Union homegrown signing and Drexel Hill native Matt Real spoke with PSN’s Matt McClain Thursday afternoon about the possibility of earning just the fourth start in his young MLS career with usual starter Kai Wagner suspended due to yellow card accumulation. The full transcript is below.
How do you feel this week after training?
I feel good. There’s an opportunity that’s presented itself with Kai [Wagner] getting five yellow cards, so I was aware of that. I approached training this week with the mentality that if I get the opportunity to go in, I’ll be ready. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.
Being in this position where you need to be ready to play at your highest level with either Steel FC or in moments like these with the Union for a few seasons now, is it easier to manage expectations?
To be fair I’ve been getting more experience in terms of minutes played and getting minutes under my belt at the USL [Championship] level, which definitely helps because the more you play the more confidence you get. But in terms of it being ‘easier,’ I have the same mentality as I always do. I’ve never had a problem with that. I’ve just kept the same approach as I have been and hopefully I can execute if I get out there this weekend.
Has training been more intense than normal for you considering the open left back spot in Wagner’s absence?
Yeah, I would say so for sure. Especially because of the opportunity that’s presenting itself to me. It makes me more aware of what the reality could be this weekend. In terms of keeping focus in that aspect is extremely important. The coaches need to see that I’m ready to go out there and be able to make an impact and be able to perform defensively in the attacking end as well. So I needed a strong week of training to show them that I am ready. More than ever this week than others because of the opportunity.
Jim Curtin mentioned that you looked really solid in training this week. Is there anything in particular that you can credit for that?
To be fair the coaches have been talking to me for the past month now and they told me that they’ve been extremely happy with the consistency that I’ve had in training in terms of my development and the strides I’ve been making as a player. In terms of being consistent, that’s been kind of a reoccurring thing in training. I’ve been doing really well and I’ve been really sharp. And [the coaches] have told me that I have been consistent for the past month. They wouldn’t feel comfortable giving me the opportunity if I just had a sharp week of training just this week. A lot of it now has to do with me being consistent the last month and credit to myself for being able to do that. It’s part of the job. You can’t really be inconsistent and expect to get minutes at this level. I was definitely a struggle that I’ve had in the past and it’s good that the opportunity presented itself.
You mentioned in the past inconsistency being an issue. Was there ever a time when you got down on yourself or is more just a part of ‘the process’?
For me, it’s just a learning and growing process. Inconsistency is a normal part of growing as a player. A lot of young guys have that struggle: being able to follow up a good performance with another good performance and to keep it going week and week without having hiccups for a couple months or the year. Of course, it’s okay to have a bad game every once in a while but to be able to remain consistent for 90% of the season is a big challenge. I feel like I’ve been doing that through my games with Steel for the most part. And coming back from the World Cup, my goal was to remain consistent and work my way into the squad.
I spoke with Anthony [Fontana] yesterday, and he mentioned recent talks with coaches off the field have helped his game. Is that a newer training aspect this year?
Yeah, it’s helped a lot this year. Because Ernst [Tanner] has definitely implemented more of a support system in terms of individual meetings and individual video with the young guys especially. To really know exactly what you need to do to impress him and to impress the coaching staff and to show them that you’re ready to play. This year there’s definitely been a lot more one on one type meetings in terms of video sessions. Which is a lot better than a big group session because it’s personal and you get more information out of it than if you were doing a whole team analysis. The coaches have helped me a lot this year. They’ve done a really good job communicating with in terms of where I stand in the squad. That always helps as a player too, because you don’t want to be in the dark. You want to know where you stand. There’s definitely been a major change in terms of that.
Is there anything, in particular, the coaching staff has instructed you on in terms of your tactics and play on the field?
What they really wanted me to get better at is defending forward. They thought I would give my opponent too much space so they wanted me to play tighter. They would always tell me my attacking game is good the way it is because that’s the strongest aspect of my game is attacking and going forward. At this level, especially now the league is growing stronger with the wingers they have on each team, there’s not really many weak wingers that I would match-up. So, it’s defense first. To be able to keep shutouts and keep clean sheets on the left flank is extremely important to them. That’s what they wanted me to work on with the Steel, and throughout training the last few weeks and months throughout the year. I’ve been consistent, at least I feel like I have. They’ve been telling me I have [been consistent]. It’s a good step.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.