Nowak: 'I think the team needs to take charge right now'
Here's a transcript of Union manager Peter Nowak's postgame press conference, plus some selected quotes from Red Bulls manager Hans Backe.
Nowak: ‘I think the team needs to take charge right now’
The 1,200 Union fans who traveled to Red Bull Arena sent a greeting to their hosts before the game. Alas, they didn't have much to cheer about after that. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)
NEW YORK – Here’s a transcript of Union manager Peter Nowak’s postgame press conference, plus some selected quotes from Red Bulls manager Hans Backe.
At the bottom of the post, there’s a video featuring interviews with Danny Califf, Sébastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll and Freddy Adu.
You can read my postgame write-up, which includes a breakdown of the Union's current playoff seeding scenarios, here. My other big story from Thursday, on the Union's radio broadcast deal for next season with WIP, is here.
Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak
On his starting lineup:
I think these guys need to win. To put an extra number in the midfield was to try to get a little more advantage and push the game from the wings to open them up. In a lot of moments we were behind the ball instead of being in front of the ball, and then we couldn’t find openings as we normally do.
I think playing Zach [Pfeffer] was stuff for the future. We’re going to be in that situation in the future and I think he needs those games as well in order to get a feel for it. I think he was very good in the couple of days going into this game.
I think that when the game is different, we can put the weapons back and try to push the game as we did in the second half. The goal came too early to get a rhythm. It’s easy for any team that scores first, and then you chase the game and try to find openings. They counter with speed, but we did a pretty good job of containing them, and did better in the second half.
On his postgame message to the team:
There’s not much to say. We need to learn, and we knew that we would have our chances. Did you guys see the replay [of the free kick goal that was ruled offside] or not yet? I saw it, the frame. The ball is off Séba’s foot already by two or three yards.
It’s the last game in the season, we know where this thing is going. All I can say is that we live in a country where you can criticize everybody, including the President and the federal government. But you cannot criticize the referees, and this is a bad sign going into the playoffs.
I think from the beginning, you can see what the mentality from the four officials was. But as I said, all I can say right now is to applaud the effort of my team, because I know how much they wanted to win here. It’s a good thing that they pushed the game to the limit and gave everything they can.
On whether securing a high playoff seed was more important than getting his young players experience:
Not really. How old is Danny Mwanga, two years older [than Zach Pfeffer]? Or Jack [McInerney]? Roger [Torres] is not that much older either. So listen, it depends how you slice it. You can get this way or that way, and you don’t really know what is going to be the outcome.
We believe that for us to go this way is going to be better. It’s a learning process for all of us – we need to find our feet back and play the game as we normally play it. I think the experience today of the other team was a crucial factor in the whole situation.
On what the Red Bulls can do in the playoffs:
I don’t know. The playoffs are the playoffs. You never know what will happen. So I’m not going to comment on another team. I’m not inside the team, so who knows.
On whether Nowak might want this game back after the weekend, depending on what happens to other teams in the playoff race:
Not really. I think we put a lot of emotions and work in to get to the point where we are in the playoffs, and I think sometimes the message is getting old. I think the team needs to take charge right now to be in a position to challenge themselves.
I think that if you work every single day to push these guys, the message sometimes is going to get old. They need to take the reins from me and the coaching staff, and make sure they will compete against each other and against the teams they will face, whoever it’s going to be.
On what the Union need to do well in order to succeed in the playoffs:
Whoever we will play, you’ve got to be able to go and throw your emotions out the window – before the game or during the game. I think that as soon as the first whistle is blown, everybody has to be ready for a fight. Sometimes it’s not pretty.
I’ll give you examples: Colorado last year and Real Salt Lake two years ago. There are too many examples of where one play changes everything in the playoffs, one goal changes a game and a series is upside down.
You have to be ready for that challenge. These guys compete against each other every day, and they compete very well. The game is supposed to be played the same way.
We’ll figure it out. We’ll see what’s going to happen after the weekend, and we’ll find out what the story is going to be. Expectations are good if they are real, and for us, getting a result like today’s it’s good for us to go back and see what kinds of mistakes we made, and correct them as soon as we can.
On whether the poor playing surface was a factor in negating the Union’s speed:
It was a factor, but with all these young kids we have, getting the goal in the eighth minute and still trying to find a way to play is not an easy thing.
We thought we could find guys who could play the ball to their feet and really spread out the field, with Séba and Justin coming from the wings. We didn’t have a good fluidity in the game. It was too easy for the other team to just go back and cut off our passing lines.
It’s very easy to go into a shell and just counter, but I think in the second half we did better. We need to be more opportunistic. Regardless of the size [disadvantage], many times we had situations where we could spread the ball wide and keep numbers going in the box.
We tried to shoot or chip the ball. It’s very difficult, and there were big guys playing [for New York] as well.
New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe
I’m happy to see that we could handle the pressure and defend well and create a number of chances. We started against Kansas City in the last game very, very nervously. But this was a very big game for us to get into the playoffs after a rough season.
On whether he was surprised by the Union’s lineup:
We had expected - I know that [Veljko] Paunović was hurt. I’m not quite surprised that Freddy Adu was on the bench, and also they had [Danny] Mwanga on the bench – he’s been on the bench after an injury and came on in the second half.
If they had won, they probably would have gotten home advantage in the playoffs, so it was a big game for them too.
On whether there was a plan to deny Sébastien Le Toux the ball:
Yeah, we definitely said the key to our defending was to try to find him from every position on the field, even the center backs and fullbacks. He has phenomenal timing in his spin-and-runs.
But we were able to drop quite quickly with our back four to cover the space behind us. It was not that much space for him to run into.
The key was our pressing game, high up on the pitch, to force them to side passes and support passes. That worked well.
On whether any of his veteran players said anything in the locker room before the game or this week:
No, but we had a little bit of a different kind of team talk in the locker room today. It was more of a motivational video and things like that, just to change things. It looked like everyone was very sharp from the first second.
The video was about individual stuff, motivation in our season so far. We tried to find positive things for that video.
On the lack of creativity in the Red Bulls’ midfield, and whether that will continue in the playoffs:
I think this was a special game. Because we had given away a lot of unforced errors in our build-up, when we tried to come out from the back four. We said for this game, it has to be a quite direct game. It has to be cynical, and don’t give away any unforced errors.
Cynical – how can I translate that. It’s more like, just be direct. Don’t take any chances. If you can go forward, go forward, instead of having too much possession.
That is our target, what you are talking about: getting creative midfielders, a little bit more possession, final passes from midfield. But today, it was very direct, a lot of long ball passing to Luke Rodgers and Dane Richards.