Dec. 2, 2011
Having come from warm weather areas, what is the draw to play college soccer at UConn?
Carlos Alvarez: "It's the program. It is a winning program and it's known. Players want to come out and play for a good program. [Tony Cascio] is from Arizona, in the desert, and it's hotter than anything. He comes to this weather and it's different for him, for myself, but [the coaches] get players here from Jamaica and Trinidad. I have friends that have been here, they like it, and tell me it will be a good experience and I like it."
Did coach Ray Reid tell you about all the snow in the Northeast?
Tony Cascio: "For me, I was definitely shocked during my first winter. I was like, `there is no way I am going to do this'. I just bundled up and I was good."
Do you guys take pride in being one of the top cold weather teams in the country?
CA: "It's a toughness that the coaches instill in us. Yes we're a top program, but at the end of the day we need to come out here and perform through the cold and the rain. It's just something that we need to get used to."
TC: "I'd say the same thing, but both teams [in a game] have to deal with it. If we have a cold, rainy game both teams have to go through with it. It's nice to actually have that [level playing field].
What is it like for being an elite program in your sport, but you can be overshadowed by team's at UConn that are in the national spotlight?
CA: "Being here, we know the history of the men's and women's basketball teams. At the end of the day we're coming out here to win championships too, in the sport we play, in the sport we love. We're still representing the university. At the end of the day we need to come out here and play a great game for ourselves. The fans are a big factor and we have a big crowd and the `Goal Patrol' supports us. It's a plus to have those fans, but at the end of the day we need to perform on the field."
TC: "Having a designated [fan group] just for soccer is good. The basketball teams are good programs and they get a lot of fans, but it's nice to see people coming around for soccer."
Do the student-athletes from other teams support each other?
CA: "We all bond. The men's and women's basketball teams come to our games. Baseball guys, football guys are all really close to the soccer guys, which is a good thing. They all come because they all live right next to us in the same dorms. We're close with the other athletes."
TC: "It's nice to have them come support us, coming from such big programs. Having basketball players come out here, after they won a national championship, is pretty cool to get them as fans."
Does this team still identify itself as a defensive minded team?
CA: "We've built our team around defense. Even our forwards need to defend. It's our main job. Whoever is closest to the ball needs to defend. If we just hustle and work hard our offense will grow little by little. We're doing very well right now offensively, but our defenders are still taking care of business."
TC: "We've always gone with the theme, `defense wins championships.' If we can keep a shutout and create one or two up front, then we're going to win the game. We've definitely put a lot of emphasis on defense this year, but the offense has done its part too."
What is it that makes coach Reid a championship caliber coach?
CA: "He's not our friend. It's all about business with him, until you win something for the program. He'll be our friend after we graduate and I think that's a good mentality that he brings to the program. It's a working mentality."
TC: "His energy is to want to win. It rubs off on all of us. He's so focused on what he does that he brings that energy on to the team. His speeches always pump us up and we're able to get ready for the next game."
UConn Head Coach Ray Reid
You said last week after the game that practice went really well, how have the guys been this week for you in practice?
"Good. Guys are excited. Practice has been good. Training has been good. I've been happy with it."
The guys look a little fresher than last year. Maybe I'm wrong, but they just seem fresher right now than last year.
"Coach West our strength coach has done a great job with them. If they're fresher all credit goes to him. Maybe they are... Let's hope. We just try to train less and listen to Chris West. We gave key guys some games off. Cascio we rested, Carlos we rested, and now they're fresh."
Talking to Andrew Jean-Baptiste, he seems to have gotten over that moment in the BIG EAST Championship. Can you talk about what you said to him that day and after?
"I told him to just forget about it and move on. We've got a great team. He's had a great year. We can't get caught up in that. We need to move forward and put it behind us."
He lost his voice, is that the quietest we'll ever hear him?
"I hope so, I hope he loses it for another two years (Laughing)."
Colin Bradley, Andrew's roommate, said that he came back energized wanting to prove himself. Is that who Andrew is?
"I think he's trying to put his best foot forwards. He's got that mentality."
When you recruited him, what did you like?
"Strength, athletic ability, great defender, good feet, good in the air."
He gets a lot of help back there from Andre (Blake) and Michael Mercado right?
"I think we defend really well as a group. We have a good group dynamic. They're excited."
What do you know about Charlotte?
"Good team, good defensively, they are very well coached. They have some excellent players. They have a lot of special guys. Tough to break down, they are good to counter. It will be a difficult game, they are the best team we've played all year."
How do you get kids from Jamaica, Trinidad, Los Angeles, Senegal, the desert in Arizona to come play soccer here in December?
"We just try to sell that it's a great school. You get a great education. There's a great history and tradition of college soccer. The kids get to play in front of excellent soccer crowds. We just try to make an environment where they get better and can get their degree. We eventually want to move the really good ones on to the next level."
This program has a tradition going so far back, how important is that, do these kids even know coming in about that?
"We try to keep them educated about it for sure. We try to keep it out in front of them how important the history of this program is. The program was excellent before we got here and it's our job, my job as caretaker, to keep it going."
It's tough to compare teams, but how does this team compare to the team in 2000 that won the National Championship?
"This team has its own identity. This is a very resilient group of guys. They work hard, they are committed. They are very close, they have great chemistry. This is a special group of guys."
Tony Cascio and Carlos Alvarez said that this team is to the point where it just takes a glance and they know what the other person is doing with the ball. How did that come about this year?
"They know each other very well. The guys are all pretty comfortable with each other. They've been around together for a while."
The hallmark of most of your teams is great defense. Is that what this team is about?
"Well, we can attack. This team is very good defensively too. It's like any other sport, good defense wins games. NBA good defense wins, NFL good defense wins, soccer's the same way. You gotta defend and attack but defense is a priority because we make it one here."
The players were pretty confident that getting the first goal was crucial. They said it's hard for teams to come back at this point, do you agree?
"I don't know. I think we can get it back and still win that way. We did it at Rutgers, we did it vs. Monmouth. We've done it a few times this year. Obviously we want to keep guys off the board. These guys don't give up though. They are very resilient."
Did you talk to Andre Blake about the snow when you got him to come here?
"Not really (Laughing). He'll figure that out eventually. It's supposed to be 50 on Sunday though, so that's no problem."
Tony and Carlos, what do those guys mean to this team?
"Tony, he's a tremendous front player. He's a great player but he's an even better guy. Good goal scorer, good slasher. Carlos is a humble guy. Great player, very humble, very driven. He's a team-oriented guy. He really comes from a great family. His mom and dad are fantastic people. We are very fortunate."
How much does the fact that this university is such a winning place help?
"The university has made a real strong commitment to soccer here. Our President Susan Herbst and our Athletics Director Paul Pendergast has done everything to make it possible for us to get the best student-athletes out there to represent the university."