Pre-Combine/SuperDraft Conference Call
On the 2013 MLS schedule which was just released this morning
Michael Burns (MB): We’ve looked at the schedule. It’s kind of what we thought it would be in the sense of we know in this market that we’re always going to start the season playing more away games than home. So, we’re used to that so to speak. I think one of the positives for us when we look at our schedule is – and I’m not counting the Friday night (Aug. 30) game in Toronto – but we have three mid-week games. I think that’s a decrease from five last year to three. It’s certainly on the competitive side. Our preference is to have more weekend games than midweek. It’s never perfect – I actually give the folks at the league a lot of credit because this is a very difficult job to try to coordinate 19 different schedules. But we feel okay about the schedule.
On preparation for the Draft:
Jay Heaps (JH): We’ve worked really hard this off-season but also in the fall of last year on the college side of it. We feel that we’ve seen a lot of players play -- two, three or four times – for guys that will be late-first round or second round picks but also the top guys a few more times. In that regard we feel like we’ve done a nice job preparing. The Combine and trades and everything that happens over the next few weeks or week or so definitely dictates a lot of that type of outcome. But in terms of preparation we feel we’re very well prepared, more so than last year. As you know, last year I took over as coach about a month ago so there’s been a lot more preparation because we’ve had a lot more time.
On the process of preparing:
JH: I think what you learn is you have to do the homework before you get there on at least identifying the players that you think will help you. I think last year we were in a different place because positionally we needed areas covered and more so than this year we’ve addressed a lot of issues, addressed a few even this off-season. But this is a process, so we’re adding players that we want to get better. Last year we just wanted to get quality and we felt we really did with the Draft especially with Kelyn (Rowe) being our first pick. But this year, I think there’s a little more targets, more of the players that we identified and from there we also know that teams have been calling about our pick as well. So there’s some interest as well as to what to do on Draft day.
On addressing a need or picking the best player on the board:
JH: I think that will be determined. But that’s two ways of thinking about it. Last year was certainly best player available and this year is I think going to be more specific to a need.
On what positions being targeted:
JH: I think the areas you talked about are areas we do want to reinforce. I think we know we have quality through the midfield and I think we want to think about depth at defense and depth up top.
On bringing Andy Dorman back:
JH: I think with Andy (Dorman), one of the needs it addressed was we had him in; we had him here for a week training with the guys. Watching that process was really beneficial seeing how Andy is. I knew him as a player, I knew him as teammate, but obviously I’m in a different role. To see that he’s even developed more of that leadership ability is great. That locker room component is very important. But what Andy Dorman does bring is he’s got the foot skills but he can penetrate. He likes to put defenses; he’s not just waiting for the ball at his feet. He will make a run behind. He stretches defenses in terms of smart runs. He’s not going to out-run a bunch of players but he definitely knows how to extend the field by being smart penetrating wise.
On looking at another goalkeeper that early in the Draft:
JH: It’s certainly a question we’ve talked about, but I believe that that high we wouldn’t be looking for a goalkeeper.
On Tyler Polak’s development:
JH: Tyler was drafted; he’s 20 years old out of Creighton, so he’s still developing. He’s a player, obviously he played right away in our first game of the year and then as we’ve talked about with college players, it’s a difficult transition from college to the pros. I think that we even saw that Kelyn (Rowe), a little bit of a dip, in some of our rookie picks – it happens to everyone of us that came from college to pros, there’s going to be a dip in the mental fatigue, a little bit of the physical fatigue. So Tyler definitely is someone we see going forward as having an upside but right now he’s still working to get better every week and every day.
On the roster’s current shape:
MB: I think one of the biggest differences from last off-season to this off-season is we’re much more specific in our search for players. Heading into this off-season, going from ‘11 to ’12 with the turnover rate as high as it was, we were looking for players all over the field. We made a conscious effort to really shrink that to a few specific positions this year and I think you saw that with both (Kalifa) Cisse and (Jose) Goncalves. Having said that, and Jay alluded to it earlier, we’d still like to add an attacking player and we’d still like another player or two to the defense. We’re looking at this year as Jerry (Bengtson) possibly missing a lot of games due to World Cup Qualifying. Saer’s (Sene) coming off of injury. So, another area we felt we were thin in last year was outside backs, so we’re still looking in those areas. If you look at our current roster right now, having 22 players under contract, we’re probably further along now than we were last year at this time. And having said that, and Jay said it as well, and not just in terms of strength but certainly in quantity, we probably have quite a few midfielders that are going to be fighting for spots. Listen, while we feel okay with where we’re at right now, we’re still not done and we haven’t played a game yet.
On balancing veteran and young players once the game begins:
JH: It’s important and I think that’s why we’re glad to add players, like Jose (Goncalves), Andy (Dorman) and (Kalifa) Cisse now so that we can develop that kind of veteran – those guys, for me, are veterans – to add those into the current veterans we have in terms of guys like (Matt) Reis, (Clyde) Simms, (Chris) and Tierney, guys that have been on the team for awhile. When you start to blend them, you need to do that during a process of pre-season. We have two trips planned right now where the first pre-season is very much for us being away and just a part of ourselves in Case Grande (Ariz.) and the next trip to Tucson (Ariz.) is about playing games and really starting to get match-made and match-tailored. But at this point, I think that these next few weeks are very important for that gelling process and that kind of combination play you’re talking about.
On the MLS Combine enhancing or changing opinions of a player:
JH: One of the things we started to do last year and I think it was very beneficial, was meeting with the players as well. We get a face-to-face with them. Because during the college season that’s really off-limits, we don’t want to be stepping in and meeting players. That’s probably a violation. Once the GA (Generation adidas) class is determined and once we’ve identified certain players, we sit down with them and have a meeting. Then I think the Combine itself – you’re going to see some players and their thought process – but some of them haven’t played since before the Final Four, and only four teams played that weekend. Most of the college teams were out two, three weeks before that. So now we’re a month, month-and-a-half away from their last competitive game. So you have to go in knowing and understanding that, but you’re looking for maybe a way a player runs off the ball or the way a player communicates with another player – things that are intangibles that you can add to the way you saw them play during the year.
MB: It’s also beneficial to have the Combine because you get an opportunity to see these players play with and against the top players in the country, where a lot of times when you see them play in a one-off in college, that’s not the case. Although the timing is probably not ideal for the players, we at the team level and at the MLS level have to take that into consideration because these kids, most of them aren’t as game fit as you would like and that’s kind of our job to try to have to sift through some of that. But it is beneficial to be able to see them play with and against the top players in the country.
On what has changed after his first year as head coach:
JH: I think when you get in the position – last year, there was a lot coming at myself and the staff and we were still feeling each other out and then the players. And I think now, this offseason was really good. We were able to communicate with the players throughout the entire offseason. We were able to communicate as a staff and we met a lot as a staff. And so I think the speed of everything coming at us has slowed down, but it’s also because of the work we’re putting in to kind of prepare and be ready for the draft, be ready for international signings, have players in at the end of last year when we trained those extra couple weeks, to have an Andy Dorman and a Cisse and a Goncalves into our camp, and those are important steps for us. So when we talk about the speed of moving forward, we’re starting to do it methodically as opposed to just taking it all at once like last year.
On Saer Sene’s strong start and goal production throughout the year:
JH: The traffic incident really had nothing to do with his play, to be honest with you. It was pretty much a routine traffic stop. … I think that because he was a player that was scoring goals, he became more marked and our reaction to getting him the ball in different areas – he still had chances to score and maybe he missed a few of those when he was open, but he wasn’t getting as many chances like he was earlier in the year and that’s the fault of us to get him the ball more, to find ways to get him free.
Earlier in the year, we really tried to play and teams started to knock us down and really disrupt what we were doing. And we have to be mindful of that this year. We tried to react to it, we tried to prepare for it, but now we know it. We felt what it felt like to get kicked every time. Lee Nguyen touched the ball and he gets whacked or Saer Sene gets kicked from behind, and players were targeting our guys. How do we play better? How do we player quicker? How do we get through that? So it’s important for us to get better in that regard to create more chances for [Saer].
On bringing someone on to compliment Sene:
JH: He’s coming back from injury, so we definitely want depth at the forward position. I think that whether you have one, two, three, four guys scoring, you always want to have as many guys out there that can score. I think the most important thing for Saer is getting back to his form pre-injury and the other thing is getting Jerry Bengtson in. He’s going to be gone a lot, but we’re going to get some extended time with him during preseason and after the first round of World Cup qualifiers. So I think when you talk about last year, Saer kind of getting off to a good start, it was partly because he participated in our entire preseason. And to me, that’s really important for our international players, this being Jerry’s first preseason and it being Cisse’s and Jose’s and Andy Dorman’s. Those players need that type of time around the group.
On Revolution youth players’ potential to become Homegrown signings:
MB: We hope so. We just signed our second. We fully understand that not every player that comes through our academy program is going to be offered a professional contract, but we’re only in our [fifth] year of existence and to have signed Diego (Fagundez) and to have signed Scott (Caldwell), two players that have come through, we feel good about that and we’re going to continue to look at that as a possible way to make our team better.
I would rather not divulge names of potential players. What I would say is, every player that we bring into our 14s, 16s and 18s is in the back of our minds. We’re hopeful that their game will evolve to a point to where we want to have a discussion. But to put individual names out there in terms of players we’re targeting – I just don’t think it’s fair or the right thing to do.
On where things stand with Re-Entry Process picks Chad Barrett and Hunter Freeman:
MB: They’re two players that we drafted in the second round of the Re-Entry and we’re still optimistic and hopeful that they’re going to be wearing a Revs jersey this year. Offers were extended; offers have not been accepted to date. So we’re going to continue to work on those and we’re hopeful we can get something done, but there will come a point where if the players don’t want to accept the offers and join the Revs, that we will look in another direction.
I’m not going to get into the specific details of the negotiation and I’ve already said it. But like I said, offers were extended within seven days of when we drafted those players and to date, they have no accepted those offers and we are still working diligently to try to get something done with those players. But like I said, with the upcoming draft and with potential trades that do exist, both we and the players know that there’s the chance that they may not end up in New England. We hope that’s not the case, but the offers will not be on the table indefinitely.
On looking ahead to the SuperDraft:
MB: I think that for every draft, there’s always rumors and speculation of teams trading up, teams trading down. You have half the group that thinks it’s a weak draft, half the group that thinks it’s a strong draft. I think more of this gets played out after the combine. I think a lot of it still remains to be seen. Without getting into a lot of details, our coaching staff has its own thoughts, as does every other coaching staff in MLS. We’re going to obviously do what we think is the best for the Revs, whether that may mean a situation of trading up, keeping, or trading down. I think one of the differences right now between last year’s draft and this year’s draft is, is there was a lot of talk last year about the top two guys who were picked and I’m not sure that’s the case this year.