Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

I thought we had a very professional performance at home in front of our home crowd; I thought they were excellent, as well, a packed house. Limiting New York City FC to one shot on goal was something we were proud of. I thought we made the second half being up two goals, I thought we were very comfortable, didn’t concede a lot other than some possession but we’re fine with that. We went through the tape today with the players, fixed some things. We’re happy with the performance; we know we can be a little bit better.

At the same time, now we have two more home games in a row here and we’re looking to improve our record. We have a very strong San Jose team coming in so it’ll take full focus for 90 minutes to get a result. Chris Wondolowski is a great goal scorer, a guy that we’ll need to do a good job with. He’s hot right now so, big challenge on the weekend, but looking to keep some momentum going forward.

On Ray Gaddis subbing in, and starting this week, for Fabinho

I thought it was good for Ray to get the 45 minutes, I thought he did very well in that, he’s a guy who’s a great professional. He’s been itching to go; a little injury went against him early in the season and Keegan was in good form so, as challenging as that is for a pro, I’m very happy with how Ray’s handled it. He has his opportunity now. He’s not a guy I get too nervous about because I know how good of a competitor he is, how good of a player he is, and he’ll be up for the challenge to slide in this week.

On the reasoning behind subbing Gaddis in at the start of the second half against NYCFC

Kevin, you brought it up this past week. I’m not a guy who like to change at halftime just because of a caution but, at the same time, when we looked at our outside backs it wasn’t their best day. I thought that New York got in behind both Keegan and Fabinho a lot so it weighed into the decision, it made it a little easier to make the adjustment. Obviously, with Fabinho getting the yellow card, knowing that he’s going to have to sit the next game, the fact that we’ve given up two red cards in the 50th minute — it all weighs into the decision. Yes, there is something to Ray getting that full 45 under his belt so it’s not his first action on the weekend against a really good San Jose team.

He steeped in, did a great job. I thought he neutralized Shelton and Mendoza, who are both a handful. You could see in the game actually after the first ten minutes of the second half they switched the two players because there was already a little frustration on their end, so it was good.

Ray is a pro, and he’ll be ready to go.

Do you make that sub if you’re not up 2-0 at the point?

It’s again, another factor, for sure, that weighs in. To be honest, I give my staff credit for that because I was against it, I didn’t want to do it. There was enough voices; my assistants — Oka, Mike, BJ — in talking with those guys…and I thanked them after the game, too,because we’re all in this together.

Hindsight is always…If I leave Fabi out there and he gets a red card I’m an idiot so, again, these are all things that weigh in. Again, I thought my staff did a good job, though, of at least making me aware of all the positives, all the negatives. We went through them and it wasn’t until, trust me, the very last second; Fabi literally was on his way back out to the field and we made the decision. Fabi was great, understood it, and with the way yellow cards are flying around, it’s risky. He’s aggressive, he’s an aggressive defender, too, so it’s challenging, we had concern of the second yellow.

On leaving Fabinho on when he’s on a yellow in the past

He can play with a yellow, for sure, but he does still, even after he got the yellow he had two or three where he goes– there’s no in between with him — he goes in hard, all the time. Sometimes, his timing is perfect and, sometimes, in this instance it was the one actually, if you remember, Richie was maybe a little over-aggressive on the sidelines and that leaves Fabi in a bad spot. You know, it’s part of the game. Defenders, I think, any good defender, you’re not going through a season without sitting out. His comes a heck of a lot earlier than I wanted it too [laughs], but any good defender in this league usually picks up five yellow cards at some point just from being out on the field.

So, disappointing it came early. They do have a good behavior incentive; Fabi, I guess, didn’t want any part of that [laughs], he just wanted to get it over with and he’ll sit now, which is tough because he’s a good player. But, at the same time, we think we have a deep team and Ray can slide right in and do the job.

On Ken Tribbett and Josh Yaro

It’s a tough choice, yeah. In some ways you wish you knew exactly what the injury status was of Quincy Amarikwa at San Jose, who’s a low to the ground, fast, explosive guy. If he is injured they have Adam Jahn, who’s a bigger target. So, again, if you had the knowledge of and the luxury of knowing exactly which way they would go, I’d have a tendency to go a certain way, as well, with my guys. But, both are playing very well. Ken is, in his own words, not a hundred percent yet but, at the same time, he looks pretty darn good in training. Josh is playing good, as well. Well let Dom [Kinnear] have to at least think what we’re going to do.

When Chris Pontius was elbowed and had to leave the field for medical attention, was there a point where you thought you might have to sub him off?

Those are brutal for me, a helpless feeling and the seconds feel like minutes because you can see your team is…the shape’s different. If you remember too, I was a little bit mad at Chris, and I yelled at him while he was getting his poor eye healed up, he just kind of stepped off the field, and I don’t think our players were quite aware. The message, the learning thing from that is to go down in an area where at least everybody on the field on our team — the game stops, they look over and say, ok, we’re down a man — because I think there was a brief 45 seconds there where we weren’t sure we were down a man. I mean, that’s dangerous. You can think back too, they hit the crossbar while Chris was on the sidelines. Those are dangerous moments, so, it’s frustrating. Obviously, our medical staff did a great job getting him back as quick as he can but, as a coach, you’re sitting there going “every second matters here,” it’s vital. It’s tough to get blood to just stop so, again, he went out once, was called off the field again; you start to get frustrated and you start to think ahead — I had Ilsinho up and ready to go and moving. But, you also have to weigh the fact that you know Chris…the injury part of it, he’s totally fine to play through, he’s tough [enough] to play through that, for sure. But if it keeps bleeding and it becomes something where he just can’t be on the field because of the rules…Yeah, it crossed my mind a lot to make a sub. Luckily, they hit the bar and it didn’t go in, and Chris obviously gets a goal not to far after that so, good.

On Tranquillo Barnetta getting his first start of the year

I thought he had a very good performance, he looked like himself. He covered ground, he did a lot of running defensively. Again, makes a heck of a play on the goal, incredible play where most people would probably just either shoot that or maybe get a corner out of it. He has the ability to lift it over the defender who is on the ground, continue by him, and the ball he cuts back, the angle he cuts that back on is — we watched it a lot — it’s not an easy thing to do; obviously, give Chris credit, too, for getting inside of his defender. So, good play from Tranquillo. His service was very good on restarts, on corners, on indirect restarts, as well. Again, happy to get him going — anxious to get everyone going, at the same time. The only one who’s not training right now is Mo, so we’re getting closer to being our full-strength squad and a lot of good headaches for me picking an XI and 18.

Is getting your No. 10 in the box something you stress?

Obviously, he’s a special player, and I’m not going to take credit, or the coaching staff won’t take credit, for him making a good run in the box, but one thing we’ve worked on very hard this year is a commitment to get three guys in the box, and you guys have heard me say that: whenever the ball gets wide, whenever there’s an entry into the box, a real commitment from, at a minimum, three guys to get into the box. And you can thrain that, that is something you train and practice. So, give him credit for getting in there. You look at the other goal, too: good forward ball from Richie Marquez, a belief from our guys that CJ’s gonna win the knockdown, Seba’s there — you can see in the tape, too, Tranquillo is right underneath him, as well; Seba strikes it — probably mishits it a little bit — but get rewarded by CJ getting himself not only heading the ball back, but getting himself up and getting into the box. So, good plays by both, and both, I would say, [show] a real commitment [to getting] into the box. We do it in film all the time — and stop it and start it [laughs]: do we have three guys in the box? Is there a commitment? Sometimes it’s more than three so we’re getting better at that — we’re not perfect, but the name of the game is scoring goals so one way to do it is to get bodies in there.

On how difficult it is to defend Chris Wondolowski

Wondo, again, I can remember back when he was playing in the reserve league for Houston a long time ago. He was in that league for a couple of years so, talk about a story for kids, that you never know when your chance is going to come and, when you get it, take it. Now he’s on his way to surpassing Landon [Donovan] in goals, so, again, this is in our league, which is unbelievable. So, again, I think a lot of breaks maybe didn’t go his way early in his career but he stuck with it. I can remember coming off of an injury and playing against him the reserve league and I probably maybe wasn’t the most motivated player — I was starting for Chicago and coming off injury and I didn’t really want to be there — and there was this kid out there that was just so intense, a pain in the butt to play against, just ran hard in the box, was fighting for everything, and you’re kind of looking at him going, “Who? What is this kid doing out here, he’s crazy, this is just a reserve league game.” And he’s had a heck of a career since then, he’s been an MVP in our league — that’s a great story. He’s as good as anyone at arriving in the box, runs as hard as anyone, will sacrifice his body. Great player, great career, great professional, and a really good person, too, if you sit down and talk to him. So, I can’t say enough about him, he’ll be a handful for our guys, another tough task that he’s not just a one-person assignment, everybody has to be aware of him because his movement is so good in the box.

On San Jose’s season so far 

They’re good, they’re a very good team. First and foremost, I think it starts with their coach; Dom Kinnear is for me the guy that I always, whenever the next national team coach gets named, he’s the one that I always think of because he relates so well to the American player, he gets the most out of American players, so I always think of him. Anytime I’ve played against one of his teams it was always tough, incredibly well organized and just good teams. Now, coaching against him, it’s the same. He has a group of guys that will fight for him for 90 minutes, and they compete for everything. They’re strong, big, they’re good on restarts, they’re a good team. This is the first time they have to come cross country, which is a little bit of an advantage for us. Travel in our league is tough so we’ll have to use that to our advantage; hopefully the flight takes a little bit out of their legs, it’s a long way to come. They’ve been very good in their building, similar to us, in their home field, and maybe not as good on the road; again, that’s normal. So, we’ll have to have a good start to the game but, again a team that we respect a great deal, and a coach who I think has done everything in this league. Tough task.

On NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira saying after last Saturday’s game that his team was by far the better team on the day.

It was the first time I’ve crossed paths with him — in the preseason a little bit — but the first time I actually met him was before the game and then after the game, as well, we shook hands and had a quick chat. First and foremost, you never know with guys who are literally walking legends of the game what they’re going to be like, and he was humble, soft-spoken, nice guy, and I did say to him after the game when I shook his hand, “You guys outplayed us today and probably deserved something from the game.” So, from that regard, I did see things similar to him. It’s a unique game, though, and I don’t want to take anything away from my team. We scored two good goals — I thought we earned them — and we defended very well. I do think his team does try to play, for sure: they pass, they move, and they’ve been on the wrong end of some results. And, listen, I’ve been there, too. It happens, and they’re a team that has some real talent, and it’s a long year. Through seven games…I don’t know if me saying that to him spurred him on in the press conference or what [laughs], but, again, they’re a good team, a team we respect a great deal [and] we were happy to get the win on the day. The scoreline still beats possession.

The win on Saturday made you the all-time winningest Union coach. What does that do for you?

Ah, nothing, it doesn’t do anything for me. Again, we’re a team that’s trying to get better, we’re a team that’s trying to get back into the playoffs. I think the regular season is team based [and] at the end of the year we can reflect on individual accolades, whether the be from our staff, from our players when they get rewarded [with], hopefully, some Best XI or All-Stars, or different things like that, but the regular season is for team and the postseason, the offseason, is for individual recognition, or whatever comes along with different things like that. Yeah, that’s nothing to me.

What do you see that is different with Western Conference teams compared to Eastern Conference teams?

I have a theory on that, why the West always starts a little hotter. So, early on in the season when the East Coast teams are in the cold weather, we all get sent out to play on the West Coast, and it’s hard to win when you’re going away, first of all, and the travel that comes up. As the season wears on, and the dates go by, and the West starts playing the West more often, I think it starts to even back out. They have some great teams out there, don’t get me wrong, but I do think they have teams that are sharper and playing better than us, too, that is a little bit of a factor. But, it does need to be said, usually we get sent out ’cause our weather here stinks. New England’s weather here stinks so we get sent out west a lot, and you’ll see a little bit…It could be a factor in the points totals that you see early on in a MLS year. So, I don’t know, there’s got to be an analytics guy who can run that data real quick and have that in two seconds. Maybe I’m wrong but I think that that has to be something that does weigh in, and that’s why you see maybe more points right now in the West versus the East. Just a little theory of mine but I could be wrong.

With Michael Lahoud being on loan, what’s the relationship like between you and the New York Cosmos staff?

Very good. Gio  [Comos head coach Giovanni Savarese], Alecko [Eskandarian], Carlos Llamosa, guys…I played with Alecko, Carlos coached me at Chivas USA, and Gio was a former phenomenal player in our league. I think we have similar beliefs in the game, similar philosophies, and it’s been a good relationship that we’ve had with them. I thought, last year, Leo Fernandes going there and getting 30 games under their coaching, they did a great job with him in his development. Walter Restrepo, while he hasn’t played minutes for us yet, is a real weapon; again, a guy that we are high on and is doing great, day in and day out in training, playing well at Bethlehem. So, Michael to go there, hopefully he can have a good season for them and, again, it’s all about where these guys are at in their individual career, what is best for them, how do we get them the most minutes, and it’s good to have intelligent coaches, good coaches, that we have a good relationship with that we trust our players with, and I think they’re similar in their thoughts, as well. I don’t want to speak for them but good relationship, good partnership, and one that I hope continues.

How important is the team’s strong start both for the club and for reinvigorating the fan base? 

I think it was critical. You talked about the start, how important it was, and I agree: We had to have a good start this year. I think that the guys felt that in the preseason. We couldn’t be a team that was chasing it, we don’t play well from behind — even in the actual games we don’t play well from behind, we play well when we’re in front. And, I think that establishing ourselves at home is critical, to start 3-0 here is good. We’re hungry now, though, and want more. Our next two are here and they’re against two darn good Western Conference teams, so we’ll see what we are really about in these next two games. I think our fans have come out — especially in the New York City game — and they realize something’s different, something is new. There is a buzz about the stadium, there’s new players here, there’s new things going on, and it’s positive right now. But, again, 34 games, not 7, so we still have a lot of work to do. We like where we’re at but still have margin for improvement, for sure, especially in our road games. We’ve had good performances on the road, we’re angry that we haven’t taken more points on the road. It does start with defending, though, too, I would have to say. It has to be that we are not conceding easy goals, and giving up easy goals, making teams earn everything. We set the goal at 1 goal per game; we’ve held to it, we’re right on it right now. Again, if we only give up 34 goals for the year, that would be entering into records realms for a league, so that’s [what] the top goal would be, one per game, which would be a great accomplishment. But, if that number comes down 40 or below, you’ll see us in the playoffs, that’s a certainty because teams that don’t concede are teams that get points. I’m not worried about us creating chances in the run of play, we’ll create our chances; over the course of 34 games we’ll take them. The biggest thing is not conceding them [and] we’ve been good at that so far. I’d say that’s probably the biggest difference, and the biggest factor, in having a good start.

You said after the NYCFC game the team won despite not playing well, something that hasn’t happened often in the past. What has changed and how does that help the team’s confidence?

Yeah, that’s the word you hit, [which] is confidence. There’s confidence here, there’s belief here and, again, if you look around, we still play in the same stadium, there’s a couple of different players mixed in but the main core is here. I think the big difference is, and the one piece that’s new, is Earnie. Earnie has been a guy that’s laid the foundation through the draft with young players, he has the players believing, knowing their role, their responsibility on the field in all the phases. That’s the one difference. There’s an air of professionalism that he brings, and guys have bought in. Even in the games now when we do lose, that we have lost against Seattle, there was still a recognition from our players that, you know what, we still played good and we are a good team. So, that part is something that’s new. It hasn’t been here and you’re right, when we got up 2-0, I didn’t think we were playing our best soccer at all. But, you got into the locker room at halftime and it wasn’t just me that thought that, the players saw it, you could see it in their faces, they weren’t happy. There was a couple of heated discussions about what we could do better. So, they feel it as well, and, again, to close out the game in the second half the way we did, it might have been dull for the fans, the second half, but, guess what, like you said, in the past we’ve made it a lot more interesting than it needed to be. So, professional performance from our guys, happy with the way that they carried themselves, and happy with where we’re at. But, we still have a lot of room for growth.

4 Comments

  1. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    ‘attempts at goal’ (including efforts that are high, wide or hit the proverbial woodwork) are so much more relevant than ‘shots on goal’ – had NYCFC brought along their shooting boots, Curtin might not have the opportunity to be so proud … strange thing to be proud of, the opponent’s inability to hit the target, auf meiner Meinung

    • I could not disagree more. That was David Fucking Villa out there. If he wasn’t hitting the target, the defense was playing well.

      • pragmatist says:

        The answer, as always, lies somewhere in between. Villa had an off day and wasn’t as accurate as he could have been, but he was influenced by the defense on quite a few shots.
        .
        It was odd to see that many shots go high and wide, but almost every single shot was pressured by Marquez and Yaro, often together. There were very few clear lanes on goal for NYC to hit. But when they had them, they missed them.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      My thought at the time was that the wind behind Villa’s early shots might have just been lifting him a little bit. He was shooting high consistently.

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