I thought last week was a very emotional week – a lot of highs and lows. I thought the semifinal game against Chicago was one that was a very professional performance – played very well, limited their chances and did a very good job to get to that final. Very happy with the group.
Fast forward to the weekend, a little bit of a wild game. Still probably created enough chances and do enough to get three points. You have the high of Sebastien’s goal and then the lowest of lows of giving up the late equalizer. We broke that down in the film room a lot. We have to learn from it, have to get better from it. We’ve had entirely too many dropped points and late game collapses as a club this season. It’s something we need to fix.
It’s no secret, I’m a realist with you guys – I’m honest with you guys. We’ve not been good enough from a defensive standpoint. We’ve given up entirely too many goals and rank near the bottom of the league in goals given up as well as and save percentage, we’re at the bottom of the league in that as well. In the critical moments in front of goal, we’ve come up small. It’s something that will have to get fixed, not only for the regular season games but obviously going into a final against a strong Kansas City team.
How the player’s emotions are after last week
Good. We had a hard film session and talked through the breakdowns. There were positives in the [second] Chicago game; Sean Johnson made seven of eight really good saves to keep them in it. The key point that we stress was to get, we had opportunities to go up 3-1, and not taking those chances is also a reason why it comes down to… you let any good pro team hang around, you see our league now, leads get blown, mistakes happen if you let quality players have opportunities on the ball.
Columbus has it last night – a great start and should probably be up 2-0. It happens in our game, it happens too much for us. The group, though, is upbeat and is positive because we are excited about being in a final. But they all do realize that it needs to be better in terms of team defending.
We look forward to Montreal and it doesn’t get any easier with the likelihood of [Didier] Droga being on the field. Just saw [Laurent] Ciman will be back; he’s a guy we weren’t prepared for – top center back in the league for me. Looks like he’ll be back in time for the game which is not good news, but something we’ll have to deal with.
Everyone is aware of Drogba. It’s been a while since he’s played a match. Obviously it brings a real excitement to the league – the place will be sold out. The last time we were there, it wasn’t sold out. So obviously the atmosphere will be more electric, dynamic. Everybody will be there to see him and cheer him on.
But they have a lot of other dangerous pieces on the field. [Ignacio] Piatti is, for me, one of the top guys in the league. Ciman I already mentioned at center back. So they’re a very good team. Frank Klopas has them playing very well. They still have a ton of games in hand so it doesn’t tell the true story of where they’re at in the table. They could be a team that right up toward the top.
Drogba is obviously the name everybody will talk about, but they’re a very good team. Him being there will obviously bring the fans and create a very good atmosphere and a difficult environment to play in. Similar to Orlando with all of the fanfare around Kaka and the Brazilian fan base they have there – it’s a pretty special environment. I expect the same in Montreal with the addition of a legend like Drogba.
On it being his first game
We don’t know if he’s going to start, not 100 percent. They said ‘debut’ would be made so you can read into that what you will, but I think the likelihood is he’ll be on the field. But if he’s not, and it’s Dominic Oduro, that’s a handful as well. He’s got some pace to get in behind. Either way, we’re prepared for a good striker to be in there for them.
Drogba is obviously a guy if you want to get into a wrestling match, a physical battle, you’re going to lose. That’s clear. All over the world, that’s clear. He’s top a goalscorer of all-time, he’s very good in the air. You don’t have to show the guys a lot of film on him because they know who is, where he’s been and what he’s done. If he’s out there as a starter, we’ll have to have not only our two centerbacks focused on him, but also a holding mid coming back to try and help out and move balls off of him. The hope is he’s not 90 minutes fit. I don’t know where he’s at from that standpoint. We’re preparing like he’s going to start the game.
On Saturday being a must-win
We’re running out of games in league, we know that. We’ve dug entirely too deep of a hole for ourselves. We’re not happy with where we are. I’m not happy with how the season’s gone. We have to go out against Montreal and put in a good performance and there is urgency that ties, like this past weekend, don’t do us any good. We have to push the right way to get three points on the road, and at home, from here on out because the one point doesn’t really do you any good at this stage.
We’ll have to push the right way. If the game is tied late, we can’t be conservative and just be happy with the one point.
On not having Edu for a matchup like Drogba
Mo’s a guy who would be great to have on the weekend. It would have been great to have him against Chicago the second time. But, he played through an injury that was a major risk for him to even be on the field. I give him a ton of credit to go out there for the club, for the fans, and put himself at risk. His groin, it’s still partially torn. It’s not something the doctors would advise playing through but he wanted to do it in that situation to get us to a final. And to know he had time to heal after that. He has not healed at all, he’s not training with us currently. It would be a miracle if he was ready by the weekend – I don’t anticipate that. But at the same time, he got us through that key game against Chicago in the open Cup semifinal and he deserves a lot of credit playing through that, playing through the pain.
On Sylvestre’s injury
He reopened the wound in his hand. Something that has been sewn together twice. It split today in training. He was back in live action yesterday and today, and at some point during the session, he split it open again. It’s in a tough area in his hand, in the webbing, and it just won’t heal.
On Andre Blake possibly playing this weekend
We’re thinking about it. We’ll make a decision. Andre’s been called in with Jamaica about three weeks from now and there’s a possibility it makes sense to get him a game or two. We’ll see.
Other injury updates
Wenger, today was the first day he was in the non-contact part of practice. In terms of technical exercise, getting involved in crossing drills for our defenders. He was in a free role and without contact out wide and he served in some balls and he actually looked, for a first day back, he looked pretty sharp, which was good.
On Nogueira’s health
He’s close. Obviously he’s missed about a month’s time now. Fitness is the issue. He’s healed and ready to go in that regard. He looked like himself in training today and the one conversation is about fitness – which you lose after a quad injury. You can ride the bike and do all of the little things, but the game fitness is the last hurdle. He’ll play a role this weekend, but it’s still to be determined if it’s at a starter or off the bench.
Reports on Rais Mbolhi being out on trial
We did allow him to explore that option. So he is out on trial right now.
On USL announcement
It’s excellent. It’s a huge step for the club. I’m grateful to Jay Sugarman for coming through with that. It’s a huge step for the club. I think it’s that link from the academy, which is strong, to that 18-to-23 age range of players… there’s a real gap there. This kind of bridges that gap to the first team. It’s a great resource for me to send our draft picks, our guys who need good games. The proximity is the key; they’ll be training with us every day at the same facility.
To be in and around it – you talk about culture and getting the culture improved – it really leads toward that. Rich Graham has done a great job of getting the academy going, but this is the final link. We have a Union 2 team to be named and it’s going to be a special thing. To have it in the Lehigh Valley, where there’s a lot of history there. They’ll train with us and play their games at a really cool venue where I think they’ll have a lot of support.
It’s important for our younger players to get games, big games. Think of Richie Marquez as the example last year, who got to play 30-plus games at the USL environment and has now thrived with our first team. To have that team be our own team now; we have a lot more say, a lot more control on the day-to-day operations.
It’s the way it should be. It’s really an exciting thing to get that piece done.