Head coach Gary Smith
“I thought for 87 or 88 minutes we played a perfect game there. They’re always very difficult, they’re a very frugal team, and to be two-nil up, it was more than maybe we expected. I’m of course very disappointed in the way that we finished the game, but for lots and lots of reasons, it was a very very good performance. If I’m looking at what we achieved last week, how we attacked this, when we produced, to come away from home and dictate the game for large portions, at a place like this, is not easy. So, I’m, of course bitterly disappointed we haven’t taken all three – it feels like a defeat. However, I think at moments like this, we certainly have to look at the positives. I’d like to think if we attack games and give the type of performance that we have tonight, we get more out of these away games than we did last week.”
“It’s not an easy place here. I thought we needed a little bit more steel and discipline at the back there. A three-man midfield of really genuine midfield players, rather than creators. Like I said, for long portions of the game, it turned out the right way. Sadly, the game’s not 87 minutes long: it’s 90 minutes-plus long. It’s a valuable lesson learned. Most of the choices and construction of the group was pretty much perfect. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see the job through.”
Did you have the impression set pieces would be your primary source of offense?
“I didn’t think for one minute that we’d see Pittsburgh score twice through open play, and they have. That’s a concern and we can certainly have a look at that and learn some lessons from it, for sure. As far as we were concerned, when we looked at how the game might unfold, and what it might represent, set pieces and set plays were definitely going
to be a feature of both teams. We fortunately were able to convert on a couple of occasions, and get ourselves in a great position. Really and truly, we should be able to see a game like that out. So there are some major disappointments in only taking a point away from this. However, they’re one of our main competitors, and we certainly don’t want to come away to good sides like Pittsburgh and get beat. It didn’t ever feel like that was on the cards. The real disappointment is we haven’t taken all three tonight.”
Was there a common thread to the Pittsburgh goals?
“Not really, no. I thought it was the first period of the game where they threw a couple more bodies forward, and maybe a little bit more urgency – and even panic – to get back in the game with time running out and the clock running down.
“It looked a really routine cross to me, the first goal. I didn’t have a very good angle and I haven’t had the chance to see it again. It looked like Volesky nicked in front of the centerbacks and got some sort of connection to it, of course, and turned it in to the near post. Even at that point we had limited them to very little in terms of efforts on
goal and on target. I still felt as though we would see the game out: there was no reason to suspect otherwise.
“Again, I am not quite sure how the second goal is constructed, or they are allowed to be in that position. I am almost certain I am going to see poor recovery area, a lack of awareness in vital moments to see the game out. This really isn’t about tactics or
construction of the team: the job’s done. This is about guys knuckling down and getting the final moments done and just getting us through. That really boils down to experience and some wherewithal and some inner strength to see off a good side. Unfortunately tonight, we haven’t been able to.”
Defender Kosuke Kimura
What turned the final few minutes of the game
“I mean, we did have personnel change: A couple of players were tired and we thought 2-0, a 2[-goal] lead was enough. Comes down to maybe just a little mental, and that one goal gave them momentum: it changed the dynamic of the game. They smelled, they tasted that. They were pushing forward, and we absorbed it. We should be able to absorb, but at the same time, we were just a little bit slower at the last second. It may come from fatigue or mental.”
Is it more likely to be physical, or fatigue leading to mental letdowns?
“The first goal that they scored came from nowhere. It was just a great goal, a tremendous effort and it went in, but we weren’t expecting it. I need to watch the video: I couldn’t tell from my angle, but maybe for players, we were 2-0 up, ‘we’re going to win with a couple of minutes left.’ You never know, this sport’s so funny: it can shift any time. We don’t have our own timer. That’s why this sport is so beautiful, because the game is alive, it’s living. They took that advantage after they finished the first goal.”
What allowed you to be so strong for the first 87 minutes?
“Last week, we struggled playing against a 3-4-3 shape similar to Pittsburgh. We had a goal, but we couldn’t get anything done. We got counterattacked in a transition moment and we lost the game 3-1. The first two goals, especially, quick transition. We knew that this turf is not easy for us to play. We’re not used to it, small field, and it’s going to be hectic, it’s going to be quick, it’s going to be ball in the air and all of that. So we just decided to go like for like, they play 3-4-3, so why not?
3-5-2, we had done it before: last year it got a good result away, and sometimes home even. That’s why we decided to do it. We have decent players that can do their jobs. Definitely, it was working for sure until the last five minutes.”
What makes turf difficult to play on?
“It’s just sometimes, especially when it rains, it bounces weird, the ball runs funny sometimes, and it’s just bouncy. You have less of a second to control it, maybe the ball is a little bit bouncing, you lose 0.2 seconds and you focus on technique right on the play. It adds up, 0.2, 0.3, well it adds up to one second and it’s slow sometimes and making this transition has to be quicker, your movement has to be quicker, so all of those things.”
When is he going to join the defender scoring party?
“Hopefully. Set pieces are 40% of all the goals that were scored last year. We knew that we’ve been practicing, so that was great. But at the same time, we can’t concede goals [defensively to even out the scoring]. Most of the time I’m staying back on the set pieces, so it’s going to be tough for me, but hopefully.”
Defender Bradley Bourgeois
How good does it feel as a defender to see the ball go in?
“On that note, it feels good. Definitely came earlier than last year for sure. I think to see it go in the back of the net gives you confidence, especially going into the box this year, it feels good. For me, it feels good, especially since it’s only my second start of the year. To get one after two games, it’s nice.”
What was the feeling starting the season as a bench player?
“Definitely frustrating. We’re competitors, we definitely want to be out there, especially from what I know that and felt like I brought last year. The thing is, your role changes all the time. For me, the first four or five games, my role was different: supporting and pushing the guys. I got my chance, and I felt like I took it.”
What did you see on the goal?
“We felt like all game our second run, second chances were on [after set piece service]. Once it got played in and it got bounced out, for me it was all about trying to make that second run to the back post. Fortunate enough, Ken just put it in a good area and some might say it’s lucky, but I think hard work causes that.”
What’s it like to change to a three-man backline mid-season?
“It’s weird. I think we’re adaptable, I think we’re a group that is able to change and go into a three-back, and we can have a four-back at times. I think from last week it’s a much-improved performance defensively. I know it’s disappointing to give up the last two, but for about 85 minutes there, I thought we were really good.”
What was going through your mind during the period where you weren’t allowing shots, much less goals?
“To be honest, it was one of those where it was really about having a locked-in mentality. I thought we did really well with that, and it’s unfortunate that as soon as they make one, it felt like the walls were crumbling down a bit. But in those moments – that 85-86 minutes – it really felt like there was no chance that they were going to get one.”