Conference Call: Heaps, Joseph & Rowe

Head coach Jay Jeaps, Shalrie Joseph and Kelyn Rowe field questions from the media

Jay Heaps: Just a recap of last nights’ game. Overall, we’re still a little bit in the identification process, but at the same time, we had to get some significant minutes to our core players and to a lot of guys that are going to play a lot of minutes come opening day. For us, it was a positive, we did a lot of positive things. We did what we worked on, but we put ourselves in trouble with what we feel are very correctable mistakes. In the end it was a lot of good mixed in with some not so good – but at the same time – correctable.

On the similarities and differences of a training camp under Jay Heaps…
Shalrie Joseph: To start, definitely there is lot of different: in terms of the way they approach practice, the way they approach everything. It’s a little bit more disciplined in terms of arrival, in terms of being there on time, as far as dress code. All that stuff changed a little bit the last couple of years with Stevie [Nicol], it was a little bit more loose and with Jay it’s just tightened up a little bit more. He wants people to be there and [to] hold people a lot more accountable for their actions. But with training, I think it’s a lot of similarities in terms of we try to pass the ball. We try to get it forward, we try to keep possession, but now I think we have the players in this camp – in this preseason – we have the players that are more capable to pass the ball and play more possession style of game. The system is definitely going to help the players in terms of our midfield. I think our midfield is definitely our strength and we cater to that; if we can get these guys the ball and great opportunity and great possession I think we will definitely be able get our team to attack and definitely score some goals. But I think we’re still a work in progress, as Jay said, we’re still a work in progress. We’re still trying to find our identity; we’re still trying to find our strengths and still trying to find out a little bit our weakness and what we can work on. It’s going to take a couple of weeks but we’re definitely headed in the right direction.

On the international trialists, specifically Tom Cruise, Bjorn Runstrom and Florian Lechner…
Jay Heaps: To be fair to them, it’s early. All three of those guys, along with [Luiscito] Campisi came on long flights, they came on over 10-15 hour flights. To be fair them, I don’t want to make too much of a judgment yet. At the same time, I think some of them we’re taking a hard look at. A couple of the guys will get a little more minutes on Saturday night [against New York]. Some of the guys are here a little bit longer so we can use Wednesday night, a week from last night [Feb. 29 against Real Salt Lake] to assess several of them. You want to be fair to them you want to make sure you put them in an environment where they can succeed, but at the same time we have to expect them to really show above and beyond what we have.

On finding Runstom and Lechner…
Jay Heaps: It’s a thorough search, we try to find players. We have conversations with whether it be agents or whether it be the scouting systems we use.  Flo [Florian Lechner]: he’s got a pretty great resume quite frankly, where he’s played in Germany. I think Bjorn [Runstrom] has bounced around a little bit, but at the same time when you start looking at a lot of players – if you take [LA Galaxy’s] Edson Buddle for example, and talk about where he’s been for the last year, two years. Quite frankly, no one said anything when he jumped back into MLS and had a couple of different teams in the last couple of years [before coming back to LA].

On how comfortable Kelyn Rowe is playing out wide, especially last night in his first taste of MLS competition…
Kelyn Rowe: [I’m] definitely comfortable playing out wide. I’ve played there before and I’ve played it with the national team, and Jay and the guys have really helped me out there. Playing against MLS opposition, playing against the LA Galaxy, the champions last year, it was definitely difficult. We talked about getting up and down that line so I was definitely doing a lot of running. It was a good first game to get my feet wet and get into the game.

On the results of the past two seasons providing extra motivation for returning players…
Shalrie Joseph: Oh yeah, definitely. I think whenever you don’t make the playoffs, it’s a disappointment. It’s one of those seasons you try and forget about quickly. This year, we’re trying to get back to the playoffs and trying to get back to MLS Cup. I’ve been to the MLS Cup three times; this team has been four times. Unfortunately, I haven’t won a Cup. So, any time you don’t make it that far, it’s a disappointing year.

On how Kelyn Rowe’s transition on the team and on getting his first [pre-season] assist against an MLS opponent…
Kelyn Rowe: The transition’s been hard; it’s fast. It’s very fast here, but we’ve had two or three weeks before the game, so I’ve gotten used to it a little bit and it was a little faster last night as well. It took me five or ten minutes to get into it. Once I had that first cross and once I got that first assist, things really settled in. After the first assist, and it was my first MLS opponent – and it being the LA Galaxy – it was great. It was a great feeling; it’s a good start to the season and I hope to keep it going.

On Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe’s play on the wings …
Jay Heaps:  I think that what we did there was Kelyn Rowe is a little bit more dynamic in his ability to cover that flank play, so he had a little bit more of a responsibility covering (Todd) Dunivant, because Dunivant – as all of us know – is an overlapping left back the way LA plays. I thought Kelyn did an excellent job of having to defend, but he also created a lot of width for us. We wanted Kelyn to be out wide to let Shalrie (Joseph) and Clyde (Simms) have a little bit more space in the middle. And on the left side where Benny was, Benny took up great positions. We gave him a lot of freedom and we wanted him pinched in and helping in the center a little bit more and it allowed Chris Tierney to provide the width on the left side. But overall, it was a little bit more hitched in the sense that Kelyn was on the right and Benny was more in the middle than he was on the left. But I think that that freedom that we allowed Benny showed because he was able to build and help our attack.

On how sure Jay is on the lineup for the season opener …
Jay Heaps: I would say we’re close and I think we’re getting there and I think I would say – you want a percentage? I would say about 90% sure. Obviously we’re dealing with injuries. Last night, A.J. Soares didn’t play, Kevin Alston didn’t play. They’re not serious injuries, but we want to make sure that come March 10th, we have a decision to make for a starting group that has played together, that also has some depth, meaning that we want to make sure we’re 18, 19, 20, 22 deep come opening night.

On Stephen McCarthy’s play as a center back …
Jay Heaps: It would be unfair to him to rate him [fully] on that, but I think that last night he had a really good game. I think that you can see it in his eyes: he wants to learn, he’s like a sponge, so I’ve had a lot of conversations with him about the position. He was able to play it a little bit in our lead-up matches again Boston College, so the positions he’s taking are natural. He’s never played that position before and he has all the skills to play that position. He wins all his headers, he’s strong, he’s very good in the air, he’s pacey. So he has all of the qualities and last night was a really good test to put him against one of the better forward pairings in Adam Cristman and Edson Buddle. So I think that it was something that, you just kind of come up with ideas and I’d seen Stephen play last year when I was in the booth and I always thought that some of his tendencies would look good on the back line, so when we got him into camp, I had a couple conversations with him about it and he’s really taking to it well. We’re not going to limit him to just that position, but I like to know that he can cover it and last night he showed that he had a pretty good awareness out there.