Press Conference

Jim Curtin’s midweek presser: Tribbett, Edu, Ilsinho, Kratz updates; can Jozy be stopped?

Jim Curtin’s opening statement

Just to reflect back on Portland, obviously a tough road environment to play in. One where they’re a very strong team. Thought we had a good performance, gave a very good effort, especially in the first half. Disappointed with how we started the second half. We watched the tape, we have some things we need to fix, but for the most part, just errors in the wide areas and we got punished for them by a good team. Conversely, we had plenty of opportunities to get goals. We came up a little short, obviously Chris [Pontius] makes a good play on the one and gets a goal off of Fabian [Herbers]’ effort. But squandered a few opportunities to punish them in transitions especially. And again, still happy with the performance. We have a group that’s training really well right now, pushing things each day. The good news is that we’ve earned all 41 points, none of them have been given to us. Would we like to have a couple more? Absolutely. But at the same time we’ve set ourselves up in a very good position right now. We control our out destiny. That’s a good position to be in. So again, we recognize two difficult road games coming. Then two at home to finish the season. We want to take as many points as possible along the way.

Huge opportunity for Tribbett this weekend. What do you want to see from him?

Good opportunity for redemption. Ken’s a guy we’ve leaned on heavily this year. He’s had a lot of great games for us. Obviously, it’s no secret the Toronto game was a difficult one for him. A lot of the instances where we gave up chances last time against Toronto were actually off of balls in our attacking half of the field that were turned over quickly and there was a second ball that was bouncing and we fell asleep for a split second. And I think Ken learned from that game. Because in the critical moments — you talk about critical moments — we fell asleep and came up short against Portland, in that Toronto game, I’d say it was similar. We were playing with them, we bounced back and Ken actually scored a great goal and it felt like we had some momentum going. But it’s just a lesson in how quickly these top players can punish you. It was Giovinco on that day. But, again, now it’s going to be a hot Jozy [Altidore], possibly Giovinco, we’re preparing for him if he plays. But Ken is a guy who is confident. He plays the same way. We’re going to encourage him to still pass out of the back, in moments when he needs to be direct, be direct. He’s great in the air. He’ll win his battles, and it’s a game where we know we’ll get a good performance from Ken bouncing back.

Speaking of bouncing back, talk about Keegan Rosenberry after a tough night in Portland. 

Again, it’s a young back line that’s learning each week. In a lot of ways you have to, almost like a defensive back in football, you have to have a short-term memory. There’s going to be plays where you make mistakes and you get beat, and it’s how you respond. You’re only as good as the next play. That’s been the message for the young back line.

Josh [Yaro], I think wrongfully gets sent off in the game. But still, he can be smarter about how he goes into that second tackle. So again, little things you can learn. Because he actually has possession of the ball and winds up losing it. Even though the first yellow is a mistake, there’s little things you can learn in every instance, especially for young defenders. We’ve committed to playing them. We’re not going to all of a sudden scrap it and completely change it because 30 games have gone well and we lose 2-1 against the defending champs. We have belief in our young players, we have belief in your senior players, and we’re going to need everybody performing to just have a good game. That’s been the message. Just have a good game. You don’t have to be great. We are a true team, in that if a couple guys have an off-day, we get punished. We’re not a team that’s going to be bailed out by a guy that’s making $8 million if we have an off-night. So everybody has to be bought in, everybody has to be performing well, and just doing their job. And that’s been the message all week, and it applies to our young defenders, and Keegan would fall into that category.

He seems to be a confident guy who won’t be too set back by this…

I would agree. I don’t think he gets too rattled. I don’t think he gets too high or too low. Which is a good quality in a player, that you want. It’s one you want to pass through the entire team. There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs, but he’s been a guy whether he’s playing against the top players in the big games — against the Galaxy, for example — or maybe it’s against maybe a team that’s not as good, he tends to have pretty consistent performances. This one was kind of an outlier, but it was really two plays. Because he actually had some moments even in the Portland game, getting forward, setting guys up, good crosses to Chris Pontius.

Again, you have to have a short-term memory. Those two plays are gone, you’ll never get them back now, but you have to learn from them.

CJ Sapong had a great look. Did you feel like he got more opportunities?

I think he was busy on the day. We had some interchange where we showed a look after 15 minutes where Herbers was up high, and it gave a bit of a different look, so that was a good thing. Just so CJ is not always the one with two center backs hanging off of him. Busy, active, obviously you’d love for him to get a goal, that’s what he wants to do as well. A little bit unlucky in that instance. But still the attacking group created chances. Obviously Chris gets a good goal for us but I thought all three worked very hard, got on the end of things, and were dangerous on the night. But obviously would love for CJ to get that goal and get that behind him.

Is this a time when rest might help CJ? Are you considering that?

He brings a lot of things to our team. It’s a little deceptive, one shot on target… I guess if you take that as a snapshot and you don’t look any deeper… he still is creating chances. I don’t even think Gleeson saved that one, I think it went off the post, so I don’t even think it counts as a shot on target. So the one off the post doesn’t count. If that goes in everybody’s happy, and there’s no questions.

But it’s a fine line. The margins in our league are very small. He’s still a forward that I very much believe in. A guy that brings a lot of intangibles to each game, a big part of our success and one that we know will get going and get goals. Even if he doesn’t get goals, he’s going to contribute and make everybody else’s job easier around him.

To answer the question, I’m still very much a believer in CJ and what he’s all about.

It also looked like Chris and CJ switched in the second half. 

Chris did that one kind of on his own. That was one that was just a little bit fluid. I think Chris actually found some good spots up there by himself, that’s something he can do. But that wasn’t one where I instructed. I trust that front three to have some interchange. We talked about it during the week, but that one organically happened during the game. And it was for 8-10 minutes, here or there. And it was a situation where we’re behind, we’re chasing the game. And sometimes if Herbers goes on a long run, or CJ goes, vice versa, and Chris finds himself in the middle we’re OK with that for a brief time. Ideally we’d like to keep our preferred shape though.

Have you thought about 4-4-2?

Listen, you’d like… Charlie’s obviously coming back from the cancer and gaining fitness, each and every week he’s looking sharper and stronger and has more of a bounce in his step. With Fabian playing well, with CJ being that guy that holds balls up would it make sense to add a second forward? You could consider it. We don’t want to get too drastic now. We’ve gone through 30 games of one system. We don’t want to all of a sudden completely change. Is it something you could see if we’re down a goal and chasing the game? I think you could see a second striker in there.

Fabian tends to play a little bit like that anyway. And he had a little unfortunate time when he gets in 1-on-1 with Gleeson and the ol’ turf monster gets him and he loses his footing, so he’s trying to get up there and help CJ and be close, so it can happen in the run of play. But we’re still a 4-2-3-1 team. If it does need to change to chase a goal, we’ll make adjustments accordingly. But we believe in the system that we’ve had. We’ve had success. It’s something that’s going to push us through the next few games here and hopefully into the playoffs.

Maurice Edu updates?

He had a good 60 minutes against Bethlehem, Again, it’s not an injury where he missed a couple weeks and then he gets some minutes and he’s right back in there. Had a good talk with him this morning. The hope would be to bring him to Toronto. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes. He’s looked good in training. The data would show, in training, he doesn’t quite cover the ground we’d like him to just yet. But I think the adrenaline of the first time back in MLS, and the action that you get, and the boost that you might get from that, I think he has it in him. He’s a guy who would rise to the moment, he’s experienced. Certainly up for selection in Toronto, but we’ll have to make the appropriate decision knowing that Warren [Creavalle] and B[rian] C[arroll] have done a good job as well. So still a decision to be made, still a little early in the week. But it’s trending toward him starting to play a role in our 18 as opposed to starting for Bethlehem.

Could be play in defense?

He’s done that in an emergency situation. It’s crossed my mind. I’d like him to play at the six role, that’s the ideal role we’ve had for him. Everybody has a plan until there’s a mistaken red card. That’s something he could do in a pinch. Not ideally where we’d want to play him. But in an emergency situation, Mo would be a guy that I think has done that and can do that job. But it would be an emergency.

Do you see Altidore playing any different without Giovinco?

First of all, he’s on fire right now. Everything he’s touching is going in. Whether it’s from free kicks, whether it’s in the box, whether it’s from distance. He’s strong, he’s confident, he’s a top American forward. He’s our top guy. And when he’s scoring goals he’s tough to stop. What you don’t want to do with Jozy is get into a shoving match because he’ll man-handle you, similar to what he did to us here.

You want to bump him early, give him a little bit of space. He’s not a guy that loves to get on the ball, turn, dribble, and beat three guys. That’s not his game. He’s a guy that does his damage in the box. You gotta be smart about not fouling him around the box because you saw him take a free kick this weekend. Confident strikers are difficult to deal with and he’s at the top of the list right now. If Giovinco comes into the mix too that’s as potent as it gets. Those two complement each other very well. A real handful, and a big reason why Toronto is at the top of the east. They’re almost unstoppable when they’re on, when they want to be on. It’ll be a real challenge for us. We’ll have to be smart. Can’t fall asleep for a second with both of them. Jozy’s form is very good right now.

Was Barnetta getting a break today?

Yeah, him and [Portland striker Fanendo] Adi had a collision where they banged knees. There was no twist or anything like that, but there is some swelling in the knee. But it’s mostly precautionary. He’s a guy who, at this point in the year, I want him out in training every day. But he knows his body well enough. The doctors are going to look at it, probably get a picture of it now that there is some swelling, but I don’t expect him to miss the weekend. I’m optimistic in that regard. But a day when we decided it was safer to stay inside and be with the doctors.

And Josh Yaro? 

Yeah, Josh had a little bit of a concussion from the game, if you remember. So we’re evaluating that as well. Obviously with the red card, not as big of a loss. But still like to have him training each and every day. So he’s out with that and they’re just going through the protocol on that end.

Will you appeal the red?

Can’t appeal it. Unfortunately, you can’t appeal the first yellow card. Which I don’t understand, but you can’t.

What kind of changes happen with Yaro out?

The changes are never — I won’t say never — but they usually aren’t for choice. It’s more whether it’s performance or injury or absence for a different reason. They have both had really good games and really good moments. I thought Josh had a really good game in Portland. Was just unfortunate to get sent off on a mistaken first yellow card. But it’s part of the game. I think he’s learned from each and every game he’s been in. He’s had a good season. You’d like more continuity. They’re a already young, so you’d like to have more consistency. But again, it’s also good because they’ve both played in a lot of games for us this year. They’ve both dealt with a lot of the top strikers. I think it’s good. All these minutes and using all these different lineups that we’ve had to go to, it pays off in the big moments now. Because it’s not a big deal for Ken to step in in Josh’s absence, and conversely I’d be completely comfortable with Josh jumping right back in. You can also talk about a Ray Gaddis who can help.

It’s good. We have a bunch of guys who have played minutes, and have done a good job. Ilsinho’s getting closer. So again a group that’s strong and it’s a good issue that we’ve played a lot of different guys a lot of minutes.

How did you end up signing Kevin Kratz and will he have an impact this season?

Kevin’s a quality midfielder. Can play a bunch of different roles for us. We just saw him as… we had a roster spot. we had flexibility. A guy who has been in big games, has a ton of experience. In the case of an emergency, of an injury, we have BC with the foot, you have Creavalle with a knee that’s not quite 100%, you have Mo coming back. So that was an area of the field we wanted to address in case there’s an emergency and some guys go down, to have a body rather than not have a body. It made sense, it was a no-brainer. Kevin is a guy, you see his quality in training. Good range of passing. Good attacking, good defensively, and an intelligent player. Good fit, good piece, and I’m glad to have him on board officially.

When will he be available?

He trained with us last week and now is off getting the P1 visa sorted out, so probably not available for Toronto, for selection, just with the border and travel and that kind of thing. Hopefully all that stuff, that paperwork gets taken care of and then we’ll be sorted out.

Where will he play?

He can play as 6, 8, or 10. He’s very versatile. He’s more of a thinker, he’s intelligent. He’s not a guy who’s 6’4″ and a bruiser and a tackler. He kind of does it by reading the game. Good feet, comfortable on the ball. That decision-making is what we like the best with him. So you’re thinking about if Warren goes down or BC goes down, I’d be very comfortable plugging him into a big game.

What did you think of BC in Portland?

Good. I thought he was solid. First game back in a little while on fast, wet turf is a challenge and I thought he was up for it. You could see a couple instances where him and Ale[jandro Bedoya] had a little bit of indecision just because you’re not used to playing with each other. We had a week of training together, but I thought overall for a first game back was very good. Brian is a guy we’ve leaned heavily on this year. He’s a winner. His longevity and his ability to do it at such a high level — his games played now is, what is he fourth? Fourth all time — is impressive. Speaks for itself. It’s one thing to play for a long time, but to play at the high level that he does is impressive. Great to have him back in the team, I thought it was a great first game back, and we’ll continue to build on it.

How long can Ilsinho go now? 

I say this to Ilsinho all the time. What I want is 90. That’s what we want to get him to is 90 minutes. And I want to let him just go again. I think he started to get a good run of games a month back, and then a little setback with the foot. Again, it’s been very stop-start with Ilsinho. You guys have seen the flashes and it’s frustrating because you want them all the time. You get greedy. And you want it to be something that is going on 100% of the time. But unfortunately right now, he’s not quite at the 90 minute stage to start him. Is he getting closer maybe this week? Possibly. But it’s something that he’s working towards. He has pain. There’s going to be pain with the foot. It’s just a matter of what he can tolerate. But once he’s 100% and ready to go, he’s a starter on this team.

12 Comments

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Curtin on CJ – “He brings a lot of things to our team. It’s a little deceptive, one shot on target… I guess if you take that as a snapshot and you don’t look any deeper… he still is creating chances…”
    .
    Maybe CJ is the whipping boy of the week, and I’m being too hard on him but… is he though? Come on Jim…

    • The only thing I can think of is that Curtin is including the “almost a shot” situations like when Sapong is a half foot from getting on the end of a cross.

      • It’s even more simple than that, I think. Curtin is a lot like Andy Reid in that he’s not going to trash a player to the media. And I’m very OK with that. I’d be shocked if Curtin isn’t getting on C.J.’s back in film study and such about getting on the end of those balls, taking his chances when they’re there, and so forth.
        .
        That said, I do think a game off would be good for C.J.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    …… if you have two OB that like to get wide and push high — in light of the struggles our striker is having why would you not stick Herbers up top with him and play a diamond midfield…. esp since Herbers seems to like angled runs behind. Shrug. IDK.
    .
    Unless its mandate otherwise.

  3. Does Curtin understand his own team and tactics? Ilsinho is a starter on a team envisioned by the coach as a high press win-the-ball-back team? Huh? That’s dumb. And could someone ask him to articulate why in the world he can’t start 2 strikers? I don’t care what the formation is… just saying “we’re a 4-2-3-1team” doesn’t cut it coach. Seems like Pontius and CJ changed formation and/or positions on their own, so maybe we don’t need a coach? Or maybe Pontius should be the coach? Or maybe someone with actual head coaching experience and know-how?

    • Or maybe they were directed to switch positions like the coach had talked about the week prior… I’m sorry, all commentary by you on Curtin should be thrown out because you have literally only appeared when the team loses to bash him. It’s tired.

    • The only problem I have with this is the 2 strikers thing. It’s not just us. Literally the entire soccer world has moved away from 2 strikers for now. Im not sure why people keep calling for it.

      • I agree. Although I think the idea is that Sapong gets isolated (which is true) and to fix that we just need to add another striker (not true). It’s really just the spacing between the lines (the cbs are too deep) and especially the spacing in the midfield. As for goal scoring, well we really have 3 strikers on the field already, it’s just that Pontius and Herbers are playing on the wings.

      • You tend to argue well…. nicely done.

  4. This about Edu -“The data would show, in training, he doesn’t quite cover the ground we’d like him to just yet.” could potentially be a big problem.
    .
    Will he ever regain that ground? … age and injury.

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