Perhaps it was the frustration of a late goal in Colorado leading to a 2-1 loss and a 31st consecutive match on the road without a victory, but Veljko Paunovic's tone on Monday was different from previous weekly media conference calls. In the weeks and months leading up to this past Saturday's match, Paunovic has stayed steadfastly positive in his remarks. This week's call featured the most sternly worded answers he's given regarding the team to date.
Here are the highlights:
On the injury situation
"Matt Polster still has a concussion. He will be reevaluated this week again, (on Monday) actually and we'll see how he moves forward. He will be out for the game against Philly. We also have out, Arturo Alvarez, after (the Colorado) game, in the first half he got a contusion on his knee. After that contusion, he hyper-extended his knee so he's going to be out. Another one is Joey Calistri, who also has an ankle sprain in the game. He's swelling right now and he's not going to be ready for the game. Collin Fernandez is still with his left ankle sprain and he's not going to be ready for this game. The good news is John Goossens will travel with us (Tuesday) for the game against Philly and he will sit on the bench for sure."
On dealing with the sudden rash of injuries
"We are playing in a very competitive league. We are in a league that demands a lot. What we can be about is that all of these injuries are mechanical. There are no soft tissue injuries. There are no muscle problems and other kinds of things so far, thank god. We can be happy about the fitness level we have. On the other side, all these kind of injuries are something that you can't control. It happens in a game, or after tackles, or sometimes after difficult challenges. Our players have to perform. We'll deal with that. We have to deal with that. We have to move on. We have to recover our guys. We have to get tougher and for the future learn from all of these situations in order to improve."
On recalling Drew Conner
"We have a lot of injured players. We decided to recall Drew Conner from Saint Louis and he will join us (on Monday). He will travel and be with the team for the game in Philadelphia. The week after the break he was here for ten days with the team, training and participating in every session. He played in that intra-squad game that we had. We brought him here to evaluate him and see where he is now. We were very happy with his performance and now we believe that it's a good moment for him to come back. We have different circumstances, but also because we believe in him. We are watching every single game he played with Saint Louis and we know everything that is going on there because we have very good communication with the club. He's a project and this is a part of the project."
On the sense of building frustration in the team
"Let me tell you this way. As I said after the game, nobody is happy with losing. Nobody's happy with the situation. It's time to wake up from this mentality that we are (in) for a long time right now. It's time to understand that I can say that everyone is working hard here and we want the best, but it's not enough. We have to understand that it's not only important to participate, that's for Olympics. That's a quote for Olympics. We have to understand that we are here to win games. It's time to wake up from that dream that we are in right now. We have to do more. We have to work harder. As I've said, I'm responsible for that. I'm going to fix this thing and I'm going to work on that hard. I would say our mentality, because our physical level we are there, we are working hard, but we need to improve our mentality. That's the challenge that we all have here."
On possible negative carry over from previous seasons
"Every locker room needs to improve their mentality. It doesn't matter if it's now or if it's from before. The thing is, that's there and we are working on that. We have to understand that we had the (Colorado) game to win. After we tied the game, we had the game to win. I don't think that we pushed enough to do that. That's something that, of course we have to learn from it but I'm not happy about it. I addressed the locker room (Monday) about it. I'm very transparent and I'm going to tell you that we need winners. This is not Olympics. This is not about participating, as I said before. We need real guys. We want guys only who will understand that and go and push forward with us."
On the Philadelphia game
"I think they are doing very good. I think they've had a very good season, especially playing at home. They win games. They're in a very good mood. Of course, everything is easier when you're winning games and when you have success. That's another challenge for us. In the same way and the same line with what I said before, that's another challenge. We have in front (of us), a very difficult team to play at home. We have a team that is successful, leading our Conference. We have to understand that we are not going there just to give up, just to go there and participate. It's the same thing. We are preparing for that. The main thing is to recover, but more than that we have to understand and we have to believe and push until the end to win the game from the first minute till the end.
On team response to squad rotation
"The rotation sometimes are necessary because sometimes that's what we need. That's how we believe we can win all our games. I'm very, very happy with the response of our guys from that side. I can rely always on them when we need to do make some changes. Even in changes to the line-up or changes in our formation or tactics. I'm happy about it but we still we have to understand that we can do more. That more is in our mentality."
On the Union's high press
"We will stick to our way we have to perform in terms of the idea or style of play. We have to improve, especially in the first line of pressing that Philly does. We have to find more of our guys in the middle in order to connect with our forwards because I believe we have a very well balanced team. I believe we have potential in attack, especially that we have David (Accam) back now and with Kennedy (Igboananike) who's scored four goals. He's leading our (team) and I would say we have guys that can score goals but we have to connect with the midfield in both lines. The defensive line and the midfield line has to be more accurate, more precise, and more determined. That will be a main challenge to do on that side. Then we have to be very consistent with that."
On his return to Philadelphia
"I was very happy in Philadelphia. I'm very grateful to Philly for giving me that opportunity to play my last season as a soccer player. It was a great experience. I was treated very well by them. I still have a lot of friends there who are texting me at this point and asking if we have time to meet or something but now it's a different situation. I wish Philly all the best, but of course we are now in a different squad and we are defending different interests. I'm very grateful and I also believe it's going to be very important also for me to prove again that we had a very good time there but now in front of us is competition."