I transcribed so many quotes from Union and Whitecaps players Saturday night that I figured I would save the managers’ postgame press conferences for later. Here’s what Peter Nowak and Vancouver’s Martin Rennie had to say after the scoreless draw at PPL Park.
Union manager Peter Nowak
On how the defense performed:
Very good. There was just one moment in the second half where we didn’t see what was coming, but overall very solid. The five guys, six guys in the front of Zac did a pretty good job going forward and recovering.
So I think, except for a couple of shots, there was not really a big chance for Vancouver. From this perspective, we are very happy to stop the series of mistake and keep the zero for Zac. It’s good for his confidence and good for our defensive block as well.
On his decision to play Chandler Hoffman as a wide midfielder instead of as a forward:
He wasn’t playing in the midfield. The idea was that – and we trained this also in the preseason – Chandler did a good coming from outside to inside as a second striker.
The chance he had in the second half, right after halftime, that’s what we were looking for more of. We’re going to work on that, not only for him but for Jack McInerney as well.
On Zac MacMath’s performance:
As I said, it’s going to help all of these guys with their confidence. We stopped the negative series, regardless of how you slice it, but we didn’t get a goal. I think the defensive block was very solid.
Do we need to polish some things offensively? Yes, of course. But that comes with confidence and winning games. I think we’re in a good way right now. We have a couple of weeks to polish these things and make sure that we’re going to be more efficient.
On the conditions of Danny Califf and Roger Torres:
Danny is good. I think he played a tremendous game today, so my hat is off to him. As I said to him, you’ve got to be prepared for that physically and mentally. I think it was a very good game from Danny.
Roger, it’s competition. He needed to go back after the Chicago game. We had three offensive guys with Jack and Danny Mwanga and Josué Martinez on the bench, and we needed to have cover offensively with Amobi Okugo and Chris Albright.
Michael Farfan needs to work on his fitness as well, so we didn’t try to push the envelope too much. So he came in the second half.
I think, as I said, that competition is always good. We have three guys coming back from the Olympic team as well, so it’s going to be two good weeks of training, and to make sure we’re going to get the fighting spirit and performance that we had today.
We’ve been preaching for a long time about the fighting spirit, about fighting for each ball and making tackles in the right time, and going forward. What’s missing is we should shoot more on the goal. We tried to take chances, to be more opportunistic, and I think that’s the part that’s missing right now.
As a coaching staff, with also Alecko Eskandaridan, we’ll work with our forwads to make them aware of this.
On Gabriel Farfan’s performance:
On both sides of the ball, offensively, as a right wing midfielder, he did well. In the second half, we had to make a change. He was very good going forward, and also defensively as well.
He’s accustomed to the [left back] position. It might not be his natural position, but he’s good at it. If you are good at this, then you have to use that as a team.
On whether instilling the mentality to shoot in the team’s strikers should be necessary, given what should be the players’ instincts:
Yes and no. The problem is still that they are in the mindset right now that we are in a losing streak. The mindset is always to choose the easy way, the safest way. If you are winning, you are more confident, you take your chances and are more opportunistic. It doesn’t mean that you have to make those kinds of decisions.
They are still very young, and some of those decisions, they are afraid to take them. That’s the point of encouraging. Take your chances – I know this is the safest pass, but maybe this is another option you can take where you can be successful.
I think it’s the whole package. It’s not just that they are afraid to shoot, I think it’s a situation where they would rather take the safe pass and be more opportunistic, take a shot on the goal. That needs to be corrected.
On whether this game was a distraction, and on getting it out of the way:
I think the game was – we prepared the team for this fight. We knew they hadn’t conceded a goal yet, and that they would sit back looking for counters. We knew that Atiba Harris is pretty good, and he’s still coming back, but he’s still pretty good.
Going forward, you have a couple of guys who are creative, but from our perspective, it was just getting to the basics. Making sure they were going to fight for every ball, making sure they were going to be on the end of crosses.
We missed here and there - the crossbar, little things – and you can’t change that. But overall, we’re progressing, and that’s not going to stop.
We’re going to give a couple of days off right now for these guys to recharge their batteries, and it’s the same with Freddy [Adu]. We agreed to give him off after the Olympic qualifiers.
They need a break from the whole thing, from the routine. You have the coach screaming at you every single morning. I think it’s good for them as well that they are going to get away from that.
On whether Gabriel Farfan has risen over Porfirio Lopez on the depth chart at left back:
If he plays like today, yes.
On Keon Daniel’s performance:
It was very good, and I think he’s more confident off the ball with Sheanon on the right side - even if he’s naturally a left-footed guy. I think he was very comfortable in situations, and finding those pockets underneath the defenders, and pushing Sheanon to the wing.
I think it’s a good combination. They’ve been playing in this fashion in the preseason as well. I think it was a great performance.
On whether taking Porfirio Lopez out of the game at halftime was a tactical decision:
Yeah, because we needed to go more offensive on the left, and also give us a little more width. And Gabriel is a little bit faster, he’s a little bit more composed in the defense. So both things, and bring in Michael to give us a little bit of flair in the midfield and shut down Vancouver’s guys who were sitting in front of their back four.
We did a pretty good job with that, and I think we will continue to look at this. It’s only the stuff on the offensive side that needs to be polished. The rest was very good.
On whether it’s tough to have a two-week layoff between games:
It’s not in our situation, I would say. It’s more recharging the batteries, but to keep the same mindset when we come back, because the Columbus game is not going to be easy. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to progress, that we continue to build what we’ve been doing for two weeks right now, regardless of the result in Chicago.
I think we’re missing a little bit here and there, but there are a lot of positives [today]. We played to zero [defensively], we had a lot of chances. We just need one goal, and there will be change.
On whether he is still experimenting with his attacking lineup:
In the preseason, we started trying to find out what is the best possible way to do this thing. We already had ideas there. What was happening in the meantime, we had Freddy off, we had a couple of people coming and going in different stages.
So we’re not experimenting anymore, but we’re still trying to find a formula – not only going forward, but also defensively, so that we’re not going to leave wide open spots.
It’s a combination of things, but we put the players in positions where they feel comfortable. I’m not sure that’s the problem, [players] being confused or not knowing what they’re doing on the field. I think it’s more, as I said, it’s about being opportunistic and taking your chances. The rest is going to come.
It’s still progress. It was more important to stop this negative series [of results], and make sure that we are going to progress as a team. We can’t promise anything – all we can promise is to fight, and that’s what the team did today for 90 minutes.
Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie
I think it was a solid road performance. On the road, there are always going to be a couple of chances that the opposition get, and that happened. But the missing thing was the goal at the other end. We played reasonably well, we kept decent possession, and created not many chances, but a couple of good chances.
We were really looking to take one of those to get ourselves a win. I think in our locker room, we’re disappointed that we haven’t done better today.
On the importance of his team’s defensive performances, especially given how often visiting teams have struggled when making cross-country trips for road games:
I think it’s important. I think that it was a good, solid performance, and I think we did pass the ball and possess it well at times. But it doesn’t matter how far you travel, or how you get here – there’s no excuses when you get to the game. We do think we could have done a little bit more today.
I think that shows some progress with the club, that there’s not satisfaction with a point on the road even though there’s been long travel. Four clean sheets in a row, those are all positive things.
But to build the kind of team we want to build, we’ve got to have higher expectations than that, and we didn’t quite do it today.
On his tactical adjustments at halftime:
I think that in the first half, we were doing well up until about the 35th minute, and then when Philadelphia changed their system a little bit, it gave them more of the ball. So we changed our system just before halftime and stuck with it in the second half.
I think it meant that we kept the ball quite well. We kept fairly solid shape, and I think it worked quite well for us. On the road, you’re only going to get one or two chances, and if you can take them, then it’s going make all the difference. We didn’t quite do that today.
The good thing was, we didn’t give up too many chances – a couple on crossed balls and set plays, I think – but other than that we did quite well in that aspect of the game.
On why Camilo didn’t play:
He was injured.
On whether not having given up a goal all season is a source of pride:
Yeah. Shutouts come from the whole team working really, really hard for one another, so that’s the thing that you take pride in – that your guys are all working together for one another, and they’re sticking together.
That’s important, and that’s a big part of being successful in soccer. If you get clean sheets, you have a good chance to succeed. I suppose with getting all those clean sheets, we would like to have notched another win today if we could have.
On whether he felt Sébastien Le Toux treated this game differently from others:
No, I think he’s fairly level-headed psychologically. But I do think it’s good for him to get this game out of the way and get on with the season. I think it was obviously a big deal for him. He was a fantastic player for the Philadelphia Union, and I believe he’ll be a great player for the Whitecaps as well.
This is a hard-working city and people love hard-working people, and with Sébastien, you don’t get much more hard-working than he is. We’re very glad to have him. His work rate is phenomenal, and I think that’s had a big impact on our team and made them work hard, and follow suit from what he’s done.
It will be good for him to have gotten this game out of the way now, and he won’t be playing in Philadelphia for a while. So he can get on with what he’s good at, and I look forward to working with him as we build our group.
On whether the lack of goal from the forwards is a concern, since none of his team’s forwards have scored a goal since Le Toux’s four minutes into the season opener on March 10:
I think if you’re not scoring goals, that’s always a frustrating thing. But you know what, this is the third team that I’ve built, and I’ve been through this process before. It takes a little bit to get that clicking, and I’m not concerned about it in that regard. I know what it takes and I know how it comes together.
It doesn’t always happen right away, and it often requires an individual guy, or one or two guys, to really take the bull by the horns and make it happen. We haven’t quite found that yet, but I do think that it will come.
I think as well today, you’ve got to remember that guys like [Eric] Hassli and Camilo - big players for us – weren’t playing today. Etienne Barbara is a guy who will score goals at this level, we haven’t had him. Darren Mattocks is someone who’s electric* and we haven’t had him today, so we do have a lot to call upon.
I think that gives us excitement when they’re back as well.
On whether the weather was a factor in his team’s performance:
Once you’re out there, I don’t think you feel it – especially with that big warm jacket on, I didn’t feel it. But with the other guys, I don’t think it was too much of a factor. It’s a beautiful stadium, a great setting here, and it was a privilege to play out there today.
* - Since you made it this far, I’ll tell you that there were a few quiet laughs in the press room when Rennie described Darren Mattocks as “electric,” given Mattocks’ recent kitchen mishap.
Not that an incident which caused serious burns should be mocked too much, but a few of us scribes figured Mattocks would have a gas range in his kitchen.