Press conference transcript: May 4, 2018

Nashville SC midfielders Michael Reed and Robin Shroot met with For Club and Country Friday afternoon, along with their head coach, Gary Smith. What did they have to say about last week’s draw with Penn FC, and the upcoming game against New York Red Bulls II?

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Michael Reed. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Midfielder Michael Reed

What was the team able to take away from the draw against Penn FC?

“Our defensive structure is solid: we’re getting shutouts, and we’re not conceding goals. That’s a positive thing for any team.”

What can you do to improve the offense to complement that defense?

“I think some of it’s chemistry, working off each other, being aggressive, taking our chances when we can. When the opportunity comes, we’ve got to make the most of it.”

Do you do anything differently in central midfield based on who’s playing next to you, with Matt LaGrassa and Bolu Akinyode both getting serious time this year?

“Nah, I think both players are very utility-like. They can attack, they can defend. Bolu’s very strong, Matt’s very endurance-based. They’re both very skillful. It’s really just adapting off each other, which both players have done, I can do well, as well as Josh. Just keep moving forward with it and trying to create more in the attack.”

What are you going to expect out of NYRBII?

“Who knows? New team, it’s a wider field, it’s going to be in the middle of the day: every game seems to be something different. I think we just make the most of the challenge: attack aggressively.”

Does the wide field seriously impact the way you approach the game?

“I think it does. When the field’s that much wider, we have to change a little bit because it’s more conditioning, more running, things like that. Keeping track of balls may be different, and then spacing’s different. There’s a lot of different aspects to it, but it’s a challenge, and I think we’re up to the challenge and up to the task, and I think it’ll be a good game for us.”

robin shroot nashvile sc soccer football
Robin Shroot. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Robin Shroot

How do you rebound from a game where you created chances but didn’t finish them?

“I’m never really worried about missing chances, to be honest with you. As an attacking player, I think the intention that you show and the desire to actually be there is more important than actually missing. If I’m not there, or our attacking players are not there, I think that’s more reason to be worried. Of course, whilst I would have liked to have scored, I’m not the sort of person who gets worried if they miss.”

You’ve shown versatility by playing on the right side after starting the year as more of a central attacker. Are you comfortable playing anywhere up front?

“I would like to think so. I think that’s how I’ve played my whole senior career. I think the manager understands the capabilities that I have as a player off my right and left foot, and hopefully my football understanding. I think it’s transferrable: of course you have to be willing to be flexible in this game, and appreciate how you can make a difference.”

Are there specific steps you take to improve the finishing now that you’re creating more chances as a team?

“I think it’s a confidence thing throughout the team. I know I had some good chances, and like I said, I’m actually positive that I was able to fashion those. I think the more games you play, the more consistently you get in those positions, I think it’s like anything in life: trial and error. The more you’re there, there more percentage you have of scoring. I think it’s evident of any top team, any top player:” the more they score goals, it’s because they’re there more often than not.”

Have you seen anything in New York that indicates you’ll be able to make some chances?

“Again, we have to work out what gave us success in creating chances, and magnify that from game to game. Of course, every game is different, but it’s still 11v11, and there’s still a mindset where if you believe you’re going to create chances, and you’re taking responsibility to do so, of course you’re going to get those positions more often than not.”

The Red Bulls have been much more high-scoring on the road. Does that change the way you have to approach the game as an attacker?

“It’s like any game of senior soccer. I’m not one to really read into stats, coming from my background. I know that they’ve scored goals at home, and that’s probably for a reason: they’re an attack-minded team and they’re positive in their play. Of course, that gives us an opportunity to exploit the weaknesses that they might have in order to fashion the game in the way that we want.”

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Gary Smith. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Gary Smith

Do you feel like you should have been more clinical against Penn FC?

“Absolutely. Away games are always difficult: you’ve got to contend with a different surface, and we’ve run into many different types of surfaces and field dimensions. You have the journey on top of that, in some cases a bit of a time difference. There’s always something to contend with. Home team want to try and take advantage of exactly that: bneing at home. I honestly thought we diominated the chances. Their efforts on goal were from set pieces, mostly long-range. The one moment they did have was just after halftime – if I remember right – a header that Heinemann missed the target with. When I look back at the chances that we created, carved out, and the sights at goal we had, we really should be converting at least one of those, and we’re looking at a completely different picture now. Two extra points on the board, another good away win, and in all honesty, that really should have been the case. But scoring goals is the most difficult thing to do in the game, otherwise games would be 12-10. There’s a lot that needs to be constructed to create a chance, and then obviously on the end of it, have the clinical edge as you’ve said, and the right culture to finish that chance. We’re constantly working towards that, as are a lot of teams. My hope is that one of the forwards gets into a bit of a vein in form and confidence, and they can give everyone else just a little bit of a lift, and the end product is some really good play.”

When you’re in a finishing slump, is this long break between games better, or would you rather get your reps in game situations to break out of it?

“Whatever you do on the training field is repetition work, of course, that the guys can feel better about and maybe improve their type of finish and accuracy, timing. Nothing replicates playing in a game: some of the pressures, big crowds – and there’s some good crowds in this league – working off of a different surface, as I’ve said, against opponents, and there’s plenty of defensive groups that are frugal, and tight, and difficult to try and navigate. Nothing really replicates playing in a game, but actually getting those reps, and building a bit of confidence of course does help. The thing that we need, I think, is a little bit of a breakout game. I’ve seen a couple of them from some other teams: it wasn’t a surprise to me that Cincinnati scored three up in Ottawa, and then banged another three past Indy. It’s confidence in the group that they can find the back of the net, and I think we need one of those games, where two or three goals are a real confidence for everyone, shows everyone that we’re capable of just converting some of those chances, and it just gives everyone a little bit more of a spring in their stride. One of those games would be great for us – this weekend, hopefully.”

Does the approach change when you’re playing a Major League Soccer B-side rather than an independent USL team?

“I think for most of the “II” teams, you’re going to find that there’s a bit of a developmental aspect to it, of course. The style of play generally reflects the first team, otherwise the development of that group and those players doesn’t really fit or benefit the organization. So there tends to be quite a few more trends in the way that they play. I do honestly think that a lot of the “II” teams play with a lot less restriction or fear. This New York Red Bulls team who have scored plenty of goals at home play with some real cavalier attitude and style: a lot of players that are good going forward and want to get into the attacking half of the field. They’ve had results from that at home on a very good surface and a big field at Red Bull Arena. But they’re also vulnerable. There’s always a balance to be had in a lot of games, and the balance for us is to score more goals even though we’ve looked better defensively. The balance for teams like Red Bull are that they need to score lots of goals, otherwise there’s a chance that they will be vulnerable for counter-attacks and certainly gaps in their back line because they throw lots of bodies forward. There’s always an Achilles Heel to every team. I’ve not seen one yet that holds the key to absolutely everything, unless you’re at the very very top level. We have to try and take advantage of some of their issues. Likewise, they’ll be looking and scouting us and thinking there’ll be one or two areas they might be able to take advantage of themselves.”

New York is known for a high press. How do you deal with that?

“Because it’s OK saying you want to high press. IOf it was that easy, every team would do it. You’ve got to have players that are capable athletically, you’ve got to have players that have the right intelligence, and appreciation of when and where to press. They’ve got to be able to work together to get that job done. And then ultimately, when they do lock a team out or they do win the ball or get in a position to win the ball, they’ve got to be good enough, and sensible enough, intense enough to win it. These young players lack experience in some cases, they’re not on the same page all the time, and that’s why they’re in the developmental group: they’re trying to improve. So there will be times where they don’t get it quite right. However, when they do get it right, they’re bloody good at it. There’ll be areas that we can take advantage of. We have players that have got good athleticism and if we need to go a little bit longer and miss out the press, we will do when we need to. I think in those cases, you’re going to see some gaps that some of our guys can work into. They also have a bit of a conundrum to deal.”

Alan Winn missed last Tuesday’s game. Does he still figure into the team’s plans on a weekly basis?

“Alan has fitted in fantastically well. He’s been very productive. He’s an extremely bright attacking player and has a terrific future. Alan unfortunately didn’t play down in Penn because of an injury. We were very hopeful that we could travel with him. The injury that he sustained was one that needed some extra attention. In the warmup, Alan felt as though he was unable to enter the field, which is a real shame: shame for me, shame for him, shame for the team. Ongoing, he’s one of a number of players that I’m looking at as exciting dimensions to our team that can fulfill some of the problems that we have, which is scoring goals and creating goals. Not so much the creating at the minute, but more the scoring. Alan has certainly proved when he’s on the field, he looks like he’s capable of achieving just that. At the moment, he is somebody certainly that, as long as he’s fit and healthy, he features very strongly in my mind.”

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