Conference Call: Nicol, Reis & Tierney
What are you thoughts on this morning’s victory over FC Dallas?
Steve Nicol: “The game this morning, from our coaches’ standpoint of view, was a lot better than the previous couple of games. We hadn’t seen too much that we were overly carried away with, but today was certainly a lot better. And it is preseason. You always think you’re going to hit the ground running, but it never happens - but you always think it will. From our side of it, today was a lot better and we’ll get ready for the next trip.”
A few key players have been missing during these games. As you start to build the team and take a look at how you’re trying to develop the squad, how important does this Atlanta trip become knowing you’ll probably have a few of those players in the fold?
Nicol: “This week was always about getting people time on the field and seeing what they’ve got. That’s pretty much how we started looking at it, and pretty much how we’ve finished the trip. We’ve managed to get a good look at everybody – that was one of the major goals. So we’ll move on to Atlanta and probably have somewhat of a slightly different strategy.”
Why were there three veterans in the starting midfield today against Dallas, instead of playing Zak Boggs, a Roberto Linck or another trialist in a natural midfield position?
Nicol: “This whole trip, up until today, we’ve gone around and tried to get as many people on the field as we could. We want to win the games that we play, so that means we can’t just throw anybody out there and treat it lightly. I think it’s important that you win games. But generally, today was the first day that we wanted to make sure a large part of the team got 90 minutes, if not almost 90 minutes.”
So the priority was giving this season starters additional team, rather than trying out the trialists?
Nicol: “No, not at all. As I said, at the end of the day, we have to start getting the majority of people plenty of time on the field. Everybody is working hard in training. A lot of the young guys we’ve got, we’ve seen enough of them. They’ve all played in one or two of the three games we’ve had, so it’s not a case of keeping on playing willy-nilly and playing anybody.”
Other teams have played Under-17 teams in preseason. What’s the strategy and benefit to MLS teams to playing U17 teams in preseason?
Nicol: “A huge part of preseason is just getting time on the field and getting yourself into good preparation and getting fit. Some would say that results don’t matter, that it’s all about the preparation. We tend to like to win games – I think it’s always a good habit. The strategy behind (playing U17 teams) is that you don’t want to kick the season off playing against Real Madrid away. You don’t want your first preseason games to be against a team who are clearly going to be miles ahead of you. It’s kind of a dual purpose: it’s a bit of fitness, but it’s also about confidence. Most players haven’t kicked a ball for three months, four months. You need to get confidence, and you certainly don’t get confidence by losing games. You get confidence by spending time on the ball. Every team is pretty much doing the same thing, just trying to steadily build their confidence – both fitness-wise and quality-wise – before the start of the season.”
Did today’s match against Dallas give you ideas of what you need to work on going into the next phase of preseason? And if so, what are some of those areas?
Nicol: “We typically don’t look too early into that stuff, and today was part of that. You could say if we win, great, but if we lose, then we’re miles behind. As I said, it’s pretty much the same as the previous answer. It’s just about getting time on the field, just trying to build a little bit of confidence and then going from there. The next trip is going to be a lot more important than this one. This trip is kind of a fact-finding job, especially with a lot of young players and finding out where they’ll be come the start of the season.”
Are any young players standing out after this trip? Did you see anything that stood out today?
Nicol: “The game as a whole, everything we did today was just so much better than anything we’d done in the previous games. Then again, preseason is about starting in one place and by the time the season rolls round, you’re in another place. So the good thing is that we did progress from the last couple of games, which is what we want to do. So from that point of view, we were pretty happy?”
How far along are you in determining what your team will be at the start of the season? Are you 50 percent there? 75 percent there?
Nicol: “I don’t quite know how to answer that. I think there is a nucleus of players who we are expecting to start, but one thing we don’t do is close our minds off to someone coming out of the pack or one or two players coming out of the pack. So I don’t want to put a percentage on it, but there’s a majority of the starting lineup that we have – we think – a decent idea. But a lot can happen between now and the start of the season. We still have games to go, and people can still make a claim for a place. So we’re not shutting it down, or shutting our heads off to anything that can happen between now and playing LA the first game.”
What did you say to the four new defenders you had in front of you today?
Matt Reis: “It was great to get a shutout. I thought we did a very good job of communicating in the back. Like Stevie (Nicol) said, it’s a work in progress. We’re interviewing new people for the job all the time, and we’re bring in some more players, too. It’s important as a group to get better every game, and I think we’ve already done that.”
How has this trip been for you to get reps in and get some time in coming back to full fitness?
Reis: “Did you say rest? Because I have gotten a lot of rest in, which has really been the most important thing for me lately. It’s nice to go through a preseason and nice to be able to put all the work in and the time on the field. I feel good. We’re moving in the right direction. I think the organization has brought in some good quality players who are going to help. I don’t think it’s the end of it, but I do think we’re moving in the right direction.”
How are things starting to gel from your perspective? Are you beginning to get a flow playing with the new players and getting more comfortable on the ball?
Chris Tierney: “Like Stevie (Nicol) touched on, it’s preseason so it takes time to get your sharpness back. I think the first two games left a little to be desired in terms of us keeping the ball and just being sharp. Today was a step forward in the right direction, so I think if we keep progressing at the rate we are now and keep working on the things that Stevie’s pushing – keeping the ball, our passing, that kind of stuff – then we should continue to progress over the course of this preseason.”
You’ve been on Revolution teams in the past that have gone into the season with high expectations. What do you say are your expectations for this season?
Reis: “I think it’s the same every year we’ve been here: to make the playoffs, to play well and make the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs in this league, anything can happen. So we’re not an organization or a group who sits down and says, ‘Ok, these are our goals.’ As a group, we all know that the most important thing to do is to get into the playoffs, and put ourselves in the best possible position. So going into this season, as opposed to years in the past, it’s always been the same thing. We have a lot of new faces and we’re working to get those guys in and get us all working together. It’s a work in progress.”
Do you guys see yourselves going into the season a bit more under the radar than past seasons? And do you think that can help you?
Reis: “You could definitely say that. We’ve had a lot of changes, so whether that puts us under the radar or not, we were on the outside looking in last year in terms of postseason play. We want to change that this year.”
Are the recent injuries maybe a case of being a bit preventative, or a case of going from the cold into the warmth, or from the turf on to grass? Is there some kind of correlation?
Nicol: “To be honest, we’re more than pleased with the situation with our injuries. Kenny Mansally should be all set to go to Atlanta, and so should Marko Perović. He’s got just a wee bit of a groin strain, which is not unusual for a soccer player. So we’re more than happy. We’re doing all the things this year we do every year. We make sure we stretch properly to avoid injuries, but touch wood, so far we’re happy. I think it would be a lot harder if we did it the opposite way around and we were training in cold, so training in heat from the cold makes it easier on our bodies to adapt.”
What’s the status of a new striker coming to the team and when can people expect that player to come to the team?
Nicol: “We’re actively trying to bring another striker in. We’ve talked to some people. We’re working away at it. These things take as long as it takes. Whether it’s paperwork or someone changes his mind, there are all sorts of things that can affect us trying to bring players in. But we’re actively trying to bring another striker in. I think we need another one. That will help us. Time-wise, time will tell, but we’d like to get it done as soon as we can.”
How is the communication going on the back line with all the new players?
Reis: “It’s been really working out well. I think the fact that there are a lot of new guys means everybody is a bit more willing to talk because we have to make sure we’re all on the same page. We have to work on things, and that’s why we’re out here playing these teams and playing against opponents other than ourselves. It’s been very good. I’m very optimistic about our ability to keep the other team out of the net this year.”
Is there any update on Kevin Alston’s hamstring injury?
Nicol: “The latest thing on that is that the doctors are going to have an in-depth look at him. It’s quite a puzzling one how it keeps occurring. He’s certainly been getting the best treatment possible, so it’s nothing to do with that. That’s something we’re really digging into and trying to solve the problem of how he keeps feeling this problem.”
Is there any update on why Shalrie Joseph and Kevin Alston were sent back to Boston?
Reis: “No, no update yet. You’ll probably have to ask them when you see them.”