Friday, March 27, 2009

Catching up with Chris Wingert, Part II

(continued from yesterday)

KIR: There has been a lot of talk about the core, especially for a team that has had continued upheaval throughout its existence. What does that mean to you and how does that benefit the team going into the season?

Wingert: Well there’s no doubt that we’re in a better place than we were a year ago, just because we’ve had a year together and that core group of guys that everybody is talking about is back and that’s great. There’s always going to be little changes made on any team in any sport – that’s just the way things go. Anytime you have a chance to improve your team you’re going to do so. Especially in this league that’s constantly evolving and getting better. So I think that you need to do that to keep par with the rest of the league. But we’re confident in the guys that we have, and I think that the more time that we have together, the better we’ll be. I think the franchises and teams across the league that have really been successful since I’ve been in the league – teams like New England and Houston/San Jose – have kept a core together and its worked out to their benefit. And I think that we’re trying to do the same thing and I don’t see any reason why we should try to go in a different direction. That being said, there are little changes that sometimes can help your team, but we really have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have.

KIR: So what is it about that core, is it about knowing each others tendancies, knowing your role in the group, having confidence in each other?

Wingert: That core group has shown that we’re capable of succeeding in the MLS and all those guys are really willing to put the work in and keep their ego’s out of it and I think that’s huge. The guys that everybody is talking about are all willing to do the work for the team and I think that we really believe that by doing that we’re going to get results more times than not.

KIR: Is that unique to this team?

Wingert: I think it can be. In my experience – Columbus we had a good group of core guys and we were successful because of it. We won the Supporters Shield my first year. Unfortunately we lost in the playoffs, but we had one of the best teams. And we had an unbelievable group of core guys on that team. Unfortunately the following year we had some injuries and different issues that derailed us a little bit. In Colorado I don’t think that was the case. There was definitely a good group of core guys, bu the team as a whole including the staff – not everybody was on the same page and I think that hurt us. I think that we got by and still did alright because we did have some good players and there’s so much parity in this league that on any given day a team is able to win. But I do think it’s pretty unique. Obviously I haven’t been with every team but I would guess that there are some other teams that have a good group of core guys and that is why they are successful.

Trey: Were you and Nat in Colorado together?

Wingert: No, he left when I came in – at basically the same time. He left in ’05 and my first year was ’06.

KIR: As part of that core, I assume that one of the things that happens is that leadership develops and you seem to be a vocal leader out on the pitch. Is that something that you consider as part of your role?

Wingert: Definitely. Definitely. You know that’s something that I really kind of took to heart in college and then you come to the pros and it’s a different environment because as a rookie it’s hard to be a leader. But it’s something for a while that I thought that I could bring to the table and help whatever team that I was on and coming into this team especially with the overhaul and bringing in some new guys we happened to have a real young group. And it turned out that the veteran players ended up being guys like Kyle and myself and amongst others. And I felt like it was a role that I ultimately could fulfill and hopefully I’ve done that. I’ve let it be known to the staff that I want to be one of those guys. But I think it goes both ways, part of being a good leader is being a good follower. And I think that Kyle has been an amazing captain and I love to follow his lead as well. I mean every day in practice he’s the hardest working guy that we have and he’s a great leader by example. As a defender I think it’s great to have another voice back there. We have other guys with Nat and Nick too. Jamison is amazing too, but the language barrier is there a little bit so he’s not going to much of a vocal leader. I try to be a vocal leader, and so hopefully the guys take it well. I think it’s a balance you have to find between getting on guys, and building ‘em back up and giving them confidence. Hopefully the guys respond well to my criticism.

KIR: Is that leadership more important on the practice field than in the game or is it both?

Wingert: No, I think it’s both. I think it’s an everyday thing. It plays a huge role on the practice field but I don’t think it’s more important than in the games. I think it’s huge to have vocal leaders out on the game field as well, organizing and kind of instructing – so I would say that it’s two-fold there. Really three-fold because I think off the field it plays a big role there as well.

KIR: What are your thoughts about the team heading into the season? Is everyone pretty upbeat about it or what is the thinking?

Wingert: Yeah, were excited. For a while, we were having a little trouble with injuries during the first trip or two but guys are starting to get healthy now which is excited and I think we are starting to come together as a team. You don’t want to hang your hat on one game but we had a good performance last weekend (against DCU) and hopefully we are going to build on that tonight (against Charleston) and we still have a couple of weeks to go before our opener against Seattle. You know we gotta make sure that we keep moving in the right direction but we are looking forward to hopefully getting off to a good start which we weren’t able to do last year. And try to put ourselves in a better position from the get-go.

KIR: Are there any specific goals that the team has this year?

Wingert: I came in a little bit late and met the team a little late, so I don’t know if they talked about those specifics. If they did I wasn’t around for it. I would think that the main goal is to make the playoffs, but that is such a tough thing. Every year it gets tougher –we’re adding teams and teams are getting better. It’s a lot tougher than my first year or two. My first year or two there were only two teams in the whole league not making the playoffs, and this year I think it’s going to be seven I guess – so that’s almost half of the league. So it’s tough – it’s a big accomplishment to make the playoffs. But at the same time you’ve got to completely re-evaluate your goals and then you’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs. But I think we just need to worry about each game, as they come at us, and hopefully we’ll let the results take care of themselves. And if we concentrate on each game and we’re getting three points and getting a point every now and again on the road – sometimes it’s tough to get a point on the road every now and again – if we’re getting points all the way through then I think we’ll let the numbers take care of themselves and we should be alright. But you know we just need to focus on making sure we’re doing the hard work day-in and day-out out on the field and the results will come.

KIR: I assume that there is a feeling that the road performance wasn’t where you’d like it to be last year and that is a focus this year?

Wingert: It’s definitely a focus. With that being said, but in some instances I think we were a little bit unlucky. And you’ve got to be good to be lucky, and you know…things like that. But with that being said I don’t know – our record definitely needs to be better on the road, but when it came down to it we were able to get some huge points on the road even though we lost a couple when we could have had three instead of a tie – New England comes to mind. But when it came down to it at the end of the season we were able to get some really significant points and that helped to propel us into the playoffs. That was key and we can build on that going into this year. I think we’re confident going on the road. It’s not a lack of confidence. We feel like we play pretty much the same way – at least our mentality is the same, but for whatever reasons we weren’t able to get the results last year. So yeah, hopefully that will change this year.