Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

First, welcome to the special guests we have in the room room, good to see a lot of Union jerseys on and some young, smiling faces.

Looking back on the weekend, going into what was a very hostile environment in Montreal, a place that was sold out, everybody excited in the city to see Drogba  — even when we were arriving at the airport there was a buzz, people traveling from all over the world to come in for the one game —  our players did a very good job dealing with the pressure of going on the road. Obviously, to get a 1-0 result there was big; the first time for the club winning there was special.

We celebrated afterwards, we were happy, but, at the same time, it’s on to the next phase, and we have a very good New England team coming in on rest — on a week’s rest. So,  a team, and a coach that I respect a great deal in Jay Heaps, they’re organized, they’re tough to play against, and they have a lot of dangerous attacking weapons. It’ll be a game where we’ll look to really win the transition game going from offense to defense quickly, and vice versa, defense to offense quickly– that’ll be the key to the match.

Again, very good performances from guys. I’ll single out a few, but I thought everybody on the night was good in Montreal. In particular, I thought Steven Vitoria had a very good game, very strong game for us. Brian Carroll has been a real rock protecting the back four, kind of does the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet but has done them quietly going about his business, and kind of looks like when I used to play against him [chuckles], which was a long time ago. So, he looks like he’s reborn and has a lot of life in the legs. I thought Marquez had a good game also at center back and, obviously, Andre Blake coming into a tough spot and making some big, key saves for us. I was very happy with that.

When did you decide you would start Andre Blake for the Montreal game?

Well, you know, there’s always a ton of variables that go into it. Part of it is his form in practice coming off of two knee surgeries, so it does take a little bit of time. People don’t realize how important your legs as a goalkeeper, and if you don’t have your legs under you there’s a little uncertainty. And, in this league, if you’re uncertain you’re in big trouble. I never would want to put a young player, especially, out there when he’s not one hundred percent. Andre, to his credit, it’s been a difficult year for him, frustrating, he wants to be on the field. We thought the timing was right, knowing only he or John can start in the Open Cup final — Brian has had his hand injury and is cup-tied so he’s not eligible to even play in that game. Johnny’s done a great job for us, a great job in the Open Cup, he’s done a great job in the league, but we saw a window where we could give Andre an opportunity, kind of piggy-backed up against him going away with the national team too. So, if he does have a couple of good performance here, hopefully that spurs him to get the starts for Jamaica, which is a factor, because that gives him now games there as well that we can evaluate and make a decision. So, very happy for him; again, not easy, first live action for him this season, and that’s the best way for goalkeepers to be judged, is in these games, in the real action.

Will Blake start against New England?   

It’s part of the plan right now. We’re still discussing, but that is in our minds for us to have him as the starter this week.

On finally parting ways with Rais Mbolhi

Things did not go as planned, as expected. There were some disappointing performances, team performances, but also I thought individually there were things he could’ve done better in games. It is best for both parties now that we finally have some closure to the situation. It’s in the past now and, you know, we learn from it, we move on and wish him the best in the future.

 On not getting money in return with Mbolhi’s transfer

Yeah, there’s always…That would be the smart play, obviously, early on, and that was the angle we took because there was an investment to bring him here. But, at the same time, it got to the stage where we thought the best for both parties would be to come to a termination agreement and let him go free.

On the challenges Blake has faced overcoming two knee surgeries in the span of a year?

Listen, I didn’t have the mindset of a goalkeeper, it’s a unique position. But, as a player, you want to be on the field, and injuries are the worst because it starts in your head, mentally you start to think, “Am I going to get my shot? When is it going to come? I better be ready for it.” And it can be challenging, [the] road to recovery plays with your mind a lot. You don’t feel like you’re part of the team, as much as guys try to keep you involved, you still don’t feel part of it ’cause you’re not out there. So, that is a real challenge that he had. Physically, if you actually just look at his legs, he’s got two toothpicks that he stands on too [chuckles], so there’s a strengthening issue that comes back too. And when that spring has come back now in his legs — you know, I think he put a lot of hard work in in the weight room to get strong again, but he’s not a thick kid as it is as a starting point. So, he’s really grown a lot through the process and I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, you know? You go through the good times of your career for a reason, and the down ones as well, and he responded really well to a lot of adversity. And [when] he got his chance, like a true professional, he grabbed it and did well with it.

Still a month away from the US Open Cup final, but thoughts on who will be the goalkeeper for that game? Will you stick with McCarthy like you stuck with Zac MacMath last year?

It is a little different in that last year, from the semifinal in Dallas to the final was a brief period. This one’s a little unique in that we have six weeks, we’re actually able to, you know, we’re actively sending some of our staff out to scout live games against Kansas City, we’re watching everyone closely now and have full reports on all of them, so you have a little more time to  get dialed in and really know your opponent. Also, you have decisions to make in terms of the team — guys coming back from injury now, Andrew Wenger’s back on the field today. And, again, we are a team, so everybody plays a role in it, everybody has played a role in us getting to the final, and you’re constantly re-evaluating and want to put the best team on the field that gives you the opportunity to win because, again, when you lift the trophy together, no one cares who played or did what against the Rochester Rhinos in the first round, they just know that we won this together, and that’s the biggest lesson that I would try and instill in the players.  Johnny and Andre, Johnny’s played a lot more games this year, he’s a lot more experienced, so Johnny would have the edge right now, for sure. But, we’ll still evaluate every game and, if Andre gets hot, it’s not impossible to say that he does run with it. That doesn’t mean John’s not the reason we got there in the first place, you know what I mean? So, it’s part of being a professional, being a player. Competition is healthy, and I think it brings the best out of players, and it will in this case in the two young goalkeepers.

On Sebastien Le Toux coming back into goal scoring form

He gets hot during the course of the season. I prefer the steady [laughs]. But, no, it’s good, when he gets on a run you have to ride him. He has a way, and has had a way in his whole career of arriving in the penalty box and scoring big goals for you. Obviously, the last few games he’s done that for us, scored some big goals — that’s what he’s done in his whole career. You know, it’s similar to a baseball player’s batting average at the end of the year. When the Jimmy Rollins of the world are going good you know what they’re going to wind up at the end of the year, even though they might have some down periods. Seba would probably be similar to that. While there’s been some dips in the goals and the assists early on, he can catch fire and, in the course of 34 games, he’s going to come out with stats that look familiar, I would say.

How is the team looking on the injury front?

I get scared saying it, but we’re as healthy as we’ve been. The two injuries we have are the ones you guys already. With Mo, we have a plan in place for the game we want him back playing, knowing that the final is coming. I’m not going to reveal that but we have a true plan in place and how long we want him to continue with the rehab and fitness. Obviously, the groin injury is big, played with injury by his own…he wanted to do that for the team. He did not further damage the groin — I want to be clear on that — by playing in the game, there was nothing done further that set back anything. It was a risk but he got through it with no further damage. Now he’s doing a lot of the exercises to strengthen that and come back stronger than ever.

Pfeffer’s the other one, [and] who also has a similar injury. Not as…It’s similar, we’ll call them similar, and he’s  the only one who’s missed time; obviously, the last game, you saw he wasn’t with us in Montreal. So, two groin injuries right now.

Andrew’s cleared, did very good today for a first day back, he was able to maintain his fitness. I think he was hoping to be back yesterday in training but when he took the baseline concussion test early on in the year he scored perfect on it, which isn’t surprising because he’s an intelligent kid and holds himself to a high standard; he’s almost, I think, sometimes too  intelligent [laughs] and he beats himself up. I think he got three or four wrong that he was arguing whether he got them wrong or not, so they didn’t let him play yesterday. They got it sorted out now with the league and he’s officially cleared and today it was good to have him back. He’s anxious, he’s running around out there with a smile on his face but it was good, was good to see.

Will you be able to stay with the Brian Carroll-Michael Lahoud double pivot (the Union has not conceded when the two have been paired) with Vincent Nogueira returning from injury? Is there enough offense without Nogueira?

That’s the thing, we do always create enough chances in games. With Michael and BC in there, they really clog middle, they’ve limited other teams, especially in the counterattack ’cause Mike can really run and put out fires. It could be a scenario where at home, do we look at it a little differently with Vincent [being] a little more of the initiator of our attacks, and a little better on the ball? I thought Vincent came into the game in Montreal when it needed a moment to slow down and connect some passes and get some possession; he did a very good job. Vincent does a lot of dirty running and defensive work, too, so we’ll have to make a decision. Again, it’s good that we finally have some hard decisions to make with guys being healthy. But Michael’s done a great job, that clearly is the more defense minded one, so if we go on the road, maybe you lean more towards that to close out a game, you’re comfortable now throwing Michael and having BC in there. Can there be a situation where Lahoud can spell BC in a moment where we’ve been getting a lot of minutes out of Brian? That’s the ideal, that’s what the real, big top teams in our league do during the course of the year, but we just haven’t had that luxury. But to have them both healthy is good, and it could be both of them, it could be one of them but, either way, they both played a role and, obviously, Vincent coming back, as one of our best players, is a good thing.

On Fabinho

Fabinho for about — minus the Chicago game, which I talked about it with him, I don’t care if he scores goals for us, I want him to prevent goals — he’s been very good for us, there’s been a run of ten games, including the Open Cup, where he was very strong. I will say the Chicago one had a little bit of a flashback kind of feel, a mistake or two at a critical moment, and we talked about that on the film we showed him. He understood, he knew it in game, that there were things he could have done better, that our whole back four could have done better. But, again, I’m good with our outside backs giving me two to three good crosses in attacking plays a half, that’s enough for me, and the rest is defensive focus. So, again, I still think we’re too inconsistent defensively, I’m not telling anything you guys don’t know, we’re either a shutout or we’re giving up multiple goals. There’s very few games where we just give up one. So, having that toughness, defensive mentality, to take pride in keeping a zero is huge. Goes without saying, if you don’t give up goals, you’re going to be in a good position in this league, so that’s the kind of our mindset and our mentality. We’ve given up too many this year, other teams are giving up a lot in the league. I don’t know if it’s a big year for scoring but you see way too many games now with fours and fives at the end of them, and coaches don’t like seeing that. The fans love it, but the coaches don’t.

With each game having so much pressure in terms of the playoff race, as well as the Open Cup final, what gave you the confidence to give Blake his first start of the season now?

The games now all have pressure to them, [they are] all games of consequence. Obviously, the Open Cup straight away an elimination factor, but we’ve dug too deep a hole now, there are no games where there’s margin for error. We’re not in the playoff race right now. Until you’re above that red line, we’re not even going to call or talk about the playoffs because we’ve done that in the past and that’s not what we’re going to do anymore. We have to have good performances. Andre helped us in that. Was there a bit of risk going to him this game? Yes, I think there was. But, I think every young player needs to feel that the coaching staff has a belief in him. Our goalkeeping coach had a belief in him, I had a belief in him in seeing him in training, and he did very well for us. He’s a former No. 1 pick who rose to the occasion in a big spot. It is one game, though, so we won’t get ahead of ourselves. But, first test, he gets an A, for sure. And now we look to build on it with another strong performance, and then he’ll go away with the national team, and then we’ll have to reassess the situation. Again, happy for Andre, but we are keeping the right mindset and not getting carried away talking about us being in the playoff picture again, even though the table does kind of show it. We won’t really talk about it until we’re above that red line, and then I can get into the do-or-die, must-win type games.

Describe Andre’s journey in a couple of words

It’s tough to say disappointing for him because he always has a smile on his face, he plays the game with a smile. Even when the kid had the adversity of knee surgery, you’d come in the next day and I’d be like, “Sorry, man, I can’t believe this has happened again, and he would shake my hand and have a smile on. I think he’s a believer like I am that things happen for a reason, I think he’s learned a lot about it and, in goalkeeping years, he’s still an infant, you know? He’s so young still in that regard, goalkeepers can play into their forties. He’s persevered through some difficult things so, again, I wouldn’t use the word disappointing. it’s been a bit of a roller coaster; you go from the No. 1 pick to injured, to getting a taste of it in Houston [last season], to not being in and now having another injury setback in the preseason, and a second one, and now he’s in and out of his national team’s picture. He finally gets a start in Montreal and grabs it. For all young players, when you take hold of it now, his goal and mindset should be not to ever let it go again. And that’s what I tell all young players. So, happy for him but, again, it’s one game.

5 Comments

  1. Karma police
    Arrest this man
    He talks in Maths
    He buzzes like a fridge
    He’s like a detuned radio.
    .
    Karma police
    I’ve given all I can
    It’s not enough
    I’ve given all I can
    But we’re still on the payroll.
    .
    Tough one this week Ed. But I like it.

  2. I think our child is growing right before our eyes. Maybe sitting him down on Saturday mornings to watch Jose Mourinho do his pre and post game has had an effect.

  3. “Things did not go as planned, as expected”
    .
    haha could not have said it better myself. i’m sure everyone in the fanbase also expected that rais’s stint here would not go as the ownership planned it would

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