HEAD COACH CALEB PORTER
On whether Crew SC got the start he was looking for
Yeah and that’s really the main part - that you can evaluate other than just the year. The win and the tangible qualities that you need in a crazy end of a game like that, where it’s not really a soccer game. But when you look at the period of play where it was a soccer game, the start of the match, we were the better team and we came out flying. We scored a great goal early in the match and I thought we showed the team we could be and that was great to see. We came out aggressive, we came out on the front foot and we came out and played our game. It looked like the identity we want to be. Now we need to clone those 20 minutes and you know I would say even the end of the half too. We jumped on them there at the end and got the second goal too so really a first half overall, I was very pleased with and we need to continue that.
On what allowed for so many chances tonight
Really, I just think we built off of Dallas. If you look at the Dallas game and you look at the evolution of our team to that point, it’s easy to forget because of the Philly game, but I thought we were really good in that game. Of course, we can still be better, but we wanted to build off of that game. We had our whole group back and I think we did build off that game and you saw that extra level and that extra gear we have in us, so we’ll keep building the layers in our team game after game.
On having had a rainy season in Portland, and the last time seeing conditions like tonight
It’s pretty much [rainy] all year round. Well we’ve had quite a few games like this in Portland. A lot of our matches were rainy, so it didn’t faze me at all. The difference was we had a grass pitch here and in Portland it’s a turf pitch. So certainly, that impacted the game. It was a difficult second half. Neither team could really pass the ball and I think that’s why you didn’t’ see any more goals in the match. Although we should’ve scored the third goal.
On playing in inclement weather tonight
That’s the reality of our sport. You have to play through the conditions and I haven’t probably been in a game with conditions like this, I’ll be honest, but we were up 2-0, and you can kind of throw out the second half because there’s not much to really look at, other than again, I thought our mentality was excellent. Even in not getting the third goal – which we should have – there were a couple moments there where, at the end, where maybe they get a goal, and then the last 10 minutes would’ve been like 2-1. Fortunately, these guys didn’t let that happen and I’m real proud of them. I’m proud of their mentality, but I’m most proud of the football they played to start the match. So, we need to build off that and continue off of that moving forward.
On Zack Steffen’s performance tonight coming off of injury
I think when you see the complete group in there, we’ve had a good start to the season. And obviously we had the setback at Philly, and we weren’t happy about that and we talked about responding and making a statement a little bit in this next game playing the past MLS champions. And I think the guys did that. They responded. But I think the best thing we did is we didn’t overreact. We know what’s going to happen outside of our locker room and we stayed process orientated, and we stayed focus on what we needed to do to correct those issues. We kept a steady hand as a staff and we went back to work. We had a great week in training, and the guys are great guys, so we knew they wanted to make it right and you saw that today.
On what he told the team at halftime being up 2-0
It’s tough because our game and their game - we’re both possession teams, passing teams, and you can’t pass. We told them we needed to play direct, and we knew that if we could play direct something might happen and we drew the PK exactly that way: ball behind and it squirts through and Gyasi (Zardes) is in and he gets taken down and that should’ve been 3-0. You don’t need the third goal to win, but it would’ve given me less grey hairs at the end of the game, that’s for sure.
On creating chances in tonight’s match
You see the complete picture when you have the whole group together and I’d be lying if I said that Zack [Steffen], Wil [Trapp], Gyasi [Zardes] and Waylon [Francis] and those [other] guys don’t make a difference, they do. They’re right at the spine of our team and you can see the difference. I’d love to say it’s all great coaching last week by me, but a lot of it is I’m a great coach when I have good players and obviously our group when you put it all together is a very good group and it allows us to execute. Our identity is a passing team and a possession team and so, we need have that cohesiveness and that team play, those connections and I think you saw that again building off of [FC] Dallas. Awesome for Pedro [Santos] to get a goal, great for Robinho to chip in and get an assist. Great for Gyasi [Zardes] to get a goal. I thought Pipa was excellent today, he was for me, a difference maker and very clever. They had a hard time in the first 20 minutes picking him up, his movement. I love the way that he played and I love the way the entire team played, it was really good to see.
On the mindset going into today’s match
We have to keep our highs low and our lows high, that’s kind of my mantra always a coach. We’re never too low when we lose and we’re never to high when we win. I didn’t get too low last week and that’s my experience of being on the roller coaster that is this job and it is easy to overreact and it’s easy to forget all the good stuff and that’s where I have to be objective. Same thing today, we’ve got to go back to work. We’ll evaluate the entire match, probably not much in that second that, first half for sure - there are still some things to look at. I thought there were a couple moments where they broke us down – couple times Zack [Steffen] made the one save – so those are moments that when we win people forget about, but I don’t as a coach. Same thing when we lose, I don’t forget about the good play. I’ll be the same this week as well and evaluate this performance.
On Gaston Sauro’s absence and Harrison Afful’s injury
Gaston had the flu. He showed up to the training ground and was ill, throwing up, so we sent him home and he was in bed all day. We knew there was no chance he was going play, so we plugged Josh [Williams] in on Friday actually and he was great today. Josh [Williams] was excellent, stepped right in and did a great job, got the clean sheet, I think against the best acting group [Atlanta United] in the league, very talented. They [Atlanta United] did a great job in the first 20 - 30 minutes of shutting those guys down, they [Atlanta United] didn’t get much of a look, so I was pleased with that. Harry [Harrison Afful], I’m not sure. We’ll evaluate him, I’ll give you guys an update Tuesday when I know, but he got hit in the mouth.
On the Crew SC grounds crew
Our grounds crew, Ben [Jackson], these guys are tremendous. There are a lot of people that make up a professional soccer club, everybody has a role and does their part. Guys like the groundskeepers, those people, they don’t get enough credit for what they doing every single day and making sure our pitch is right on the practice field and certainly the game field as well, so big shout out to Ben [Jackson] and his crew for doing a good job tonight.
On learning about his team
I think for me and I’m still learning this team right, loving this team - love this group but every team is different and I never try to “cookie-cutter” what I do for each team, I try to read each team and even at Portland [Timbers], every one of the five years, all though it was a lot of the same players, every season was different and every team was kind of different in how you had to manage them and train them. I’m still, while we’re winning games, learning the best way to approach this team on a weekly basis. What rhythm they like and how much information they like, how much they don’t like - that type of thing and I thought as a staff we got it right this week. I’m finding that balance between how much freedom and how much automation and programming and information to give them. I thought we got it right this week, we gave them a little bit more information, a little bit more structure. I still believe you let players, play the game you can’t paralyze them with information but I think the key to unlocking a team’s potential is in that sweet spot of organization, structure, information but you know that little bit of freedom, especially in the attacking part of the field they can have that creativity and imagination and I thought we got it right this week. That’s me kind of just learning, there have been a few weeks where we let them go and a few weeks where we gave them too much and I think this week we gave them just enough and got it out of the way before a game.
On Pedro Santos’ performance and preparing for Atlanta United
I thought him [Pedro] and Pipa again, and that’s why I’m saying I think we got the planning right this week. We did get it right this week, we didn’t last week and I’ll put my hand up on that. We also got the tactics right, we were prepared for their 4-2-3-1. Honestly, that’s us learning a little bit of a lesson from last week. We saw 4-4-2-diamond, every single game for Philly and we prepared the team to play that way and they [Philadelphia Union] didn’t go that way. So, we dig a little bit deeper this week and prepared them for two different systems, 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1, and you could just tell the group was ready for the 4-2-3-1 even though it was the first time they had started a game that way.
GOALKEEPER ZACK STEFFEN
On playing the match after the weather delay
Yeah it was tough. I’ve played another game kind of like that in Germany where it was rain and snow. But that one was really long and really tough. It’s just all about kind of staying focused, getting out there, it’s just another game and just staying focused and knowing that you’re going to have to make a play for the guys. Fortunate enough I was able to do that tonight.
On whether he expects to make big saves
I’m a perfectionist pretty much, so I expect to make every save. Even the ones I’m not supposed to save I still want to look back at them and learn and try and make those saves. But yeah, I expect myself to make every save and I feel like that’s how I continue to progress.
On taking control of the Eastern Conference
Each week is a test that we want to win and we want to pass. We don’t want to look back at the end of the year and say we could have done better here or here. We don’t want to have any regrets so we’re going into each game day like it’s our last and we’re pushing everybody and we stay connected, stay compact and move the ball and keep to our core values and fight for 90 minutes and that’s what we’re focusing on and right now it’s going well.
MIDFIELDER PEDRO SANTOS
On what the team did during the weather delay
Oh, we came inside and they said something we needed to do better and showed some videos. It was good for us because we got to adjust some things and the result was we go inside and score a second goal.”
On how it felt to score a goal
[It] was very important for the team and for me. More for me because I want to score a goal and it was a long time when I scored the last goal. I always work for the team and helping my teammates and today, I scored a goal and helped the team and I feel very happy with the goal and the win.
On whether Crew SC can do something special this year
Yeah, we believe in our team. Everybody believes in each [other] and I think it is very important for the rest of the season. We believe we can win and can do amazing things. Last week – [like during the] rest of the year – we were being a very good team, but we didn’t win, and we want to win. Everybody wants to win. Let’s see – the season is long and we need to prepare for every game and fight for every point.