Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Obviously, after a run of good results and good performances, we had a little bit of a letdown in Chicago. Difficult and disappointing to give up three goals. If you watch the tape back several time as we have, we had good opportunities to score; didn’t take our chances. A little bit of a strange game in a lot of ways, never really recovered from the own goal. Pushed the tempo a bit to try to get an equalizer and got caught on the counter. We’ll move on from Chicago and look forward to a difficult game against Montreal. We know they play tonight, so obviously we’ll have eyes on that and a good opportunity at home to bounce back with a group that I know is playing very well and just had a one-off, disappointing result with Chicago.

What did you see with the own goal?

You have an instance where…We talked about [Matt] Polster, who makes little bit of deep runs, likes to get himself into the box. So, I thought we were — if you rewind it all the back to the throw in part of it — we’re a little bit lax in allowing an easy throw in, and you can kind of see things develop and Polster starts to creep in from deep and Roland [Alberg’s] with him, then he’s not with him, and then he tries to make a last ditch effort. Actually makes a decent attempt to make a tackle and just comes out on the wrong end of it. So, a lot of things could’ve been done to prevent it. I think the center backs — again, I’m always critical of them — they can do a better job of recognizing that there is a deep run coming. Roland can do a better job tracking. But, again, it’s a team effort and, if you rewind further, the easy way they were able to get the ball back into play, we could have prevented that a little more. So, disappointing. Again, a little fluky on the own goal, the way it goes in, it was tough. But, Sean Johnson has a good night, too, and prevents us from getting a goal and, for whatever reason, we’ve had some difficult luck in Chicago lately.

How do you assess Roland Alberg’s performance in the loss in Chicago?

We didn’t get him on the ball enough. Again, he’s a guy who needs to be on the ball if he’s in the game. There’s different areas of the field that we like to have him deciding the tempo of the game and I think we came up a little short in terms of feeding him the ball between the lines. Part of that’s on our guys, and part of that’s on Roland, too. So, again, finding that balance of where do you move. Chicago did do a good job of dropping deep and kind of clogging the middle in their defensive half, which they had nine guys behind the ball at all times. So, was there a way maybe we could’ve drew them, made them come out of their shell and maybe Roland maybe moves a little bit to the right or the left just to give different looks. It happened a couple of times but maybe not enough consistently. You know, with Alejandro [Bedoya] leaving we had to juggle some things. We talked about maybe being conservative and playing two defensive guys. I think BC [Brian Carroll] fitness wise it would have been a stretch to ask him to do that so we went with the aggressive, attack minded lineup and, you know, we didn’t get our goals. I think the first goal in that game was going to be big, and we didn’t get it. From there we were chasing a bit, and that was difficult. But, I still believe we’re a team that’s going to be aggressive on the road, and with that comes putting your defenders in tough situations on counter attacks, and you’re going to give up some goals. So, we’re happy with the chances we create, we create a ton, we’ve done well in terms of scoring goals. But, in those moments though where we are chasing the game and we are pressing teams high, can we do a little better in the big, key moments and not concede as many goals.

Where do you see Maurice Edu’s status right now after playing his first minutes this weekend with Bethlehem Steel?

It’s one of those things, I told him before the game even kicked off in Bethlehem, “I don’t care how you play, I’m not going to judge you from the standpoint of how you could’ve played this ball with your left foot into this space.” I wanted it for his confidence. And to get back out there after such a long layoff — it’s not a two to three week thing where now you’re saying you want them to be sharp on the ball, as well. It’s been so long that training is one thing, and he’s shown that he can go through the training moments, no problem. I just wanted him to be on the field. Again, I was not concerned with technically how he played and his decisions on the ball, I was most concerned with just the act of him walking out there with eleven guys, with a crowd, in a pro game. So, from that standpoint, he passed all the things that I wanted out of the first game. Now, as we start to move to the next one, we want a little more, and a little more sharpness on the ball, getting the ball in the six spot and starting our attack, and we’ll look more at that part of things.

But, as an initial first step, we wanted 30 minutes. I told Brendan Burke to keep it at a hard 30 minutes, I think Mo tried to look him off a couple of times and ignore him, but we finally got him at the 33rd minute. But, happy with him and his performance, to be back out there felt good to him. Now we want him to get a little sharper each time as we go and, obviously, the goal being back integrated with the first team.

Is it too early to expect him to get game minutes with the first team on Saturday?

Yeah, that’s safe to say. Yeah. We’re not going to rush him back now [and] instantly put him with the first team. That’s the first 30 minutes that he’s played now in almost eight or nine months so we want to be smart with how we handle that. He’s a great player, he’s an important part of this thing, but we don’t want it to be something where we throw him back out and, you know, God forbid, someone goes down early with an injury and I’m forced to throw Mo out there before it makes sense. So, we’ll still manage it in an intelligent way but, again, Mo is a big part of this team and we want him to play a role down the stretch.

How is he handling not being with the first team, is he frustrated? 

No, he’s got a smile on his face, we had a good talk. You know, when you’re injured, it’s a lonely, lonely feeling, it’s a lonely existence; until you go through it, it’s a unique one to explain. You know, you have a lot of people that are giving you advice on how to handle it, and different things and, at the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows exactly where you’re at, and where your body is. Again, there’s going to be soreness, it’s going to be a little bit of pain, it’s going to feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s natural. And, if you actually ask every guy in our locker room right now, at this point of the year everybody has a little soreness and pain, too. So, we’re excited to take that first step with Mo. He has a real positive outlook. Again, it can be hard; I think there were some down days during the course of this whole process. But, right now, I’d say he’s in good spirits and anxious to get back out on the field and play in another game with Bethlehem.

Looking ahead to the playoffs, how important is it to finish the season second, third, or fourth place rather than fifth or sixth place?

For me, it’s no secret: You don’t want to just get in at the six or five spot because you put almost nine or ten months of work together to have, all the sudden, get thrown out there on a Wednesday and it can be over in a second on the road. That’s not what we want to work towards. Again, I think we have the quality in our team, and the belief in our team, that we need to push for those top spots because the value of a bye is incredible in our league. The value of home field in our league is more so than any pro sport that there is right now. The data actually shows that, that the teams that are at home in our league, in MLS — do I know exactly why this is? No — but it is a true home-field advantage. To get that one, two obviously is the goal, but, worst case, three, four is critical because you want to play a home game. And that one-off game too, it is do or die, and you don’t want to work for nine months to have to go on the road to — insert Montreal, or wherever — and have it be over on a Wednesday. That would be a pretty tough way to end it, and guys have worked too hard to allow that to happen. We do have a tough schedule; I think everybody now looks at their schedule down the stretch and goes, “Ooh, everybody needs points, everybody’s fighting, every game looks tough.” You can look a t different data and metrics, and there’s good websites now that keep track of the percentages, and who’s playing who, and how everyone cannabalizes each other, and not everyone can take full points when you’re playing each other. So, it is going to be down to the wire. We know, as it sits right now, we could still finish anywhere from one probably through eight, so there’s still a lot of points out there to fight for. We’ve accomplished…Listen, we’ve had a good year so far, but the last six games are what’s going to measure whether people call our year good or if people call our year great. And we want to be great, we don’t want to be just a mediocre team. So, a lot to still play for. It starts at home against Montreal, who is a good team, who is right below us in the standings, and it’ll be a real fight.

Is the turf field in Portland something that you factor in with Edu seeing minutes with his injury?

Yeah, I mean, no one likes turf, right? I think that that’s clear. I’m not a guy, though, that likes to say absolutely not because of the surface. So, it’s in our minds but, at the same time, if Mo tells us he feels good, then we would have no hesitation, turf or grass. And, again, Portland actually is one of the better turf surfaces in the league. So, yeah, it does weigh in but, again, it’s not the decision, it’s not one of those situations where some of the older players that won’t play on turf, Mo’s not in that category.

On Alejandro Bedoya and Andre Blake rejoining the team from international duty

We’ll have Alejandro and Andre back tomorrow with us. Great to get them back, two players that played very well for their national teams, contributed in big ways, and great to have them, obviously, represent the Union badge, which is critical, and great for us. And now to have them back coming into the team makes us a lot stronger. And, again, it’s good in a lot of ways for Alejandro to get these international games as he’s still kind of in his preseason, you know, in a lot of ways. I gave him a lot of minutes probably faster than I wanted to, and now Jurgen [Klinsmann] gave him a good 60 and then 60-plus. So, I think it’s very good for his fitness and we’re excited to get him back, and Dre. Goalkeepers are a little more different, are a little more unique in that…Yeah, I don’t know what their transition’s like so I won’t even speak to that, because goalkeepers are different [laughs].

When will Josh Yaro return to the team?

Josh is back with the group. Again, it’s always difficult to lose a loved one, there’s things that are bigger than soccer, for sure, and Josh needed to go home, and I fully support that and I agree with it. Again, I’d be pretty selfish if I said, you know, “But you’re playing so good and I want you here.” That’s, again, family members for me, family comes first. We like to think that we are the players’ second family, and one that they’re comfortable around, so it was great for him to get away, have time to celebrate his mother, and now he’s back with the team. He did a regen with the group just because he had a long flight, he just got in yesterday. He’s excited and anxious to go. Had a smile on his face and seemed refreshed, and I think his mind is clear. Again, you’re talking about a kid with quite a mentality in that when we played…it was against Crystal Palace, he told me at halftime that his mother had passed. So, again, a guy who puts the game, values the importance of the game. I actually was disappointed with him and told him, “Josh, you have to be comfortable enough to come to me and tell me before,” and he had the mindset and approach that, in his own way, that was a way of keeping his head clear. So, again, different players handle things differently, and I’d say he has a really strong mentality and is a great kid, first and foremost, and we wanted to be there for him at the time of his mother’s passing. I think he is anxious, though, to be back with his team and family here, and get back on the field.

On Montreal Impact, and Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti

Whew. Those are two guys that…Again, Drogba is a world-class player. He scores goals at every level, has done it for a very long time, is a guy when his team needs a goal down the stretch and in the biggest moments, he’s done it. He’s taken PKs to win Champions League finals, not many guys can say that. So, nothing fazes guys like that. Again, another one who you think, “Man, these superstars that are bigger than the game.” You can see him in the tunnel before you go out and he’s as nice to our players, and respectful to our coaches; so he’s a world class player from what I’ve gathered in the short conversations that I’ve had [who is] a great person. A tough task for any center back to deal with.

Piatti for me — along with [Sebastian] Giovinco — I’d put Piatti, Giovinco, and [David] Villa as the top three guys right now in our league in terms of form and difficulty in shutting down. I’ll throw Sacha [Kljestan] in there too just because he’s a friend. I would say that those guys are very tough to shut down, [it] takes multiple guys being tuned in. When they get one-v-one they can break you down, they can score a goal. Piatti is a handful, he’s a real handful.

We took it on the chin in Montreal last time we were there and those two were the reason. They punished us. So, we have that in the back of our mind. We know we played on a Wednesday before that game and maybe didn’t have a true showing of what we’re all about. Fortunately for us, this time they play on Wednesday, and we’ll look to have the same mentality and get after them on our home field. Again, a good team that’ll be a difficult task for us. But it starts with those two guys.

Comment on the Alejandro Bedoya-Eric Wynalda Twitter exchange earlier on Wednesday

Yeah, I mean, listen, two guys that have strong opinions. Alejandro is a grown man, he can say and speak what he wants and, again, I most concerned with Chicago — oh, excuse me, Chicago — with Montreal coming up. So, again, yeah, there’s different things that go on in the Twitter universe, not many of them wind up being too positive for pro athletes, but, again, I’m not a babysitter. Alejandro’s a guy who speaks his mind and I respect that. I’m a guy who thinks you should have freedom of speech and what was said between him and Eric is between him and Eric; unfortunately, I guess it’s not [laughs] but, at the same time, yeah, it’s between the two of them and, at the same time,my biggest focus is Montreal, getting the team ready; Alejandro does play a big role in that. I don’t think it is a big distraction for him, he’s a guy who is a true professional. Again, I think he’s already over it and moved on to the next day, as he would put it, and we look forward to getting him back tomorrow. I saw we made Deadspin again, so I guess the no such thing as bad publicity.

Is there an internal policy at the club concerning social media?

Yeah, we do. We’ll have a good discussion [laughs].

What kind of style do you expect from Montreal, knowing that they can play attacking soccer, and also play shutdown and use the counter as they recently did in the win over Toronto?

I would say, if you rewind back to the game in Montreal, we let that get too open and end to end. And, listen, if it gets wide open and end to end. Piatti and Drogba are going to beat most teams. That’s the facts. So, we don’t want a track meet. We also are a good team on the counter, we can hit them on the break, but we don’t want it to turn into this wild, scoring shoot out because they have guys that can make the plays in a wide-open game. Again, in this league, though, you have to be able to win multiple ways. They have shown that they can do that. They’ve had some big wins recently, they’ve had some disappointing loses. So, much like every team in MLS they’re still finding different ways to [win] and their best lineup to put out. Again, I think the fact that they play Wednesday does lead me to think that they will be more in the mode of of how they handled away at Toronto where they sit, which is dangerous too. For us to break down a team that’s sitting in deep is always a challenge; we need to be patient, we need to move the ball side to side quickly so that some seams and holes open up to get our key guys on the ball. It’ll be a bit of a cat and mouse. Montreal does rotate their squad a bit so, off of Wednesday games they do change quite a bit often, so they could have fresh legs and I could be wrong in my assumption that they will sit a little deeper, but we’ll have to be prepared for either. We worked on it today on both sides of it, working on quick decision making on the counterattack but also we worked on trying to break a team down when they pick up at midfield, which is more difficult, to be honest. So, we’ll see. We’ll be ready for both but, yeah, it’ll be a bit of cat and mouse. Montreal’s a good team and they’re well coached. We need to be able to break them down one way or the other, whether they high press or sit back.

4 Comments

  1. Looks like Montreal will be using a backup keeper after Bush got a red card tonight. I was hoping Drogba would pick up a yellow since he is one away from suspension, but unfortunately he did not.

    • That was a weird game. Howler by Bendik within the first minute – equalized by the third minute – uncharacteristic turnover by Ciman leads to goal – red to Bush early in second and Kaka converts PK – PK given for Mateos bump and Drogba’s half-a’d attempt saved – Bush’s replacement, Kronberg, gives up a late goal at a poor angle

      • It was a crazy match. MTL really should have gotten a draw with all of those chances while being down a man.

        It also had one of my favorite plays in soccer…the indirect free kick inside the box. This one was from the six and MTL still didn’t score. Forced me to find the clip of Marfan scoring on the same type of play vs Chivas years ago.

      • I remember the goal thinking the look on his face was as if he had no idea what he was going to do…… then Kaboom.
        .
        Great shot. Easier said than done.

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