Thursday, March 19, 2009

Preseason Thoughts From Jason Kreis: Tactics and Newcomers

I was able to catch up with Coach Kreis and get some of his thoughts during the final stages of preseason. Here are his thoughts on the newcomers to the team, and some discussions related to the style of play that this team employs:

On Luis Escalada: Has a proven record of scoring goals in South America. He is your prototypical goal scorer. He’s a poacher. When he’s around things and get’s opportunities, he finishes them. He needs to continue to work on his fitness. He needs to continue to work on keeping possession for our team. I think those things have clearly been laid out to him, and he’s a guy who’s been working very hard on both of those fronts. It’s always a transition when you bring a foreign player over. It’s always a transition on how we train, what’s going to be expected of them, what the coaching philosophy is, how we play and the style of play. Everything’s different. I think he’s handling it well and he’s working very hard. We’ve seen progress. His weight’s going down. I think he’s a guy that’s getting fitter, and I think he’s a guy that’s transitioning into the way that we want to train and the way that we want to play. By all accounts he seems to want it real badly. So that’s a critical first step.

On Raphael Cox: He’s a left-footed midfielder. He’s a left-footed two-way guy that can play both inside and out. Who is comfortable on the ball. He likes to run at players. He serves a good ball. He, for me, has been a very nice addition this year. One that we weren’t a 100% sure would be with us at this stage, but he’s earned it. He’s worked hard and managed to gain a lot of respect in and amongst the team, as well as the staff. He played the other night with a bunch of starting players and held his own, and scored an assist. I think he and our other rookie this year are going to be contributors.

On Jean Alexandre: He’s a guy that we were happy to get and he’s done nothing to prove us wrong. We think he’s been fantastic this preseason. He’s a physical presence for us. There’s going to be a few attacking minded players in the center of the park who aren’t going to want to get too close to him. He can be physically intimidating and he’s a pretty smart player. He’s got some areas that he needs to improve on: tactically defensive, and some decisions on the ball, and speed of play that all young players can have trouble with. But he seems to be a guy who is very humble, and wants to learn and wants to do extra all the time. I’m pleased with him and think he’ll be a guy that we can plug in there and move right along. Long-term I think he’s a fantastic prospect for us.

On Ned Grabavoy: He’s a guy that’s very experienced in the league. He’s played a lot of first team football in MLS. He’s been a guy that I’ve always had some admiration for. He’s very gifted technically with both his right foot and his left foot. He’s another type of midfielder that can play both inside and out and do a lot of nice things for us. He’s a guy that’s extremely competitive in the training sessions. I think he fits into exactly with the way we’ve built this team. He’s another guy that’s going to compete for a position and make things very difficult all the time and make things very difficult for the coaching staff.

On upgrading crossing ability into the box on a wide pitch: That’s a very interesting comment, because that’s one way to play. If we don’t play with that way – if we aren’t a team that gets down to the byline and serves balls into the box will we not be successful? It’s one way to play. We don’t play with wing midfielders. I hope everybody by now knows that. Maybe there are some people that don’t believe that. But I think if you know what you are watching long enough you are going to realize that we don’t play with wing midfielders. We rely on our backs to get forward and that’s a very difficult prospect for them – that’s a lot of running that they have to do. But I think when they get into those positions we have to focus on how many more times we can get them the ball in those positions so that they can serve. But I don’t think that we necessarily change the way that we play just because we don’t serve the ball into the box a lot.

On the wingback role with this team: I think that we looked back on last year and realized that when they did get forward, we didn’t get them the ball enough. Our central type of players were more inclined to play the ball inside rather than outside. And that’s something that we have talked about on multiple occasions this preseason: to get those guys the ball. When they make those kinds of runs, we need to reward them for that. And I think we’ve got four fantastic players in those positions in Robbie Russell, Ian Joy, Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran. I think we’ve got to continue to reward them when they do get forward and in turn they’ve got to focus on the quality of their service when they do get the chances.

On the central defense and holding midfielders roles: In order to play that way you’ve got to have some real strong central figures - some real strong holding players. I think it’s just the athleticism in a player like Olave and David Horst that allows us to play that way more. Because I don’t feel like those two players in particular are ever going to get beat for pace.