Press Conference

Transcript and video from John Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased

Do you feel the team is poised to breakout offensively

This is a funny old game sometimes. But when you look back on our past performances, specifically when you look at the stats and you see how many times we’re getting in a position to have chances — you know, I was looking at some league stats before we walked out here and one of the things is we’re No. 1 in the league right now in final third entries. That means we’re getting into good scoring positions. We’re No. 4 in the league in penalty area entries. We’re in the top five in all the shooting metrics.

When you do that consistently, you like to think, and with my experience in this crazy game, you think that a lot of those are gonna start to fall — just a matter of time. It is a cruel game at times because you can dominate on the stat sheet and come out on the wrong end of a result. But at the same time, if you can do those things consistently, I believe, over the long haul, we’ll be all right.

On giving up late goals

It’s just like on the opposite side of the finishing. We’ve been a really good team at preventing our opponents from getting really good looks at goal and, yet, we’ve given up some chances, especially late in halves. And that has gotta stop. We have to be able to play from the first whistle to the last whistle, and be as effective towards the end of a game. And, it’s a little bit of that notion in our guys heads right now, that that’s a time that leaves you a little bit vulnerable because, you know, you don’t want to let that happen again. We just got to reiterate and continue pushing in training, working on it, and getting the thought that hey, if you can do this for the majority of games, how do we close it out? You close it out sometimes by making sure you continue not to give up those chances. You also close it out by putting more in the back of the net than what we have previously. And we have to find that balance right now.

Is there one thing that you can point at as being missing?

It’s probably a complicated answer in that we just haven’t executed right when we’re in front of goal. We’ve put the number of shots on goal that you would think that we would have more goals. Maybe that’s unlucky, maybe that’s a goalie making a save. And then it comes down to the word execution. When you get those opportunities you have to execute them.

I was a little frustrated after the [Montreal] game — “a little frustrated” is the major understatement of the day — at the fact that our guys we’re a little unselfish when they got opportunities. We were looking to play this, we were looking to pass and create — we like combination play, we work on it all the time — but there is a time when guys literally have to recognize, “Okay, I got one guy to beat to get a shot off, to get to goal,” and when those opportunities arise, it’s important that our players take that responsibility.

So, again, we don’t want to get away from our style, we don’t want to — we have a foundation of principles which we’re trying to base our attack on, and then, in the end, you need to be ruthless when you get those chances on a goal.

Has Nogueira’s offense surprised you?

No, it hasn’t been a surprise, but I’m happy that he got on the score sheet because I think that’s important for a player coming into this league to know that, “Hey, I’m gonna be a guy that is finding my way into these spots, and I can finish.” And clearly, he could’ve had maybe a couple on the day and probably deserved an assist or two, as well. His quality has shown and has been pretty consistent. I think you’re going to see more out of him on both sides of it.

What do you do to improve the finishing?

We do a ton of exercises in front of goal. We talk about repetitions; we talk about the type of chances that you want to create. We have a number of activities that we do right in front of goal [unintelligible]. In training it’s a little different. Maybe you’re up against a mannequin; maybe it’s a pattern, so you know the shots are coming. Then you have to add pressure by adding actual defenders into it. That part’s been good, our guys on the training field work extremely hard — we’ve been feeling really confident in what we see out at training is going into games.

Again, as a coach, you thin, Okay, I see these things happen Monday through Friday, and I see it happen with enough regularity that, on Saturday, things are going to go our way. You just gotta keep the faith that that’s gonna happen.

What are the chances that Austin Berry will play on Saturday in Chicago?

I think the biggest obstacle to him hitting the field this week is the fact that we have played two good games and Aaron Wheeler has played really well. So, that creates the competition that we’ve been talking about all year so far, and that’s a good problem to have. It’s been good in training, so far, that we literally have four central defenders right now who are playing really well. I would put Ethan White into the category of central defenders that are playing well.

So, right now we’re deep there. Coming back off injury, he has to make sure and prove through training that he’s the best selection. That competition is good [but] we haven’t made that decision yet, though.

So Berry’s return is a question of competition for a starting spot, not of his recovery from injury?

Yeah, I think that Austin is back to being able to play at a hundred percent. The only thing that, similar to Sheanon Williams, you have guys who haven’t played games and you can’t — there’s nothing you can do in our training environment to really prepare a guy for getting in that rhythm of game. So those guys gotta get in a game eventually to truly prove that they’re ready. But, Austin’s got qualities, and we recognized those qualities before we made a move to trade for him, it’s just that we’re pretty fortunate right now that we do have a lot of depth in that position, and Aaron Wheeler has been a bit of a revelation in that regard.

When you traded for Berry, did you see Wheeler being competition for a center back starting spot?

No, I think that all of the on our team knew that we were looking, we weren’t hiding that fact at all, but I know that when you make those decisions, the implications within your team and in your locker room is that you kind of ratchet up the competition

(audio cuts out for 18 seconds)

…and with our outside backs. But you have Fabinho and Ray Gaddis, which have played well through the first month of the season. So Sheanon has his work cut out to get back into the starting lineup. Sheanon is somebody that we think we need to go forward but, obviously, it’s really nice to have the depth that we’re having and having guys play well.

With a tough stretch of games coming up, do you take the games one at a time or something like the next three?
No, it’s one at a time, for sure, that’s our focus. Our rhythm to our week is we try to review our past performance and learn from our mistakes, and learn what we’re doing good and things we can improve on, but then you try to put that behind you and totally focus on your next opponent. I’m not gonna lie to you that, looking down the schedule as we come up in this next stretch, we have some games, and we have midweek games — the depth we just talked about, is absolutely gonna come to the forefront because it’s gonna require, as a team, a lot of guys are getting minutes in really important and tough environments on the road, and I’m looking forward to that because I think we’re a team that, right now, is ready for that.

Does the stretch of games coming up make getting points this weekend more important?

Every game in this league seems like that, and especially when you’re playing an Eastern Conference rival, it always — that intensity of the week never goes away, that pressure. So, this week is a big week. It’s important for us because we feel like we deserve a little more than we have right now, and yet, we feel if we can be consistent in the way that we play and the way that we approach things as we have so far this season, we’ll put ourselves in a good position to get a result in Chicago.

We’re playing a really good Chicago team, though, and that’s a tough situation because you have to be very respectful of your opponent and what for them playing in a home game is like.

What does the possibility of Maurice Edu becoming the first Union player to be capped mean from an organizational perspective

First, I hope he gets that chance, that would be fantastic for Mo and we would be extremely proud of him for being in that position. But it would mean something to our club because I think it would signify the fact that we have players now that are getting those opportunities, and to be the first one currently would be important.

Unintelligible question

I hope so. I don’t look at it like that because I was with Mo when he was playing for the national team before and starting games, and he’s already played in a World Cup — we have a player with a lot of experience and qualities. So, our staff knows Mo very well and we’ve been fortunate to be around him in those exact environments. So, we have all the confidence that he’s ready for it and, hopefully, his name will get called at some point and he’ll represent his country tonight, and that’ll be a good reflection on the Union.

Edu has acknowledged how his teammates have helped push him to earn his national team callup. Do you feel like you have a share in that?

I feel really fortunate that I now have a player like Mo on our roster, and to be able to coach him is truly an honor. But I think it’s a team effort. Our staff and I are very thankful that Mo is humble about the opportunity and really appreciates the fact that his teammates deserve a lot of credit for this opportunity. We always talk about if one guy in our locker room ever gets an accolade, or recognition, or a callup, it means that there’s so many guys behind him that have supported him in that effort. I think that’s just very natural and nice when a guy recognizes that and publicly acknowledges that.

On what it means that Brian Carroll is about to make his one hundredth appearance with the Union

(Laughing) You know, you give me a wealth of information when I’m in these press conferences because I have no idea about any of this stuff. All right, great, that’s good.

I think that that would say a lot. Brian is obviously very important to our team. He’s accepted responsibility within our team the last couple of years of a leadership role. As a pro, if you look at the course of his career, he has always been a player who’s found his way into important positions and consistently led by example. If you talked to coaches and players around the league, nobody ever says anything but positive things about the way Brian plays and conducts himself on and off the field.  So, hitting a milestone like that is great recognition and really validates the work that he does.

What do you say to the players about facing a winless team for the second week in a row? How do you prepare for a Chicago team desperate for its first win?

I think when we communicate those kinds of ideas, it’s not as much about a team that’s desperate for a win as much as it is a recognition that, like us, they are very hungry for the opportunity to go out and play and get a result that they need. You know, they might not have won a game but they’re coming off a string of good results, they had a good preseason — they know they have a good team. It’s still early days in the season and I think every one of these games, teams are going to be very anxious and, you would think highly motivated to go out and get better results. We certainly understand that, we’ve been on the road twice and played in home openers — which, as I alluded to a couple of weeks back, is extremely difficult. It’s just another reminder to our guys that this is not going to be an easy game, it’s going to be a tough environment, and a team that is very motivated to get their first win of the year.

You mentioned after Saturday’s game against Montreal that Cristian Maidana picked up a knock. What’s his status?

You’re correct; Cristian took a pretty hard knock in that first half. He’s got a pretty bruised calf right now. Our medical staff does a wonderful job trying to get these guys back to a hundred percent and available for selection on Saturday. Right now, he’s probably questionable in that regard.

I should probably give you an injury update. We have Danny Cruz, who’s trying to fight off a, he’s got a bone — not a bone bruise, a heel bruise — that has been bothering him the first month of the season, so he’s on the injury list. Zach Pfeffer and Fred both had knocks occur in our reserve game on Sunday, and then I just mentioned Maidana. Those are the four guys on the injury list.

On the dip in form/fewer touches of Maidana and Jack McInereny

First, for Maidana, he has not played at the same level the last two games, and when we look back at the game film and the stats, it’s easy to see there were a lot of turnovers created in those touches. I think part of that has to do with a player coming into this league, trying to understand and know what this league is all about. And then for Cristian, to be very specific about him, I think he’s trying to pull of some plays in moments where they’re just not smart for him, he needs to make better decisions. He’s a technical enough player to execute if the ideas are right. We’re just trying to keep him very positive so that we hope he can get back to the level that we saw before we brought him here and clearly we saw in the first two games of the year. But I think the weather that we’ve played in has been tough the last two weekends, and the fact that he’s had in this last game a little bit of an injury [has also] affected his play. Hopefully, he an overcome both of those, and learn from his mistakes, and get back to the level that he was at previously.

As far as McInerney, McInerney ended up playing well on Saturday — you look at his movement off the ball, which you can’t measure statistically at all, was good. And then he gets a great assist on the Vincent goal. But he is a guy that we want to put in scoring positions and we expect that he’s gonna get shots off. So, we’re trying to urge him to continue to look for those opportunities. In particular, when you’re playing with one target striker, that’s important that that guy stretches the field for you, puts himself in those positions, and hopefully gets some opportunities.

On Chicago getting young players, like Harrison Shipp, on the field

I think they have a really good young core. Harrison, when I scouted the college games this year, I thought he was one of the best college players by far. Disappointed that Chicago was allowed to sign him as a homegrown player — you guys can dig in more on that, alright — but, he’s a good player and has done well. Then you look at the other guys that they’re playing and they’re adding a lot of life and a lot of mobility to that team that makes it difficult to try to prepare for them. You bring a guy like Magee back into the fold — who is probably not playing his best yet but you know he’s ready to break out — and you’re looking at a team that has a lot of dangerous attacking pieces. So, we’re gonna have to do a really good job this week and to try to contain that.

4 Comments

  1. John Ling says:

    Sounds like Saturday would be a good time to maybe sit Maidana and switch up to a 4-4-2 with Casey up top with Jack. Just sayin’… MacMath; Gaddis, Berry, Okugo, Williams; Nog, Carroll, Edu, Le Toux; Casey, McInerney. (I’d actually rather have Leo Fernandes over Carroll for this game, but I don’t think that’ll happen.)

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Maybe no Maidana Saturday. Leo better be ready.
    .
    Agree with the 4-4-2 by the way. It’s a perfect time to do it

  3. i’m hoping hackworth was being diplomatic when he was alluding to berry having to win his job back from wheeler. wheeler has been really good but berry is certainly better

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