Gary Smith and two of his players – including the newest signing, defender David Edgar – met with the media this afternoon. Here’s a transcript of their comments:
Does the team seem to be building a good rapport?
“It’s an ongoing process. I think there’s some really good relationships in there that they’re building both on and off the field. Fridays are always a little more upbeat and maybe a little bit more enjoyable. A lot of structural stuff’s done by then. So, we’ve got a regular Friday morning competition, which they’re all buying into. Bottom line is, there’s some really good signs, I’m very encouraged by what I saw at the weekend going forward. We looked a hell of a lot brighter in terms of creating goals. The hardest thing in the game is to score goals: I’ll be delighted if we can create as many chances as we did at the weekend just gone on a consistent basis, because I know that we’ll start to convert some of those. We’ll feel a hell of a lot better for it and kill games off. It’s almost one step at a time: the chances that we need to create, players, individuals that were obviously quite keen to create them or be part of that process, it’s an ongoing thing. Hopefully that continues this weekend.”
How do you go about rattling the confidence of an unbeaten Charlotte team?
“I’m sure they will be: they’ve had three home games and are unbeaten. They’ve managed to get themselves on the scoresheet regularly as well. So they’ll I’m sure be very keen to try and get us on the back foot. But it’s their first away game: they’ve played on a big, flat, and almost perfectly-groomed surface. This will be tighter, they’ll have hopefully 9,000-10,000 mad fans shouting down their neck, and we’ll be up for making sure they don’t get in too much of a rhythm. It won’t be a one-way traffic I’m, but I certainly want to try and achieve a couple of things. One is, I want to be as bright and as purposeful going forward as we were at the weekend just gone. I’d like to offer the fans as many chances as we did the weekend just gone, and my players will go into the game with a very positive and bright attitude to get Charlotte on the back foot from the early stages if we can, and make life difficult. Beyond that, we’ve got a plan, as I’m sure they will have. But the confidence in them I’m sure will be seen.”
What went into the process of signing David Edgar?
“Well I’m sure you’re aware that London Woodberry had a knee injury, and he’ll be out for the foreseeable future. At that point, the discussion was, ‘do we need some strength and depth? Do we need to add another player or try to to make sure that we’ve got enough quality and caliuber there if need be?’ The back four-five, whenever they’ve played, plus Matt Pickens have been very solid for the vast majority of the three games that we’ve played. I don’t think you can ever bypass an individual like David with his experience, with his caliber at such a high level, and with such a good character and appreciation of soccer in this country. David’s name came up as a free agent, and from that point it was a matter of discussion and trying to work out whether or not we could get a deal done.”
Has he been excited to get back on the field?
“He’s had a terrific experience up in Vancouver, just come back from a get-together with the Canadian National Team. Yes, he’s had a layoff, and I’m sure he’ll be keen to try and get some of those cobwebs out of the system. What I have seen, both in the buildup and investigating what David was about, and also in training in the last, what would be seven-eight days, he’s a very talented and experienced defender. He’s extremely comfortable on the ball, plenty of information to players around him, he demands more out of the back line and out of players in front of him, and I think honestly he fits into the group great. We have a really good set of individuals with tremendous character, and a very determined group, and I think David offers certainly the top level of soccer, and a lot of appreciation for what might be needed as we move through this season.”
How was Alan Winn’s performance Saturday?
“I thought he was great. He absolutely attacked the game. He showed tremendous energy, and if you look at some of the creative moments, Alan was involved in quite a lot of them. For a young guy, he conducted himself tremendously well, he gave the group another dimension and some more balance, and I thought it was a terrific league debut for the club. For a young player, what you’re looking for is an individual that takes and seizes his opportunity, and those moments for the young individuals will come along at some point. Whatever the circumstances, whether it’s an injury, suspension, changing personnel in terms of maybe bad form from somebody in front of him – once a chance comes, you’ve got to take it, because if you don’t, then there’s a seed of doubt in the coach’s mind as to whether or not you’re actually going to be that person to move forward with a group. I thought he absolutely took it in both hands, and I was very very pleased with him.”
Does the Michael Cox goal help build team confidence?
“Like I said, I honestly think that the creation of chances is the key. When we looked back at the footage, there were numerous moments in the game – as I’m sure you will agree if you’ve seen it – that we really should have extended our lead. It’s at those moments where Bethlehem took some chances. Certainly in the first half, they took some chances to get back on the scoresheet quickly, and I felt we navigated that well. But in the second period, it was one-way traffic, and the best chance for them came from a dead ball that Matt made a double-save from. But if you look at the amount of moments we had in front of goal, it was disappointing we couldn’t just put the game to bed, and feel a hell of a lot more comfortable about where the result was going. So it’s chances that are key. As I’ve said, if we can create anywhere near those opportunities this weekend, I’ll be very, very pleased.”
Thoughts on practice and the upcoming game?
“I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend against a very confident Charlotte team coming into town. They’re unbeaten, we’re going to be playing our first league home game at First Tennessee Park. We’re very very pleased to get that home stand up and running. After last weekend’s performance and a win, two clean sheets, the boys are confident, they were bright today, and certainly looking forward to the challenge at the weekend.”
How do you evaluate the performance against Bethlehem?
“I thought we had a lot of chances and opportunities, which is a positive sign from the previous games leading into it. You just build momentum off that, and score way more goals this next week.”
How did you hang on for the final few minutes?
“It’s tough. It’s a balance because they’re pushing with ten guys, and we have to balance out on the defensive end, and that’s the priority: to get the shutout. We had the subs that Gary made to put a little more pressure on them. If we can maintain the ball, that makes our lives easier. The final minutes of the game are obviously paramount for our decision-making, and I think guys did a decent enough job with it. I think that’s a big reason we got the result.”
What have you seen out of Alan Winn?
“He’s very enthusiastic, he’s very willing to go forward, has a lot of speed, has a lot of punch to him. I know he’s more than willing to get beyond, and when has has the ball at his feet, he’s more than willing to go at the guy. So he creates a different dynamic than the other guys. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and I think he’s really trying to push and press which is nice. He works so hard, so it’s a win-win for Winn, since he’s really pushing that lately. It’s great to have him on the field to create something different.”
What are you looking forward to against Charlotte?
“A lot of it’s going to be possession and what we do with the ball. It’s our field, our home our fans, so we’ve got to get them behind us and build a little bit of momentum. They do very well in tight areas, so how can we defend that and transition. Just all the elements of the game: if we win all the small battles we’re going to win the war, so we’ll take one thing at a time, one minute and a time, and one play at a time, that’s what we’ve gotta focus on.”
How do you slow down their top scorer, Jorge Herrera?
“He’s very active. For a player of his age and his skill, he’s very active – which is impressive to see. It’s going to be on us to stay tuned in to be aware of his movement, and it’s going to be a team effort – it’s not going to be a one-man show back there to defend him. As long as we’re organized, I think we’re going to be all right. Put pressure on him, and let our defenders defend. We’ve gotta have faith in them.”
Bolu Akinyode started next to you Saturday, how was that pairing?
“Bolu, he’s a strong player. Big presence in midfield, calm, collected, and all the midfielders on the team have very good attributes, that just makes my life easy as another midfielder. The big thing is that we all work through each other, it doesn’t’t matter who’s in there. Put Matt in there, put Josh Hughes in there, big presence either way, and then it’s just a different dynamic. As a holding mid, he really is a tackler, and he gets on the grind, which is nice to see.”
How have the first days with the new club gone?
“Yeah, it’s been good. Obviously the boys have been really welcoming. Getting into a new city can be difficult, new team, but it’s been a great group, and I’m excited to join.”
What went into the process of signing?
“I just want to play football again. When the call came, obviously I’d known about Nashville through the inaugural season and the MLS bid and everything, so it’s an exciting time here. As soon as I got the call, I was more than willing to talk about it, and I’m excited to be here.”
As a Canadian, is it encouraging to see the support for hockey in Nashville?
“It’s amazing. I had a friend here on the weekend, and we got some tickets to watch it, and he couldn’t believe it. The atmosphere at Bridgestone – we’ve watched a lot of hockey being Canadian – but the atmosphere is not quite like that. Pretty impressive.”
How is the injured knee holding up?
“I feel great. That’s just all precautionary, justy gotta watch it. It feels great, and just delighted to be here and get on with it and put that in the past now.”
Does having Premier League experience make it easier to give pointers to younger teammates?
“Not so much tips. I like to communicate on the field, and I’m more than willing to answer any questions that these guys have. Some of them are just starting out in their professional career. I’ve been there and done it, and I’m more than willing to help some fantastic young players here, too.”
Initial team thoughts?
“It’s tough to tell: I’ve seen them in training; I haven’t seen too many games as of yet. I’m excited for tomorrow. My initial thoughts are that there’s some very good young players, very good group mixed with experience. Players that want to play together, and a group that really enjoys working together. That’s key to especially a new team.”