Focus on Robbie Findley as Honduras Friendly Approaches
Now that it appears that Dempsey's injury won't keep him from going to South Africa, Bradley can turn his attention back to the most intriguing challenge he faces in the buildup to the World Cup -- finding a finisher to take the place of Charlie Davies.
Based on potential and recent form, Real Salt Lake playoff hero Robbie Findley is in excellent position to stake a claim. The 24-year-old scored 12 goals in 27 regular-season games last year, enduring a bit of a slump toward the end, before coming alive in the playoffs. He tallied the only goal in the 1-0 quarterfinal opener against favored Columbus, had a goal and an assist in the 3-2 clincher, converted his penalty kick in the shootout win over Chicago in the conference final and capped it off with the tying goal and a successful penalty in the MLS Cup final.
That's as clutch a playoff performance as MLS has seen, especially for a bottom seed, and demonstrates that Findley is a player who can rise to the occasion. He has a true striker's nose for goal, can link with teammates and boasts a burst and relentless athleticism similar to Davies. Findley now will have the opportunity to prove he can deliver those goods at the international level (RSL's playoff run eliminated him from contention for the November friendlies at Slovakia and Denmark.)
Recently, Findley spoke to FanHouse about that chance, his very brief national team career, RSL's run to the title, his famous cousins and more.
FANHOUSE: Now that some time has passed since RSL's amazing run through the playoffs, can you look back and explain how you guys managed to pull that off? You were the eighth seed, yet nobody is calling your championship a fluke. How'd you manage to go from an afterthought to the best team in the postseason?
FINDLEY: I just remember a lot of the hard work we put in throughout the season, just all the ups and downs. The coach [Jason Kreis] prepared us to get through those times when it was hard. He left it up to the players to be able to get that job done and step up to the challenge that we had.
We won the games that we needed to win. We didn't really listen to [detractors]. We knew there were a lot of people who didn't believe in us. We let everyone think what they wanted to think. Everyone on that team, in the locker room, the fans, they knew what we were capable of.
FANHOUSE: Strikers are supposed to come through in the clutch, but there wasn't much to indicate before the playoffs started that you'd play such a huge role in the run to the title. You basically didn't score for two months before grabbing a couple in the regular season finale. How'd you turn it around?
FINDLEY: Definitely, it was not a good time. You can't get down on yourself or it's not going to get any better. It happens to everybody, especially forwards. You just have to keep doing the things you've been doing, after training doing the extra finishing, just staying on top of things and trying to get your confidence up. If you do the extra stuff after practice to help you out mentally, eventually you get back into the swing of things. You can't get negative on yourself or it's going to get worse.
It's all mental for me. I don't really think about any of the outside stuff. If I miss an opportunity or anything like that, I don't think "There's so many people watching. These people are going to say this." I just focus on that next opportunity I'm going to get. I try to stay strong.
That's my job. I score goals. You're not going to make them all. It happens to everybody. You just have to keep your head up and when that next one comes, you're more focused.
FANHOUSE: You were invited to the national team camp and you're now in position to compete for a role on the World Cup team. How has that hit you? A year ago at this time that would have seemed like an impossibility.
FINDLEY: It's crazy how things have happened. I've thought about it a little bit, just trying to take it a step at a time. Work hard at the camp and just do my thing. We'll go from there, see how everything goes. As far as me playing in a World Cup, it would be amazing. It's the biggest stage. It would definitely be a blessing and an honor to wear the uniform of the U.S. national team.
FANHOUSE: You're a trivia question. You have the shortest national team career possible -- one single minute in a 2007 game against Switzerland. What do you remember about it? You came on for Clint Dempsey.
FINDLEY: I came in in stoppage time. I did touch the ball! It was definitely something I wasn't used to. When it happened I was actually pretty happy to get on the field and represent my country. In a way it wasn't really what I wanted but it felt good.
FANHOUSE: And you haven't been back since. Are the opportunities there for new players to work their way into the national team setup?
FINDLEY: I think so. If I kept improving and scoring goals and doing the things I need to do, I'd get an opportunity with the national team. And sure enough I did. [Bradley] tells you things straight up and tells you how to do it.
FANHOUSE: You've got some pretty athletic cousins: Mike Bibby and Shaun McDonald (and Eddie House through marriage). Are they interested in soccer? Have they helped you out at all? You go to each other's games?
FINDLEY: It just depends on time, as far as the seasons go. Every now and then, if Mike comes to Utah and he's playing Utah, or I'll catch him in Arizona if I get a weekend off during my season. Shaun I'll see more. I definitely talked to them going into my professional career, got some information from them, what they do to be successful as a professional athlete.
Shaun actually used to play [soccer] growing up [in Arizona]. He was a good soccer player growing up. Mike, I don't know if he played. Shaun watches a lot of the games. Mike will give me a call after a game if it's on ESPN. Shaun will watch.
FANHOUSE: You may be on TV a lot more soon. What do you have to do to make this happen, to put yourself in position to make the World Cup team?
FINDLEY: You've just got to be able to balance things and have control. I know a lot depends on these games leading up to the World Cup and you just have to tell yourself to take it one step at a time. You don't worry about what's coming up down the road, even though it's definitely huge making that squad, you have to take it one day at a time and go out every day in training and put in the hard work and hopefully everything will come out in your favor.
It's tough. Either you're scoring or you're not. When you're not, things aren't going well for you. But when you are, you're on fire. You feel like you're on top of the world. For me, a lot of it comes down to stuff after practice. Just repetition. People go in slumps. You'll get out of them. You just have to try and stay focused even when things aren't going well and just keep your head up. A lot of it is just mental.
FANHOUSE: And whether you go to South Africa or not, do you see your future in MLS or abroad?
FINDLEY: At some point I want to try and venture overseas. I've had fun here. I have a lot of family here in the States [Findley's parents are from Trinidad and Tobago], which was big for me to play here for a little bit. Going along now, I want that international experience. I went to Denmark last year for a week and a half to train. It was a good experience there. For me, it's something I would like to try.