Just to reflect back on Orlando, obviously credit to Orlando, their fans and supporters. Difficult environment to go to, for the first time a 45 minutes we were disappointed with as a team, to a man, not the way we wanted to start the game, we were a little sloppy. We talked about it at half-time and the guys, to their credit, responded pretty well. In the second half, pushed for a second goal, had a couple good looks, conceded to go down 2-1 and still continued to push. Ilsinho, game of inches, ball hits the inside of the post and stays out. Fine line between winning and losing in our league.
Obviously the first loss of the season is difficult, the guys are obviously not happy with that. There’s disappointment in the group. At the same time, we’ll continue to build off Vancouver, Toronto. A bad 45 minutes in the first half, and a good response in the second. A lot of work to be done as we move on toward DC United, a team that’s obviously hungry for some points right now. It’ll be a long week of preparation, a week and a half. We’ll have a game against Bethlehem Steel to keep our guys going on the weekend, which will a good exercise for us to plan to be in Bethlehem, but I think they got 20 inches of snow, so I don’t know if that’ll still be possible. But in an attempt to keep the guys going, continue working on our defensive shape, continue working on our attacking movements, we’ll look forward to being ready with about a week and a half now away until DC United.
Thoughts on Ilsinho
Obviously had a great preseason, really had pushed to get his fitness going, I think it’s obvious for everybody to see a lighter weight, more fit, and a transition to a good preseason with the ball too. He was dangerous all preseason shooting from distance and scoring goals, really anxious to get him going and then he has the mishap out on the turf out in Vancouver. Which was tough, I know he was frustrated, he was crushed, to be honest, as I sat next to him on the bench in Vancouver as we talked about the injury and having to leave practice.
It’s a long year, though. He was anxious to get going, and wanted this to be a breakout year in MLS, as do we. We still see that as a possibility. He’s back now, I thought contributed very well in the Orlando game at the end. A game of inches, if it goes through the guy’s legs and hits the inside of the post, looks like it’s going in, tough one for him. But again, anxious to get him back with the group.
First half execution
Again, in the first half, there were a lot of sloppy plays. We actually had a good week of training, all things considered. It was disjointed: We’re indoors, outdoors, out early to Orlando. So unique in terms of the scheduling and preparation. But we trained well. The guys were sharp, but then the opening whistle blows and it was a different story. We were a little off. Execution is the best word for the set pieces because you work through them the day before the game with limited opposition against them and everybody had their tasks, knew their job, but then you factor in about 30,000 screaming fans, and the timing of our movements was off by a split second and that’s the margin in our league. And the guys, again, they recognized it, they were mad about it. There were some hard words at halftime from everybody as a group, and I think they responded. And I would agree.
The cohesion that made us strong in a tough environment in Vancouver, a good performance against Toronto, even though we didn’t take all three points, to follow it up with that bad 45 is something we’re not happy about. The set piece was just a part of it. We were sloppy with our passes, we were kind of in between a lot. Do we play long? Do we play short? Some guys turning over balls that are not guys that usually turn over balls in bad spots. So have to learn from it, have to get some things corrected, but I would agree that the lack of execution on set plays, which are dead ball moments which we’re usually good offensively, we came up a little bit short.
How does the extra time off before the next match affect preparation?
Look, it’s pro sports so there’s always pressure. There’s pressure every week on every player, on every coach, on our entire staff to get things right and win games. The early schedule is a difficult one for us, Three out of four on the road, right? So we have to survive this. Would we like to have about two more points than we have right now? I think we would, we’d feel a lot better about it. The performance against Toronto was good enough for three points, I’d say in Orlando we could’ve stole a point and we didn’t. I’d say over the course of the season it does tell you the truth, and we came up a little bit short in Orlando. No question it’s a difficult start. Three out of four on the road is hard for any team. It will be nice to have that three game homestand. You look at that, those are tough games as well.
So there’s no easy games in this league at this stage. Taking points early is really valuable and important. So again, as good as it was feeling after Toronto and get a draw, you’re in the back of your head going, “Man, we deserved three.” And when you don’t take three, that starts to put a little bit of pressure moving forward. You’ve got to win your home games in this league. While we played a very good team, and we played them tough, to not take all three points in that one makes it a little harder in Orlando, makes it a little harder in DC. Because on the road it’s a challenge in our league, it really is.
Thoughts on DC
First and foremost, they’re a good team. There’s no doubt about that. You look through their attacking pieces, we know them very well, they know us very well. They played better than the amount of points they have as well. Even the game against Columbus, if you actually watch the tape of that, they gave up two penalty kicks that were… questionable, let’s just say, but they really played well. They had possession, they created chances, and they haven’t scored yet this year but you can tell they’re really knocking on the door. That’s a scary thing going into. You don’t want them to break out against us, so we’ll have to be organized. It starts with limiting Nyarko and Sam, who are a handful out wide, can really beat you 1v1, Acosta is obviously a dangerous piece, I think losing him hurt them a bit. It’ll be a difficult game, they’ll be hungry for points, we’re hungry for points as well.
It’s an early game in the season, but it’s a conference game against a rival. Mullins picks up a little bit of a hamstring, left the game early. But they have weapons on their bench that can come on and score goals. We have to be careful protecting ourselves and being organized defensively and not being the team that lets them break out of their slump and get going a little bit.
Thoughts on Alejandro Bedoya at the No. 10 role
Ale is going to always be a guy we need to do a good job getting on the ball. He’ll be tireless in his workrate, he covers a ton of ground defensively for us, I think the best picture or snapshot of him was in the Toronto game in the first half. That’s when we’re getting him the ball in dangerous spots. That’s when he’s running into the corner with the ball at his feet, he’s serving good dangerous crosses into the box. It’s up to us to put him on the ball more often. Credit to Orlando, they disrupted us in that first half and we weren’t able to get him or Haris [Medunjanin] on the ball. I’m a big believer in simplifying things, and you want your best players on the ball as much as possible. If you take at the first 45 in Orlando, it was very minimal that we got them on the ball making decisions.
Ale is going to be a guy that leads this group. He’s been incredible in terms of the leadership that he’s brought. Obviously, the goals and assists will come. I don’t worry about that over the course of 34 games. But in the number 10 spot he’s been very strong for us. It’s a position he’s comfortable in. He’s comfortable playing at the eight, he’s comfortable playing at the ten, he’s been out wide, obviously, for our national team, so has a lot of versatility. Happy with where he’s at. But it’s up to us to put him on the ball a bit more in those tough moments when we do get pressed. Not just panicking and bypassing our midfield.
Thoughts on Fafa
He’s the kind of guy who, when opposing centerbacks or outside backs look over and they see coming in, he scares you. Because he has that speed threat. You’ve been battling for 60-70 minutes, then all of a sudden you look over and he’s warming up. He’s one that makes them a little uncomfortable. You’d like to get him more minutes, that’s the goal, obviously. He’s had a couple little injuries here and there that haven’t allowed him a ton of time with the first group, but he’s working his way toward that.
He’s a guy that I see as a very dangerous player in our league in the wide spot. Can get to the endline very well. He’s a guy that I’m confident going to late in games, even in minimal minutes in Orlando he creates the chance at the back post where Bedoya heads it and Bendik makes a great save in the closing flurry there. In minimal minutes and opportunities he’s done a lot with his time.
Thoughts on Real Salt Lake firing Jeff Cassar
It’s a situation… it’s not really for me to comment on, I don’t really know what the relationship is with the owner, what the vision of the club is, I’m sure they have dialogue and they understand where each side stands. It’s always difficult when a guy loses his job. He’s a guy I went through the PRO license with, a very good coach in this league. I think I saw Jason Kreis commented on it, and Jason’s one of his best friends, so I think guys that are closer to the situation it’s fair to comment, but for me… you never want to see someone lose their job, it’s tough. But I don’t know the behind-the-scenes of the organization of Real Salt Lake is doing, what their vision is, what their thinking is, what their thought process is on that one. Again, tough, but you’re focused on getting three points against DC.
On head trainer Kevin Miller’s departure
Kevin’s a guy who worked for the Philadelphia Union from the beginning. He’s a great person. Just became a situation where timing-wise, it was time for Kevin to move on to explore new opportunities. Again, I think we have a really strong staff on the sports performance side. Some decisions were made in that department and that was the direction that we went. Again, Kevin is a great guy, we’re still in touch, he wished us all the best this year, so not a situation where there’s any ill-will or anything like that. A guy who did a lot for the club, moved the club forward, all the players really liked and responded to him a great deal, but one where… it’s pro sports.
There’s change, there’s turnover, and Kevin was unfortunately part of that as well.
Jay Simpson’s status
Jay trained today for the first time fully. The guys have been off, we gave them off a day. Jay’s been obviously back here training while we were in Orlando, keeping the fitness up. Didn’t experience any pain with it, a quick healer, so that was a positive. Didn’t seem to be limiting him at all today out on the field when he was out on the field – training in the stadium because of the 50 mph winds today. He had no trouble breathing. At this stage, it kind of feels like a bruise would feel, or a dead leg or whatever it might be, but in a different area of the body. So he should be fine for the weekend, or next weekend, excuse me.
What will influence your decision to potentially start Fafa Picault in the future?
I think it’ll be situational. For us, depending on the opponent, depending on who’s the guy he’s going up against on the lefthand side, who would it be on the righthand side if there’s a matchup we think we can exploit, I certainly would feel totally comfortable starting Fafa. Again, he continues to work and add fitness to his game. When he gets into the game now, he’s lively. He almost runs all over the field to try to make a play, which you like from any attacking player: He wants to make an impact.
We’ve been preaching to him to be patient. He’ll get his opportunity coming up here soon. And when he gets his opportunity, he should run with it, whether that’s on the right side or the left, he’s played as a number nine. He’s prepared to help the team in any way possible. He’s done a good job off the bench for us. And like you mentioned, speed is something that can change games and we haven’t had that luxury in the past. And with him, he does give you that threat to get in behind and hit someone on the break quickly.
On the defensive shape in the Orlando game and how Rivas found space
I thought right off the opening whistle we were anxious in terms of getting stretched from CJ [Sapong] to our center backs. What you saw was Rivas was able to, in a couple instances, take ball off his chest. Larin did it a couple times where they weren’t really contested by our center backs, and they were finding pockets between the two center backs and also them and Haris and Derrick Jones. So a couple times early you saw Rivas run off into the corner, and they would bait Fabi up and have Fabi step high to Perez Garcia and that would clear a 40-50 yard area of space and they’d clip a ball in behind, it happened a few times on the film as we watched it back.
Part of it’s a credit to Orlando. Part of it is us not being in sync with our line, we were stepping and dropping not together, and we got burned. You can see obviously a couple times guys thought they were in line with the group and put their hands up for offsides and it wasn’t. Part of that is when do we step, when do we drop, and it also starts with…
I think CJ was excited to be in the game, to get a start, and maybe ran a little too much early on, in terms of chasing the goalkeeper, chasing back passes, and it made us a little bit stretched. At the end of the day, though, it came down to us not being good enough with the ball in the first 45, and allowing Orlando to turn us over in some bad spots and from there we were scrambling. It was a game where, when we looked at the data, we had a ton of high speed running, which are measured in sprints over a certain distance over a certain period of time.
Our center backs ran a ton in this game, which is not a good thing, statistically, to have your center backs do a ton of running. Usually equates to dropped points, and that was the case in this one. But Rivas pulled us all over the place, sometimes Larin did a good job staying in between the center backs, occupying them, and then Rivas would drop a little deeper and we didn’t know whether to step or drop, and when we did it we weren’t together. And when we’re not together as a back line, and when we’re not together as a team, holes open up. The craziest part of the first half is, as bad as we played — and every player would say it, and the staff as well — as bad as we were, the only real shot on goal we conceded was the one that ended up in the goal. ‘Dre made some saves from crosses and actions in that regard. Still some things to work on, obviously to build on, but Rivas presented some issues. He’s a strong kid, he’s a fast player, and he’s a handful when he’s confident and receiving balls in those pockets.
Orlando’s pressure seemed to limit Keegan’s and Haris’time on the ball. What can you do to make sure other teams can’t do the same?
I would say that Orlando, to their credit, in this one it’s almost like they play a 4-2-4 in terms of how they press. Barnes pressed high, Perez Garcia pressed high, and Larin and Rivas basically stand on your center backs. So now: can you have the composure to beat that initial pressure, whether that’s Barnes flying at Keegan: Can he be a little deceptive and take a step around him, can he connect a pass into Haris?
There was space, and there was time, but they flustered us and made us play quicker than we had to a lot of times. Teams are obviously going to watch film. I talked with Haris about this before the game. The tape’s out there, they know we’re going to want to get him on the ball. What that can do, though, is open up space for Jones, open up more space for Bedoya. And during increments during the game each guy can take a moment, and we have to have more ways to beat them than just one person. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes of Haris dropping deep. As teams adjust and press him, we need to find Derrick Jones in the hole.
I think we panicked and our default was to play long, and when you play long to [Jonathan] Spector and [Jose] Aja fighting with CJ, it’s going to come right back down your throat. There was space out there. We’ll talk through the film again tomorrow. If we’re able to just connect to feet, you can really have some 3v3s, 4v4s against Orlando, but they disrupted us in that first half and we didn’t really recover. Second half we improved a great deal, but at that stage, it was a little bit too late. I think we had the one opportunity were Chris [Pontius] has the opportunity to get up on them and doesn’t take it, and then we had the mixup on their second goal, which was a good goal, good movement, good action by them, then we pushed and scrambled at the end. Overall, not our best performance, something we need to work on. But yeah, we have to find different ways to get at teams and create actions to goal while still being able to build up out of the back.