HEAD COACH CALEB PORTER
On Crew SC’s overall performance
Goals change games in soccer. The percentages are pretty staggering around the world that you either win or draw win you get the first goal. Obviously, it is an important thing to do and it’s great to evolve. First game, we gave up the first goal and it’s great in the last two games to get the first goal and get two clean sheets. I thought without a shadow of a doubt, the first half was our best half in this early season. It was good to see us getting back to playing the way that we want to play and executing on both sides of the ball, we wanted to take the good play box to box, against New York [Red Bulls] where we had a lot of the ball, where we created good chances but we fell short in the boxes. We didn’t execute there but we wanted to mesh that we a good mentality in the defending that we showed verses New England, the opportunistic play in the boxes and I thought in the first half we saw that, the complete identity, that complete approach. Second half could’ve been cleaner, we had several opportunities to get the second goal. We need to continue to work on that – that killer instinct – but all that precision and the decision making in transition, Credit to the guys, they buckled down. We’ve all seen games 1-0 that end up 1-1. I thought our back four was fantastic. Jonah [Jonathan Mensah] and Gasty [Gaston Sauro] were beasts back there, heading things out. You always know at 1-0 there is going to be a push. They’re going to obviously throw numbers forward like they did and in a soccer game you’re going to have to make plays in the box and I thought out guys did and they showed a lot of mental toughness which is key, you have to have to be mentally tough, you have to be able to defend. I was really pleased with the football as well. I was not pleased with our killer instinct in the second half and looking to get the second goal and put the game to bed.
On Crew SC registering another shutout
Everybody credits the goalkeeper or the backs for the clean sheets. Same thing, you always credit the strikers for scoring the goal but it’s a team thing. Our defending starts from the front and we need our striker, Gyasi [Zardes] and Pipa [Higuain] - our 10 - to be that first line of pressure and Wil Trapp obviously, Pedro [Santos] and Robinho. Those two lines of four to be really compact and tight. You saw we let them [FC Dallas] have the ball, we saw on film they [FC Dallas] keep a lot of the ball in the back half and don’t go anywhere with it, so we’re okay with them [FC Dallas] having possession there. We saw that if you start trying to step too much, at the wrong times, they’ll play behind teams and I thought we really managed the defensive side extremely well. We pressed at times, if you saw, when it was on with goal kicks and they played negative but the rest of the game we were very compact and they didn’t break us down. Obviously late, there were a lot of crosses in the box. But yeah, it was a team, it’s always a team. You guys will credit the goalkeeper but I will credit the whole team.
On starting Robinho over Justin Meram
Just my feel, my feel on current form, tactically what we wanted to get out of the game. If you noticed today, we were - we worked on it all week - we were much more effective on creating width on the flanks through our wingers and outside backs. We knew that was going to be an important element in the game, so we trained that all week but then we also felt like a personnel change would help bring that dimension as well. It was part tactical but part just seeing Robinho being lively when he came into the game. Obviously I have the opportunity to watch these guys in training every day and I just thought he was in a good spot. I thought he had a really good game.
On his overall assessment of Crew SC thus far in the season
We need to keep getting better but we can’t lose sight of the fact that results matter and points matter - every game matters. We know what we want to accomplish at the end of the road and to accomplish that we can’t take any games off. But as we're banking points we have to keep getting better and evolving as a team. And like I said, I was happy with certain things against New York - other things I felt needed improvement - I was happy with other things versus New England. We wanted to kind of put the two together a little bit and I thought we did that for sure in the first half, and then I thought the second half we showed some of the same stuff we showed versus New England, which was good sound defending, good mentality and game-management.
On preparing for the Philadelphia Union with several players away on international duty
We’ll keep growing as a team, prepare 20 guys every single day – always, because you never know when you’re going to get an injury. I’ve obviously been in this league and I know you’re going to lose guys to international duty, you’re going to have to rotate. I never lose sight of that, I need everyone. I say that all the time and I’m not shallow in saying that, I mean it. And I tell the guys daily. It’s going to be great, some of these guys deserve to play and I’m excited to give them the opportunity to play and invest in this season inside the lines. Everybody invests every day in the season - the whole squad - not everybody gets to invest in the 90 minutes and putting points in our bank for the end of the year. I’m excited for these guys - guys like Hector [Jimenez] I won’t tell you the others but they’ll have the opportunity to contribute the season.
On the importance of set pieces
Again, there are a lot of dimensions in winning teams and a big part of it is set pieces. You look at the analytics, the amount of percentages in every league in the world and how many goals come off set pieces, it’s typically from 20-30 percent [that] come off set pieces. So that’s a high percentage. So if you’re losing those opportunities to score goals and manufacture goals that way and win games then you’re not going to be as effective and I thought our set piece defending, also, was excellent. We all know, watching this sport, late in the game at 1-0 how many times on a corner kick are you giving up the goal because it’s a wobbly moment? And I thought we were excellent. We were men in those moments and we made plays and we were up for it, and we weren’t nervous, and that was good to see. My assistant coaches contribute a lot on those set pieces as well, so I do want to credit Mike Matkovich, he’s my assistant and he loves set pieces. So he’s working on those every single week with these guys and it’s, you know, it's paying off.
On what’s missing on the attacking side
I don’t think it’s missing, we’re still scoring goals and creating good chances. You can see we're playing clever. I thought Pedro [Santos] was again very good. I mean, he’s playing well right now. He’s contributing and creating chances. I just think it’s our killer instinct to kill games and defend is good, we just need to keep working on being more ruthless. It’s a little bit of a human nature thing that I’ve seen in the sport. When it’s easy, like it was for us in the first half, it was very easy. It was almost as if it was too easy. You know? You take your foot off the pedal a little bit. But we need to look at the film as well and was coaches we need evaluate how can we help them in those moments of transition when we win the ball and we're looking to break into the final third, how can we get those final balls right and those runs right. I thought the decision-making was better today than it was versus New England, where we slowed it down and kept the ball which is important that you’re mindful of that because if you’re always forcing the counter then you’re just going to keep giving the ball back to them, but I almost thought at time we were too slow and we missed some opportunities to put the game to bed and get that second goal and then now the third goal. We'll keep working on that, I’ve always found with teams that that's somewhat of human nature thing. I’ll keep staying on them and we’ll keep as coaches helping them.
On sending messages to players
No, I don’t need to send messages to players because I talk to these guys all the time. Justin [Meram] and I had a good conversation, he was very professional when I told him yesterday I was going to start Robinho. And I told him, again, it was part tactical. Robinho's got a little bit more pace and provides more width and 1v1, at times game-changing. But also, I felt with Justin too, he was playing a little tight. So I’ve seen sometimes it’s good to have a little reset and he took it really well, he understood. I think going off to play for the national team and coming back, I’m confident that he’ll come back and he’ll be kind of a new guy. More than that, I need to reward other players as well and I thought Robinho deserved the start. More than Justin [Meram] didn't deserve it, Robinho deserved it.
On allowing FC Dallas to have the ball
And me understanding the team, this team. This team is very good in that middle block and I think we can be very good countering from that middle block. So when you’re looking at how you can score goals, of course you’re going to score some goals by keeping the ball but again analytics show that rarely you do with long passing sequences. It’s usually through quick transitions or counter-pressure – under five passes – so, that’s why I believe in the style that we’re trying to execute and yet, we’ll push certain phases more than others. And so, looking at their team, we knew they like to have the ball, we were okay with them having it in the back half. We also felt they would eventually pass themselves into a position where we could counter attack them and I thought, overall, we were pretty good there. They didn’t threaten us, we were sound defensively but that was defiantly the reason. We had 50/50 in possession and if you look at the numbers that they [FC Dallas] had in the other games, they had a lot more in the other games. So I think we got right in that sweet spot of how much we wanted to have the ball and how much we were okay with them having the ball, so that transition came into play.
MIDFIELDER WIL TRAPP
On injuries to Crew SC players
It’s just understanding that even though guys are out, it’s the next man up and it’s an important time for us to continue to evolve.
On the group’s progress so far this season
I think we’re in a good moment, certainly, from the fact that we won at home, we got two shutouts in a row, but we want to continue to evolve and continue to push our level. Each game is, ‘how can we improve upon the last one?’ Because every game is the most important game, and that’s the message that’s come from Caleb and I think it’s a good one. I think it’s one that’s centering us and focusing us each game day, and that was today, I think specifically this first half, was excellent.
On getting the win over FC Dallas
They’re a little bit different this year than I would say in the past, but for the most part they’re a technical team that likes to pass the ball and move it, but I thought our defensive shape was excellent, I thought we pressed when we could, we built moments where we could really make it difficult on them. In the first half, like I said, I thought we dominated the ball well in their half and created chances in terms of shifting it from one side to the other, but for us, regardless of the opponent, we want to try to assert ourselves and I think we did a decent job of that today.
On scoring contributions from the whole roster
We know in this league that the more you can score off set pieces the easier the game’s become because they’re just an opportunity to score every time, but when we can execute on those it gives us breathing room in a lot of ways.
On how he felt during his first start
I feel very happy. I was happy because I’ve gotten the opportunity and I think I did a good job. I think I went out there and made the most of the opportunity, so just happy overall.
On what Head Coach Caleb Porter thought he could bring to the table
He told me that I needed to think about what I had to do before making decisions and I think he basically trained me well before I went out there.
On helping the team get the win today
Happy overall, I mean I’m here to help the team, so I feel happy that I was able to help the team. Just happy overall.
On his transition to Crew SC
I mean it has helped to have players that speak Portuguese, not just Pedro [Santos] and Artur, but also Carlos and Federico who speak Spanish and speak Portuguese. So it has made it optimal for me to adapt to the team.