Los Angeles Soccer: Garth Lagerwey
The biggest question about Sunday's Western Conference final concerns the statuses of Real Salt Lake's Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers, two of Major League Soccer's finest center backs.
Both departed the Utahns' playoff opener last weekend against Seattle with quadriceps injuries and sat out Wednesday's second leg, a 2-0 defeat that sent RSL through to meet the Galaxy on Sunday evening at Home Depot Center.
Reserve Chris Schuler and left back Chris Wingert stepped into their shoes and fared reasonably well in Wednesday's defeat, which wasn't enough to overturn RSL's 3-0 lead from the first leg, but they're not Olave and Borchers and never will be.
RSL technical director/general manager Garth Lagerwey said Friday afternoon on a media conference call that he wasn't sure if Olave and Borchers would be ready to go by 6 p.m. Sunday.
“We just don't know,” he said. “There's muscle stuff, and obviously we elected to hold them off Wednesday. They'll be on the flight tonight to L.A., the team doctor is going with us to provide around-the-clock care ... it's going to be a close decision on game day.”
Olave was MLS's Defender of the Year last year, when the smart vote went to Borchers, who was a finalist -- along with Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez. All three are among contenders for the award again this season.
Lagerwey was pleased with Schuler, a second-year defender out of Creighton, and Wingert, an eighth-round veteran who last played in the middle during his college days at St. John's.
“You're not going to come under more pressure than we did in Seattle,” Lagerwey said. “It was a baptism by fire, and we're going to be hit any harder. Those guys won dozens of battles all night long.”
Together -- and with general manager Garth Lagerwey and goalkeeper coach Jeff Cassar -- they transformed MLS's weakest side into its best, winning the MLS Cup title in 2009 and playing the league's finest soccer most of the 2010 campaign.
ESPN Los Angeles talked Tuesday afternoon with Kreis about Fraser, who earlier in the day was announced as the sixth head coach in Chivas USA history. Fraser, a former center back who starred for the Galaxy and two other MLS clubs, will be asked to turn around a Chivas USA team that finished last in the Western Conference last season.
I imagine you're happy for Robin but hate to see him go.
It's a very, very bittersweet situation. I'm extremely pleased for Robin. I had it in mind the last three years that he's going to be a head coach in this league at some point. Now I'm kind of wishing it would be next year, next year, next year. It leaves a gigantic hole in our coaching staff.
What's makes Robin a special coach?
A lot of what made him special [at RSL] is our relationship and how we worked together. I really think he saw the game a little different way than I did. I thought it was really good when were were trying to communicate with players, because players see the game in different ways. We were able to reach out to all the players in a different fashion. I felt I learned a lot from him, to hear a different opinion, [one] that has not always been yours all the time."