Another difficult road task lies ahead in Seattle after a resounding 4-1 loss in New York. Veljko Paunovic looked back at Friday's game and ahead to Wednesday's contest during his weekly media conference call.
Here are the highlights:
Paunovic on the return of Collin Fernandez and Patrick Doody
"Collin and Patrick are back (from Saint Louis FC). They had training today with us. We didn't speak with the staff in Saint Louis (about their performance) but we will this week for sure. The only thing that I would add is that we are watching all of their games, so we'll have insight on how they performed in their games. Matt Pearson, our head of scouting, was there a couple of times watching their games and practices. We follow up with our players and it's important for us, and for them, to know that we are all on the same page."
On Fernandez's start this weekend with Saint Louis
"We haven't followed up this week yet with the staff there. I didn't watch the game (yet) but I will review it this week."
On the defense performance against NYCFC
"Of course, we are not happy with our defensive performance. For us, the maturity is still something that we have to do. It's our main task this year, I think. In this game we conceded innocent mistakes and opportunities to our opponent, who is already very motivated because of everything they were playing for. This kind of things you can't concede to a team that is hungry for their goal, which is very close. Defensively, I don't think that we have to say anything else but we have to work and fix those mistakes. At some point in the season defensively we were very strong. In the last couple of games I'm not happy with the performance but we are working on that to fix it. We are also focusing on the positive side, which was our performance in attack. When I say performance, I think about the creation of opportunities and chances. Clear opportunities for goal. I think we were happy with that but not with the conversion. I think that we have to score more goals, especially because our opportunities are from very close range. With the goal empty and nobody in the goal, we missed a couple of opportunities. In my opinion, it is something that the team, which is fighting for (their) life the whole season, the pressure in the game becomes even in these kind of opportunities is high. Of course (it has to do with) performance and practice and everything else that you have to do when you prepare for the game. I would say that offensively, the only thing that we have to add is more concentration and more precision in converting opportunities."
On the frequency of mistakes this late in the season
"For the team that is fighting for not being last in the standings in the league, that pressure is sometimes too big. We also have to understand that every time we make a mistake we came back. I think the mentality that the team has of fighting back, and we were close a couple of times to tie the result - after 2-0 and 2-1 we had a couple of very good opportunities to tie the game in the first half - that's the positive thing about that. Like we always say, it's part of the process we are in and we believe that this final task that we have to do is the maturity. Unfortunately we have to commit to many mistakes to pay that price. I believe that the team is getting better but we still have to work on that."
On starting Harrington over Vincent
"Michael started the game before too. We believe that Brandon is developing very good. We believe, and I spoke to him, is that it was important enough to have a break before the next (games) and before he is ready to go before he is ready to go to the next level that he has to reach. We believe that after playing a number of games in a row that he needed a break but also that other guys are pushing hard for their opportunity and they earn it on the field. More specifically, we believe that earlier in the year Michael Harrington also played against Mendoza and was very successful in playing against him in that position. His experience is always important. You have to take everything (into account) and all of the information that you have before we decide. Of course, we said that everyone is important for us and everyone pushes himself hard until the end of the season."
On playing more motivated teams still in the playoff hunt
"Do I worry about that? What I worry (about) is my team. That's all that I worry about. I worry about my goals, not about somebody else's goals."
"That's part of our job to keep (players) motivated and work on that. So far, because of the commitment (earlier) it was easier to do but of course we have to continue doing that. The team has already addressed that. We have to continue in our performance. We have the responsibility for ourselves, for our profession, and we have the responsibility for our fans supporting us and our season ticker holders. I've mentioned enough reasons that we need to keep our motivation until the end very high. I think that (anyone) who doesn't, he's not only playing against our staff but against himself."
On Ramos' start in NY
"Rodrigo played. As we said, we would take everything into consideration. His momentum, team needs, how he trains, commitment, attitude, and performance in training. Finally, (based on) what the team needs and what we want to achieve for the coming games, we make decisions. I think Rodrigo is doing what he has to do and that's it."
"I'm not going to talk about individual performances (against New York). I think I mentioned that as a team we had to improve. That means for everyone it's the same."
On travel to Seattle and Columbus
"We'll go straight to Columbus after the game in Seattle. We will prepare for the game on the road. It's going to be very important for us to recover well after that game. Our schedule is based on recovery and travel so that we can manage as best as we can in order to prepare to play the game on Saturday."
Travel from Seattle to Columbus will be via commercial flight.
"We think that they are a team that is possession oriented. They like to keep possession, especially in the opponent's half where they have quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro, I think the team has improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home they have very good support and they feel even more confident but not necessarily unbeatable. They had their issues earlier in the season. There are some weaknesses that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of it. Of course, we have to be very careful with transition with guys like Morris in front, Dempsey and everyone else. They have enough quality and experience to be very dangerous in attack."
- Per Crain's Chicago, MLS has listed Chicago as a finalist to host next year's All Star Game. The kicker is, the match would be held at Soldier Field.