Conference Call - July 20
New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps
I think you get to a point where we’re making mistakes – making some of the same mistakes – unfortunately, those have cost us. In every game that we’ve made a mistake, we’ve been punished, and we seem to be giving away mistakes but not taking advantage of many or not being given any. So, you say accountability – that’s a term that every professional team throws out there. What I mean is that the guys have to – we as a staff – have to hold guys accountable and players have to hold each other accountable. I think, as a staff, we hold the players to a pretty hard line, and then certainly, I think at a time, to each other. The players have to hold each other accountable. Whether it’s a captain, or whether it’s just a younger player, even saying something to an older player, ‘This isn’t good enough at times, and can we correct it, can it be better on the field?’ Because there’s only so much adjusting. As a coach, you put players in a position to win, and then as the game goes on, it’s played in front of you and we try to change little things here and there. There’s certainly a lot that we don’t see, and we see later on film. During a game, I want to see more communication and more leadership from each other. Not from just one or two guys, but from the entire group.
On the presence of the captains:
It’s important. I think that other guys have to step up leadership components in their own game, whether it’s a foul here or a tactical stop here or a word with a referee there. Those things all add to a team getting points on the road and obviously, from our record, we’re not happy with what we’re doing on the road. I believe we have a good mind component each game and it’s just whenever we’ve made mistakes on the road, they’ve punished us. We have to go in and play a mistake-free game. That’s the only way we can get ourselves out of it. When a cross comes in, are we marking up properly? Are we in the right positions defensively? And unfortunately, we say no too many times and it’s cost us games.
It’s more than just playing; I think it’s a combination of factors. Players have to take their own performance into (account) – if they’re playing well individually – but it also has to be a collective performance. I think that there are times when guys are only worried about how they’re playing, when maybe they can be helping their teammate or listening to their teammate. And so it’s philosophical, but also, in times of dire moments, the only two who can help each other are the guys on the field. That’s really where we’re going with it. There will be times when it’s easier said than done and we’re just at a point where we’ve made a lot of steps forward, but we have to make sure continue to step forward and correct some of the things that we’ve made mistakes on.
If we go back on the last two games, I thought the Toronto game wasn’t our best after we gave up a goal early and we never were able to break them down. We didn’t continue to push. Then the last game was a little different altogether because it was the first game I felt like we didn’t possess it well, we didn’t move the ball around well. We never really put Montreal under a sustained amount of pressure. I think if you asked Toronto, they would say, (that) yeah, they were under a lot of pressure. Sure, we had our chances to tie the game, but we never put them under a sustained amount of pressure. And that was because we were a little bit sloppy when we had it and then, unfortunately, we put ourselves in the hole because we didn’t defend all that well on the breakthrough leading up to the penalty and we definitely didn’t do well enough on the cross for the second goal.
(The back line is) still TBA. Like anything, when you have three games in a week, you don’t have the proper week to prepare. So defensively, that’s a focus point for us. When I talk about accountability, it means on both sides of the ball. Guys that normally just want to possess the game, we have to defend as a unit and defend as a group. And that’s something, I think in the last two games, we have gotten away from and we need to get back to that.
Yeah, and I hope the pun was intended with the heat, because it’s going to be 100 degrees. No, it will be a hostile environment tomorrow to play in. We have to be near perfect in how we play. That’s where we harp on no mistakes, we harp on the key match-ups and you mentioned two key guys – (C.J.) Sapong and (Kei) Kamara – but they also have Teal Bunbury, they also attack with a lot of numbers. So we’re going to have to defend really well. Every man is going to have to put that extra effort in, in an environment like that. And to me, it’s a great time for a great test, to see what we’re made of. We haven’t played particularly well in the last two games in all areas of the field. We have a quick turnaround and a hard environment, with a team that’s number one in the league. What else can you ask for? If you’re a player, you want to go out there and measure yourself, and that’s what we have to do.
Unfortunately, we go in with a mentality of getting as many points as we can. I think sometimes the teams that do really well on the road, they have a combination of things go their way and we have to make things go our way, whether it’s how we defend as a group or whether we limit our mistakes, when those are what’s costing us right now. I watch every play of every road game and we seem to be making a few extra mistakes on the road. We certainly made them at home, but when we make them on the road, they cost us a lot.
I think (Shalrie Joseph and Stephen McCarthy) are both questionable right now. We have to find out where they are physically and where they’ll be as we’re going into the match. But as of right now, no decisions have been made on either player … Shalrie is here, and McCarthy is en route.
On goalkeeper selection:
To me, it’s not about week-to-week. It was never week-to-week for me. It was really about seeing a little bit from Bobby, and we saw a lot and like what we see. And then it’s also about getting Matt (Reis) some rest, and getting Matt to stop and pause and see where this team is going with him and where he’s going to lead us to. For me, Matt is going to continue to get games if he continues to play as well as he can.
On the goals allowed against Montreal:
It was a combination of some bad passing and then when you don’t make passes that are open, the momentum swings their way. But then on those specific plays – on the goals – our initial defending led to the penalty. It wasn’t so much the taking down for the penalty – it wasn’t the foul that I was upset with – it was really the play that led to them having a player turn and come inside our 18. The other one was a cross situation where we had numbers, and sometimes we just have to find a man and be in a little bit better position.
New England Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber
I think (Jay Heaps) wants us to play better and take more responsibility. I think – and I can’t speak for everybody – but after that game, within myself, I think I’m a pretty harsh critic of myself. I could have had a better game. I was in good spots to receive the ball and good spots to find my teammates. I don’t think I did as well as I potentially could. I know there are some games that don’t quite go your way but I think that’s what Jay means, everybody [stepping] up and getting the job done when it needs to be. As for me, I know I’m going to get better and improve and definitely be held accountable because I hold myself to a high standard and I want to help this team win.
I can complete more passes. I think there were too many balls where I turned (it) over where it wasn’t incisive passes – you’re going to be bound to turn some balls over closer to the opponents’ goal when you’re trying to make pinpoint passes or whatnot to lead to scoring opportunities. There were plenty of chances that I had where I got the ball in midfield where I need to spread out the offense, and that was a little bit of my job last game and a little bit more withdrawn position from what I’m used to playing. I just have to make sure I get that ball off the back and complete solid passes to kind of get the attack going. I think that’s one of the things I need to do better and I know I can.
On whether there is a mental block when playing on the road this year:
To be completely honest, I don’t think so. It feels like when we go into away games, we’re almost kind of hyped up for it because we know it’s points that are up for grabs to steal. I’m not sure if that’s the case. Maybe me being inside the team makes it feel different than people on the outside looking in, but in the locker room it doesn’t feel like that. We went into Montreal excited potentially taking three points there. We knew it was an important one for us and we had already gotten the game that we dropped to Toronto at home out of our heads. The whole group seemed excited and enthusiastic about it and for whatever reason – I’m sure there’s more than one reason for it – but we haven’t been able to produce away from home and that’s something that has to change if we’re looking to make the playoffs. We can’t be asked to win every single home game and then not pick up points on away matches because that’s just not going to get it done. I don’t think that’s the reason, but there has to be a reason out there and we have to find it and have to change it.
If you look at our home record, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. If we were able to match a similar record – or not even as good, but something similar on the road where we’re picking up points every other game or getting a win here, getting a win there, we’d probably have another nine, 10 points this season. Of course we have to do some things to adjust whether it’s mentally or whatever it is, we need to start taking a lot of points on the road now that it’s down to 15 games. We have a really big task at hand and obviously it starts tomorrow, but we have to start taking points on the road and that’s a really important thing.
It’s always tough not having those guys in the lineup. Shalrie (Joseph) is our captain and he’s a guy that’s important to our team. Obviously, he’s been here for such a long time. So (losing) guys like that, it’s tough. (Stephen) McCarthy’s been playing really well the last four, five, six weeks and him being out makes it a little tougher for us. I think that the guys that step in know what they’re doing and they know the system. They’re not guys that are a level below anybody else on this team. So in that sense I think we’re not going to use it as an excuse. Hopefully we can have all the pieces back for this game and then Jay (Heaps) will have more tough decisions to make. Every time you change a piece, it’s a little bit of getting used to a new player so in that sense there’s some kind of change. Other than that, I don’t think it’s too much of a reason why we weren’t able to get points.