On how the bye week has helped the team:
“A bye week in essence allows us to jump into some things that we needed to address over the first six or seven weeks. Preseason allows you to work on a lot of things and then as the season gets started, the schedule is congested. So you’re more reacting to certain things and ensuring your guys are in a good place.
But we were able to touch on more situational things during the break, which I think was good and obviously have a little bit more enjoyment in the training sessions and a little bit lighter in the first week. As we got back this week, it became much more specific and deliberate based around what LAFC is, and the game that we have coming up this weekend.”
Update on players coming back:
“We got Leo and Owen back healthy from their international duty, Julio is out on the field with the ball. Now, he’s doing some ball work, not in the group yet. So he’s still got a little ways, but that’s promising and Radovanović should be here on the weekend at some point. So we’re pretty pleased with where we’re moving from a health standpoint and player availability.”
“All eyes are on the game against LAFC and the guys are in a good spot. And we go out there with the intention as always to get three points, compete against the league’s best team and see if we can go there and get a good result.
I think always as a player, as a coach, you enjoy going against the best teams. They’re the best team for me because over the course of five years, what they’ve been able to do – what they’ve been able to sustain – they compete for championships [and] Supporter Shields. They have done a great job building out their roster. They’re never short of quality.
For us, we’ve had great matches with them since we’ve come into the league. They were our very first match. It was a good match in LAFC during COVID. We had three really good matches last year. Obviously, the last one probably hurt the most, but very memorable experiences. They have a lot of those same faces and some new faces, they’re still extremely dangerous and we are as well.
So what I try to remind our guys of is we have ways to hurt teams. We, we got to take those opportunities when it comes, especially against an opponent like LA and then you obviously have to be able to ride through the game. It’s going to be challenging regardless. They’re a good team.”
On the group’s mindset against LAFC:
“When you go on the road be very difficult to break down, find your opportunities to score regardless of who the opponent is. They are a good team. We went there and scored two. We did four here at home. It’s doable. You gotta believe you can do it. You have the right ideas about how you’re going to go about it and then you gotta execute. Our guys will be up for it.
It’s good to go out to LA and play the best team in the league. Like I said, it’s always nice to see where you sit and fit with the very best, and it’s a great opportunity for our guys.”
On Ilie Sanchez:
(LAFC Defensive Midfielder)
“I think he is a very good player. He has been in our league for a number of years and he was at Kansas City and LA. He’s a cerebral player. He is the glue, so to speak to that group, I think through their midfield, they’re very athletic, very powerful, through every position.
But he’s somebody now, I think that makes good decisions in and around the box when they have to defend, but he’s obviously an orchestrator when they have the ball. He is one player. They are a group. We have an idea of what they are about both and defensively. Guys like Seba [Driussi] and Diego [Fagundez]…our final game there was a difficult game in a lot of ways and I don’t think we challenged them enough. We got to find ways to utilize the ball.
We have to be brave enough to break their pressure. We have to be resourceful when the opportunities come and then when we don’t have the ball, it’s about being organized, being combative and finding our moments to build pressure and there are some gaps in their group. We can find ways, we have found ways to hurt them. When those opportunities come, you have to take them against a team like LAFC.”
On the growth of Owen Wolff:
“For Owen, his physical maturation since he’s got here as a 16-year-old… he started working out with us and training with us because he was overcoming an injury and Claudio saw the quality and saw the talent. So we signed him as a homegrown player and his ability to play with the 17s and get fit and get sharp early on was part of that onboarding.
Once he started working with the first team and seeing what his physical capacity was both in the dueling and the ground cover, he was really an intriguing player. Not because he’s my son, but because of his qualities. He has physical qualities and then he has technical qualities. So for a young player, those are the first things you got to see. How is he going to hold up against men?
Now, as the games [are] getting bigger, stronger and more powerful, is he able to hold up and have an impact? I think this year, as well as last year, we kept him out wide because the middle of the field is challenging.
He and Pepe [Pereira] in the middle of the field this year has been really, really rewarding. They’re both very good with the ball. They both cover a ton of ground. The ball winning has been very good and again, they’re very secure with the ball.
The next pieces, the layers that need to keep growing, are the final actions in and around goal. I think the Salt Lake goal was great… the assist. He has this ability, as does Pepe, to have final actions to play final balls that can unlock the defense. They do sit a little bit lower for us right now, so we ask a little bit different things from them. But I think those are things that both of them can improve on.”
If you purchase through our links, we earn a commission that will help support our content.
On Sebastian Driussi:
“For Sebastian, he’s the one player that has more freedom than anyone. We have a positional way of playing. We like to utilize our positioning and the ball to take advantage of the opposition. You need to get the numerical advantages or positional advantages.
People are quite aware of that. They were at the end of last year, it became challenging even then. But his quality is his quality. He’s a key player. In order to get him the ball more often or have more success. We have to have the group operating at a good level.
I think those things will help alleviate and free up Sebastian. I still think Sebastian hasn’t gotten to his best form this year, yet. He’s got to keep pushing. It’s going to be challenging. I said at the beginning of this year, year three is going to be more challenging than the first two years – plain and simple. There were no expectations in year one. Year two, we came out and fired, and probably surprised some people and finished extremely strong.
Now there’s new expectations. There’s a little bit more awareness of who we are. We have some new players, we lost some players. So not a surprise that year three is going to be challenging, but we sit in a very similar space as we did last year. This time of year, we just got to keep getting better, keep improving. Obviously, our players have to perform as well, but we have to find the right ways to enhance the route along the way.
We have to find ways to score goals in the run of play. [We have to be] much better on set pieces – something we were very strong at last year. All the players are responsible for contributing: center backs can score goals, our wingers need to score goals. Johnny has kicked in as a fullback playing a little bit higher on the field. So in order for those things to come a little bit more freely to Seba – and I use “freely” lightly because he’s going to be marked.
And sometimes he is being marked – that’s the price of being the best player in the league. You see it all over the world. That’s the challenge good players have. He also has to find ways to be impactful.”
On whether or not Vancouver’s turf in last night’s CCL matchup will take a toll on LAFC going into Saturday’s match:
“It can, I think. LAFC has two elevens, basically. There is no drop-off inside the group. I would say that what John Thornton has done with that group – the depth that they have built over 5-6 years – is incredible.
Regardless of who they played, or where they played, they’ll run a lot of the same guys. They’ll bring in some fresh guys, but they’re extremely good and I don’t expect the turf or the result last night (3-0 against Vancouver)… they’re going to come and they’ll be at home hungry, motivated, ready to play. They could probably run the same 11. We expect them to make some changes.”
On Denis Bouanga:
(LAFC winger on a red-hot scoring streak right now.)
“He’s a good player. When you have good players like that and they have Vela, and they have Oppku… there’s a number of guys that can hurt you. He’s riding a high, both in Champions League and in league play. So you gotta make it tough on him, but you gotta make it tough on them as a group. And there’s a collectiveness about the way that we have to defend.
There’s a responsibility of individuals in the area that are around him, but he can show up out left, he can show up out right, he can be a striker. So they have a lot of ways that they can hurt you with many different players. But again, when you have the ball, you also have to find ways to hurt them. We [have] to be diligent on both ends of the field.”