The opening of training camp is always full of optimism and this was no different. A new technical staff and many new players reported to the Private Bank Fire Pitch on Monday morning to meet the media. Nelson Rodriguez addressed a series of questions about the roster, the staff, and the outlook for the season.
Here's the rundown of the topics covered.
On the remaining player acquisitions
"We're really in the same spot as we were a week ago. We're continuing to compete with interest from European teams and Champion's League teams that are pursuing the same players as we are in two instances. In other instances, we're closer to making offers but our process if deliberate. We know that can be frustrating, as I've said in the past, but we still feel pretty good about where we are" said Rodriguez.
On the timeline for finalizing those deals
"We had always thought that decisions would coincide with the close of the primary window throughout Europe, which is the end of this month. Knowing that we're still in the game, we actually see as a positive indicator."
On the pursuit of Marcin Kaminski
"We don't think it's appropriate to confirm or discuss names of individuals, at least until any negotiations may be concluded. I think it's natural for players to want to avail themselves to as many options as possible. We respect that decision by certain players. In other instances, we will invoke timelines that we need to adhere to. In this case, as I've said we view the MLS season as a marathon. We view the construction of this team as a process. It's more important to us that we try to pursue our targets as we have them prioritized until such time as we have them secured or we move on to the next person on our list."
On signing a big name for fan interest
"At the end of the day, what the fan will remember long term is whether you won or you lost and how how you played in those win and losses. I've said this in this past, it's easy to go for a PR splash, and that might excite some people in the short term. As soon as they get on the field, that PR splash is forgotten."
"It's a matter of how they perform on the field and how they fit in. Our fans deserve a winner. We're committed to trying to build a winner. The sex appeal and the sizzle will come later."
On a 28 man roster
"We are about building a roster that's filled with as much quality as we can make it. We will not conform to standards and status quo. If we believe we're better served with a number that's less than that, then we'll go with a number that's less than that. Our approach is quality and need against positional requirements. That's how we'll continue to conduct the completion of our roster."
Rodriguez reiterated that he feels the number one need remains at center back.
"Joao Meira is a nice compliment and will help in that regard," he said. "We expect him to contribute in that regard. We also like his versatility in that he can play multiple spots. Eric (Gehrig) is still recovering from injury, so we have to be careful with him. Jonathan (Campbell) is a young player with great promise, but I think it's important to make sure that you bring young players along at a pace that's suitable for them, and of course suitable for the team. We don't feel a need to put undue pressure on young players."
On Joao Meira's 2012 failed drug test and suspension
"It was part of our due diligence process. We spoke with the player about it a length. We spoke to the Portugese FA's disciplinary committee, who rendered the decision. We shared all information with the league office before signing the player to make sure that there was an extreme comfort level. We believe the player made an unfortunate mistake. It was not a recreational drug, and it was not a performance enhancing drug. The decision of the Portugese FA verified that. He took an over the counter supplement that had an ingredient that was on the banned list. It was a US based supplement, and in the translation to Portugese it was not translated correctly. He even asked his team doctors if he could take that medicine, and was given the okay to do so. It's an unfortunate mistake. One that he's repentant about but one that we full investigated. We're fully comfortable with Joao's character and he understands the drug testing that will take place as part of Major League Soccer."
Rodriguez said he expects Meira will compete for a starting spot.
On the formation and style of play
"We're building the team to have great versatility. There's always a base formation from which everything flows, but as we've said in the past, we're looking for a group that's adaptable. Over the course of the season, and over the course of a game, whether you're chasing a game or trying to preserve a game. the numerical arrangement on the field really exists for the ten seconds involved with kickoff and then it completely changes anyway."
On past issues with medical and training staff
"What I believe is that we've assembled an outstanding soccer operations staff. I believe we have people of great character. People who come from winning programs in certain situations. There's an immediate harmony within the group, which I think is really important. We even told our players today that we love them, we respect them, and we're here to serve them. All the people that we bring in have to share that attitude and that desire to work on behalf of our players and to demonstrate to them that we care about them more as people than we do as players. Their families matter to us. This is the way we want to move forward."
"I wasn't here (in 2015). I've heard about these things. What I know is that we felt our entrance physicals yesterday were well organized, went extremely efficiently, and there's a good vibe that we credit to the group that we've assembled and our attitude going forward more than to it's just day one."
"Trust is essential to any healthy relationship in any endeavor. Within a team setting even more. Like anything else we'll need to prove it over time. It's one thing to talk about it, it's entirely another thing to prove it."
On replacements for Brian Bliss and Larry Sunderland
"In both instances, I'm still taking time to determine whether we want to just succeed them in the same roles or whether there's an opportunity to evolve our thinking as to how the whole structure should be. Those are important positions. Treatment of the Academy is extremely important. I believe in trying to get things done right and not get things done fast. I also have to recognize that the primary focus has been the first team. For as good as our academy has been, and it has a deserved good reputation, nothing matters if the first team isn't successful. We need to make sure the first team wins."
On veteran leadership with Larentowicz, Nyarko, Magee gone
"I think that's a process as well. It will interesting to see how Pauno cultivates that. It will be interesting to see who steps forward. Who steps forward in that role and who's ready to assume those roles. In general, locker rooms tend to take the same form in every sport and in every team. You have leadership, you have fellowship, you have the jester, you have the serious business pro just punches day in and day out in the same way. Every team is different and it needs to evolve and find its way. It's fluid. I think it's far too early to try to preordain a specific captain. I think leadership today can take the form of multiple people. I don't think it needs to fall to just one."
On the message to fans
"Give us a chance to put our plan into action and then be a little patient as it starts to unfold."
"I'm realistic. I won't be here if it takes to long. I understand that and accept that. It's not about making some fancy announcement today. It's about proving it over the 34 games of the 2016 season and hopefully the playoffs and then building upon whatever we achieve this year."
- Paunovic said that he would like to play a 4-2-3-1 formation but plans to remain flexible and adaptable. More on that tomorrow.
- Rodriguez said that the amount of young players in camp shouldn't indicate that some of the draftees will automatically end up on loan in Saint Louis. Young players deserve opportunity to compete for a spot with the first team before a decision on USL loans are made.
- Several players made note of Paunovic's preparedness and structure to training.
- Previously listed trialist Benedikt Krug will not participate in camp.
- Joao Meira is expected to join the team in Tampa upon completion of his visa process.
The current roster in camp
GOALKEEPERS: Zach Bennett#, Sean Johnson*, Matt Lampson^, Patrick McLain
DEFENDERS: Jonathan Campbell, Patrick Doody, Eric Gehrig, Michael Harrington, Vincent Keller**, João Meira, James Musa+, Brandon Vincent*
MIDFIELDERS: David Accam, Kingsley Bryce, Joey Calistri, Razvan Cocis, Drew Conner, Collin Fernandez, Parker Maher+, Vincent Mitchell**, Alex Morell**, Matt Polster*, Harry Shipp, Michael Stephens
FORWARDS: Gilberto, Kennedy Igboananike
*Currently on international duty
**Unsigned 2016 MLS SuperDraft Pick
+Saint Louis FC player
#2015 Open Tryout Winner