Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased
Before we start today, I would like to send out my condolences to Eric Shertz and his family, specifically his son Gabe, and family and friends. He was one of the first Sons of Ben that I met personally when I arrived here. It’s just a tragic situation, so our thoughts and prayers go out to all his family and friends.
They’ve been a good team, and us going up there, when we’ve played, we’ve had games where we’ve played well but we haven’t finished them. And therefore, we’ve walked out of that building on several occasions questioning ourselves of how we didn’t get the result there. Clearly, this weekend’s game is really important for us, and really important for Montreal. We think that we have to change that. We have to go up there and be very confident about getting a result, continue the way we have been playing but we have to do a better job executing in front of goal, for sure.
On playing against Jack McInerney
It’s going to be interesting. I know personally, I’ll look forward to seeing him. There’s no ill will between us. In this in particular, our whole goal will be to deny not only Jack but Di Vaio and the rest of their attacking players the time and space that they need to do what they do best. He’s an opponent right now but I’m sure after the game that we’ll have a word and wish him well until we see him next time when he’s the enemy again.
On what the team is doing to work on increasing it’s scoring
All we can do is to continue to train and do a lot of reps in training on those specific areas, both in how we attack the goal area and execute in front of it.
There’s different aspects where we feel we did a good job in past games and, clearly, if you look back to Saturday, we feel like we didn’t execute those moments. Some of them we didn’t even get opportunities in terms of shots or shots on goal, but had some really good plays there. We’re trying to make sure that our guys know that we want them to take those opportunities. Then it comes down to execution. We’re trying to put numbers in dangerous spots and have good reactions to anything that happens in the box. When you look back at the game on Saturday, we were really unlucky not to have scored a goal or two.
I think Houston, you got to give them credit, they did an excellent job of taking away that middle of the field and really, in the penalty area were compact. But we had three looks that were as good a looks as your going to get, on three different kind of plays, and had others that we just didn’t get a great chance created out of it. For instance, when Conor Casey has the miss where it’s an open goal essentially, nine times out of ten I know Conor’s going to score that. The ball falls to Chaco, and Chaco has an opportunity to really take a guy 1v1 and we don’t even end up with a shot or anything — the ball goes out of bounds on his cross, he was trying to get it to Wenger on the back post.
We had a lot of those situations and we just, what we’re trying to emphasize right now is we got to turn those moments where we’re in a really good spot and give ourselves a chance to make a play on those.
On the sense of concern about not getting wins
When you look at it, obviously we are not happy with where we are in the standings right now. We legitimately feel like we should have won five out of our eight games for sure — at a minimum. However, you can’t take away your opponents, and the game of soccer itself is just not that predictable in terms of where you play well and you get opportunities. That’s why it’s sometimes so amazing and frustrating, and I think people are so passionate about it.
What I will say though is that within out team we’re very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. My experience as a coach is that the more you continue to play that way, the chances will — it’ll turn, the tide will turn, and we will see the results start to come our way.
We’ve been doing a lot as a staff trying to analyze where we were successful and where we weren’t, where our opponents have gotten the better of us. The metrics that we look at, it’s pretty astounding the way that we’ve played these eight games in terms of just putting the ball in a dangerous area. I think there’s a stat out there that a lot of people look at in soccer and I don’t think it’s a good one and it’s shots, or shots on goal. It’s a terrible stat for soccer.
What is a much more important stat is how many penalty area entries you get, or how many final third area entries, how many successful passes you have and how many of those are forward. And when you break down those metrics, we have been a really, really good team. So our thought is that we just have to continue to do that and, at the end of the day, at the end of the season, our belief is that we’re going to be on the good side of that, it’s going to come out in our favor.
On the possibility of only having two or three wins at the World Cup break
We’re not talking about that in our locker room, we’re talking about us having five or six wins when we approach the World Cup break.
But, I would tell you, look at the results from this past weekend; we only lost points to Sporting Kansas City in the East. This is a tough league on every level. And if there’s a year that I think is similar to this year it’s 2011 where there was a lot draws. And you’re seeing that happen so far in 2014.
So, again, we go back to the fact that maybe you’re not going to meet some of your goals in terms of wins but you have to keep grinding it out, you have to believe in what you’re doing because it might not be the point total that you think gets you into a playoff position and the right to contend for a championship. Things change and, right now, it looks that way in this league — really tough. We feel good that, if we keep doing the same thing, these results are going to go our way.
On Vincent Nogueira
I think Vincent is a guy that, in all our scouting of him, we thought would come into this league and be the kind of player that he’s shown.
That said, Vincent, I think, can do even better. He does a ton of work — I think he went 29 out of 30 successful passes in the second half on Houston. In fact, I think he was up around 96 percent success rate for the whole game, which is a pretty amazing stat. The only guy who beat him out was Brian Carroll, who went a hundred percent in the second half, he went 29 for 29. [Editor’s note: According to Opta’s stats for the game, Nogueira completed 53 of 55 passes on the day, 29 out of 30 in the second half, for an overall completion rate of 96.4 percent. Carroll completed 58 of 63, 31 out of 32 in the second half, for an overall completion rate of 95.1 percent.]
So, we have guys in the midfield, and Vincent is a catalyst for that, who are doing some good things. We just got to make that translate into taking some of that possession, and some of that positive ball movement, and translate that into better scoring opportunities for us.
I definitely think we have to pull the trigger a little more than we are, and that’s something we’re trying to emphasize to our guys. And Vincent’s one of those guys. If you get a look from what might be a distance, don’t be afraid to take it. He took one at the end of the game — I referenced it in the press conference postgame — but there was just so many bodies in there. But the week before against Salt Lake he takes one that gets deflected and Mo pounces on it. We just have to do more of that. When you take shots from distance it kind of pulls the defense out a little bit and so it opens up other opportunities, whether that’s turning a corner or combination play down the middle. We need to have a little more variety, no question, we’ve depended a little too much on the cross. And so, we’re trying to make sure that in practice we’re telling our guys take those chances. And Vincent’s one of those guys for sure.
On Andrew Wenger
It’s still early but we feel really good about Andrew and his performances. He was unlucky not to have a goal and he was really hard on himself postgame to the point where we talked afterwards on the field. He was coming down from the club and was like, “Look, Coach, you know I know I should have finished one of those,” and I said, “Andrew, just stay positive. You’re going to get a lot more of those opportunities and I have complete confidence that you’re going to bury more of them.”
That’s what’s most important here: the work is good, he’s putting himself in good positions, he’s fitting into our system of play really well, he has a great attitude about those things. I think you’ll see some good things out of him going forward.
On the Aaron Wheeler starting ahead of Austin Berry, what’s the hierarchy of the depth chart
It’s a good question, I don’t think there’s a definitive answer for that because you have Aaron Wheeler, whose played well. Being very honest, and I told Aaron this during the first half of the game against Houston, he needed to be more aggressive, he needed to assert himself more. But he did a great job of that towards the end of the first half, and then he continued to do that in the second half.
We get a shutout as a team and deal with an opponent in Houston who, kind of like us, came away from their previous game against New England — they were going to come out and take shots from everywhere. And we defended pretty well as a group.
My point is though that Aaron has done well in the minutes that he’s played, and because we’ve had a positive result like getting a shutout, and doing it against a team like Houston who’s going to come out firing, I think Aaron right now is still the first choice. And Austin, and other guys like Ethan White, who just have to continue to work hard in training see if they get that opportunity.
On the value have having one player consistently start at centerback compared to other positions
I think a reporter asked me along the lines of, “Why wouldn’t you make a change late in a game.” One of my simple reasonings was that we didn’t want to change any of our defenders. You do want to build that continuity, and that’s one reason why Aaron’s played the last couple of games, and probably will get another chance on Saturday, because once you’re doing well in the back it’s hard to change it.
Credit to Austin, though. He had an injury, came back maybe a little early — maybe that was us forcing him back a little soon — but he’s looked very good in training, as well. It’s a good thing about our team right now, there’s good, healthy competition in training and I think that translates to guys pushing each other and performing better in games.
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…to provide that next to last pass more than they have to take it themselves. So that, again, we’re working on those things in training, we’re trying to urge whoever gets that chance to take it. ‘Cause I think once we turn that corner you’ll see some of those goals start to fall.
What are you looking for from players that will move them up the depth chart?
That’s a pretty open ended question, I don’t know that I have time to explain the whole thing, but it’s pretty simple: You’re looking at performance, and what a player does, especially in game. And then when the camera’s not on players and it’s now training, you know, what are they doing. When you have healthy competition like we have a t centerback right now, Aaron Wheeler has emerged from a talented core group of players, and has played at a consistent level. And then, since he has earned that right to be the first choice centerback, it’s up to the guy that’s No. 2 and No. 3 to play that much better than the guy sitting in the first position. Or, something happens like an injury, and then a guy gets his opportunity. That’s what we as a staff are trying to evaluate.
Again, we feel good about the guys that we have there, and Austin is, I think, going to play some valuable minutes for us one way or another this season, as are some other guys who maybe aren’t featuring as much.
On Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux switching flanks- who much of that do you want to see?
Probably not as much as we saw in the first half against Houston. What the situation is, Maidana likes to switch it up, he likes to have the ability to come in from the right hand side and put the ball on his left foot. That’s something that we’ve done since he arrived here, we did it through preseason. Sebastien is comfortable enough, and covers enough ground, that he has no problem in-game when, for instance, one of them is taking a corner kick on the opposite side, rather than go back to the other side of the field they just recover to the near side. That, in general, can give our opponents a difficult time because it’s easier as a defender to say, “Okay, this is the guy I’m matching up against, this is his tendencies, this is what I see.” And when you have two different types of players running at you it does unbalance you.
The balancing act is not doing it so much that it doesn’t take away from your overall structure, and we do need to improve that. It’s something we’ve talked about this week — even maybe starting Maidana on the right hand side from the start and then whoever’s going to play on the left, so we have a little more continuity that way.