Press Conference

Union presser: No Fabinho appeal, RB & LM options, the DC rivalry, Kleberson’s role, what ticked Hack off, more

Editors note: Questions are paraphrased. Answers are not.

Does it bother you that much of the local mainstream reporting on the longest tenured pro coach in Philadelphia did not include you?

First answer is that I think it doesn’t matter at all, it’s completely irrelevant. Especially with how long it’s been — it hasn’t been very long.

The second answer is that it does piss me off, to be very clear, but it’s not about me. I think it’s incredible that in this day and age, in the world we live in, with how popular our sport is, that in a city that says that it is, you know, such a sports town, to say, “Nah, it doesn’t count as one of the top professional sports.” I think that’s crazy.

What are the options at right back and left midfield this weekend against DC with the Sheanon Williams and Fabinho suspensions.

No matter how you look at it, we’re gonna have to change some things, we’re gonna have to move some people around. If you leave Ray at left back, then you gotta replace a right back. There’s some obvious choices there — some that I don’t really want to disclose — but guys who have been playing there throughout the course of the year so far: Albright, Matt Kassel. Then you got guys you could put back there that have played there before: Sebastien Le Toux. Sebastien and I were joking about it on Saturday night, that he grew up as a right back, he came to the MLS as a right back, and that that would be an option. So, that’s the first thing.

And then, depending on what you do — whether you put Ray on the right or left — dictates whether you change your left midfield. Sebastien has obviously played a lot on the left for us this year, so he’s the first choice. You have Keon Daniel, who certainly has contributed majorly to the success of our season so far, and is a hundred percent healthy. So there’s some logical choices there but, no matter what, we’re gonna have to juggle it a little bit and some guys are gonna have to play a role they haven’t previously played for us.

What’s the health status of Michael Lahoud?

Michael is still struggling with a an ankle sprain. He’s running today so we hope he’s available for Saturday. That would be — I should have mentioned Michael Lahoud — that would be a really easy one for us to do because he has played in the league at both right and left fullback, so that’s an easy choice. Unfortunately, he has to be a hundred percent healthy in order to do that. So, he ran today, looked good. I’m hoping over the next two days he’ll be a hundred percent in training.

Has the club appealed the red card against Fabinho?

Some of that I can’t really talk about, but the part I will talk about is that we decided not to appeal it. And the reason being is that there has to be, in order for you to appeal, there has to be a mistake that was made. In this case, the referee didn’t mistake the player, it wasn’t mistaken identity. And when you look back at all the angles we’ve got, I absolutely can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s a red card, but he does retaliate. Is it enough? I mean, you know, I don’t think anybody could look at it and think that it’s a true red card with what he does. But he does kind of fly into him a little bit and give him a love tap on the tush, and all of the sudden that turns into a red card. I don’t agree with it but it’s not one of those appealable cases and, unfortunately, that really hurts our team. It hurt our team on Saturday night. We’ve talked to Fabinho about that — you know, you gotta keep your emotions in check and you just gotta be smarter than that.

Will the changes in the backline have a cascading effect throughout the rest of the field? Will you be more conservative in the midfield because of that?

Those are all questions that we’re trying to assess right now but it depends on what we do, truly, on our backline. You don’t want to be too conservative. We’re on a good streak and we feel like we are continuing to play well. The last thing that we want is to try to go out there and change our tactics. We have a game plan going into DC United [tape skips two seconds] When we’ve played with our first teams, we’ve beaten them twice and they’ve beaten us twice. So, no matter where they are on the table right now, they’ve just won the US Open Cup. They are an opponent that no matter who we put on the field, we’re always gonna go at it and we’re gonna go at it very hard. So, it’s gonna be an interesting game down there and certainly we need to continue to accumulate points and that’s what our goal is.

Do you have to remind the guys about how important the rivalry with DC is?

What we’re gonna do is mention it but it really doesn’t need to be said a lot in our locker room. The rivalry itself, the players know that this is a big game. If we were playing for nothing it would still mean a lot to the players. But, the fact is that we’re playing for an awful lot. DC is playing for a completely different thing. There’s probably players playing for jobs over there, proving to Coach Olsen and his staff that they’re gonna be good options for next year. They’ve got some young guys. They’re similar to how we were last year so we know it from internally that’s hard to deal with.

What are your thoughts on the league not breaking for the international weekend?

I think it is something that the league needs to address, but I wouldn’t put it all on the league, at the same time. There’s a number of different variables in there that make it almost impossible for the league to schedule the games that they need to schedule within the time frame and get all these international games in as well. And in a qualifying year going into a World Cup it’s that much harder. It’s gonna be the same way next summer. I’m hopeful, and I know that the league is doing their very best to try to work those things out. Every team has had to deal with them to some degree: we had to deal with it in June and July. I think right now for our league, coaches and players, they just have to deal with it. And that does give guys an opportunity, when the players get called up to their national teams, it gives guys within the locker room who have been here, and that’s why we have 30-player rosters. I try to look on the optimistic side of it and say, “Look, this is an opportunity,” but it’s easy to be on the other end of it too.

DC has been using a lot of experimental lineups with young players. Now they have the chance to play the spoiler against a big rival. If you were in that situation, how would you balance that?

I know Ben, and Ben is a competitor. And that has been evident in the way he played the game and the way that he coaches the game. So, there is no question in my mind that he is gonna have the guys ready to play. I know that they’ll try to win the game, they’ll put a team on the field that they think can win the game. And mixed in there, there’ll probably be some changes, some young players — some more of what we did last year — because they are truly in a growth phase right now, they have to figure out, going forward into next year, who makes sense for them. And that, I think, is what tells me as a coach is that this is gonna be a very competitive game, one we should not take lightly at all.

Do you any expectation that Olsen will hold any players back, as he has in recent games?

He’s got some roster issues due to call-ups and injuries just like we do. And they’ve dealt with that a lot more this year, they’ve had a lot more of those kind of problems. But I look at the tape of them playing Chicago last week and without Sean Johnson making some amazing saves in the first 20 minutes of that game, DC could have been up 3 – nothing. And they still out possessed them and out played them and got more goal-scoring opportunities. So, I think, right now, it’s a little deceptive that they haven’t gotten better results in the league.

How do you balance trying to prepare for them and trying to prepare your team?

I think we have to do both. We know them well enough, both their coaching staff and their personnel in terms of their options, and at the same time we really gotta focus on ourselves and try to keep the positive momentum going, knowing that we have to make some roster changes as well.

What can Kleberson bring to the team going forward over the last three games?

I think anytime a player takes an opportunity well, I think it changes things. But I wouldn’t say that I would expect wholesale changes. I’ve said it all along, I was really impressed with Kleberson here, OK, and the reasons that we have brought him here and what he has done for our locker room and has contributed on the field. I should say that I’m so happy for him because he works hard, he deserved it, and he hits that kind of free kick in training a lot. It was a good moment for him and a good moment for our organization and, hopefully, we can continue to use Kleberson, or other guys who can contribute. Once you can contribute that way and score that kind of goal, it certainly gives you a very positive feeling about the next opportunity that may come along.

Do you think the best way to use him is coming off the bench?

I have said that before, that that is a role. Kleberson started earlier in the year and — so, you guys can go back and look at those results — and it wasn’t necessarily Kleberson. I mean, he got injured against Toronto and he was out for a long time, and so that changes some dynamics all together. It depends on the opponent a little bit. Going into Toronto, we thought that that would be a really good situation for Kleberson to come in because tactically what we felt Toronto would try to do in that game. So everything is a a little bit dependent on the opponent and the tactics of the situation. To be fair, he still is working extremely hard, he has some great qualities and we’re gonna try to put the best team on the field against DC. He certainly didn’t hurt his chances by scoring that goal the way he did.

Are you worried about emotions getting out of control given the nature of past meetings with DC?

Not yet. But I think it’s something that as game day comes around, as a coach, you just want to make sure your players understand, “Hey, keep it in check.” While those games have a tendency to get a little out of control, because it means so much to us — not just the emotional side of it but the end result — we’re gonna have to be very mindful of being disciplined in that game and making intelligent plays, not getting caught up in anything that happens within the game.

Can you talk about the factors involved in MacMath’s turnaround since the game against Dallas when his error led to a stoppage time equalizer?

Well, I would first off give Rob Vartughian a lot of credit; I think our coaching staff does a really good job, Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke as well. Those guys every single day do an excellent job of teaching and developing our players. With Zac, Rob works with our keepers and when you have a moment in a game that is a teachable moment it is the best opportunity for a coach to have the most influence. And so, as you noted, now Zac is punching balls. So, a player that learns from his mistakes, and can go through reps in training and do it regularly,  I think that is a huge factor. I’m really happy for Zac because I think Zac had that capability all along but, as a coach, you always know that young players, inexperienced players, are gonna have to go through a process where they have to learn from their mistakes, and I’m really happy that Zac has shown that to everybody.

What role has Oka Nikolov had in MacMath’s development?

Oka is a player so he hasn’t really been working on anything with Zac. What Oka has done is he’s competed with Zac in training and that pressure that comes from having somebody else wanting your job certainly raises the stakes a little bit. And Zac has responded to that very positively. Oka, similar to what some other veteran players have done in our locker room, has brought some experience that, when they share those experiences with how they get through tough times and things, I think that’s where you talk about the real value of some veteran leadership in your locker room.

What does Brian Carroll bring to the team?

Brian has in a lot of ways been our rock. For me personally, there’s very few guys in that locker room who’ve been more important. We try to make sure that everybody knows their role but Brian has, literally every game, been our leader on the field. He does it probably in a very unspoken way because he does so much of his leading by example, but it’s been huge . I think he’s got a great cast of veteran players around him that support him and the younger guys who now have experience under their belt certainly look up to him and are trying to figure out, “Hey, why has this guy been in the league so long and why’s he been so successful?” That all helps. Long story short, he has been really important for us.



  1. BAHAHHAHAH. I heard this earlier today.

    If B.C. is a “rock”, then Sheanon, Parke and Akugo are the eff’ing Washington Monument, and Keon is a pebble.

    After watching Saturday’s game from TV land instead of the usual seats, B.C. is done for this year. Constantly screws up, back passes, and is out-manned.

    This was actually the only comment which blew me away today.

  2. On “having an opinion”

    “I think yeah, you know, some coaches have opinions. And they stick to them, and for sure, I do too. But then, you have to look at the other side and I don’t have an opinion. So, there’s that. And sometimes you don’t have an opinion and then you have one. Like a halftime adjustment opinion.

    And the refs suck. Times yours.”

  3. So glad Hack took a shot at the Philly media. I was the headline regarding Kelly’s tenure and just laughed. Bunch of dumbasses, aside from a snub it’s erroneous information.
    Also should point out that the U are going to be the only team to do anything significant this year. Flyers and Sixers may make playoffs as an 8th seed but when half the conferences make the playoffs that’s not that great. If the U finished 8th it would be horrible.
    Not happy Albright’s name is being mentioned what so ever. Last time he played he gave up a foul and two points. Sucks Lahoud still isn’t 100% he’s played RB before.
    I hope Hack unload’s B.C. in the off-season. We can do better and have similar players in terms of position in Daniel, Lahoud, Gilberto, Kleberson, and oh yeah OKUGO.

    • Ummm….Union might get in as 5th seed with 5 out of 10 making the playoffs. Not that much different than if the Flyers got in as the 8th seed with 8 out of 16 making the playoffs…and I think the Flyers did pretty well in the post season the last time they snuck in via a shoot out on the last day of the season (grumble, grumble grumble…I’ll admit I’m a Ranger fan and was not happy with said shoot out)

    • “but when half the conferences make the playoffs that’s not that great.”

      10 out of 19 make MLS playoffs, or 52.6%

      16 out of 30 make NHL playoffs, or 53.3%

      I’m sure there’s a point in there somewhere, maybe about the quality of math education in the public school system…

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