Everyone knows how competitive you guys are, so talk about how you felt after not making the playoffs last season and what kind of motivation has that given you this year?
Steve Nicol: “The only goal we have at the start of every season, first of all, is to get in the playoffs. When you don’t achieve that, then it’s hard to explain how huge it is and how disappointing it is. That’s how we start the year off. The first goal is always to get in the playoffs, and when you don’t do that, we’re not happy.”
Shalrie Joseph: “With me, from player’s perspective, it’s just a disappointing year if you don’t get into the playoffs. The whole year has just gone down the drain. Whether it be some guys get experience or some guys get playing time from that, but not getting into the playoffs it feels like your whole season is just a waste of the entire year – a waste of one year off your career. And this year, we can’t afford that.
Was it a shock last year not making the playoffs?
Joseph: “Yeah, definitely. Being there for so long and being in the playoffs each and every year and going to MLS Cup, you can’t expect to get there every year. You can’t put in the work, you go through the season, you go through the ups and downs, and at the end of it, somehow we’d find a way to get into the playoffs. But not being there, it’s just a disappointing year. You expect it, some of the times you fall short and last year fell short. This year we have to put the work in to get back where we were – which is to get back in the playoffs and get back to MLS Cup.”
Ryan, you have a different perspective as a fan before and now a player, did you expect the Revolution to get in the playoffs every year?
Ryan Kinne: “Yeah, definitely. Growing up, it was almost a definite for them to be in the playoffs every year, at least making a run to the conference finals, going to MLS Cup four times. To see them not in the playoffs last year was a bit shock as a fan. I’m sure it was as a player or coach here. But being a part of it this year, I want to be part of something special and hopefully we’ll make it back there.”
What are your impressions of the backline so far, and how long do you think you’ll be until it’s where you want to be considering you have a week until the season starts?
Nicol: I think it’s come together pretty well. We had a disappointing game on Wednesday, but up until then, they’d been real solid and together. Again, as disappointing as Wednesday was, it’s preseason and things like that do happen in preseason. So, on the one hand, we should expect it, but on the other hand it was unexpected because we thought it was real, real solid. But the good thing is that a couple of things happened that we can work on to get ourselves ready for the first game of the season. So we’re pretty happy with it. I think there are things we can do better, but overall we’re pretty solid.”
Shalrie, defending is a team operation, not just the backline. What are your impressions and how are the new guys fitting in and how is the change-over going with a week to go?
Joseph: “For me, I’m just trying to play and try to fit in an 11. As you guys know, it’s a lot of new guys and we’re going to have to gel real fast with the start of the season coming up next week. It’s a work in progress. One week we’re going to look like an unbelievable team, and the next week we’re going to have ups and downs and bruises here and there where we don’t really mesh together. That’s the where the coaching staff is going to come into play – they’re going to have to start getting us to work as a unit and just start defending more like a team.
“With the Wednesday game against Columbus, we found out a lot what we need to do. Losing like that and making those mistakes, you can definitely learn a lot from those. I think our staff would be great to help our backline and help the midfield group and get us working together. That’s where we need to be more cohesive and start working together.”
That’s been a hallmark of the Revolution, that everyone plays together and when one guy leaves, you still play together and maintain success.
Joseph: “Definitely. They’ve been doing a great job each and every year to draft good players, players with intelligence and players that can play at a high level. This year is no different – we just need to stay injury free and work together if we’re going to have a good start to the season.”
Ryan, coming off a stellar college career, what are you thoughts on your first training camp and what are your impressions of the differences between the pro game and the college game, and the level of play?
Kinne: “There’s a definitely a jump coming from even a mid-level Division I conference. The jump is definitely a big one. But Coach (Robert) McCourt held a very professional atmosphere (at Monmouth), so it made the transition very easy for me. The level of player is totally different though. The veterans – Shalrie (Joseph), Chris Tierney – they’ve all made it very easy for me to come in and play well and get a job right away.”
Shalrie, yesterday in his conference call, the Commissioner Garber indicated there was an on-going investigation relating to the incident in Florida. Are you concerned that you might miss some playing time because of that or have you put it behind you now?
Joseph: “No, I’m not concerned at all. I explained what happened and I don’t see myself receiving any punishment for what happened. I’m just trying to put it behind me and concentrate on playing soccer and not be a distraction to this team.”
Are you guys happy where you are at going into the season?
Joseph: “As I said, some days you’re definitely smiling and getting a good giggle out there knowing you have great players around you and it’s a treat to play with them. And some days it’s just a headache that we’re not getting it all together. But as I said, we have a really young group over here and Ijust can’t be frustrated with what we have in terms of making simple mistakes and we have a lot of guys – a lot of new guys – playing together and trying to mesh so fast, it’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be a work in progress and we just have to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time and take it from there and let the staff worry about it and try to get us playing together as a team. Somedays wer’e going to be happy and smiling as a team, and some days we’re going to be frustrated because we can’t get it together as fast as we want to. But we just have to be able to take it one day, one game, one practice at a time.”
Are you happy with the way the team has meshed so far?
Nicol: “I think we are. I think the game we had midweek in some ways was a good thing because we all had great expectations going into the game. Things had gone well training-wise, things had gone pretty well in games, so you kind of fall into a position where you think you’re just going to turn up and play and pass the ball and do well. And that just didn’t happen midweek. But I think that’s a good thing. It gives us a wake-up call. It tells us where we are as far as fitness and as far as organization and a few other dynamics. So in some ways it was a good thing, but it was certainly frustrating and disappointing. But then when those things happen, you have to kick on, get over it, swallow it and move forward.”
What do you think of the potential midfield combination going into the match against LA?
Nicol: “I think it’s good. I think the possession of the ball in the middle of the park has been good preseason. I think it was pretty good the other night as disappointing as the result was. Having watched the game again, I think some of the possession we had was pretty good, but the end result wasn’t good enough. SO we’re pretty pleased overall, but you want to get better and better.”
What’s the idea around the team like knowing you’re taking on LA first and you have to make that cross-country trip?
Nicol: (laughing and joking) “We’re scared stiff.”
How do you think the young guys are meshing, especially Stephen McCarthy with you in the midfield?
Joseph: “I think Stephen is a good player, the way he comes in and does so much for the team. The little thing we’re trying to get him to do is to talk a bit more and get him to try to organize the defense, even when we’re going forward, a bit more. But overall, the young guys coming in this year, they’ve come in with an attitude that they’re just willing to learn, willing to accept whatever the veterans and the coaching staff are trying to tell them. That’s a great attitude to come into camp with. They’re all eager to play; they’re all willing to do whatever the team needs. Once you get those kinds of players, you can only be a better team, you can only have great practices and that’s what we’ve been having, as Stevie said. Our practices have been very competitive. You have guys getting at each other, guys going one-on-one, two-on-two, so it’s been very competitive for the preseason. I think that’s’ only going to translate onto the field of play. So to say anything else, it’s just been a great preseason.”
How much have you played with Ousmane Dabo and what are your impressions of him?
Joseph: “I only got to practice with him once or twice and then he got his quad pulled a little bit – not to give you the injury report, but he got hurt a little bit. But he’s very technical on the ball, and in the midfield, that’s what we need, especially if he’s going to play inside there, in the middle of the park, you have to be technically gifted and a I think he is. From what we’ve seen, the little bit we’ve had – the scrimmage we had in the bubble – how he moved the ball, how he’d take it down, how he good he is on the ball, so we’re looking forward to having him back and having him next to me. As I said, we have 22, 23 guys on this team who are competing so hard for the 11 spots, it makes our team better. And when he comes back, he’s going to have to do the same to compete and try to win back or earn his spot in that 11.”