Press Conference

Transcript: Steven Vitoria press conference with Jim Curtin and Chris Albright

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

New Philadelphia Union acquisition Steven Vitoria, head coach Jim Curtin, and technical director Chris Albright spoke to reporters via conference call on Wednesday afternoon. Below is a transcript of the call. Questions have been paraphrased. (Our apologies for all of the “[unintelligible]’s”. Vitoria is perfectly understandable, it’s just that the phone connection wasn’t the best.)

Opening statement from Steven Vitoria

Good afternoon everyone. I would just personally first off just thank Mr. Nick, Chris, and Jim for this opportunity of bringing me in. I’m very happy and excited about it, the chance to play for the Union, and to play in this great league, which is the MLS.

Why were you interested in playing in MLS at this point in your career, and why Philadelphia, specifically?

The project that Philly presented to me was very attractive; I didn’t have to think much about it. It’s a winning project that we’re working to put together, and I’m very happy and excited to be part of that.

Why weren’t you able to get minutes with Benfica after joining them?

I wish I had the answer for you, to be honest. But Benfica is a very big club in Europe, it was a great experience being a part of it, I learned a lot. Last year was a great year with all the titles [In 2014, Benfica won their 33rd league title; their fifth Taça da Liga, or Portuguese League Cup title; their 25th Taça de Portugal] We can just work everyday, but it’s a coaches decision, and I didn’t get that many minutes. But, that’s all part of it. Now it’s [unintelligible]  and I’ve got to be prepared for that.

Do you feel like you learned a lot even though you didn’t get much playing time? Is it experience you can bring to the Union?

Oh, for sure. Everybody is [Unintelligible] day in and day out [unintelligible] for sure, learned a lot. Just hope to hone the strengths that I have to present to wherever I am now. I look forward to learning as well with a different coach. Like I said, I’m very excited about it and I’m ready to get to work.

What can you share about Vancouver’s interest in you last year? Why move to MLS now?

Yeah, there was some talk about it, they showed some interest — and I should probably thank them for it — but things didn’t work out. Now at Philadelphia, things did and, as I said, I’m really happy about it. My thanks to Vancouver, but my special thank you to Philly. I’m here and happy about it.

Given your dual nationality being born in Canada of Portuguese parents, do you think coming to MLS might raise your chances with the Canadian national team? 

Since Day One, I think everyone knows that I was a U19 and U-20 Portuguese youth international, but I should be very clear, since Day One, I never said no to Canada.

Now I am in the US. I’m here and my sole focus is on Philadelphia. Time will see what the future holds.

But, as I said, I never said no, to be very clear. But, yet again, Philly is where I am focused on, and the future will tell what will unfold.

Do you think you’ll have any trouble adapting to the style of play in MLS? Given your lack of playing time, will you be able to go one hundred percent from Day One?

Sure. I’ve been training hard and I’m still in shape, and we have the preseason yet to help us all out. For sure, we’ll be ready when the lights are on.

What are your thoughts on MLS? Has it, in your view, changed a lot in the past few years?

Definitely. When I made the move from Canada to overseas to Europe about ten years ago, since then, MLS has blown up, and it just keeps — it’s going to keep going for years.

As anybody knows, it is a very attractive league, getting more competitive and you can tell the way things are unfolding. I’m very happy to be here as part of the Union, and as I said there is not so much of a distance what MLS has and what Europe has and they said it is a very successful league, and it’s just going to keep growing and growing.

As I said, I’m just happy to have the opportunity to be in it now.

How have your new teammates greeted you so far?

It’s been a great week, I can’t compare it with anything. Everybody’s been great, been really great teammates. I’d like to thank them because they’ve been making it a lot easier.

If MLS was as strong in Canada when you went overseas ten years ago as it is now, might you have stayed?

As you said, ten years is a long time. In Canada at that time, once you turned 18, you know, we didn’t really have that many opportunities. It’s great to see that things are totally different now and the league, it’s just starting to blow up. I can speak from experience in Europe, hearing of MLS a lot more often, and it’s growing, and I’m sure it’s going to continue growing to be one of the top leagues in the world.

Jim Curtin and Chris Albright now join the teleconference

Question to Chris Albright: Was the Vitoria transaction more complicated than you would have hoped?

I suppose. One of the things was completing the loan deal for Carlos, to be able to have that salary cap room. Part two was acquiring [Vitoria’s] rights from Vancouver. Part three was coming to an agreement with both the player and Benfica, being that it was a loan deal. So, there were multiple parts in it. But, once we got the Carlos part squared away we were able to move on the other parts fairly quickly.

Question to Chris Albright: Was having to acquire Vitoria’s rights from Vancouver especially frustrating?

No. I mean, look, they had Steven’s rights, that’s how the league rules are set up. They made him an offer last year and had his right of first refusal, and we had to give something up to gain that right. I don’t know if that’s something – I think that’s something they may look at going forward, whether that makes a lot of sense. At the moment, we’re operating under the rules of the league.

Question to Chris Albright: Was Vitoria a player you had your eye on for some time, or did the interest happen after you knew Carlos Valdes was leaving?

He’s a player that we looked at last summer and were familiar with. We got him in to look at the club. We talked to him and it was something we were discussing at the time, but at the time we couldn’t fit it economically. So, we sort of kept him — I don’t want to say in the background, I would say in the foreground —  but things had to move to make that possible. We were very familiar with the player.

Question to Jim Curtin: What do you make of Vitoria’s skill set being such a big guy? Does he have the mobility to keep up with some of the faster, smaller forwards in the league?

Obviously, at 6′ 5″ he gives you a presence in the backline, he can win things in the air. He reads the game well. When he was younger, he was telling us he actually played as a No. 10, so he has very good feet. He’s comfortable on the ball, can start our attack with his passing ability. So, a lot of qualities that we liked a lot, something to build our backline around. He’s also a known leader; he was captain of Estoril, and that goes a long way for us, getting the guys organized and being a leader in the back. We gave up too many goals last year, so hopefully he can come in and secure the backline and be a strong piece for us for a lot of years moving forward.

The goal thing is a little deceptive, he scores a lot of penalties; I don’t want people to get excited that he’s a guy that dribbles 60 yards and then scores — a lot of his goals are actually penalty kicks. He can get on the end of corner kicks, obviously, and we’ll be a lot more dangerous with having a guy like him, CJ Sapong. We’re a little bit bigger on set pieces, more of a threat, for sure.

Question to Jim Curtin: Did you think, with Vitoria’s Canadian roots, that he might help his ability to adjust more quickly to MLS than other players coming from overseas might be able to do?

Experience wise, he’s familiar with our league, he knows a lot of the players in our league. After yesterday’s game against Tampa, being from Canada, he had a couple of familiar faces that were there playing for the other team. So, I think he has a pretty good idea and understanding of the league. It does take a little time —  it is a unique league, it’s a fast league. He speaks the language, which is good. That part is pretty seamless, he can communicate with all of our guys. There’s always an adjustment.

Coming from Benfica, a top club in Europe, to MLS is a good thing for us. I think he brings a lot, being in that locker room there, a lot of experience with a club that wins trophies. I think it’s a good fit for us. I think it should be a pretty seamless one.

He played 30 minutes last night and blended well with the group, had a pretty strong performance. We’re easing him into it. There are things that you can’t ever be used to in our league which is, you know, what it’s like to play in Dallas in a hundred degrees and then get on a plane and go fly out and play Vancouver or in Portland. All the challenges that go with that, he’ll get acclimated to quickly.

But we think we have a really strong player on our hands, and one that’s going to be a leader for our team.

Question to Jim Curtin: What’s Vitoria like as a person? How’s he meshing in with the team so far?

We met with him a while back and, you sit down with the kid and he’s pretty impressive: He’s intelligent, he’s respectful, he’s a professional. So, that part checked all the boxes for us.

He’s communicated already with our guys, he’s fitting in well with the group, having a good time at meals and getting to know everybody. From that standpoint it was never a worry, we knew we weren’t getting a wild card in that regard, a guy with a big ego, so to speak. He’s a humble kid that has made it a point to say that he wants to win. He wants to win a trophy in this city.

You look at the two players that were playing ahead of him at Benfica, it’s no slight to him, those are multi, multi million dollar players. Again, he saw an opportunity and challenge where he could come here and be a leader for our team and try and get us a trophy. He thought it was a great fit.

Question to Jim Curtin: Do you know who will partner with him at center back or is that still taking shape?

It’s a work in progress, but I would say that him and Ethan looked good together last night with Mo playing in front of them. We had a lot of the ball, they were organized. We have a lot of training sessions to still work that out, there’s still four more preseason games left — we could actually still add a fifth — so there’ll be some learning curve for the whole backline just getting used to each other. But I liked the communication that he brought; guys seemed to listen and play well around him. So, a very positive first step — still early though, and we can try different things. The good thing with Maurice is the flexibility that he gives us and out team, he can play multiple spots. It’s a positive.

Question to Chris Albright: Given his decision not to go to Vancouver last season, when did you think he was ready to make the move to MLS?

I think since that he saw the club and since we sat down with him, I think there was interest from the beginning. I think he made it pretty clear that he wanted to be in Philadelphia, as well. I think that’s a big part of it. I think that says something about the club, that he sort of chose us, as well. I think that”s important to note. Again, you sort of, you cant have a ton of communication, you can’t have any communication with a player when Vancouver has his rights, you kind of have to go through, again, the rules that the league lays out. But he was always someone who we had a strong interest in and I’m glad that we were able to pull it off.

Question to Chris Albright: In general, about the club’s interest in Vitoria, are we talking weeks, months?

I said our interest started last summer. So, if I do the math, that would be months.`

9 Comments

  1. Nice, Tough Questions says:

    Conference call questions:
    Jim, how much do you love Mr. Nick? A lot, or more?
    How excited are you about this acquisition? A ton or more?
    Was this offseason the best in the MLS, or the best in the world, ever?
    Isn’t Fabinho the most wanted player in MLS? You were so smart to protect him. Please talk about how much you love this team.

  2. Chris Albright sounds and now even manages to read like a douche bag. I don’t know the man personally, probably a swell “Philly” guy — but from an outsiders POV- he is for sure a douche. Creme de la femme or maybe Eve Ultra.
    .
    Nearly every time he opens his mouth it seems he is either trying to convince you he is smarter or convince you- you are a dumb ass. Quite the arrogant tone.

    • I’ve met Chris before when he was just out and about in his free-time. He was a really nice guy and took the time to talk to my son about playing soccer and what position he likes to play, etc., etc. He was also very open about talking about the Union and MLS in general. I wouldn’t read his comments as being condescending to the fans (because I don’t think that’s in his make-up) but rather just playing with the press alittle bit.

    • Agree with Erik, Chris is a genuine good guy when you meet him. Wants to grow the game in this country and see the Union be a successful club.

      Remember, when people read things, they assign their own tone and inflection to them which may or may not be entirely accurate to the person who actually said those words.

  3. Message to Chris Albright. Don’t piss off this fan base anymore than it’s already been. FO and managing jobs are a dime a dozen. Trying to be the bitch in the room is only going to get you bitch slapped!

  4. Delawter's hamstring says:

    The last thing Nicky Sack needs is another nickname. I love Mr. Nick, respectful and disrespectful all at once. I’m glad the reporters asked questions about vitoria’s game and acquisition and didn’t ruin it by harping on fabinho and the lack of other additions. I agree this offseason is not living up to expectation, but there’s a time and place.

    • Bingo!
      .
      This was a press conference to introduce Vitoria as the new Union signing – a signing that 99% of comments I have seen were positive.
      .
      Time and place.

      • Section 114 (Formerly) says:

        Agreed, but I still wish we would have heard questions like: He scored most of his goals on PKs, do you see him filling that role for the U? What kind of partner do you think is the best fit for Vitty? With this acquisition do you believe your back 6 are all here, or are you still looking? If so, for what?

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