June 14, 2005 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - New York Red Bulls
First off let me touch upon something very important, and that is I would like to recognize Nick Sakiewicz, for everything he has done and will continue to do for this organization. We have already established a working relationship and one that will continue and one that is vital to the success of our organization.
Years ago my father and I jumped in the car and drove out from Detroit and he dropped me off at Exit 9 off the Turnpike and I spent the next four years at Rutgers Universitytoday I find myself coming full circle, to a place that I know and love. It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be here. As I said, a lot has changedmost importantly I have gotten an education and a perspective on the business of soccer. It is a privilege and honor to be associated with an organization that I think can be world-renowned.
To do that we really need to focus on becoming the first SuperClub to emerge from MLS. Once again, this bears repeating. The race for that distinction is on and Im not going to let LA, D.C., New England or any of the teams beat us to the punch. We have a tremendous amount of work to do and I couldnt be more excited for the challenge ahead.
Those are all pretty words, lofty goals, but how are we going to do it. Im just going to touch on a few things real quickly for you. Number one, the youth soccer market, increasingly is being dictated by my generation; the relationships between youth soccer and professional soccer. And to be honest with you, my generation has really dropped the ball. Friends of mine, we used to sit around and talk about when we get the power, that we would make sure that the youth soccer players understood the value of professional soccer, and we have not lived up to those promises. I am here to remind you. But I am also here to remind youth soccer and provide them with an affordable, an entertaining and worthwhile product.
Speaking of the product. We always like to call out the product, but as I was reminded numerous times today at lunch, its a team, flesh and blood. The team right now needs to improve. Its a lot better than people perceive, but the fact of the matter is that in this market, perception is reality, and there will be changes on and off the field that I feel are necessary.
I said this before, I work for AEG. With all respect to the A, the E is what we are all about. We will have a team that will entertain collectively and individually. We need players, we need coaches and we need a front office staff that understands their responsibility to entertain, promote and sacrifice for this team on and off the field. I want players with ability first and foremost, I want players with personality and I want players with character. Its what everybody here demands, its what our fans demand, and its what our fans deserveand ultimately it is what is going to enable us to win championships.
I have gotten as I said before and incredible education over the past couple of years, but I have been exposed to a part of this game and a part of this league that as a player you are never exposed to and that is the men and women that work in the front offices. In particular here at the MetroStars, the men and women who on a consistent basis go out there and sell this game. I have a profound respect for what they do and I look forward to working with them, and I look forward to making this team on the field a championship team and off the field, one of the world leaders in soccer, in entertainment, and in the business of soccer.
Lalas on the type of players he wants
There is a reason why, when I was offered this opportunity, I immediately said, where to I sign. This is New York and all the good and bad that comes with it. The pressure, the standard, but ultimately I also feel the educated fan and one of the greatest fan bases in the world for all sports. They demand not only a successful team, but also an entertaining team. I play under the same rules as everyone else. I have the same amount of money to spend, and that is not a lot, especially the market that we are in.
So I have to be very prudent with the money I have. I have to identify players that are not only going to live up to the MLS standard but also provide the personality, excitement and entertainment that the market demands. Its not easy to find that. This team is littered with players that have come here and either have not lived up to the standard in MLSor they just havent been that good and they havent been that entertaining. I know that a tall order, but I truly believe that if you do the research and you take the time to identify quality international players, that they will come in here, they will entertain, and they will be the players we want on and off the field. They will understand there responsibility on and off the field, and ultimately people will pay money to see them and thats part of what we need to do, identify these players to improve this club.
Lalas on how he will handle things with MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley
I can only compare it to the situation that Ive had in San JoseI am not of the opinion that you just get the players, give them to your coach and say Go coach them. You have to have buy in from your coach. But most importantly, you have to have communication. There are times when I feel one way and my coach may feel another. We argue behind closed doors and we come to an agreement. Sometimes hell win and sometimes Ill win, but ultimately we have to be comfortable together, that we are putting out a team thats going to win and were putting out a team thats going to entertain. Thats my formula and I want to continue that here.
Lalas on Coach Bradley
Coaches understand the gig. Its about wins and loses. Bob Bradley understands that, and every coach in this league understands that. He understands the pressure that the coach of the MetroStars, or any coach of any professional team in this area is under. Hes u under the same pressure and he is required to live up to those standards. I demand it, but mostly our fans demand it.
Lalas on SuperClub concept
I believe its realistic. We all play under the same rules, and we all have the same money. The parody that everyone talks about and some people love it, some people hate it. I look forward to a day when that doesnt existfor the simple fact that we have better players, better coaches, better scouting and a better organization. That is what I mean by making this a SuperClub. But in order to do that, you have to win your first championship. As proud as I was in LA to win an MLS Cup, but what made it more special to me was that it was our first, and they can never take that away from you. I want to be here the MetroStars win their first MLS Cup, because that will be a special moment. And then I want another one, and another one, because Im greedy.
I want players; I want a front office that believes that we can do that. And I also, its easy to just constantly compare ourselves to other teams in the league and thats certainly something that we should do, but we should also understand that there is a higher goal and if we are going to this right, we have to compare ourselves to whats going on around the world, and thats what I mean by a SuperClub. So that at some point, there is a kid in Belgium, that is looking over here and he knows the MetroStars. He knows the MetroStars are the premier team in the United States, and not just for what they do domestically, but for what they do internationally. And this is soccer, if were not comparing ourselves internationally, then what are we doing.
Lalas on bringing soccer back
We have to understand that in our rush to tap into the youth soccer market we have neglected an entire generation of soccer fans that have grown up with MLS soccer as part of their sports culture, and we cannot afford to lose these fans. Im talking about fans that are finishing up high school, fans that are finishing up college, young professionals or even moms and dads that might like a few hours away from the kids. We have got to find a way to bring these people back. The youth soccer market, and this goes back to my generation. There are coaches, directors of coaching that have benefited directly not just from professional soccer, but from Major League Soccer and I feel its a responsibility to pay back and so I will be knocking on doors. Eventually people are going to answer, and when they do we will be there with value. We will be there with an entertaining team on the field and off the field we will make sure that when you buy a MetroStars ticket, we will make sure that there is incredible value and not just the 90 minutes that the team plays.