C.J. BROWN is a schoolboy San Jose fan, having gone to San Jose State. He also happens to be the assistant coach at Real Salt Lake.
Who better to preview the big match this weekend than he?
Prost Amerika: There’s a huge game this Saturday against San Jose. They’re now the biggest underdog bucking the big boys, a mantle they seem to have lifted from you.
How do you see their team and what has been the secret to their success?
CJ Brown: They don’t give up. They have a bunch of guys that are fighting to prove a point and I think they’re doing well right now. They stay committed to the game.
It’s not always the cleanest and prettiest but they grind games out. They have guys that are always tuned into for any opportunity and I think that’s been their success.
Prost Amerika: You’ve got a connection to the Bay Area, haven’t you?
CJ Brown: Yes. I grew up there and went to school at San Jose State. Before I got in the league that was my team.
Prost Amerika: So you’re actually now coaching to support the team you supported as a kid?
CJ Brown: Yes. Definitely. I’ve been with RSL now for a year, almost a year and a half now. So it’s about winning. The more winning we do here, the more successful my job is. It’s very important for us to get a win. We lost our first two games against them. The guys are eager to go out and show they are better than what we have put out.
Prost Amerika: Were you at Chicago when Khari Stephenson was drafted?
CJ Brown: Yes I was.
Prost Amerika: What do you remember about him?
CJ Brown: You see those guys when they come into preseason. He’s a talented kid. He’s got lots of skill. He’s big. He can play multiple positions. He’s very versatile. He can be dangerous at any time the attacking end of the field.
Prost Amerika: You were a big centre half in your day and not many forwards pushed you about. How are you going to advise your guys to deal with Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon?
CJ Brown: You know, it’s a mental game. Physically I think our centre backs can physically battle with them. Lenhart and Gordon tend to tune everything out. They just continue to battle. If we can get past that part and just battle with them, it shouldn’t be a problem. If we can just play our game and play soccer; and battle when we need to battle, I think we should come out on top. The main thing is you have to be alert for 90 plus minutes.
Prost Amerika: Why do you think Chris Wondolowski has scored so many more goals than names with more pedigree, higher salaries and so on?
CJ Brown: He’s an opportunist. He knows how to stay tuned into a game. He knows when guys are tired to take advantage of them. He knows at the deadball situations, guys tend to take breaks and he doesn’t take breaks. He’s always alert to situations that he can benefit from. That’s the best forward you want. He’ll score goals when people aren’t paying attention. When you’re at your weakest, he’s going to jump on. You have to take your hat off to his success.
Prost Amerika: How surprised have you been the way the Western Conference has panned out with yourselves and San Jose running away with it and LA struggling?
CJ Brown: It’s the way this league is set up. It’s up and down. Sure, everybody probably predicted LA to be up there because of the players that they have but you come through some rough patches in a season. LA could just jump right back in there. That’s the way the league works.
I think San Jose has just done probably the best so far, taking advantage of their opportunities. Everybody counted them out early and now all those guys are fighting and proving people wrong. That’s what this league does. They take teams, count them out early and the players get all pissed off about it. So then they start working harder and you start seeing some success.
We’re happy right now where we’re at. We would obviously want to be in first. This match is a good opportunity. It’s going to be a great weekend for two teams to go battle. Hopefully, we’ll come out in the end.
Prost Amerika: San Jose seem to get a lot of penalties. Will you be looking at their technique, making sure Nick (Rimando) is well briefed?
CJ Brown: The penalties you can’t really look to stop. A lot of it is more judgmental for the referees, – what they want to call and don’t want to call. We just got to stick to our game. Play tough. Be hard. If we expect to play our game and stay focused 90 minutes, we should be all right.