Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just briefly on the game in San Jose, I thought the guys put a ton into the game. Missing a few key starters, I thought a lot of the guys stepped up and had a good mentality. I thought defensively as a team we really limited one of the hottest teams in the league in San Jose. We talked about before the game people remember how you finish a season, and that’s the one thing we can still control right now is how we finish. Obviously, we have an Open Cup final and six big games left, so, the guys took the first step and got a good win on the road. We recognize, though, that will mean nothing if we don’t do the same thing against Columbus.

What is behind the recent good road form compared to playing at home?

It’s always tough trying to look at what are the differences. I think on the road we’ve had more of a sit back approach; maybe that suits us a little better right now with the personnel that we have ’cause it allows for some room to counterattack, some space to counterattack into. When we high press that space is not really there. And also we might not physically have horses to high press and maintain it for 90 minutes. So, we can do it bursts in games but we haven’t been able to really maintain it, especially at home. There have been some good performances at home but we need that consistency to put back-to-back games together. Obviously, we have been a little sharper on the road, for whatever reason, have really limited teams’ chances on the road, but it’s something that, yeah, we’ve looked at a lot and there’s no one thing on it. But one thing, the pressing thing, is a real one, and maybe we’re a team, with our current personnel, is best suited to sit and counter.

Is there a way to translate that at home given the desire to dictate terms at home?

It’s just basically your starting point, so where that line of confrontation is, where we want to start to press with CJ. At the end of the day it comes down to all 11 guys being on the same page. With Columbus, they’re a team that baits you into high pressing and then can kind of expose you if you’re a step late — if one guy’s a step late there’s sort of a domino effect. That’s not something we want to get into with them because you’ve seen this year when teams press Columbus they pick them apart. When teams have sat back against them they’ve had some losses, as recently as Dallas on their home field [last weekend]. We’ve looked at that, we obviously look at the tape, and the best way to approach Columbus, even though it’s on our home field, might be to have the mindset of making them really break us down, as opposed to flying out at them and playing into their strengths.

Is such an approach made easier given the way the defense has played lately?

I think the thing that makes defenses gel is continuity. They’ve had a little bit more of a run of playing with each other in training during the full week and also on the field. So, that builds familiarity in the group, and that goes a long way, knowing the guy’s tendencies next to you, knowing his strengths, his weaknesses, where you can help out. They’ve gotten a good run of games now. Is it perfect? No, we still give up chances. We haven’t gotten punished for them but it’s a good kind of point to build on in the performances in recent weeks. But, I think the biggest thing is just them getting multiple games together and not having guys in and out with different little injuries, that’s a huge part. Confidence goes a long way, as well, guys are confident back there now. We gave up the PK but, other than that, I thought we really limited a good San Jose team.

Does this play into players not being on the same page?

Look at the teams that are doing well in the league right now, think of…throw Red Bull out there. Their front six has been, they’ve played together almost every game, and they’re darn good. Part of it is the fact that they haven’t had injuries and national team call-ups, and different things like that. They’re having a great season and those guys are the main reason, that front six does a great job. So, again, that’s one example, but when you play with the same guys day in and day out, your confidence grows in them; again, you understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses better. And when you press, you’re all on the same page, when you sit back, you’re all on the same page, you understand each other a little bit better. It’s harder when guys are in and out for things.

How does this impact line up selections? You’ve had to field 31 different lineups this season so far. How does this impact tactics and how you’ve had to play this year versus how you’ve wanted to play?

Of course. I’d rather play the same 11 guys every game and know what I’m going to get and have them have success. That’s obvious, nobody goes into a season and saying I want to play a different lineup every game. Do you usually have to juggle two or three pieces here and there, whether you’re home or away? Yes. But, like you said, I don’t know what the number is but we’ve played — if you said 31, I believe you — different lineups and, yeah, that’s not good, that’s not something that you want, you don’t want to be tweaking and tinkering all the time. I don’t think it’s been a lot of me trying to outsmart myself or anything like that, it’s just availability: Sometimes guys are injured, some guys with national teams, different things have happened this year, some off the field stuff. It’s been challenging but, like I said before, it’s how you finish the season, that’s what people remember, and our guys still have an opportunity to finish strong with the Open Cup final and, obviously, the six games remaining.

On balancing Conor Casey and Fernando Aristeguieta

They’re similar players. They bring, they’re kind of — they’re not guys who are going to run all into the corners and chase down things, they’re more of target forwards, they get in the box, they’re very good in the box. A lot of Conor…There were weeks when I didn’t pick him, but there were also a good 10 to 12, maybe more, weeks where he was injured. That’s part of the game, injuries are part of it, but he’s in a good spot right now, a good way. He got going a little bit in those two games that we started him then he had the injury. Then he had the difficult red card against New York, and then another injury. So, again, it’s been stop and start all year. You just hope you can kind of get hot at the right time and put a couple of results together. But Conor is a guy who, you know…Listen, in front of goal, there’s no one better on our team, when balls bounce to him in the box, he finishes them. That’s  skill that he’s had for his whole career — US national team, Colorado, in Europe, and now with us. When balls bounce to him in the box, he’s as good as anyone at burying them. So, we need to get him opportunities and reps in the game, and him continue to be sharp in practice, and hopefully he plays a major role down the stretch here.

What made you go with Casey rather than Aristeguieta in San Jose?

I had a good talk with Fernando today, too, because he asked what he can do better, and different things like that, but the team tends to pick itself during the week. So, obviously, you guys don’t have the luxury of coming to every training session and being there and watching it but, usually how guys perform in training gets them on the field, same thing goes for subs. Conor had a very good week in training, in San Jose when we trained he was sharp, was good around the goal, so I went with that. And, again, it’s not a great sub, it’s not anything like that, it’s a player making a play. So, that’s what happened, Conor stepped up when he was called upon and scored two good goals. Again, we could have laid down in that game because I thought we had two, maybe a third PK: The one in the third minute where CJ gets taken down, the 40th minute where CJ — it’s a clear penalty kick —  and then in the, I think it’s 54:38 or something like that where Vincent gets taken down by the goalkeeper. That’s a penalty as well. So, a lot of calls that didn’t go in our favor in that game and our guys, to their credit, really stuck through the tough times and got two goals in the end and were rewarded on a night where I thought that they played a good game.

On Andre Blake

First off, congratulations to Jamaica, happy for them. Got a little scary in the first leg where they went down but they responded very well and got the result last night. Happy for Andre. The three goals we looked at closely that he gave up in the first leg. Could he do better on the second one? Maybe, but had a decent performance. And then last night was very good. So, he’ll be back with us tomorrow. We’ll evaluate things. John has the advantage of being here during this week, so we’ll evaluate it and we’ll make a decision that gives us the best chance to beat Columbus.

Is there a problem with the team’s mentality when playing at home?

Listen, you can also, if your really want to get into the last run of games: The Chicago unacceptable collapse at the end, that should be a win. We go down to Orlando but Orlando’s down with us in the table. New England, for me right now, is  a very, very good team — I think they are one of the top teams  — so we lose 1-0 to them. At certain points you have to admit they were the better team on the day. Then we go on the road to San Jose who was hot but also missing some guys, like we were missing some guys, and we’re probably in a similar position as they are in their conference, you know what I mean? So, part of it is quality of opponent …It’s difficult to really put a finger on it. Again, yes, you should win your home games, and going on the road is, obviously, much more difficult but I’m not stating anything that everybody didn’t already know. No one thing I can really point to. We have three and three left, so I don’t care how the wins come. We have to win, I’ll just say, more than we lose at this stage. I’m not sure to put a number on it, I’d just be guessing. We have to win more than we lose, obviously, in the last six, that’s for sure.

On Moving Maurice Edu into the midfield given how well the defense has been playing as of late

Yeah, I mean, there’s midfielders playing well too now, too, so it’s a tricky one. Obviously don’t want to tweak something that’s going well. We have three games before the final to make some big decisions and, again, over the course of the games, over the course of training, the team tends to pick itself, it really does. So, obviously, if we shut out the next three teams and play great, we’re not going to change a lot, so that’s kind of how that one will go.

Mo is getting better. It’s a groin injury; listen, there’s going to be pain when he plays next, no matter what, so it’s going to be a thing of getting him ready in enough time to make sure he’s got game sharpness. So, he would need — from me, in my mind how I’m approaching it — at least a full game. I’m targeting Houston as that full game and then we’ll see on the turf in New England what that would look like, what makes the most sense in terms of minutes, and then obviously the quick turnaround to play [the US Open Cup final] on Wednesday. We’ll see.

On injury status of Zach Pfeffer and Brian Carroll

Pfeffer’s back with the team. He’s looked sharp, still has a little pain in his groin, but he’s looked good in training, he was available as a reserve, kind of an emergency reserve, in San Jose. BC’s completely healthy, that was just a personal thing where he had to stay back.

What’s working well with Richie Marquez and Steven Vitoria 

They’re doing really well. Steven’s a communicator, he talks a lot, he keeps everyone organized back there. He’s done a very good job. I thought this last game was much better than New England in terms of the passing out of the back, he’s started a lot of our attacks with some good diagonal balls. Very happy with his game in terms of how aggressive he was, that was the most physical and aggressive I’ve seen him in terms of attacking balls in the air, winning head balls, sliding out and going to ground and winning big tackles for us. Again, confidence goes a long way. I think he’s confident right now, he’s playing well.

Richie is also very good in the air, so now you have two big bodies back there. And Richie will listen and do what he’s told, and can do it well because he has the speed to do it, can cover a ton of ground. Steven can kind of point and tell him where to go and Richie does a good job of listening. So, good partnership right now. Again, not going to get ahead of myself because we still have conceded too many goals this year, but those guys, you’re starting to see some continuity and that is critical with defenders, you want them to be playing next to each other, game in and game out, going through the wars and recognizing the moments in the game where stuff gets crazy and you have to be kind of that anchor back there and get through the tough moments and preserve leads, and preserve things when you’re tied or behind, keep goals at a minimum.

On the report that team was close to signing Alejandro Bedoya. Did not landing him impair your summer plans?

I mean, he’s a great player he’s a player every team in MLS would want on their team. Is there interest there? Of course, every team in our league has interest in a player of his quality. I’m not going to speculate and talk about the internet reports and different things like that, but, again, a very good player, we’d love to add any player of his quality. We’re always actively looking to upgrade our roster, and that’s kind of where that one is.

Are you expecting to face Kei Kamara or Jack McInerney up top with Columbus on Saturday?

The only way it’s not Kamara is if his plane breaks down in Africa. Yeah, he’s going to be out there. Fatigue is something that we are weighing with him, those flights can be, he can be all over the place, he could be pretty exhausted, And Greg’s a guy who’s smart and knows how to manage his roster, manage his minutes. He could use Kei off the bench but it would only be if he’s fatigued. I think there is something to playing Jack against his old team in this building, Jack scored here last time he was in here so there’s something to that. And Greg’s a good coach but I don’t want to speak to his decision making process, but we are prepared for either. We talked about Kamara a bunch, he’s a top goalscorer in our league this year, a handful, and, obviously, we’re all familiar with Jack, the good runs he makes in the box. So, two good forwards. The one thing I’m pretty certain of is they won’t play both of them just because they’re pretty strict with their formation and their setup no matter who they’re playing, home or way, they’re pretty similar the whole way. But, I’d imagine Kei would only be in a real crazy circumstance where there’s a lot of fatigue in playing the past two games in Africa and the long flight back.

On Jack McInerney

I think he’s still a young player. He has a knack for being in the right place a the right time, and he can undeniably strike a ball, hits it as hard as anyone, hits a heavy ball. Timing of his runs is good, he’ll do the dirty running. As a young player, he’s always working on different things. I think he has kind of the perfect coach there in Columbus now. Obviously, Greg does a great job, but the one I think about is Josh Wolff, an old teammate of mine who spoke highly of Jack. You think of how Josh played, and the runs Josh would make in the blind spots, and just being a…was a great striker — I see some similarities in the two. I think him being under that in that environment, I think his game will grow. Again, I think Josh Wolf [was] quietly a great player, an underrated player, and a very good young coach, too, in the league. So, I think that’s a good one for Jack in his set up right now.

On Ray Gaddis recording his first assist of the year. What expectations do you have for him offensively, defensively?

Yeah, it’s a great ball that he played in. The timing of the whole movement was good. CJ was playing wide at that point, came inside. I think we got it in centrally then we got it out wide to Ray and Ray puts in a very good ball. He got forward and had a shot on goal, which we don’t see a lot of, as well — just over the bar, I should say, I think it deflected for a corner. But, listen, I want our outside backs to still attack and get service, but the main priority for the back four I always tell them is to keep a zero, and I thought they’ve done a decent job, a better job defending in recent weeks. So, for me, priority No. 1 with Ray is defensive work but, yeah, anytime you can sprinkle in an assist or two obviously helps our cause. But, again, defense is the priority No. 1 for our center backs and outside backs.

12 Comments

  1. Great analogy between Jack Mac and Wolff. Unfortunately for Jack, he doesn’t play in an era where two strikers are deployed together more often. Unless that trend reverses itself, he’ll always be a 2nd or 3rd striker on his team as playing as a lone striker is definitely not his strong suit.

    • True, except I don’t agree with the “dirty running” part. I don’t know how many times, when they did play with two up top, that I saw Jack Mac standing around when Casey would win a header and flick it past the oppositions back four. You would look……where is the other forward running behind…..and Jack Mac’s standing on the opposite side of the pitch just watching the ball roll to the keeper or roll to the corner and the defense walked it back out. Drove me nuts…….he was lazy and thought he was a lot better than he is…..but what do you expect when he was told “your the man” at Bradenton all those years. He should have also have had the smarts to tweak his game for another position….like a winger in a 4-3-3. No one plays with a 5’7 target forward unless your Kung Aguero and can run the back four silly!

  2. The Union seriously need to talk to the Eagles about the sports science stuff. I’m sure Chip would take the call, especially on a bye week. How many players have been down with groin and/or hamstring injuries this season?

    • My solution….Ashtanga Yoga. Solve almost every groin and hamstring injury ad infinitum.

      • I was thinking of my boy Jurgen Klopp during this. Last year when BVB was in trouble and found themselves in relegation, and they had guys going down left and right….people questioned if his “super press” was running the team ragged and contributing to the injuries……JK stayed true and told the press……”this is how we play”…..”We aren’t changing”

    • I’ve been riding this idea most of the year. They have way too many leg muscle injuries. Maybe it’s bad luck, but maybe it’s something in their training. They need to figure it out.

  3. Wouldn’t it be ironical (as Robin Williams said) if JC decides to move Edu back into the midfield for this Open Cup Final game… IMO the very move that sunk the team in last years Open Cup Final.

    • +1
      .
      Edu’s a CB now. Jurgen might be wise to at least get him in a camp to see him play up close after the Alvarado and Orozco debacle this week.

  4. JC’s first paragraph gives you some pretty good tidbits to examine further and actually give you a little insight to what his mindset is. From what I gather, as stated above, JC wanted tactically to play a high press system this year….just like many clubs around the world are doing these days. JC said it himself: ” maybe we don’t have the horses to play that way” ( could be slightly misquoted, but the meaning is the same). To me, that admission is huge. He basically said we had the idea to play a high press system…..but I don’t have the players who can do it for 90 minutes. So, we went with a default ” meet them at midfield approach” and its worked better. Watch what Jim does in the offseason…….I don’t think he like the personnel he has. Going by that paragraph……he doesn’t have the squad he wants to execute his tactical vision. I’m not making excuses for JC….just going on what he said to the press…thats all.

  5. I venture to say we saw the future of this team in San Jose. By this I mean, that Barnetta, and the team, is best served if he’s played as the #10. They were more creative, with more players involved, than with Chaco as the #10. Which means to me that Chaco has to play out wide now. Which, so far, has not worked as well as when he’s the #10. Maybe getting some more time with Barnetta at 10, Chaco will improve on the wing, especially since they can technically interchange. This then leads to, in my opinion, needing a winger with speed on the other side. Which Wenger is not. And that speedy winger, is not on this team. I think this offseason is going to be very interesting to say the least.

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