The inside scoop with Martin Vasquez

BY foxsports • February 23, 2010

Martin Vasquez was also considered a top class coach in America so it was no surprise to many when Juergen Klinsmann asked the former Tampa Bay Mutiny midfielder to be his assistant with Bayern.

Things may not have worked out as Vasquez would have liked but Bayern’s loss is MLS’s gain as the talented tactician returns home to take over as head coach of Chivas USA.

I had the chance to catch up with Martin and talk to him about the biggest influences on his career, his spell at Bayern Munich and why he is not taking any team for granted in the race for the Western Conference.

Keith Costigan: You came through the college system when there was no professional league for our young players to move on to so can you tell us how important MLS is for the evolvement and maturation of the best young players in this country?

Martin Vasquez: I think it is great and I believe a lot of the progress this country has made is because of MLS. It provides players and coaches the chance to test themselves at the next level and those who are good enough can then move on to some of the bigger leagues abroad.

When I played in college the NASL had already folded so we really only had an indoor league here after college so it is good to see that our top college players have more opportunities to continue playing in this country. The league has definitely improved the level of our players and helps us compete against anyone on our day.

K.C.: I know you have coached at the college level, but given that college soccer has a very short season do you believe it gives our young players the best opportunity to succeed in this game?

M.V.: I think all coaches would like to see a change in the college system, as the amount of time you can actually work with your players is simply not good enough. I think it would be great to see the spring season being as competitive as the fall season. This would be of great benefit to all the players, as it would increase the amount of competitive games that they are involved in.

K.C.: You have come up through the coaching system here in America - as I have - and worked abroad in the sport. How would you rate the American coaching education system to that of the other top countries like Germany?

M.V.: I think our federation offers one of the most complete courses if you want to continue your coaching education in soccer. I say that because I got my B and A license here in America and the coaches that run the courses offer an experience that opens your mind and really prepares you for the next level. The coaches on all of the courses are very knowledgeable and experienced and I have a great deal of respect for the coaching education system that our country provides.

K.C.: You have worked under a lot of tremendous coaches throughout your career but who has been your biggest influence?

M.V.: When I played I worked under many top coaches who have all had a big influence on my career. The names I say may not be that familiar to everybody but they have helped me become a better player and now a better coach. The first is my old college coach Berhane Andeberhan who was great to play for and taught me a lot about the game. Then when I became a professional player I played under another great coach in Marcelo Bielsa who now coaches the Chilean national team.

It has also been good for me to work with the likes of Carlos Juarez, a national staff coach, and Bob Bradley and Sigi Schmid so there has been plenty of coaches who have influenced my career. The last one I worked with was Juergen Klinsmann and that was also an incredible experience for me because Juergen is at another level.

K.C.: Speaking of Juergen Klinsmann, you recently worked with the former German international at Bayern Munich. Can you tell us how excited you were to take on that challenge and what were some of the differences between working with Bayern and working with teams here in MLS?

M.V.: The whole experience in Munich was incredible. To be able to work with Juergen Klinsmann was great as he is such a knowledgeable yet humble man. Juergen has done it all as a player and for him to trust me to work alongside him has helped me become a better coach. It was also a dream to work with some of the world’s best players on a day-to-day basis and that can only improve you as you move forward. We had some of the top players in the world but we always preached working for the team first and that remained our focus during our time in Germany.

There were certainly some differences between working in Germany with the most noticeable being the intensity in practice. In Germany you are also competing in three or four tournaments at any one time so the high level never really drops. You are going from the Champions League to the German Cup to the Bundesliga so you want to keep everybody sharp when you practice. In Germany you don’t always have the chance to stop and take a breath because the intensity is really that high.

K.C.: Do you feel your time at Bayern was unfairly cut short and how much of a success do you think you could have been there had you stayed longer?

M.V.: I think we did well in our time there and I have always said I feel like we were going in the right direction. In the first six months we were the best team in the Bundesliga and had made it to the semifinals of the German Cup. We were also playing well in Champions League group play so there were a lot of positives. The dynamics changed when we were hit with some key injuries so when the big games came around we didn’t have our strongest team out on the field.

After six months we knew what we had to change in our squad for us to be even more successful in the second year and we were convinced that the two or three players we wanted to bring in would have got us to where we wanted to be. The 11 months and 54 games I spent with Bayern was still an incredible experience despite how it ended.

K.C.: Bayern Munich is one of those clubs that has a lot of ex players who are not shy about voicing their opinion on the team when things are not going well. How much of a negative impact did that have on the coaching staff and do you believe it contributed to your exit from the club.

M.V.: It definitely didn’t help things. Juergen took the job because he was given carte blanche and they were looking for someone to come in who was innovative and had a new philosophy and Juergen brought that.

In the second half of the season people within the club started to make decisions that only the coach should make and that really changed the dynamics of things. I think if they had stuck by us then we would have reached our objectives and goals this season.

K.C.: Can you talk about how excited you are to return to MLS in the role of Head coach of Chivas USA?

M.V.: I am very excited and honored to be back in MLS. I have said many times that this is a team I have very strong feelings for. I was here as an assistant when the club joined the league and am looking forward to the challenge of being the head coach of what is a great team. I believe in the brand, franchise and this organization and I am confident we will do well.

K.C.: Is there added pressure on you to be successful given that this team has consistently made the playoffs under former coach Preki?

M.V.: We have told the players what our expectations are and one of them is to continue being one of the most competitive teams in the league. We want to continue showing consistency in our play and build on the work that Bob Bradley and Preki have done over the last few years. I don’t feel any pressure at all because we feel confident with the squad we are assembling.

K.C.: Do you think that Chivas USA would be better off in another stadium rather than sharing a home with the L.A. Galaxy?

M.V.: I don’t think so. I feel we are blessed with the facilities we have here and I think that the HDC is a tremendous place to play. Playing at HDC is a huge advantage to our players and fans as it is one of the best stadiums in MLS. Most clubs in MLS would love to have access to a stadium like the HDC. We certainly don’t feel like the ‘other’ team in Los Angeles.

K.C.: Who do you think is the team to beat in the Western Conference next year?

M.V.: Right now I see every team in the Western Conference as a threat. We all start from zero and we all have the same objective and it is up to us to be at our best from the very first day. Houston have always shown tremendous consistency, L.A. turned things around last year, Seattle have assembled a great squad and there is also Real Salt Lake trying to defend their MLS Cup crown.

Dallas will look to build on their excellent finish to last year while Colorado and San Jose also showed last year that they are capable of beating anyone on their day. The Western Conference is as strong as ever and it is up to us to play well and make sure we secure a place in the playoffs.

Keith Costigan covers MLS and U.S. Soccer for FoxSoccer.com.


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