Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Just to talk on Montreal real quick, a game that we were disappointed not to take all three points. But if you look at the big picture now, we made some positive steps forward. We’re not exactly where we want to be in the standings, obviously, but if you look at the last nine games, we’re 5-3-1 during that stretch, with an opportunity with a good DC team coming in to go 6-3-1 in our last ten. So that would be, while there have been some poor performances mixed in there with the LA and the disappointing one with NYCFC at home, there have been some good performances from our group. We’re not flying up the table by any stretch, but we are creeping our way into things. Take a glance, and you see New England, the second place team that’s on the same amount of games played as us, only five points ahead. So, whether we deserve to be or not, the reality is we are still in the thick of things, and the last half of the season now will be mainly against Eastern Conference foes. So, those games become huge six point swings every time you play an Eastern Conference team, and it’ll be our job to take care of business against the teams that are in and around us, something we haven’t done; we’ve actually performed better against the teams that are ahead of us this year, which has been strange. We’re still trying to find that consistency  and build on an OK result at home against Montreal and a crazy game, a game that was, weather-wise, unique, to say the least. Credit to our fans for coming out and sticking with us and really cheering us on and supporting us. Obviously, you’d like for the weather to keep people away from the stadium, you wish it was 18, 19,000 there, but, at the same time, the ones that were there, their voices were heard, and they really helped us a lot.

Thoughts on who will be in goal on Tuesday against DC in the US Open Cup 

Obviously, John performed very well in the last Open Cup game in the penalty kick situation. Andre has recently been called up by Jamaica, so they’re very aware and I’ve talked about his form growing and being sharper every day in training. We’ll make a decision — I’m not going to reveal it — but they’re both pushing each other in a good way, and both are pushing Brian Sylvestre in a good way. So, it’s healthy competition right now. I know who’s going to start, but I’m going to keep that to myself.

How do you balance getting Blake minutes here before he joins Jamaica ahead of the Gold Cup?

The only thing I’ll add is that he still hasn’t seen live action. Practice is different from the game. So, is he capable of going out tomorrow and starting? Yeah, he is. He’s that talented, he’s very good goalkeeper. But we have to do what’s best for the team, and we’ll have to make a decision that makes the most sense for him moving forward. It is exciting for him, though, to be able to represent his country after they actually performed pretty well in the Copa America; despite the results, if you actually watch the games, all the goals they gave up were kind of self-inflicted mistakes. So, hopefully he goes in with a good group in Jamaica and gets a run of games. It’d be great for me to kind of evaluate live games, so I’m hoping he’s a part of their plans as the starter in the Gold Cup. But, we’ll see, I can’t really speak for their coach. It’d be great for the Union, obviously, to get him as many games as possible so we can evaluate.

How are you framing the upcoming break with the players? Have they responded the way you wanted them to?

They have. Again, that was a unique game against Montreal, the weather conditions played a role in it. They stuck with things; there were things we could have done better, but there was good stretches in the game when you watch the tape back. Could’ve gotten on the end of a few plays and got the winning goal, but that wasn’t meant to be.

Again, I stress when there is a break in sight after you’ve been going Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Saturday for the better part of two months, there’s a tendency to be a letdown. I’ve seen that with teams down in that final game leading into a break. So, we’re aware of that, we don’t want to let that happen. DC is a very strong team so, whether Ben fields a mixture of guys, his strongest first XI, his second best XI, we know that they’ve been getting results with both groups. As recently as last week, they played Chicago on a Wednesday night and played their second group, or a lot of their second group, and they got a win there. So, It’s going to be a fight. They compete, he’s a great coach, and he’ll have his players motivated. So, we can’t take them lightly, obviously, and we’re not a team that’s going to throw out a second group in the Open Cup, as well, we’re going to play to win. It’s a competition I take very seriously, that this club takes very seriously, so we’ll have to be ready for a tough team coming in.

Do you see momentum from Saturday leading into the Open Cup game? 

I think so. Again, some guys had good performances on Saturday. We’ll make a change or two, but it’ll be a similar group out there because we’re not likely to get too many guys back off of injury. And, knowing that we do have the off week over the Fourth, to force one of them back into a situation where they could re-aggravate an injury is not the way we’re going to handle it.

So, yeah, it’s a big game, it’s leading into a stretch in the season where we can kind of regroup, assess things. We will take a good hard look and recognize we’re not where we want to be in the table and in the standings, and the first half of the year didn’t go the way we wanted it to. I would call it more of a retooling though than a complete rebuild. We do know we need to improve and add a couple of players but, at the same time, we’re not going to just blow up the entire thing because that doesn’t work either in this league.

Injury update: Who’s definitely out for Tuesday’s game?

Fernando will not play a role this week, his ankle’s not quite there, he jogs around the field. Lahoud, and Seba will probably — and Conor — would probably be in the same category where maybe there’s a chance for some minutes. None will start, but there’s a possibility.

How about Steven Vitoria?

Steven has been good. He got married — oh, sorry, his brother got married, so he was away for a wedding last week. He’s looked sharper in training, says his body feels good, feels strong. But, again, it’s a situation where we don’t want to just throw him out there quite yet. But, he’s close, and he’ll be up for selection for this game.

On the rivalry with DC

They’re a team that has done things in a way I really respect. They’ve built — first and foremost, they’re difficult to play against. So, defensively, they’re very good, they’re very strong. Bill Hamid is an excellent goalkeeper. They’re built up the middle, you know? Bobby Boswell, very experienced, to Davy Arnaud, to Perry Kitchen, and the special players like Espindola and Chris Rolfe get them goals. And they’re built in a way that there’s not — nobody on their team makes close to a million dollars, would be the best way I could put it. So, Benny gets the most out of his guys. I have to have a similar mindset and philosophy in trying to piece together.

The one thing they have more than us is consistency. Every game that they go out you know what they’re going to look like, whereas us right now, we go out and for whatever reason, we can play toe-to-toe with a DC and beat them, and then we’ll have a letdown against maybe a lesser team in the standings. We’ll beat a Seattle — yes, they were missing guys but so were we. So, again, we’ve done well against some of the top teams, but we need that consistency to know that every game — win, lose, or draw  —  you know what we’re going to look like, and we’re still striving for that. It starts with not giving up goals. We’ve given up way too many goals in the first half of the season, that’s something we need to correct, and make teams really earn goals. I thought even against Montreal kind of — first goal was a special effort, but we could have done two or three things to prevent it. The second one we kind of — it was a mistake and we let them in too easily, and when we’re up a man, as well. Just have make teams really have to earn everything you give. They score a great goal, you can pick up your cap and say get on with the game. But some of the things we concede are far too easy. We do a great job in the run of play of limiting chances. Even Montreal, three shots on goal we give up, and they score two. We’re giving up critical, critical chances, and good looks, to them, so we need to do a better job of that over the course of the last remainder of the season.

DC has a game coming up on Friday. What kind of effect will that have?

It’s a big effect, it’s a huge effect. We’ve talked with Ben, he gives you hints but you can’t always…you know, you can listen but you never know until the lineup sheets are handed in who’s going to play. But, they have to go cross-country to Seattle, which is huge. Ideally, this game was supposed to be on Wednesday, that’s what the date we picked [was]. For obvious reasons the extra day of rest would be nice. But, both teams are in the same boat for rest. Fortunately, we’re off on the Fourth of July, they have to get on a plane and go to Seattle, which is as far as you can physically go in our country. So, that’s a tough challenge for them and one that, to be honest, I’m happy with, I’m happy they have to do because it’s an advantage for us. But, like I said, regardless of who they put out, they have a deep team, they have a winning team, and they have a mentality right now that they can beat anybody. Confidence goes a long way in this game and they’re going to be a confident team. And Ben is a very good coach and he’ll motivate those guys, and whoever they put on the field it’ll be a very difficult task. Hopefully it doesn’t go 120 minutes.

What do you take from the last meeting with DC, the 2-1 loss at the end of May at RFK with the winning goal coming off a penalty kick?

Yeah, it was a game I thought we played well in. It was frustrating; had the chance or two to get up 2-0 — Andrew hit the bar in that one, the penalty kick in the end of Pfeffer’s arm [was] a little unfortunate. But, again, we played them two times quickly, we know them very well. In a very short time period we played them twice and now we get them a third time. We’re familiar with each other, I think we know each other’s strengths, each other’s weaknesses. The film session was a very short one. I’m sure you know what you’re going to be looking at, there won’t be any surprises. Two teams that will compete hard. We’re fortunate enough to have our home fans here behind us, we know there’ll be a good crowd out to support us, and hopefully we can ride that and get a result. Like I said, in the 90 minutes, not the 120, would be ideal.

Any update on negotiations over Fernando Aristegueita’s loan status

Nothing I can really talk about here. It’s…Things are still ongoing, and you guys know what I think of Fernando. So, we’re pushing.

3 Comments

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Given his response to the question about Aristegueta, the loan clearly was not absolutely for a year.

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