It's been four months since Sebastian Velasquez missed the fateful penalty kick that would've won the MLS Cup for Real Salt Lake last December in frigid Kansas City, but the third-year player won't let it haunt him. Sure, he still thinks about it, but heading into the 2014 season, he's using that miss as extra motivation to get better and make larger contributions to RSL.
Before last week's season-opener at Los Angeles, Velasquez talked with reporters at Rio Tinto Stadium about the miss, about who helped him get through the disappointment and how he hopes to make larger contributions to Real Salt Lake this season.
Q: There’s a lot more expected out of you as far as playing time and contributions this year. Are you excited about that?
A: I’m always excited when they tell me I need to step up, and the opportunity will be there on the table for me, and I’m ready to make the best of it and hopefully I can have a great season and help my teammates to hopefully win the MLS Cup this year.
Q: What did the coaching staff want you to work on and get better at in the offseason?
A: Strengthening. Obviously it’s always nice to get a little bigger, a little faster. Shooting definitely is one of the main keys I need to work on, get in positions where I can score goals. But I think with the new coaches coming in we’ve kind of addressed that a lot throughout this preseason, so I think a lot of goals are going to come from a lot of different people.
Q: Are you using that missed penalty kick in Kansas City as motivation this year?
A: In a way I look at it, it’s part of football. You’ve seen some of the biggest stars in the world miss PKs, so you can’t hold that grudge against yourself, but obviously it’s a motivation to know. If you want to be a big player, you’ve got to have a moment where you’re going to have a big fall, you’ve just got to get right back up from it, and you’re going to be even bigger than what you expected. I think that was my moment, and it definitely changed me and changed the way I look at the game, and I think it’s going to help me throughout the rest of my career.
Q: Have you talked to anyone in particular about that missed penalty, maybe a veteran who’s missed in a similar situation during their career to draw upon how they dealt with it?
A: Javier Morales was the one that helped me the day it happened. He told me he missed a big PK when he played for his team in Argentina. So to see what Javier Morales is today and know that he had gone through moments like that, it kind of made me feel better to know that soccer comes with a revenge, and now this is the opportunity to do it and make the best of it.
Q: How long did it sit with you?
A: It still sits on me. It sits on me today. I actually didn’t watch it until about three days ago. I watched for the first time how I missed it, how the keeper blocked it. I rewatched it, it broke my heart because I was so close and I’ve always been the type of player I want to live for moments like that. I was so excited to be the one. All the guys were excited, they told you’re going to win this for us kid. I had that in my mind. That’s the way football is, that’s why I love the game, it’s going to have its good and its bad. But it always comes with a revenge and hopefully I can have it this year.