Press Conference

Transcript and video from John Hackworth’s weekly press conference

Andrew Wenger answers questions from reporters through the 5:24 mark of the footage above. John Hackworth’s weekly press conference, transcribed below, begins at the 12:45 mark. Questions from reporters have been paraphrased.

On the departure of Keon Daniel

Keon is still a player that probably has a lot more potential than what he showed here. With us making the acquisitions in the midfield that we did, it kind of left Keon on the outside. He was, understandably, upset that he wasn’t going to get the opportunities, so it was a mutual agreement that if he wasn’t going to be in our plans that we would try to find a way to put him in a place where he could play, and where it would be beneficial for us to, and we were able to work that out.

Was there no interest in a trade for Daniel?

You know, it’s complicated, so I wouldn’t say there was absolutely no trade [interest], but the situation has to be good for both parties. And, through our work, we didn’t find that situation, it didn’t present itself.

What are your expectations for Andrew Wenger over the next few games?

I think reasonable expectations would be that he contributes, that he shows his qualities on the field when given that opportunity. He’s only been in training a couple days with us. We certainly made this move with the idea that he would be a significant player for us. So, we don’t want to push it too fast but we want to make sure that we see how he’s going to fit in with the group and make a determination about how much playing time he’s going to get, and whether that’s the right situation for our team against any of the three opponents we have coming up in the next week.

Does it help that the team has three games coming up over a week for him finding his rhythm?

Yeah, I think it does. I think it gives everybody in our locker room more opportunities to play. It depends on how all three of those games go, but we’re definitely going to have a situation where our depth is tested a little bit and maybe there’s some opportunities for guys that haven’t played previously to see playing time.

Do you believe Wenger has the qualities to play up top alone in a 4-3-3?

Yes, absolutely.

What sets him apart and makes you feel confident?

Look, Andrew’s a good soccer player. He can hold the ball up, so he play with his back to goal. He’s also got some good pace. He’s good with both feet so he gets his shots off with his left foot as much as he does with his right. He’s good in the air. So, those are all the kind of characteristics that you want in a target No. 9. For him, he’s got to take these opportunities that he gets to be on the field and make the most of them. We have to do a good job of providing him with the service and the play that’ll make him successful but, ultimately, it’s more important that our team is successful.

What has the talk been in training this week after giving up points again on the road?

We’re at a point in the week that we put what happened last weekend behind us, but it was addressed by the coaching staff and players that, once again, that it was an issue where we have to lock down a game, we have to close it out. We were in a position to get three points in Chicago and, full credit to Chicago, ’cause they came with everything and did a really good job of putting us under pressure. And, for a long time we kept them at bay, it’s unfortunate that we gave up the second goal on that kind of restart. Our players have to learn from those experiences. I’d rather have that happen now, early in the year, because we are confident that those guys can learn.

A big moment for Zac MacMath saving that penalty kick

Yeah, fantastic. On the flip side of it, we always talk about when — and there’s going to be mistakes all the time — but when mistakes are made, who’s that guy who’s going to pick us up? Who’s going to make the next play for us? Whether that’s putting the ball in the back of the net, whether that’s making a block — in this case, whether it’s Zac making a save, and Zac certainly made two huge saves at the end. He was the guy that stepped up for us in the end and got, in the end, a very valuable point.

Was it a marquee moment for MacMath?

I think it’s like any of these moments where you see that a player is maturing and developing, that a moment like that for Zac, while we have full confidence in him, certainly —  in the spot light, on TV with a lot of people talking about it —  it gives him a lot of confidence that he can make those saves, he can come up big when called upon, and he certainly did it on Saturday.

On Real Salt Lake

I think they’re very good. They’re one of the, I think, two undefeated teams in the league. They returned almost everybody from their  team last year so they’re an experienced team with a lot of quality. They know how to manage games, they know how to go on the road and get results. Obviously, they played in the championship last year. I think they’re going to be a team over the long haul that is one of the best teams in our league. So this presents a big challenge for us to play against [such] a team. I think they play good soccer, they’re possession oriented, they’re composed when they put it in your end. They don’t seem to get flustered very easily; that’s a sign of their experience and maturity. So, it’s going to be a tough game for us.

Where does RSL’s continuity come from? Is it the system they play or having the same players for a long time?

I think it’s the latter. I think once you establish a culture and a way of playing as a group, and you have the kind of players that they have — they have national team players in Rimando and Beckerman, and that’s just two of the guys that really make them work — but they’ve been doing that with Salt Lake for a long time. And then you have [head coach Jeff Cassar] who, it’s his first time head coaching but he was an assistant there for a long time. I don’t think they’re skipping a beat in that regard. They have a lot of continuity. They have built this up over many, many years, and I still think you’re seeing that with this team this year.

What injuries are there to report?

We’re getting back to health. The only question right now for us of guys that were available last week is Fabinho — a little bit of a hamstring issue for him, but it’s not bad, so we’re hopeful that he’ll be available for Saturday. The guys that would probably still be out would be Fred and Danny Cruz. Danny’s close — actually, Fred and Danny are both close. I don’t know if it’s realistic for them to be on the field on Saturday.

On Leo Fernandes’ second start and goal

That was a tough game in so many ways. I mentioned it postgame, the field conditions were really tough to play and not conducive to the way we want to play — we want to roll the ball around on the ground a little bit and if you tried to roll it on that field in Chicago it was literally just bouncing all over the place.

But, that said, that’s tough for a guy like Leo where he’s really good in those situations. But he gets a goal off a restart, absolutely worked and did a tremendous amount for us on both sides of the ball — we ended up defending to a large degree in that second half — so, I feel like Leo contributed to that result and did a good job. I still think Leo has better games ahead of him, and I think games like Saturday really are going to help Leo become the player that he ultimately wants to be.

How are you gauging Andre Blake’s progress?

We say this a lot, and it’s hard when you don’t see a guy on the Saturday playing in a game, but we always have a plan for what we do during the week. You see Andre a lot in game situations within our training situations. I think Rob [Vartughian] does a great job and has proven that he is very good at developing goalkeepers. So, Andre is pushing Zac pretty hard — and so’s Brian [Holt], I should say that — but I think Andre, if his number gets called, he’s going to be ready. He’s already started two games for the Jamaican national team so, it’s not a question about us wanting to give Andre some minutes. But, at the same time, Zac’s playing so well that you don’t want to say, hey Zac, you’re playing great, hey, we’re going to put you on the bench for the next game.

So, Andre is doing well. I think we’ll see him sooner than later just because we want to make sure we’re not pushing Zac so hard. And in the next stretch of games in the next month we have this situation where we play three games in eight days twice, and that does open up opportunities.

How is the team handling the transition of Jack McInerney no longer being with the Union?

The team’s handling it well. I’m not going to lie, it is different without him. But we’re happy to have Andrew and that’s what we’re focused on right now. We went into Chicago with the same mindset, that Conor was going to get an opportunity in that game and, obviously, we have a lot of faith in Conor. So, guys understand that, in this business, it’s often the case where a trade is made, or you lose a guy, and you just have to deal with it. So, I think we’re all in a position where we’ve moved on from it and we’re looking forward to what the future brings.

How’s the competition between Berry and Wheeler?

It’s good. It’s not just between Berry and Wheeler, though. I mean, these guys are pushing Amobi again. And then you got Ethan White, who’s doing a really good job. You know, it is ironic that we are really strong at center back right now. At least in training, we have center backs who are playing well. And then we have a couple of guys that are at Harrisburg who got a shutout over the weekend. Both Richie and Pedro started at center back for Harrisburg and got a shutout on the road. So, center back is a tough position for us right now in a good way. There’s a lot of competition in training, guys are pushing each other and making each other better.

Between the physical challenge of playing three games over the next week and the mental challenge of how the team has given up points with late goals, is there a mental challenge for the players?

Yeah, absolutely. Mentally, I think the hardest part is that we just have to learn from these kind of experiences, put it behind us, and see if we can correct those going forward. We’ve been presented with a couple of those similar situations already this year and I think we look forward to the opportunity to prove that we’re making positive steps. And then on the physical side, it’s definitely going to be demanding. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but I think we’re very confident that we have depth on our team right now so that if a guy is either mentally or physically fatigued, or we take a knock in one game, that whoever we put in there is going to be ready for their chance.


  1. I know a lot of people get annoyed when they think Hackworh is bullshitting them. Me, I get annoyed when I think Hackworh believes his bullshit.

  2. buzzkill_ed says:

    Interesting that we’ll see Blake sometime “sooner rather than later”. Can’t wait to get a look at the guy.

    • Hackworth is venturing into dangerous territory when he says that. I compare this situation to the NFL. I look at New England, Denver, San Diego and others with elite QBs. Those QBs plays every snap regardless of opponent or score because there is no question they’re the top player. There is no other player on the team who is capable of doing what they do. If Hackworth chooses Blake to start over Zac for reasons other then health it indicates he feels Blake is on the same level as Zac, which could not only ruin Zac’s confidence but create a situation where the back-up looks better than the former starter. If that’s the case you can’t go back to Zac without causing controversy. I think back to last year with Cruz and Daniel, especially when Kleberson came in and looked good, and Farfan came in and played well, but Hackworth kept going back to Cruz and Daniel in those spots.

      • buzzkill_ed says:

        I like to think Zac is a professional and can handle watching a few games this year. I doubt it’s open competition but more to give MacMath a breather, which shouldn’t be a big deal at all.

      • this is not the NFL, backup keepers get spot starts on most teams

      • buzzkill_ed says:

        Most teams don’t trade up from 2 to 1 for a keeper either.

      • Well, Hack didn’t say we’d see him in a league match. The Open Cup matches aren’t that far off (usually June, right?) and so that’s a place where I think you could see Blake, especially in some of the early round matches.

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