Was the Memphis win a bounceback from the two prior losses that takes you into the next phase of the season?
“It was important in more ways than one. We’d had 10 days break, local rivalry, beaten in the last two games – which was a huge disappointment for everyone involved – and knowing that we have another break. so it was very very important to take all three points. I thought the game contained more than just adding the points: Clean sheet, addition of Jimmy Ockford – I thought he had a terrific display – seeing Vinnie Vermeer for the first time, really. Vinnie’s injury took him out of the game in New York, so we get Vinnie on the field. And of course we were, in many ways, struggling for bodies. We’d had a spell where we were fighting very hard to get players back fit, and I thought the guys that came in stepped up to the plate magnificently.
“So there was an awful lot to take out of the game. We’ve now had another period of time – and it’s amazing how things pan out: we needed the time before the Memphis game to prepare, and then we could have done with a game straight away, given the confidence in the group. But we deal with the way the schedule has panned out and set up. What it has enabled us to do is prepare in the right way, to stay focused, and to be ready for a very good Indianapolis team.”
What do Jimmy Ockford and Forrest Lasso bring to your side as loan signings?
“I think honestly, it’s an easy one for most people to see. These guys are coming from MLS environments. Forrest has been defender of the year at this level, and won a [regular-season] championship with Cincinnati as we know full well – we ran into him four times last year. He brings a fantastic physical presence to the group, and he’s a wonderful leader. You’ve seen Jimmy in action: he hasn’t played as much as Forrest this year, but has been a feature of that San Jose side in the past, so he’s got good experience. Again, a very vocal individual. Somebody that – both of them – I felt were necesary for the group to add competition to that central defensive area. If there’s been anywhere that has ben a little bit off color, it’s been there. I’ve been very fortunate, the guys behind the scenes – Ally [MacKay] and Chance [Myers], and of course Mike Jacobs – have done a fantastic job to try and unearth a couple of players that can certainly improve our group.”
What’s the excitement level within the group to play at Nissan Stadium?
“Oh of course; how can there not be? It’s a wonderful setup. I think the only downside to it is we don’t get i here enough. Obviously it’ll be the same for Indy, but I think we do lose a little bit of homefield advantage. However, to be here compensates for that in many many ways. I think the guys also – you’ll have to ask them – but I would suspect, looking at it and thinking, ‘you know what, this is where the team’s going to be in the next two years, this is a great opportunity for me to be on the stage and really make a bit of an impression. My hope is, of course we carry on our good form, but the guys see it as a bit of a dress rehearsal.”
Are there challenges in the facility?
“I think there is. When you’ve got a stadium of this magnitude, I think there are definite differences in the depth of making decisions, and the way that you quickly decide ‘do I press? Do I stay?’ It’s strange how the dynamic can play games with the mind. I’ve seen it before, but look: both sides will have to deal with it. I know that they play in Lucas Arena, which is very similar to this. We’ve adapted well when we’ve needed to be here before, and we’ve adapted well at other fields. I have no issues with that. The field’s immaculate; I can’t imagine that anyone’s going to complain about the surface. The hope is that we have a great crowd behind us, because that would just be the cherry on the cake.”
What can you take from the previous game against Indy to build toward a win?
“I think it will be a different game. Their arena, the size of their field, the surface, the nature of what that game presented, is very sdifferent to what you’re goinbg to see here. I think they’ll enjoy it as much as we will. They’re a good footballing side, they’ve got some terrific players in their team. We’re very, very respectful of what they represent. But we’re also sure that we have all the right tools to get this job done and to beat them. They’re not infallible, they’ve proved that, and on our own patch, as it were, with a good crowd behind us, it might just be the difference – that added incentive and percentage that we need to tip the scales our way. But yeah, the game will be very very different I suspect than it was in that Lucas Oil Arena.”
Do you keep an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard when you have a bye like last weekend?
“I’ve got an eye on the games and the results – and it’s strange isn’t it? Maybe not in this league, because there’s so much parity: every weekend you can suspect that there are some results that you maybe raise an eyebrow at. There were a couple last weekend of course. I think the challenge always for every team is to not be that group, and to not be on the receiving end of a bit of a shock any given weekend. For me, I’m more so looking at our next opponent, trying to get a little bit of an eye on what they’re doing, players who have played, or if not, maybe the opponent after that. The others, results that come in, and of course I’m keen to see where people have fallen and the points they have added, but more so the opponent.”
What’s the difference in playing at Nissan as opposed to First Tennessee Park?
“I mean it is a bigger stadium, so hopefully we get a good crowd coming out here on Saturday. It’s a nice pitch, just like First Tennessee Park, and the only thing is obviously the capacity of the stadium. Other than that, hopefully it’s sunny and cool, that’s it.”
Do you feel the opportunity of playing at what will be the MLS franchise’s home the next two years?
“Hopefully we’re all here over the next two years, right? It’s a beautiful stadium, and they couldn’t have picked a better spot for where the stadium was built.”
How did it feel to get back into the starting XI last week?
“I mean it’s great, you know? Helping the team on the field is great, but you have your duties off the field as well. So it’s just a different role when it comes to what you’re providing. I’m happy to be on the field and do what I’m doing.”
How nice is it to be recognized by the league’s Team of the Week bench selection?
“It’s always nice, but it’s due to my teammates, right? I can’t really do anything – for instance, that assist: if Daniel [Ríos] didn’t score that, I probably wouldn’t be on the team of the week. If Jimmy [Ockford] doesn’t score his goal, I don’t do what I do. If Matt [Pickens] doesn’t make that save, I’m not where I’m at [in position to assist the goal]. It’s due to my teammates: credit my teammates, and I thank them for that.”
What do you expect from indy based on what you’ve seen this season?
“That they’re consistent defensively. They’re locked down with that 3-5-2, and they’re very good at what they do, and they know they have their gameplan. Our job is to break them down and see what happens going forward and score a lot of goals.”
What can you take away from the first game against Indy to have success in this one?
“I think they have tons of great players. They’re doing well in the league, but we’ve learned a lot from that game. Coming off the Memphis game, I think we’ve changed our style up a little bit,. They’re continued that style, so we’ve been able to study them all year, make some adjustments, and find their weaknesses and we’ll do our best Saturday to exploit them.”
What’s different about playing in Nissan Stadium rather than at First Tennessee Park?
“I mean, everything. From the way it just – the field seems so much bigger. The dimensions may stay the same, but it just feels like a bigger atmosphere. Everything in here gets heightened a little bit: you’re a little more excited, more fans of course, and it’s jusst an incredible environment that I think fans will be able to experience today for next year. They’ll be able to start to understand what they’re getting into.”
How does your role change as you go between a four-man and five-man backline?
“For me, I grew up playing left back, so it’s not too hard to remember how you played growing up and everything, but wherever Coach puts me, I’ll just do my best. From a wingback role, it’s a little bit more of an attacking mindset from a defensive idea to it. But from a left back position, I can do the same thing. With Alan in front of me, I can just give him the ball, let him do what he wants, and let him be there for support.”
Certainly you didn’t envision scoring on your first shot in Nashville?
“I wanted to. Going into it, I definitely wanted to put one in, hopefully make a statement. I was fortunate that there was a perfect ball in by Lebo [Moloto].”
How has your adjustment to Nashville been so far?
“It’s been fun – pretty easy actually. It’s a good group of guys, and I felt part of the squad right away. So that was always very nice having that, you know. Especially coming into a completely different team for one week.”
Do you have to make major schematic or terminology differences coming into a new group, or is it just soccer wherever you are?
“It’s kind of just soccer, but just different tactics, different system. Coming from San Jose where they’re doing man-marking now, it’s more of a zone. I played that pretty much my whole life, so I’ve just gotta get re-adjusted to that. But it’s the sport, yeah? It’s easy.”
With another incoming player at your position (Forrest Lasso), is it a weird dynamic to already re-adjust to changing personnel?
“It happens, for sure it happens in the sport. I’ve seen it before, so it’s nothing I haven’t experienced. He’s a good player: he’s been dominant in the USL in years past, and he’s in Cincinnati now. But he’s a good player, so only more competition now.”
What’s the confidence like to play on a backline with so much MLS experience in the backline?
“Absolutely. everybody playing that many games in MLS, it’s reassuring that we can get the job done.”
What’s the process like to find out that a loan deal is in the works, and then to change teams mid-week?
“I mean, it’s different situation-to-situation. I had a couple of days, maybe a week in advance to get my stuff together before it was finalized, since the negotiations kind of started. Once it was official, it was pretty much, let’s see, I trained yesterday in Cincinnati, and drove straight to the airport after training. I got in last night, got checked into my hotel, did my physicals and medical, showed up this morning to training. It was pretty much a 24-hour turnaround: nothing too bad. That’s why we play the game, you know?”
What’s it been like to meet the new guys?
“Especially when you play American soccer, between the MLS, USL, whatever it may be, you kind of all played with or against pretty much everybody, so you know names, you know faces. Some of these guys, I know a little more personally, some of them I’m just meeting for the first time. Coming in from the outside, you don’t really know the logistics of where to go, where to walk, where to get ready, so the guys that I know kind of took me under their wing from the moment I walked in, and it was just back to work. Just a normal day, maybe with a new face.”
What do you remember of Nissan Stadium from last year’s trip as a visitor with FC Cincinnati?
“It’s special. When Gary and Mike were telling me that the first game when I would get here would be in Nissan Stadium, it brought me back to some good memories. I remember coming here last year and the place was packed. It was a lot of energy: it was electric. I’m definitely looking forward to it, whether I’m involved (on the field) or not, but it’s just happy to be part of the squad and hopefully contribute to the rest of the year.”
How do you feel about your system fit, having observed Nashville SC in person as an opponent last year?
“I think I fit pretty well. I think with the English gaffer, I think that kind of fits to my attributes. Obviously played against Nashville a handful of times and I’ve still been watching most of their games this year. I’m going to do what I can to fit in, wherever that may be, whatever role I get called upon. I’m just trying to do what I can to help.”
What do you feel you bring to this group?
“I think I bring a lot of experience. This is my fifth year professionally; I’ve been able to be a part of now three clubs; I’ve made the playoffs every year in USL so I know what it takes to be in that position. We had a pretty special year last year in the USL, so hopefully I can bring some of my leadership and experience from that. Other than that, it’s just kind of showing different parts of the game. I think it’s pretty special when you have a locker room that mixed with tons of nationalities, ethnicities, or playuers that have played all over. Everybody kind of learns and experiences in different ways, so to be able to mesh that together will be special.”