Jim Curtin gave about 25 minutes to the media on Thursday and we put together a transcript of all of that, just for you! As always questions are in bold and were asked by the usual suspects. Coach Curtin’s answers are in regular type.
Good game against Orlando, three periods of 45 minutes. We talked in the pregame meal about being more decisive near goal... I think we completed something like 600 passes which is absurd for us to be honest, but in those 600 passes how many chances did we create? Not enough. We scored three pretty good goals. Our first goal was our best goal, really nice team goal that lead to a Jay Simpson tap in. Overall against Orlando guys that stood out (Alejandro) Bedoya, saw him and Haris paired well and really put a stamp on the game. Haris got 45 minutes in with the guys for the first time and he was very, very impressive in the game. Also thought Ray Gaddis has really been pushing and has had a great preseason. Still a lot we can work on. Some updates on some guys: Mo stayed back in Philly to get more one on one treatment. Yaro is in the early stages of rehab and that seems to be going well.
What did you see on the defensive side of the ball from the scrimmage (against OCSC)?:
Yeah so I think we’re doing well at limiting chances and the goals we give up. It’s not streamed for everyone to see which is unfortunate, it’s 2017, but I digress. Goal we gave up off a throw in, which is unfortunate, 45th minute so I think there was some fatigue but at that point the alarm bells have to go off. Second goal was a tackle at midfield and a shot from midfield about 30 yards out that fooled (John) McCarthy. Didn’t do great on it to be honest then the third one John mis-kicked the ball, head ref called offsides, side ref over-ruled him, chaos in a very MLS way. Things we have to clean up especially since the margin of error now in MLS is so small you can’t gift goals and we did that yesterday. As good as the performance was with the ball and being decisive it was silly mistakes. We were good as a group and our lines were tight. Still things to work on. That was the long answer for ‘things to work on’.
Are you definitely going to go with Bedoya and Haris at the 8 or is that a work in progress?
Well yesterday Haris played more at the 6 and Bedoya at the 8 and they play well together. I roomed them together on the trip and you can tell they like each other. Really good players can recognize really good players and they feed off each other. Obviously Ale is capable of playing the 10 and you have guys like Creavalle and Jones who are pushing for minutes. Haris gets forward really well too, played four or five balls that almost lead to goals. He’s almost like an offensive number 6 which sounds crazy but his range of passing is unique, it’s special and it was on display. Comments from the Orlando staff too was “who is that guy?”. Going forward though we are still looking at finding the best partnership.
What do you expect in terms of mass minutes from people and substitutions (in Tampa Bay)?
Yeah so this week we had a group go 75 minutes and another go 60 so you’ll see a lot of our top guys out on the field and we’ll continue to push minutes. Need to work on things, how we press, defensive tendencies. We know Tampa is a strong team, have a center back that I think highly of in Damion Lowe and Leo Fernandes is there as well so some familiar faces it’ll be a great game for us. Tampa has done a good job of putting on this competition it’s been a couple of years now we’ve been involved in it. Really prepares you the best it can for MLS competition. We’re going to field a strong team out there and manage it in a way that will get us prepared for Vancouver.
As you work with Onyewu and Trusty at the start of the season, factor in U20 and turf in Vancouver being Onyewu’s intro to MLS
Yeah there’s a few variables there. Obviously we want to put out the best line up to win. Right now Gooch has separated himself as a starter, has been very good in the games and he’s worked very hard. Auston is in a unique situation where selfishly I want him here with us but he’s doing great things there as well. We got a little lucky with Derrick Jones where we are able to see him in training every day. Auston won’t be punished or anything for being away it’s just that I don’t always have eyes on him now that he’s away in Costa Rica. For us it’s a bit hard to try and piece together a lineup if we can’t see all of our players at the same time. We’re excited for Auston. He’s one for the future and we think he has a long career ahead of him. His career is moving in the right direction for sure. Gooch and Richie (Marquez) have been playing well together and I should say that Jack Elliot has really been stepping up his game and is passing really well. I’m confident in the group of players we have right now. Still a couple more games in preseason to figure out what the best lineup for Vancouver is.
Mentioned Mo being back in Philly, any update on timeline?
Yeah again obviously I want him back as quick as possible. We had him in Florida for the first phase. We had him on the treadmill where there’s no weight on him and he handled it well. It’ll depend on his progress when he’s back training with us. I hope that’s soon but no specific timeline for it. I’ll be transparent and let you know when that is because I’m really excited to get him back too. We have a really strong group. The team looks great on paper, which again, nothing is won on paper but it’s a group I think our fans are going to really enjoy watching. No exact timeline but it’s been awhile and it’s been awhile for him. I think he really wants to get out there. He’ll join us when he’s physically able.
Last preseason you experimented more with the 6 and the 8 if you have two guys in possession but that aren’t great at tackling is that something you’re willing to try or do you need that general in there?
That’s a fair question and that’s something we have to look at. If it’s Ale and Haris you could say they’re two 8’s. Especially on the road in this league where you want to control the ball but it usually isn’t the case. On the road does it make more sense to have a ball winner like a Creavalle or Jones or Edu in there? I think that’s something you can see but again it’s evolving. I think I’m leaning towards that in the Tampa game. Putting Ale in the 10 and having a ball controlling type in the game next to Haris. We have to decide the best combo and the best combo on how to close out games, how do we close out when we are up a goal with 15 minutes left? What does that look like? Is that when you put in a ball winner type? That’s something we will work out the last three games before it’s for real in Vancouver.
Can you talk a little bit about the personnel change in midfield and how the midfield presses?
Our pressure always starts with the front three. We have cues so any negative pass we encourage our guys to press. I think last year we got a little bit too stretched with our center backs having to cover too much space. That might get magnified at times now with two guys who are offensive minded so we have been trying to keep the gaps even smaller. The gaps between your defenders and midfield and midfield to attackers are even smaller. We are trying to make sure everyone moves together and when we attack everyone attacks and when we defend, everyone defends. Obviously the best defense is having the ball and we believe in the philosophically. I think we’ve upgraded in that situation so the breakaways and silly giveaways should be down from last year. While having the ball is better, you will still have moments where you have to defend. Ale’s work rate is incredible. With Haris his defense probably isn’t his strongest area, he’s a passer, I can say with confidence already that he’s the best passer I’ve been around. He can break up plays, he’s 6’3 so he’s a real physical presence. We have to be good about using everyone’s best skill set. You got me going there, that was a long one.
With Quillo leaving is there anyone who has separated themselves as the free kick taker around goal this year?
There’s going to be fights over those for sure. Tranquillo, you can’t replace a guy like Tranquillo. He’s a volume and a running number 10. We don’t have a guy like that right now. Roland is a guy that does it more with a free kick or a final pass. Free kicks we’ve worked on a lot. Roland can hit them, Haris can hit them, Bedoya can hit them. I’ll let them sort it out for now but in games we’ll have set plays. We have a lot of guys that can serve balls.
Any update on the third goalkeeper?
Nothing right now, trying to get it figured out as soon as possible. We’re working hard right now and it’s our last decision to make really.
Chris Nanco not on the travel roster, is he still in the picture with Bethlehem?
Chris is a guy that we want under our umbrella. He’s been offered a Steel FC contract and it’s something that he’s currently thinking over. We really think he has a great future and a long career ahead of him but he’s still deciding that right now.
Thoughts from one of the longer press conferences of the year so far? Let us know in the comments.