big tournaments and stuff. Just because of the busy schedule they’ll probably be bringing in a significant amount of guys, so hopefully I’ll be involved. We’ll see.

KIR: What do you take away from your experience that may help you out going forward?

Wingert: The biggest thing to me was the reminder of how it’s an everyday mentality and that you can’t just chose when to turn it on and turn it off. Bob really reinforces that in every session. I think that’s what it takes to become a better player and a national team player. It’s just a good reminder of that. I think we always work hard as a team with Salt Lake. It was good to see that at the next level that guys are working just as hard if not harder to make sure that their game rises when they are playing against better competition.

KIR: And you got a new contract during the offseason is that something that you were worried much about?

Wingert: I don’t know if worried is the right word. It was a bit stressful - partly because it went on for about four months which I kinda knew would happen. It just never gets done quite as quickly as you’d like to, but that’s just part of the negotiation process. I chose to do the deal on my own without an agent and so that put a little more pressure on me, and added a little stress to the negotiation because I wasn’t able to stay out of the negotiations. I did that on purpose and wanted to be involved with the process and I think that was a real learning experience and helped me to grow as a person. I think that it will help me on down the line. I felt strongly about what I was pushing for and I felt like I had all the information there at my disposal and I tried to use that to my benefit and everything ended up working out in the end. I’m happy as the staff has known for a while, I’m happy to be in Salt Lake. I made that clear pretty much since I’ve been here. There were some rumors going around about possibly having a chance to go to New York or a few other teams, but to be honest with you even though I’m from New York and miss my family and friends that are there, at the same time I’ve made it clear that I really like Salt Lake. I like the franchise, I like the staff, and I wanted to continue to be there. I think that helped the process and fortunately we were able to come to an agreement at the end.

KIR: So now that you have that behind you is it a big piece of mind to know that your future is going to be in Salt Lake for the next few years?

Wingert: Well, yes, and no. Yes it’s nice to have the process behind me and know that I got through it. I’m happier with my contract now than I was a year ago or even a few months ago – so that definitely allows me to put my focus 100% on soccer which is awesome. But at the same time, I know all too well that as I sign a quote, unquote four-year contract at this point it’s not really a four-year contract at this point it’s more for the league. And that anything can happen, so it doesn’t mean I’m definitely going to be in Salt Lake for four years but I’m not worried about that at this time. I’m happy with the situation. First of all, I’m young and single so I’m not dragging a family around anyway and I’ve enjoyed my experience in different cities. But I’m happy with the team and the situation and I think they are happy with me. So I think there is no reason that I should be moving anytime soon.

KIR: You have really emerged with this team after your time in Colorado and Columbus – do you think that’s just maturity as a player, or what do you think is behind it?

Wingert: I definitely think I’ve progressed as a player and I want to give Jason a lot of credit there, because I’m thankful to him that he’s really instilled a lot of confidence in me and given me the chance to succeed. With that being said though I don’t think I’m that different of a player. I did real well my first two years in Columbus. Once I started playing I played almost every game my rookie and second year and then got caught in a situation in Colorado where for whatever reason the coach didn’t see me as a consistent starter for them. I still played a decent amount – I mean everything I read is like I was constantly on the bench – I mean I played in every playoff game that they were in over the two-year span and I still played a decent amount. But it wasn’t as much as I thought I should be playing or wanted to being playing. So getting a chance to move was a great opportunity for me and I knew that Jason and Robin were coaches that I really wanted to play for. I was just getting to know Jason at the time – I didn’t know that much about him but I had heard a lot of really good things. And I’d known Robin from when we played together in Columbus, so I thought this would be a situation where I could really succeed and help the team succeed. And that’s turned out to be the case for the most part, but at that same time I think we need to make sure we keep moving in that direction. Which knowing their mentality – they’re not gonna stop and I’m not gonna stop either. So it’s not something we are satisfied with, we’re gonna keep pushing. We want to make the playoffs which is getting tougher and tougher in this league – so that’s a huge goal to start with. And then we’ve gotta try to push to that next step which is to win a championship.

KIR: On that note, what kind of things as a player are you working on individually or would you like to improve on? How do you take your game forward?

Wingert: For me, usually this has been my mindset and it definitely is now, that this is kind of trying to get better in every area. I’ve played both sides in the back so I’m consistently trying to get better with my right foot and my left foot, serving balls in, and just being consistent with my crosses. I think that’s a big part of my game, just trying to get forward and provide offense to the team. Just be more consistent with that. Continue to try to get better as a 1-v-1 defender when you are isolated on the outside. Just working on my quickness to close people down and when you get faced up to do a good job of not getting beat one-on-one. Those are some of my focuses, but really just try to get better in every area of my game. I do feel that I can provide some offense for the team, so hopefully I’ll get a goal or two this year which is something that has eluded me so far that I’m not too happy about. But things like that you can’t really press for you just have to work on those things every day in practice and let the results come.

(check back tomorrow for Part II)