Press Conference

Transcript and video from John Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Injury update

Conor is back. We could have brought Conor back and put him in the 18 last Saturday. Chose not to just to be a little cautionary with him, make sure he’s ready. He looks good this week.

Sheanon is still on the road to recovery, although in today’s workout he did well, and said he didn’t feel any pain. That one is a little farther behind.

The other one — two other ones: Austin Berry came out of the game with tightness in his hamstring, he felt good today, didn’t feel any pain. But we’re, again, being a little bit cautious with him. And Michael Lahoud came back today.

I should also note that Richie Marquez and Pedro are back in training, so, all good things.

And Brian Carroll?

Brian, was literally just a flu bug. So, it kept him down most of the weekend but he’s back and a hundred percent.

About the Columbus Crew

I think Greg Berhalter has done a really good job taking over that team. I thought they had last year some pieces that were really good and have continued to play well together. They had a great first game at DC [defeated DC United 3-0 March 8]. We played them in preseason, so we at least have a little bit of familiarity with them. But they’re a good team, and we’re gonna have to go in and play our second home opener for a club, which I think is a challenge — be ready for all the energy from their fans and the emotions that brings — but we’re also facing a team of quality.

Higuain is kind of the playmaker for them. He can show up all over the field and really unbalances defenses with his movement off the ball, but also his ability to make the pass and pick teams apart. Michael Parkhurst  — a new player for them, a guy I have a lot of respect for — I really think he brings a lot to solidifying their defense. Probably one of the most composed defenders in our league, for sure.

So, it’s gonna be a difficult game, no question about it. At the same time, I think we’re a team that is feeling good about the way that we’ve played the first two games. And, yet, we know we can improve in many different areas. So, it’s a chance for us to go in again, make sure we’re taking the positive step forward, and do that against a quality opponent.

How does Dominic Oduro complicate things?

When we played them in preseason, when he came on into the game, he made a difference a difference for them. His ability to stretch  you and really pull the defense apart — in particular when Higuain is pulling all the strings on the ball — and you have the kind of speed he has, it’s a handful to deal with. The good news is that I think we have some pretty good athletes on our team as well and can, you know, at least have a balance there. He’s a good player and we’re gonna have to deal with that, for sure.

Are you pleasantly surprised by the chemistry the team is showing so early in the season?

Is it too cocky if I say no?

I think it’s interesting, I’ll tell you a little story. I was talking to Danny Califf yesterday after training. We were training up at YSC, Danny had stopped by to say hello, and Danny asked me the same question. And I said, Danny, look, a lot of what we established in the first year within our locker room — our culture, if you will, our way of doing things, our way of working — has continued. There was a little blip there for a while, but we have a core of guys in that locker room who have been here the entire time, and a group of guys who have been here for a while now.

So those things, when you have an environment and a culture the way we have, I think when you add new pieces into that, as long as the guys understand it, it’s a lot easier to build a team around. And so it’s great that we have players that are of quality but it’s even better that you have guys who understand that team chemistry is so important, that being a part of the team, and adding to that in the right way, and kind of figuring out what it is like in there already before they ever stepped in.

I don’t want to sound too overconfident about it, but we’ve liked the group that we’ve had and continue to, with the new guys we have in the locker room, appreciate the work that they do.

I think you build that over time, is what I’m saying. You build that over time and a lot of that is, when you bring a new piece in, it can go one of two ways. But if the core group holds the locker room accountable for certain things — especially the culture of how we work, how we recover, how we prepare, how we deal with adversity, how you look at all the positives and keep it in perspective — that makes it a lot easier

Is Amobi Okugo officially the vice captain of the team?

I would tell you that it’s unofficial because it was a last minute kind of situation, but Amobi and I have already had talks in the preseason about him stepping up as a leader on this team. I had a similar conversation with Sheanon Williams, and there’s other guys in that locker room that are doing a really good job. Maurice has come in and clearly established himself. On Saturday when I talked to both Mo and Amobi about it, it wasn’t just a decision to say, “Amobi, you’re it.” It was a discussion to say, “Hey, how can we have the most effective leadership on the field, and what are the responsibilities going to be?”

I’m really happy that Amobi stepped up, did a good job, for sure. He takes a lot of pride in that, and that’s something you want as a coach, you want a guy to want to wear the armband and lead.

Going forward, we’ll have to see. I’m pleased that we have enough guys in that locker room who understand it and appreciate it the way they do.

On the center back depth chart

Aaron’s done really well. I would give Ethan a lot of credit because Ethan has done really well in the last three weeks. He made the 18 last week, and we’ve been happy with his progress in the recent, really, last four weeks. You got Richie Marquez coming off an injury; he was playing so well in preseason that he was fighting for that same position. So, right now, we have a lot of depth there. We’ll have to see what happens with Austin, but, for sure, right now, I would think Aaron’s that next choice for us. He’s earned it.

On the benefits of depth

It means that we’re not going to have a drop off. It means that your expectation is that when guys get their opportunity — Aaron was a really good example of that. How often do you see a center back come into a one-nothing game and the opposing team clearly went at him right away and tested him. But he handled it in the right way, he played well and was ready. If we talk about another player, look at Leo Fernandes, him finding out on game day, literally before we walk out for warmups, that now he’s got the responsibility to be the playmaker — on opening day, in your home stadium. That’s a big responsibility. But it’s a great thing as a coach to have players like that, to have a core group of guys that understand it and are good with it: knowing their role, knowing how they’re working.

A lot of these things I think that, right now, people are recognizing we’ve been doing for a while. It just takes — it’s a work in progress. Time is certainly a component to all of this.

On the midfield with or without Brian Carroll

I would tell you that Brian Carroll is still our captain and is still a starter on our team. But it certainly gives us the ability to play a little different tactically. And that’s a good thing. Brian clearly understood that before we ever started preseason. He and I sat down and had lunch together, and he knew by the pieces we had brought in that it wasn’t going to be the same as last year, that, depending on how we rolled out, there were gonna be times where he would be in there, and maybe there would be times when he wasn’t.

I’ve tried to make that message clear to everybody on our roster: anytime you add some depth and quality it means that it’s not gonna be a set XI, and it means that guys are gonna have to literally work hard every day to be prepared for that.

So far, that’s good. There’s a careful balance to that too, you know. But so far, right now, that’s been working well for us.

On how this new flexibility gives more options late in games

Sure, I think we’ll have to see how games go. Any of those in-game decisions are based on a lot of information, how you plan things out. But a lot of it is what’s the opponent doing. I think last year, everybody pretty much knew what we were gonna do to make some changes in-game. This year we definitely have a variety of things we can do, and that helps us as a team. It means we won’t be as predictable. It means that we can shift things and, hopefully, use it to our advantage.

On his disappointment in the drop in play in the second half against New England

The main reason I wasn’t pleased — I should tell you coming and doing a press conference immediately after a game is a hard thing. Not that I’m trying to defend anything I said, but you have this idea of what the game looked like in your mind. When you go back and you look at the tape and you study a little bit — I don’t think it was probably as bad as I thought at the time. That would be the first point.

The second thing is that we still have some very basic principles that we’re trying to play by, and we didn’t do some of those things particularly well in the second half. We didn’t keep the ball the same. Our pressure was much lower — we call it our line of confrontation — it was lower in the second half than it was in the first half. And that was a point I was trying to make to our team: let’s not back off.

At the same time, it is so natural for a group of guys when they have a lead to play more conservative, to drop the line, to protect it. When you now get the result the way  you do, it’s a great opportunity to say, what could we have done different in that second half? Could we have played a higher line? Would he have gotten a second goal? Could we have gotten a third one? Could we put this game away without literally going into extra time and fighting until the very end?

When I went back and initially watched the game for the first time, I was more impressed by the fact that we didn’t give New England any chances towards the end of that game at all. So there were positives as well as some negatives. But, I would like us to be very consistent from the first minute through the ninety-whatever we’re playing in.

Do you know who the team’s penalty kick taker is?

We ended up taking PKs against Montreal in the last game of the Disney Classic, which is a funny exercise all together in the preseason, so we did have an opportunity for guys to take some. But the answer is no, that’ll be a game time decision. I have a couple of ideas of who those guys would be, and we have some guys who are currently in our locker room who have been on our team and taken those in the past. I think we’ll just have to see how that goes. We’re not counting on getting any, so maybe that’s part of it.

Any news on the Union mascot?

No, not from my end, no mascot update.

Thoughts on the Mic’d Up video with Amobi Okugo?

I didn’t see it yet, sorry. Been working. Was it good? What do you think? I’ll have to go watch it then. You’re about the third person who asked me that so I guess I better.

Are there tactical considerations in selecting who among the depth of center backs?

The reality is that these guys have all been competing. I probably sound like a broken record, but we’ve been very consistent with how we’ve been trying to teach and train our team. So, Ethan, Austin, Aaron, Richie, Amobi — these guys are seeing the same kind of looks in terms of the exercise and ways that we’re trying to establish how we’re defending. There are certainly matchups in this league that are gonna mean that one guy has a little bit of a nod over another, but the way we try to defend, we’re really concentrating on doing it collectively. Again, playing by defensive principles more than anything. That means that all of those guys have to be held accountable for the same type of play and performance. It’s not to say that each guy doesn’t bring something different but, at the same time, our expectation .

All I can tell you is that we don’t really think about those things. We feel like we’re a team that right now has to go out and continually prove that we are capable of performing at the same level we have over the last two weeks and, if we do that, I think we put ourselves in a good position to be successful in that game. At the same time, you’re playing against a quality opponent playing in their home opener, and that’s very difficult.

Our goal will be the same as always: to go in there and get a result. We were able to do it last year, but that was last year. Our focus is on now and trying to make sure that we establish something and continue to build on the performances we’ve displayed so far.


  1. The Chopper says:

    So my question is this. If Casey is in the 18, and you have Wheeler dressed, Cruz dressed Pfefer and or Hernandez dressed, is there really any need at all to put Hoppenot in the 18?

    • Yes, he’s got a role to play. Bring him in when you’ve got a lead (or a draw on the road) and the opponents are pressing. His speed and willingness to forecheck (and get on opponents’ nerves) can be useful. But if he throws in any more performances like last week’s, then we should let someone else play agitator for a while.

  2. Any word on Fabinho?

  3. buzzkill_ed says:

    Thanks for transcribing this. Not always easy to figure out what he’s saying from all the accounts live tweeting.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Thank you – that’s one of the reasons why I started doing the transcriptions. It’s a pain in the bum, frankly, but I think it’s worth it.

  4. Danny “stopped by” YSC to say hello? You know he’s a scout for TFC now, right? Anyone think he’s spying on the team? Yeah, me neither …

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