So Seth Dunny: Every Team in MLS Bar Three has a Locker Room Asshole

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Published on August 21, 2012 with 4 Comments

It was almost a month ago when Brian Dunseth spoke to us about what makes San Jose Earthquakes so successful. Then they were top of the Western Conference. They still are.

What we didn’t know was just how much emphasis he put on locker room harmony for the success of the low budget – low maintenance club that have embarrassed the big shots.

We do now.

He started with some merited praise for Frank Yallop but it soon came down to the real core of why Dunseth thinks the Quakes bind so well.

And in true Brian Dunseth style, he put telling you the real story in his own words before PG niceties. 


Brian Dunseth on San Jose Earthquakes

Head Coach Frank Yallop is one of the most underrated head coaches in the league. He took a risk by leaving San Jose and taking over Canada.

It was a chance for him to coach his nation, but at the same time it was almost a no win situation from a qualifying standpoint, from a financial backing standpoint. Qualifying for the World Cup is always going to be incredibly difficult for Canada because there is not a lot of infrastructure from the Canadian Soccer Federation.

But he has such an interesting group of players in San Jose, I think, this early in the year with the additions Frankie Yallop made, with the return of healthy players, both mentally and physically. Steven Lenhart had a pretty big loss in his family and came back this year fully fit both mentally and physically. You have Alan Gordon who is fully fit. Wondo is Wondo. He’s a proven commodity at this stage.

You have a group of players where there’s no assholes in the locker room. I think that is difficult to say in MLS because you’ve got a lot of unique personalities in this league that don’t always fit in well in the locker room and I think San Jose have one of the best locker rooms.

“Frankie’s not going to batter you with double days”

Frankie is a particular type of head coach in terms of his style and approach where he’s not going to batter you with double days. I remember in pre-season San Jose guys were always out playing soccer-tennis while we’d be out for our second session of the day.

They had the morning off and just had a game at night whereas everyone else would have fitness in the morning and a game at night. That was just the way Frankie had it. It took him a while to rebuild a group like that which essentially Houston took and ran and won titles with.

Simon Dawkins was a huge pick up for a second year loan; then the development of the young kids. Beitashour is now an All Star which is incredible. The pick up of Victor Bernardez was huge because you have a big hulking defender a la Jamison Olave albeit without the speed of Jamison Olave.

Overall, it’s just a good group.

While you look at that team and watch the way they play on television, I just love the way Steven Lenhart plays. Sometimes it’s too antagonistic but you have a bunch of baby giraffes up front that are just bowling into each other; and running into and running over people.

Yet they’ve got so much speed coming in.

I still can’t figure out how FC Dallas allowed Marvin Chavez to go when they’re in such need of a player on that right hand side. Each team has its own issues and each coach has his own decisions to make with regards to each player.

Dunseth: Bernardez was a huge pick up for San Jose
Photo: John Hefti

If you look at a healthy Steven Lenhart, a healthy Alan Gordon, you get Dawkins, you get Chavez, you get Bernardez, and then you see the continued growth of guys like Sam Cronin and Beitashour.

Jon Busch is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the history of this league in my opinion. They all have fun. There’s competition for every spot.

Tressor Moreno was released. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

You take those risks because you can take those risks, because you have very little money going out in the big scheme of things.

You’ve taken risks on Designated Players in short terms and maybe some of them haven’t worked out the way you’ve wanted them to, but they’ve got all these American players offensively that are doing great. Then you have one or two additions that have really changed the scope or the look of their attack.

I love their mentality. The Goonies just never say die. They don’t stop running. I don’t think it’s in their DNA to stop running. And it’s been proven. There’s, I want to say, (then) six to eight goals after the 85th minute. That says a lot about the group and about how everyone is buying into the same mentality.

It takes a while to build that mentality, to have an asshole free locker room. If I do a quick head check in this league, I can say off the top of my head that there’s three locker rooms where you’re not seeing those divisions, or those individual players that you’re not going to have to cater to mentally.

It takes a strong group. You’ve got to have a core group.

Just using San Jose as an example, you have (Jon) Buschy. You have the Jason Hernandez types. You’ve got Gordo, Lenhart and Cronin. You have a certain amount of a mentality that’s already built in. So that when a recruit comes in, there’s a already a certain amount of a gut check before it reaches the coaching staff.

If you push me, I’d say the same for Real Salt Lake. You definitely have some antagonistic players on the field; some misunderstood players like Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio. But beyond that, there’s that tier of leadership that’s already there. I would say Kansas is the third one and it takes a while to build something like that.

That being said, there might still be assholes in the group. They are just not allowed to get away with it because that check is already there in the locker room before it gets to the coaching staff.

That’s just me from the outside looking in. It’s an uneducated opinion because I’m not in each locker room but it’s just watching how certain personalities go about their business.

When things go wrong, how do you adapt? How do you deal with that? It’s a work in progress. I think that every coaching staff wants to have that group of players that will check those assholes in the locker room. I played with plenty of assholes. Don’t get me wrong.

Goonies United. There are no locker room troublemakers at San Jose according to Dunseth
Photo: John Hefti

 

But I’ve also played on teams where you could absolutely figure out a way to coddle those assholes in a way that made you successful.

We had a team in 2002 in Columbus that there were a lot of personalities on that team. There were the personalities of players that were on their way out at the end of their careers and we still figured out a way to win an Open Cup and to go to the semifinals of the MLS play offs. And we had assholes on the team.

If you’re an incredibly successful team, you have somehow figured a way, either by the coaching staff or the players, figured out a way to make it successful.

A soccer specific stadium changes absolutely everything. You have to hope San Jose become a juggernaut of a club next year.  It changes the brand. It changes the approach. It changes the fandom. It changes the sponsorship opportunities, the jersey sales. There’s nothing like walking into your own stadium.

It’s like a brand relaunch. I like the analogy with an expansion season but I’m just afraid that people think it’s just a throwaway season. That’s what you normally associate expansion years with. You’re trying to get it right.

Whereas, when you walk into your own soccer specific stadium, it becomes different.

San Jose has made the most in a short amount of time of what it has from being in Santa Clara, having one of the best surfaces in Major League Soccer, hands down. But it is just not the same, because you are playing in a place that is not yours.

I fully expect that once they open up the gates, both old and new fans will start filing in, if they can brand it to the public the right way. It is a beautiful area, and the team has an incredible history in the Bay Area.

An artist’s impression of San Jose’s new stadium; a brand relaunch and a place to call home according to Dunseth

It has been downplayed how much history is there and how much of that old guard of players are still in that area. It is fantastic and amazing in all the same ways. I’m glad they got away from Clash and got back to Earthquakes and took a bite out of that history because it is a culture and a history that deserve that recognition.

It is like going from renting a two bedroom apartment where you’ve got to climb to the third story and haul up all your groceries and call the maintenance guy to fix your plumbing or fix the sink, to buying your own house and you have the ownership certificate, and you are going to have everyone over for a barbecue and pour drinks and maybe do some keg stands in the back yard.

You are going to have fun, and it is going to be your place to call home.

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Also See:

No Self Pity in the Glass City – Vancouver Set A Good Precedent as the No Excuses Club

Robson Debacle Proves Need to Devolve Some MLS Powers from New York

So Seth Dunny: Read the rest of Brian Dunseth’s articles





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4 Comments

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  1. My favorite of Lenhart’s antics was when he knocked the ball out of the grasp of Josh Saunders and kicked it into the net only to earn himself a red card. I thought to myself at the time, “anybody who has played any soccer, even if it was on a grade school team for one year knows that’s not legal.” I mean, really, even if that guy had the same goal tally as Wondo I’d say I wouldn’t want him on my team, the ‘Quakes can have him. Before I started reading this article I assumed Lenhart would be an example, but I guess on-the-field *******ry doesn’t necessarily translate to off-the-field *******ry?

    • “My favorite of Lenhart’s antics was when he knocked the ball out of the grasp of Josh Saunders and kicked it into the net only to earn himself a red card. I thought to myself at the time, “anybody who has played any soccer, even if it was on a grade school team for one year knows that’s not legal.” “

      Here’s a clip from 1989/90, where Nottm Forest’s Gary Crosby anticipated that Man City’s Andy Dibble would remove one hand. Not sure if this is still legal now.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEFj3AV0hCw

      In my fading memory, I do recall that somewhere more recently I’ve seen one like these given.

  2. Great clip, hilarious. Absurdity was pretty much on the same level. Though the ball was trapped between Saunders’s body and the inside of his elbow in the Lenhart case. I believe it was the same game that Donovan Ricketts broke his arm.

    • Matt,

      I wonder what counts as having an actual grasp of the ball. In cricket and baseball, there are clear rules to decide whether a catch is complete. In rugby too, to judge whether a player has ‘made his mark’.

      In the case you describe, Saunders would be adjudged NOT to have that grasp under the cricket definition.

      Where’s refereeing expert Liquid Yogi when you need him?

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