Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Opening statement

Thoughts on DC. I thought we put in a strong performance, started the game really well, were able to get a goal. Had a couple of opportunities to go up 2-0, maybe lacked that killer instinct in front of goal. If you let good teams like DC hang around…Unfortunate to give up that goal right before the half, I think that hurt us a little bit. I still was happy with how we played. The message at halftime was if you fall asleep with a good team, and don’t put pressure on their guys crossing the ball for one second, you can get punished, and Pontius makes a great header.

From there, second half starts and it’s pretty even, back and forth game. Couple of instances where there’s fouls: Seba’s in goal, gets pulled down, that should be a red card; and then, obviously, the Chris Rolfe one, he’s since been suspended. That was early, 63rd minute, I believe — 61st or 63rd, somewhere in there, — so it would have been good to see how the game goes up a man for the last 30 minutes. But, this is in the past now and we move on to Columbus.

‘Have a good Columbus team coming in with a lot of dangerous weapons: — Kei Kamara, the leading scorer in the league — a very well coached team by Gregg Berhalter, a guy I respect a lot. They’ll come to our building and they’ll be a tough game like every game in the Eastern Conference is.

With the win streak ending in DC, how much momentum continues forward?

The guys are confident right now, that is for sure, here’s a belief in the group. We’re healthy — as healthy as we’ve been — so there’s some continuity in practice each week, which goes a long way. I think the guys have worked hard, we’ve gotten a lot of good performances from some veterans. I think Brian Carroll’s quietly done a very good job stabilizing midfield. Vincent Nogueira’s back in the mix with Chaco; when they’re both on the field you guys have written about it, how important it is to have them both on the field at the same time. Then you sprinkle in some other guys having very good performances — there’s a belief in the group. Listen, we know we’re not anywhere near where we want to be in the standings, in the table, but, at the same time, the last three games we’ve looked like what we can show: we can be a team that can play with anybody in the league. And that’s kind of the way we’re taking it now. Have some home games, four out of five, in June, and we have to get on a run if we want to put ourselves back in the playoff picture.

Injury update

Michael Lahoud is coming along. He’s kind of targeting, and I’m targeting, the US Open Cup in middle of June, June 16th, date as one where we can hope to have him back and contributing in the game, not just back and starting to think about playing. We want him to have an impact in that game.

Steven Vitoria has trained the past two days for the first time and looks good. So, we’ll see, hopefully he can continue to progress. Obviously, there’s a lack of fitness there with the time that he’s missed.

Andre Blake is able to jog now around the field, which is positive. So, I’m starting to see some guys coming back.

Conor looks like it’ll be another week, week and a half. We’ll see with him. He knows his body well, he hasn’t really pushed too hard just because he doesn’t want to re-aggravate anything in the quad there.

So, knock on wood, but it’s starting to be a fully healthy, healthy team.

Ethan White missed practice today? 

Yeah, Ethan had a family emergency today — this morning — so I allowed him to go take care of that.

The loss in Columbus was one of the low points of the season so far…

For sure.

How do you sense the guys are regarding that? Is it something they’re rallying around?

Yeah, I mean, if you look at the season as a whole, the Columbus game and the Vancouver game were the two where we — we got out outplayed. We got beat, and we got beat soundly.

Columbus has a way of playing that when they get on you early and you allow them to kind of dictate the rhythm and the tempo of the game there as good as anyone. They’ve had some unfortunate, uh, maybe calls go against them — the red card to Parkhurst, the penalty kick, and having him be sent off that early in the game this past week against Orlando — and for them to still hang on and get a 2-2 result was impressive. They’ve had a little bit of an unlucky run of late but they’re a great team, a team we respect a great deal, and when they’re clicking on all cylinders they’re a handful.

We’re fortunate to get them without Michael Parkhurst, who I believe is a really under-appreciated center back in the league, not just for his defending but for his ability to start their possession and start their team going forward. He passes as well as anyone in the league, so for them to be missing him is an advantage for us, which is good.

The team has three games in eight days but then has a little bit of a break. Does that alter how you manage minutes for players?

I would say three games in eight days is, it’s a crowded schedule but the lack of a cross-country flight in there, I think it’s very minimal travel. So we had to take a bus from DC, which is two hours. If there was a midweek game where we now have to get on a plane, and you’re not sleeping in your own bed, it plays a much harder role, it’s more difficult for the guys to deal with and get acclimated to. The fact that it’s DC away, we get on a bus, it’s two hours and we’re back here [and] we have two home games in a row. So, to eliminate the travel, and the fact that the guys are sleeping in their own bed — they’re pro athletes, they can handle it, we’re not going to use that as an excuse. You look all over the world, in Europe they play three games a week all the time. I think a lot gets made about it, and I agree with it when there’s a cross-country flight to go play Seattle or LA or Portland and then get back on the plane, that’s when it really takes its toll on guys. So, this situation’s a little different, and to have the ability now to play some consistent lineups is a good thing to have.

We are going to call upon guys — we don’t have the luxury of resting because, you know, points are vital. So, it’s Columbus is the focus now and we’ll get through that game hopefully with three points. Then, we’ll have to start to talk about New York and see how guys get through it. The sole focus will be three points, we’re not worried about saving legs or resting guys because, to be honest, I think they’ve done a good job the past two days recovering — massages, they go down in these float tanks, they get themselves taken care of really well — and in talking with the guys they all seem to have recovered pretty well from a hard game against DC.

On the Columbus attack

It’s a lot, it starts with their outside backs. More so than any team in the league, their outside backs get forward, often both at the same time. So, they’re unique in that regard. They spread the field wide and what happens with Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay, they come inside almost into the center circle and the outside backs almost push on past them. Then you have to deal with Higuain in there as well, who’s the one when they get him the ball, all four guys are then bombing forward. And then you sprinkle Kai in there — it’s a lot to deal with, they’re a really good attacking team, every player on their team is comfortable on the ball. What Gregg has created there, and the style of play, and sticking to it even when they do turn the ball over in bad spots, teams aren’t able to punish them because they do a good job winning the ball back immediately. I haven’t even mentioned Wil Trapp, who’s been out, and Tony Tchani, who’s also a great young player. So, they’re a good team, and it’s going to be a real tough task, it’s going to be one that we’re going to have to be up for, match their intensity from the start. We do have a plan in place to try to neutralize things for them.

On what to focus on with Columbus’ attack

If you just focus on Kai, then Finlay and Meram will kill you, those are guys who can score goals as well. There’s a premium for midfield players that can get goals in this league and they have a bunch. Tchani gets on the scoreboard last week. Higuain can score from anywhere; obviously, on free kicks he’s dangerous as well, so you have to be smart about not fouling him around the box. Ethan Finlay has been a…has killed us, for lack of a better way to put it. He’s been a guy that has a way of getting in between our center back and our left back in the blind spot, makes great runs, and has scored some goals against us, and has set up a lot of goals against us. So, he’s a handful, we’ll have to do a good job on him.

And, again, you can’t just focus on one guy, it can’t be a one-on-one individual battle. If you make it that way, they have a way of picking you apart because they do a good job of moving the ball so quickly that they put you on islands, one-on-one in a lot of space. So we have to try to eliminate that, always have at least a guy on a player and then also have someone that’s helping out. So, kind of 2-v-1 defensively all over otherwise you’re going to get yourself in trouble with them.

Can we expect Richie Marquez to get an extended run of games?

Absolutely, he’s earned it. He’s grabbed ahold of a position. As a team we’ve given up too many goals and he’s come in and given some stability back there. The two shutouts in a row were huge for us and to have him step in even against DC, they get the penalty kick and the header in the first half but I thought he did a great job limiting their chances. I think Richie’s a guy who, athletically, belongs, he can run with anybody, he’s great in the air, he’s done a really good job reading things early. He’s a very good center back, and one that is going to be effective for us and I think can be a good partnership with Mo, I think they’ve shown that they can play together. I think they did a good job against DC; obviously, you’d like to get a shutout and keep that streak going but that didn’t happen. So, I have a decision to make tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes but I’m very happy with where Richie’s at.

With how well Fabinho’s been playing, and Ray Gaddis coming back, that’s another decision for you to make too, right?

Yeah, it’s good, difficult decisions to have, to make as a coach, you want that competition at each spot. With Ray, with ankle injuries, he attacked his rehab really, really hard. Two weeks ahead of schedule and already itching to play again; we had him on the bench even this past week which is way earlier than we thought we would. With ankle injuries there’s still that last five to ten percent that it may feel good but you train and it blows up a little bit. And then you think you’re good to go again…you’re not quite yourself. He’s in that phase right now. He’s really close, and it’ll be — we haven’t decide a hundred percent yet but it’s going to be a game-time choice. But, either way, Sheanon’s playing well, Fabinho’s playing well, Ray’s a great defender in this league, so we’ll have a tough choice to make, but one with knowing that there’s a Wednesday-Saturday. I’m confident that we have a good stable of fullbacks to chose from.

But Fabinho has been excellent, that needs to be said. Two weeks, two games in a row now where he’s really played well.

Do you see Marquez as a partner for Vitoria moving forward?

We’ll see, it’ll be to be determined. If we get on a little run here you can never…I wouldn’t want to change the two if its Mo and and Richie are the guys now getting us wins, Steven would have to wait to get back into the mix. I’ll say this: Richie’s played against some very good forwards in the league and, to be honest, as a position I played so I watch a little closer. I was nervous when he got thrown in there in his first minutes against Toronto, kind of not how we planned with an early injury to Lahoud. I was nervous for him, we threw him in I think the third or fourth minute, or something like that, and he rose to the occasion. All players have these moments in their career where it’s either sink or swim, and sometimes they come when you want them to, sometimes they come unexpected. But, you have to be ready to answer the bell and Richie was and he’s been great for us in his starts for us. So, I’m happy with him, he’s worked on improving his feet every day, his passing, because that’s a big part of the position as well, starting the attack. But he’s eager to learn, he has a great mentality, he’s great in the locker room — whether he’s starting, whether he’s off the bench he’s a pro, and he’s a guy that’s going to be a part of things here for a while just because he has so many intangibles that you can’t, I can’t coach. At 6’3″ being able to jump as high as anyone on our roster, being able to run with anyone on our roster, he has the athletic ability that convert you to being an effective MLS center back. It’s the hardest position in this league and he’s doing well.

On the Zach Pfeffer handball and the vague wording in the Laws of the Game

Yeah, it is a grey area. There were actually three or four handballs — or non handballs — this weekend in the box. It’s a tough decision, it’s a discretionary one. You’d like to think with a couple calls that didn’t go our way that that’s one that late in the game where it’s not a game where DC had a hundred chances that…I actually think, let’s put it this way: If it hits Zach’s arm and it casually goes over the end line, I bet they call a corner kick, you know? But, because it hits his arm and there’s an awkward pause, they decide, the linesman gets involved, and decides to point to the spot. Which it is, it is a handball. It’s one of those ones though if they don’t call it…I got an explanation that it was a handball in the box. And I accept that, I agree with it. But I just feel like if they don’t call it and Bennie’s [Olsen] the one talking to them midweek and says, “How could you not have called that,” they’d have some answer as to, you know, “He’s unaware of where the ball is.” So, they do have some grey there when you look a the rules, so it’s a tough decision that went against us. It’s at a part of the field where it wasn’t going to lead directly to a goal, that’s the difficult part or me. But, it’s something that we have to live with now and move on from. But it is, like I said, this week alone there was four calls that were — there hard calls to make, don’t get me wrong, but you want one of them to go your way.

When the ball is lofted in like that do you think you could make a claim for ball to hand? Do you think the proximity of Chris Rolfe to Pfeffer entered into the referee’s decision?

Yeah. I mean, I talked with Zach too. If he just attacks it himself and takes the initiative himself to go attack it and head it over the line, or put it out of danger, it’s a nothing play. He’s actually in a really good defensive position when you break it down on the film, he’s where he’s supposed to be. There’s a little moment of uncertainty in that it’s a high, floated ball into the box, and I think he’s aware Chris is behind him, he doesn’t know how close he is, and there’s that moment of indecision and kind of the ball hits the hand. I don’t think Zach is in any way intentionally hitting the ball or slapping the ball, it just happens to hit him. It’s unfortunate but it’s something you have to learn from.

You’re trying to get me in trouble.

Byt the way, it sounds like something’s going on with Sepp Blatter right now

Oh. No comment.

9 Comments

  1. That’s Little Nicky on his right shoulder. Whispering to him.

  2. So forget about squad rotation. We’re going to ‘Philly tough’ it out with three games in a week. Not the answer I hoped for.

  3. The Black Hand says:

    …and Pirlo is on NYCFU.
    .
    Good God!

    • we should make a play for Mix now that Pirlo is coming in. His stock is kind of low right now – might be able to get a bargain.

    • Dr. Union says:

      Man how I would’ve loved to see Pirlo or Mix for that matter on this team, but never happens.

  4. Does Jim really think Vitoria should be a pro? I know mr white was (for the most part) his partner, but Vitoria is slow, weak, and utterly unable to use his height in aerial duels (ahh maybe cause he is slow and weak). Also, I’m so confused as to how the staff concluded that White and Viroria should start at the beginning of the season over Marquez…oh well at least they figured out Marquez is better by now…funny I remember reading a lot of posts on this site asking about why Marquez wasn’t exactly in the fold while the search was on for a starting caliber center back before this season….the search when we spent the little money we had paying a MLS ransom discovery fee for a player that should have been crossed off the “sign this player to help the team” list at first sight

    • Dr. Union says:

      If you ask me I agree Vitoria is slow, weak, bad in the air. When time come that his loan ends I say let him go and move on. While it was a nice thought to bring someone in he was not the right option. So don’t screw it up Union leave Marquez and Edu at CB rest of the season.

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