Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Our strongest performance of the year; on the road, as well. We were in need of a little bit of a boost. I think we had some really strong performances [before the New England game] but they were only for, maybe, halves of the game. This time we put together a complete 90 minutes, so that was something we were proud of. Emphasized all week the importance of being compact defensively, from front to back. The guys executed that well. I thought [we] gave their key attacking players a tough day and, collectively, we were all comfortable on the ball.

I thought Alejandro [Bedoya] brought a real calming presence to the group in possession, did a lot of the little things that maybe don’t show up on the stat sheet just to get us out of some tight spots, connect us from front to back. His fitness is gaining, is growing, so that’s a positive. But, we talked in the locker room before the game about everybody winning their individual battles and I thought, on the day, every guy, including the three reserves that came in, impacted the game and won their individual duels on the night.

We need to keep that going now. This is a league where you can’t start to feel too good about yourself because it has a way of humbling you and you get punched in the face after you feel like you’ve accomplished something. So, good win on the road. Obviously, have a tough Toronto team coming in that presents a very difficult task with [Sebastian] Giovinco, Jozy [Altidore] is getting going now, Michael [Bradley] is back. So, in our home building, we’ll have to be the team that tries to dictate tempo of the game and controls possession. We know we’ll have our fans behind us; we need them more than ever now down this stretch, and I think it’s important that they welcome Alejandro and Charlie [Davies] to the group and show them what this place is all about.

On the job Bedoya does in getting the ball to the team’s playmakers

He did good. And even if you rewind a step further, I instructed to the whole back four to get the ball to Alejandro’s feet, as well. So, when Alejandro’s on the ball, when Tranquillo [Barnetta’s] on the ball, when Ilsinho or [Chris] Pontius are the ones making decisions, that is when we’re at our best. Again, recognizing your role within the team…Are you a guy that’s just is good at winning it, getting it to them? That’s a great role to have, and you can have a ten-year MLS career just by doing that. So, again: recognizing where you fit into the group. Obviously, the way we set up, we want our No. 8 on the ball often, dictating the tempo of the game, finding Tranquillo in the seams, behind the lines, playing forward passes through the lines. Again, when Ilsinho and Chris and CJ get going, they’re very tough to stop. So, we have multiple players now that teams have to prepare for, which is good. It’s probably the first time that we can say that we have that, where, you know, where teams are game-planning not just for one person, or two people, there’s five guys that they have to prepare for. So, it’s a real positive. I think we put in a good performance; we know we can still be even a little sharper and better with the ball. But, for our first game together as a group, I thought it was a positive.

Have you talked to Bedoya and Davies about debuting at Talen Energy Stadium?

Yeah, so, again, they’ve played in big games for big clubs, the national team, so they know what good crowds are like. I think our setup here is unique, Talen Energy has a certain kind of energy that comes…that was bad. There’s a certain kind of atmosphere that raises the players’ level. I think opposing teams don’t like to come here. So, I think it’ll be good for our fans to show love to them, embrace them like I know they will. And, again, Charlie and Alejandro just need to play and do what they do best. I know they’ll be a little amped up and excited but the pressure, again, is on the rest of the players and myself to make them as comfortable as possible because they’re the ones that are transitioning to a new team. And I’m excited for them to get their first opportunity to play in front of this crowd. It’s a special place; it’s been a very good place for us to play this year, they’ve made it a real home field advantage for us, and we need to continue that.

Update on CJ Sapong’s head injury

CJ had the collision with [Jose] Goncalves; they both jumped for a ball, it kind of catches CJ in the neck/side of the face. CJ said that he just missed the spot where CJ, if you remember last year, had the fracture in the face. You know, to be honest, we got talking at halftime and you could see he had some pain. Again, the neck was bothering him, the head, also. I’m a guy that [believes], first and foremost, you only get one brain, so I consider myself cautious with that. I think maybe part of it is I’ve had a lot of friends that have had to leave the game because of concussion. So, I think we were proactive in our assessment of him at halftime. We do have confidence in our depth, too, so I thought Fabian [Herbers] came in and did a good job. But, first and foremost, with CJ, I don’t think we mess around with head injuries. Immediately after the game, though, CJ did come to me as we were walking to the bus, and he said, “I feel a hundred times better.” But, we’ll still have to go through the protocol. He’s passed the first part of that; he was out today through the technical part of practice. It looks like he’ll be fine for the weekend and cleared to play but we were a little cautious with it because, again, head injuries, there’s a lot of unknowns, there’s a lot of scary things that go on with it, and, again, he had also the, formerly had the facial fracture, and, again, you only get one brain. So, we were smart with it, I thought, and hopefully he’s ready for the weekend.

Why was Barnetta training off to the side today?

He has just a little soreness still, nothing that will prevent him from taking place in the action this weekend against Toronto. Again, he knows his body very well. Very professional and knows what it takes to get ready for Saturday. Good film session today, talked through a lot of things off the field, and he just did a little fitness on the field, on the bike, and off to the side.

On Chris Pontius’ being the first US player in the league to reach double-digit goals

Chris and I when we sat down at the beginning of the year — it’s going to sound like BS now because he’s at the 10 goal mark — but we said 10 and 10, that was our goal for him — and you can ask him about that. And we talked about him getting back into our national team’s picture, I think that’s a realistic goal, I think he’s that talented. Has a knack for scoring goals, popping up at the right time in the box; I think he had a couple in the Open Cup, as well. So, a good year in terms of offensive production. Again, with Chris, him and Fabi are starting to get a pretty good understanding of each other defensively, too. They have a good maybe nonverbal cues when Fabi will play those balls in behind the opposition, it’s becoming second nature to them. I like the relationship that they have. Again, Chris, it needs to be said, is a great professional, a great person, and has fit in very nicely with the group. Now, down this stretch of the last ten games, he can even surpass what the goals were from the beginning of the season. That’s what I want him to do.

With CJ also being at 7 goals, what does that say about the US talent on the team?

Well, first and foremost — I’ve said it a lot — we want to build American players. We think it’s important to be a club that’s known as one that brings young American players through our academy, one that has US national team players. You see the Bedoya addition, and that’s no coincidence. I want the US national team to be good, and I think that it’s our job as coaches in this league to make our national team stronger. And, I think we have a lot of top players here at our club. Some are right on the fringe now of getting their call up and we’ll push and continue to do all the little things to find the blend of a good core of American players, the right international guys that sprinkle in and are special like a Tranquillo. I think we have a good foundation right now, and hopefully for a long time.

On Toronto FC

Toronto’s a team now that when they get numbers behind the ball — eight guys and then the front two of Giovinco and Jozy — they’re tough to break down. So, in the transitions, recognizing the moments that you have to be very decisive with your passing to get in behind them before they set up. Once they set up, Toronto has been pretty stingy as a team defensively. The two forward players, Giovinco and Jozy, have a real knack for getting open while you have the ball. So, teaching our guys now when we’re in possession — a Richie [Marquez], and Ken [Tribbett], a Keegan [Rosenberry], a Fabi — what’s the most dangerous thing that can happen? Am I in a good spot if we turn this ball over? Because, if it’s Giovinco picking up the ball, when he gets 1 vs. 1 against anyone in our league, I’ll say it: He kills them. So, we have to be very aware of where he is at all times. Jozy is getting going now, too, which is a tough duo to deal with. But, again, when they lull you to sleep in possession, in those moments we need to be aware of where they are [and] expect what’s the worst thing that can happen: am I in a good spot to put out a fire? But, before they even set up, getting those transitions right is critical against them because, again, that block of eight is tough to break down.

Why is Barnetta better at the No. 10?

He’s been good almost anywhere you put him. He played wide for us last year and did a good job there. Played at the 10 at the beginning of the year, was, I think, a top player. He doesn’t get any credit in this league still, I would say, compared to some of the other players that are having good years; he finally got a Team of the Week, I think, this week. But, for me, he’s our engine, he’s the guy that defensively does the work. When he gets on the ball, he’s dangerous. Adjusted quick to the 8. Were the pieces around him perfect in the 8? No, we gave up some goals, but that wasn’t a fault of his, I don’t think, He’s just a good player, adapts well to any situation. I almost see him too a little bit almost like a boxer now: As the game goes on, and the rounds get later, he gets stronger and stronger, it seems. The more we get him on the ball…Maybe there’s a turnover or two early and he’s getting his legs under him, but once he gets going, teams don’t like dealing with him. That’s what you saw in New England, all the fouls they have to commit. He wears them down. And he needs volume, you know, over and over again, and that’s kind of the role he plays for us at the 10, it’s kind of volume based, we want him on the ball as much as possible. Is it tough on his legs? For sure. But, again, he seems to get stronger as the game goes, and wears teams down. He’s like a savvy, smart boxer and has a way of kind of — blow after blow — wear you down over the course of the 90 minutes.

But, again, I’ll say it: He deserves a heck of a lot more credit than he gets in this league.

Update on the status of Brian Carroll and Maurice Edu

Brian is bouncing back quicker than we thought, which is good. He’ll be back, hopefully, on Monday in training. Maybe not full, but at least doing the technical part of things. So, it’s healing quick, which is good. He’s got to be smart in how he manages it but positive signs with him. Again, the guy takes care of his body very well.

Mo has been a full participant now [in training]. They’ve taken all the neutral, or only participating in some parts of training [away]. He’s fully involved in training now, it’s just a matter of time. We’ll have a meeting later today to discuss whether it makes sense, and  what time it makes sense, for him to get his first minutes, and that will be with Bethlehem before the first team. But, again, a great resource for us to have that possibility there. But, he looks stronger and stronger each day, and we’re optimistic to having him back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Is it possible that he could be with Bethlehem as soon as this weekend? 

Anything is possible.

On how to get Roland Alberg more time on the field, given that you don’t view him as a wide player

Roland falls into that category of great soccer player, great in possession; obviously, his goal rate speaks for itself this year, he’s scored a lot of goals in a short amount of time. I’d say that, over 90 minutes, gosh, he’s probably top in the league in terms of production. [Note: Alberg is second in the league in goals per 90 minutes with 0.85 over 848 minutes. Frank Lampard is No. 1 with 0.93 over 868 minutes.] A little bit of an unfortunate situation where he’s the odd man out on a good group. But, I think you need depth on all teams. You look across the league at a lot of the top teams and they have some interchange and some strong players that come off the bench. You saw him come off the bench and impact the game…I thought you said he was mad after [Curtin is smiling]…All players should be mad if they’re not in the starting lineup.

I meant on the goal

If you actually watch it, the way the camera angle cuts, he did a double-fisted celebration, couldn’t have been happier. But then they cut to him and he was in the stone-face mode. I think you maybe read a little too much into that one, but, ok, I digress. The broadcast cut away but there’s another view that actually shows his full celebration. He was happy as can be. And, it’s a great goal that he scored. The kid works hard — he’s moving past the adjustment period in the league — he finds seams and, again, a weapon to come off the bench, sometimes as a starter, an incredible talent that has a way for scoring goals. It’s the hardest thing to do and he has a real knack for doing it.

Why not play him wide if there’s depth ahead of him in the middle?

I think we’re deep wide, too, so, again, it’s just crowded. Before, when we had, when Seba [Le Toux] was here, we had Pontius, Ilsinho, Seba. To throw Roland out there, where does he fit in? His game’s a little different, I think he’s more of a central player. I think he’s improved his work rate defensively a great deal. In our league, though, out on that island, defensively what we ask our wide guys to do is a lot, and I don’t think it maybe plays to his skillset. Could he do it in a pinch? He probably could, you know? He’s smart enough to come inside. You bring up a fair point. He’s so comfortable on the ball, could he be a guy that almost plays, when we have it, inside and creates a weird look for an opposing team’s outside backs: “Do we go into that midfield and chase him inside? Or, do we stay in our position?”  It could create problems I’ve thought about it, but more from the defensive side, and the shape of the team. It’s be a big ask right now, but I think it would catch a team off guard if we’re maybe down a goal or something like that.

On Toronto’s injuries

So, they’ve had some injuries, and Vanney’s done a good job in terms of their depth, rotating their team. They’ve played three in the back a bunch this year, it’s something that we are preparing against. Whether it’s three of four, we have to do a good job of going against both just because they’re versatile. They have some injuries to their defenders right now. It’s not totally clear who they’re going to start. They have a midweek game [following Saturday’s game], as do we, so a lot of variables going into it. But, first and foremost, they’re team that’s not conceding a ton of goals. They have a player on the field that can score goals from nothing: You can’t foul anywhere near your own goal because it’s almost at a 50 percent rate that [Giovinco] is scoring free kicks on, so it’s scary. He’s the toughest guy to handle in the league in terms of you can tell people to be tight to him and he blows by you; if you shy off him he can shoot from 30. He can also make a pass off a full sprint. So, he’s as dangerous a guy as there is in our league to prepare for. It’s not a one-man job, you need multiple guys around the ball. We’ve worked on that, our back four sliding together. And when he does get on it, there has to be two guys there. Maybe you make somebody else beat you on the day — and you can tip your cap to them — but you can’t let him be the one as the best player on the field. It’s challenging.

Have you faced anyone else who’s played with three in the back?

Yes. New York might have done it a little bit at home, a version of it. We’ve seen different versions of it. We’ve trained against it in training, so we know the areas that we’d like to attack if they do play three. Sometimes, a lot of times, coaches call it three and it really winds up looking like five, so there’s different tactical areas that you want to attack in certain teams when they play with three versus four in the back. So, we’ll have to be prepared for both, know that it’s a team that’s in as good of form as anybody in the league right now — four wins out of their last five, and a draw so, unbeaten in quite some time. So, we’ll have our hands full. If you look at the way the schedule sets up, they have the most favorable one because they’re home, I think, seven out of their last eight. So, they’ve done a heck of a job on the road earlier in the year to set themselves up. We know we have a tough task at home, we’ll have to be on top of our game. We’re going to push for all three points: these are the big conference games. We’ve been very good against the Eastern Conference this year, we need to continue that.

More on how Bedoya is a “calming in possession”

Yeah, so the way we play, we like our back four to be…our center backs spaced nice and wide, our No. 6 to come in between the two center backs, our outside backs nice and high. And, the key in that is the spacing and getting Alejandro on the ball through passes that are angled passes. So, we never want to play a straight ball because we feel straight passes are very predictable for the defense. Alejandro has a knack for remaining calm under pressure, getting on the ball in between the lines. He’s not scared if a Lee Nguyen is nipping at his heels; you could see that he dribbled out of a lot of tight spots and just made a simple pass to our outside backs that let our team breathe and calmed us down. Vincent was very good at that, as well. I think they’re two different players though, Alejandro and him, Alejandro has a little more bite in terms of defensive breaking up plays and that ability, will run more into the box. So, two very good players, different skill sets. I think they both suited our team, but we’re on to the present now. Alejandro is a guy who we’re incredibly happy with. One game, though, and a lot of work has been put in on the training field. He brings it every day in training and, again, when I say that calmness, he’s a guy that wants the ball under pressure, has the ability to pick his head up, run with the ball when he should run with it, play a forward pass with confidence and, again, happy that he was able to calm us down a little bit in the run of play in New England in a hostile environment.

How much did you enjoy Roland Alberg’s goal against New England?

It’s a great end to a game, to a strong performance. It’s kind of the exclamation point at the end, you know? I think we worked hard at 3-0. I’m still a coach that is nervous at 3-0 — my assistants were cracking up laughing. I may not show it on the sidelines but I made comments to them, even at 3-0, I wan’t satisfied; I still think there were some loose moments at the end and was nervous up until that fourth goal went in. So, again, great goal from Roland, incredible turn, great flick to Charlie — little one-two — and, again, right or left foot, Roland Alberg in and around the box is lethal. His goal record, again, speaks for itself. We have to find ways to get him minutes because he produces. So, again, it’s my job to get him on the field as much as possible. It does give me good problems, another strong attacking piece that a defense has to spend a lot of their time preparing for. And, again, the more guys we have like that the better.

On going from facing a player like Kei Kamara to a player like Sebastian Giovinco, players with different physiques, different skill sets

It’s challenging because [Giovinco] will have moments where he’ll kind of lull you to sleep a little bit and doesn’t get on the ball a ton. But then when he does he’s so clinical. Anything around the goal, he strikes the ball with both feet — it’s tough, man. You joke about it but you literally could put a guy man-to-man and tell him to follow him the whole way around the goal, and even if that went perfect, if you foul somebody else around the box he gets his goal that way [from taking a free kick]. So, it’s a tough task. I’m glad I didn’t play when he was in the league. He’s a handful, as dangerous a guy as there is right now. He’s probably…him and [David] Villa, 1 and 1a for MVP, you’d probably say. He is in good form, is fast, so low to the ground; you try to be physical with him he can draw a fouls and is strong enough to hold the ball and go by you. So, he can beat you in so many different ways, and that’s what makes dealing with him so tough — and that’s why I say it’s not a one-person job, we have to have multiple guys around he ball and just hope he has an off night. That’s all you can try to do.

14 Comments

  1. Lucky Striker says:

    Pontius might be the best pure finisher on the club since the fish.

    • +1
      .
      I can’t think of anyone better then those two. Alberg has the makings of one too. Him and Pontius just seem to pop up in good spots at the right. They both have that predatory goalscorer’s instinct. Fish was so underappreciated during his brief time in Philly. It’s a shame too, as he was just getting into form when King Pitor shipped him South of the Border. Team wasn’t the same after that……

      • Zizouisgod says:

        At the time, it seemed like Nowak didn’t want to have Ruiz leave. He blamed it on the fans which was puzzling.

        In hindsight, that deal was a Sak special as he got a quick $200K transfer fee (from memory) as well as got a large salary off the books. Trying to get those Class B units in the money.

        And agree with you on Ruiz. He was a classic striker who could bag goals so many different ways.

    • Do yourself a favor and check out his stat page on MLS. I know he was injured but the way his numbers have bounced back is nothing short of stupendous.
      .
      edit: he’s on par to have his best season yet http://www.mlssoccer.com/players/chris-pontius

      • Jim Presti says:

        Pontius is having a rebirth. With 10 games left plus potential post-season appearences

      • The Insurmountable Hill says:

        What’s equally note worthy is that his conversion rate and shot accuracy are both higher compared to 2012.

        Give the man “Best Comeback Player OTY.”

    • The Little Fish says:

      +1
      —–

      ….and don’t forget Alberg. He too reminds me of Ruiz.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    La pausa. The great missing ingredient in MLS.
    .
    Maybe Alejandro can bring us more than just a metronome…. but the space between notes as well~
    .
    ~ then hammer on that G string…. let it sing too.

  3. John P O'Donnell says:

    Interesting press conference. The questions were on point and it seemed like there were quite a few people in the room. Hmm

    • If this club starts (continues?) winning, I suspect there will be a noticeable uptick in interest from casual fans and so-called euro snobs. The area is starving for a sports team to be successful. Now is the perfect time to get notice and put more butts in seats.

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