After a disappointing result in First Tennessee Park, Gary Smith and two of his players address the media. Watch or read what they had to say here.
Head coach Gary Smith
(On his thoughts on the game)
“Disappointed. There’s lots of emotions coming back and playing at home after such a long stretch away. I think one of the main ingredients that we’d all spoken about as a group was being passionate about the game and attacking the game in the right fashion. I actually felt as though in the opening exchanges, we looked quite bright, and I think the best opportunity in that opening 10-12 minutes was Kharlton Belmar’s header. In tight games against a team that have shown already that they’re going to be a pretty tough nut to crack, you know you’re never going to get too many sights on goal. So when you do, you’ve got to take advantage of it. I never felt as though there was any true threat on our goal in the first half until the set piece. We had another very nice opportunity that went under Kharlton’s foot just before the break. In all honesty, we have to make more of those. The goal changes the dynamic and the dimensions of the game. They change at halftime to add a little bit more of an attacking look to the wide areas which of
course continued throughout that second period. Whilst we dominated the ball for large degrees, it really wasn’t an easy task to break that group down, and it wasn’t helped with a little bit of frustration and edginess in some of the quality when we got into the final third of the field. So yep: bitterly disappointing. I still thought there were moments when we should have gotten something out of the game. Looking at the stats with just two shots on goal, we’re certainly not being overly fortuitous at the moment when teams play against us. The opportunities they’re getting have been pretty clear-cut.”
(On reasons for miscommunication at the top of the box)
“I think there’s a combination of reasons for that. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the way they play. They’re tough to play against. Three center backs do a terrific job, and they’ve got some nice continuity now. Their midfield players put on really good screens, they recover quickly. If you don’t make things happen brightly and in transition, then there’s a different game in front of you. You’ve got to break that down. You’ve got to be brighter in the wide areas. So to your point, at some stage there’s got to be some creativity, and I think maybe what you’re seeing is some disguise in an individual’s play hoping that there’s a connection and they can break through those lines. It’s not easy. I’ve watched some top games – as we all have – over the last weeks or months, and there’s plenty of very very good teams that find it incredibly difficult when they go a goal down to break down a good defensive unit. The key for us here has to be getting in front. Missed opportunities, missed moments, poor choices: when we go into encouraging positions, there just wasn’t enough quality to ask enough questions of a good defense.
“On the night, I think there were some individuals that will certainly go home and feel as though they were below par. There’s no way I can tell, when the players step onto the field, how their form’s going to be. There’s no lack of energy, there’s no lack of determination, but there was a lack of sparkle. There was a lack of connection, and it’s certainly an area of our game – you can see with Cameron and Daniel, they have no football together, you know? They’re both extremely talented forwards, but you’ve got to combine against a good three-man backline, and there just wasn’t that understanding throughout the game, not just in the second half.”
Belmar header saw chances dry up?
“We’ve spoken a lot about momentum, about managing periods in a game. The guys put a lot of effort and energy into that opening exchange, and you tend to find the intensity goes out of it: it’s just a natural course of events. We’ve had a couple of moments, we’ve had a good chance, we’ve been in some good positions and not taken advantage of it, and then you find a little bit of a lull in the game. You see it many, many times.
“They realize at that point that maybe the first onslaught has ended, and in that period, I thought it was competitive. There was nothing in their game that I felt was going to be too troubling. I think with their first real passage of play that got them into a fairly decent area out wide, Taylor made a rash choice. He dives in on a challenge, he gives them a good opportunity to effect a situation that they’ve been very good at. I’ll be saying that against any team: you don’t want to allow any group to be working a delivery from a very tight angle on the edge of the area into your penalty box. We paid the price. in the very first momnent that they have any sort of pressure towards our goal. That, in itself, turns the game on its head. Because now you’ve got a group that have weathered a tough time, and then now they’ve just struck and they’ve scored. That gives them massive confidence and it gives them a huge lift. At that point, we’re playing a different game, a completely different game. They don’t commit as many players, they don’t need to. They know that they’re good at what they do, and now you’ve got to try to break that down, you’ve got to try to find some answers, hence the changes.
“I haven’t seen it again, but I can guarantee that a ball worked in to the back post, when it’s that narrow, it’s a difficult set piece to deal with. I’d have to look again at our start positions, but it looked like one of their bodies peeled off at the back post. Then, as always, when you concede from a second phase, one of their players has taken a gamble, and one of our players hasn’t followed that. It’s almost a tap-in. To be perfectly honest, it’s a routine set piece. Difficult area, but routine. Hugely frustrating.”
Giving up set piece goals
“I look at these stats here, and coaches will look at these and of course, we can manufacture these statistics however we want. It looks good that you’ve got nice possession, and you’ve been in the final third a lot, and entry passes and crosses, but the only stat that’s important is the top one. Now, we;’ll be encouraged with certain things that went on, but to your point, at home, we’ve got to do more. There is no doubt about it: we have to do more. That’s on the shoulders of everyone. That’s attacking players to find a moment to be a difference-maker: to step forward and make a difference. And for defenders, in those fleeting moments – and they are fleeting – no one’s going to tell me tonight that Tampa’s been laying siege to our goal, they’ve been the stronger side throughout. They’ve won the game, that’s the most important point. They’ve added another three points to the table. There’s lots of work that need to be done with the group in the final third when we run into occasions like this. Unfortunately, with whatever team you have, that takes a long time, because you’re now looking at creative final points, the final moments, the goal-scoring opportunities, an individual that makes a difference. That’s not easy – if it was easy, games would be five- or six-all, so it’s not. What I do believe, as I’ve said before, is far more important to us, is taking advantage early on of a good start/ It’s being able to manage moments better – whether it’s a free kick that doesn’t need to be given or conceded, whether it’s dealing with a moment knowing there ain’t many, there ain’t gonna be many. just gotta deal with this moment, and then guess what? We’ll be back on track. And we’ve fallen foul of that at the moment.
Did Cameron and Daniel get a chance to build some chemistry?
“I thought it was tough for them. I’m sure they’ll both feel that they were suffocated by a good defense. I think if you spoke to them, they’d also be saying maybe the service wasn’t as good as it should have been. It just isn’t as easy as saying, ‘OK, we’ll take a Kharlton Belmar from there, he’s scored 15 goals last year, we’ll take Cameron, who’s scored 26, and Daniel – and let’s add that to there.’ What you hope is, with three individuals that have shown that they can score goals, that over the course of the season, that you see some decent return from those guys.
“Cameron scored 26 goals in a season for Louisville – but let’s not forget he’d been with that group for three years or more. you build relationships, you build synergy, you build understanding. At the moment, this is Cameron’ first 45 minutes that he’s had for us. I’ve got him on the field because I know that his record’s great. That’s where I want him to be. He’s had a difficult time, it’s been frustrating for him, he’s picked up two or three niggling injuries, and it’s going to be – now is the time that he’s got to be working for the next 4-8 weeks to get himself back to sharpness, to get himself back in the group, and feeling like he belongs up top again. I’m sure he’s forgotten what it’s about – it’s been a while for him.
“Yeah, it was tough. I wasn’t expecting many chances wither way, it worked out that way. I thought we had the best moments and the best – in more exciting areas – but didn’t make enough of them. Not at all.”
Midfielder Bolu Akinyode and defender Bradley Bourgeois
Has it been nice to establish yourself in the lineup?
Bourgeois: “It’s nice to join the group, get some games in, just get a run of form. It’s been nice, but overall, it’s just about the team. It’s more than myself, and the team comes first.”
What did you see on Tampa’s set piece goal?
Bourgeois: “To be honest, on the first look of it, it just seemed to be one on the back post. After that, it’s just second balls. It’s literally just staying switched on. I wouldn’t say that’s something that we’ve struggled on this year, but it still stings a little bit from last year, especially: giving up goals in key moments.”
How do you make sure guys stay switched on?
Bourgeois: “I thought we started off bright, and started off with some purpose going forward. But to say switched on, it’s just about individual moments and individual battles. Unfortunately, we were on the losing half of that.”
What role can the midfielders play in creating more offensive chances?
Akinyode: “I think today I struggled to get on the ball. I usually kind of get on the ball a little bit more and help us start attacks. But I don’t think that was the case today for me individually. It was a game kind of – they played the same formation as us, same system – that it was stagnant. I don’t think there was much in the game other than they have a set-piece chance, and we have a half chance on a header in the first half. I think that’s really it. There wasn’t much in the game; it wasn’t played much in the midfield. It was more bypass and over-the-top. I think I certainly could have done more to help the team getting on the ball, which I didn’t today, and that’s the game sometimes.”
What was Gary Smith’s postgame message to the team?
Akinyode: “Obviously it’s key moments for him. He looks at the game and he’s like we started off bright. I thought we started off alright. Got a couple chances, didn’t really make the most of it. They get a chance off a set piece, and the whole complexion of the game changed, you know? Goals change games at the end of the day. They get a goal, they’re on the road, they sit back, they don’t have to do much, and that’s the game right there. It’s not like they shredded us open and created a bunch of chances, and it’s we shredded them open. It was the one moment, and unfortunately, that’s football sometimes.”
What made Tampa’s second-half bunker particularly difficult?
Akinyode: “Not anything we haven’t seen before. I son’t think we were great with the ball today as a group, which made it easier for them. In a sense, I think when it looked like we were stringing a couple passes today, something goes astray or it just wasn’t clean enough sometimes in the final third with services and stuff, but again: that’s the game, you’re going to have games like that.”
Is a set piece goal of your own something that you need to respond in a game like that?
“Sometimes, take a look at last week, we scored two set piece goals. I think that’s the game sometimes. We can sit here and talk about different moments in this season particularly, but as the season goes on you’ll see there are different things that’re gonna happen and similar themes. Some may going to work out in our favor, and sometimes it doesn’t work out in our favor. Not saying we were great tonight, but it’s tough. We gave up a set piece chance, they score off that, they sit back, they;’re away from home, and walk away with three points.”
Is there a difference between playing next to Kosuke Kimura and Darnell King at right back?
“To be honest, they’re like-minded. They’re two – very aggressive going forward. Defensively, they’re very solid. I really don’t see that there’s a whole world of a change: we just have one who’s younger than the other, that’s pretty much about it. We’ve brought in guys who really are like-minded, and I think those two are great when they both come in.”
How do you move on to Saturday after tonight’s disappointment?
Bourgeois: “It’s already done; it’s gone.”
Akinyode: “It’s a quick turnaround. Obviously this Saturday is going to pose a different game completely than this one. So I think at the end of the day, we’ve just got to bury it in the back of our minds. There’s no point in dwelling on it now, we can’t go back and re-play the game. Get after it Saturday, and get all three points on Saturday, nothing less.”
Bourgeois: “Get food, get sleep, it’s just another day.”
What changes for you when an offensive player in Kharlton Belmar plays as the wingback?
Bourgeois: “Yeah, I guess it’s kind of we switch mindsets a little bit. For me, defensively – not to say that Kharlton can’t defend, I think everyone has that in them – but he is an offensive- minded guy and that allows him to be more isolated. I don’t think we took advantage of him as much as we should have and allowed him to go one-v-one and that’s kind of what we were trying to do. Defensively, he did his job and I think we wished we could have used him a bit more effectively.”