John Hackworth's weekly presser, D.C. Open Cup edition
On the expectations about this meeting with D.C.:
Before I talk about maybe the personnel, I expect this game to be a typical game that we play down there are the SoccerPlex. I think it’s going to be a hard game. I think it’s going to be a really emotional game. I think that D.C. will absolutely put everything they have into winning the game. We have to make sure we match or exceed all of those things. I know D.C. is not in the best form right now in terms of their league play. I know they had a good result on the weekend and they may be turning things around. They’re positive about their result against New England. I just know that it’s going to be a tough game no matter what.
On what fuels this D.C.-Philly rivalry:
I don’t know. (D.C. coach) Ben (Olsen) and I were joking about it in preseason that we can’t figure out why our teams get so emotionally charged against each other. Usually head coaches that have little grudges against each other, they seem to fuel a little of that fire. But Ben and I get along pretty good, even when it’s pretty emotional along the sidelines, usually we’re respectful to each other and obviously being very competitive and saying what we need to say, but it’s different when we’re across the white lines for sure. I think that’s a good thing because we certainly look forward to it, and whether you’re playing in an Open Cup game or in the league, this rivalry between D.C. is real. And I think that’s what it comes down to, that no matter what game, whether it’s a preseason game with your second team playing or an Open Cup game or a league game, it’s always going to be feisty when we play.
On how the one-and-done nature of the Open Cup impacts the rivalry:
I think it is. Anytime as an athlete, whether you’re a player or a coach, you want games to mean something. And sometimes it’s on the line with something like this which is a win-or-go-home situation. Other times, it’s the respect factor with bragging rights. In this case, there’s a lot of that going on, and obviously you have a lot of players that have very close relationships with guys on their team, and that all fuels it a little bit. But certainly the Open Cup is important for us. I know it’s important for D.C., and they’ve said it, that it’s their way to turn their season around and play for something. We did the exact same thing last year, so I just think it’s going to be both teams ready to play tomorrow.
On the line between emotional and reckless play:
We always try to talk about that very fine line of being emotional, putting 100 percent effort into everything we do, being competitive but trying to be composed too, trying not to cross a line. There is that very fine line where performance starts to drop because you let your emotions take over, and as an athlete, you want to be at optimal awareness, keep all the levels as high as you can without going too far across so that you’re performing to the best of your ability.
On the reasonable expectations for the match:
I would be surprised if we finished tomorrow night with 11 v 11. We just have to see how it goes. I hope that it’s 11 v 11; I hope that it’s a great soccer game. I hope that we score a lot of goal and they don’t score any, but that’s not really realistic.
On the effect of the Reading friendly on selection moving forward:
I don’t think it changes our selection process for this game, but I think it has a big effect on what we do long-term. I’ll give you a for instance: We had an injury come up last week very late in our planning going into Reading, and we put Aaron Wheeler at center back. And he did such a good job at center back against Reading that it has changed our perspective a little bit. We’ve thought for a long time that maybe we need to look outside to bring in a center back to provide some covering, and he was good. It’s a long-term process if you convert a guy from being a forward to a center back, but Aaron has a lot of those qualities and did well. On top of that, Chris Albright did well. He played 90 minutes and played extremely well, so we walk out of that game, and I’m just giving you an example, we feel better about our defense and our depth than we did going into it.
On coping with the personnel changes made by D.C. in the preparation process:
It’s very tough. What we try to do knowing that they’ve had so many different personnel changes especially on the backline, they haven’t changed the way they’ve played, so we approach it from a tactical standpoint, that hey, this is the tactics that they’re going to play. The individuals may change, and they certainly will. They have a couple of red cards. … It’s tactics that you look at now. (Defender Chris) Korb was red-carded to he’s not going to be in there. Obviously that’s going to change a lot. He’s played both outside back positions for them. But I think they’re going to change the way their tactics are.
On the recovery of Kleberson from a hamstring injury:
Unfortunately it’s a little slower than we would’ve thought originally. We thought it was a very minor soft tissue injury, but with a guy at his age right now, it just takes a little longer. And everybody’s different. So he’s probably not going to be available for selection tomorrow. He trained today, but what we kind of do, we want guys to be in full training the day before, 100 percent, if we’re going to play them the next day.
On why the SoccerPlex lends itself to intense soccer matches:
For whatever reason, you’ve got the fans that are right there, it’s close, it’s kind of for us personally, three years in a row, it’s always been a very emotionally-charged setting. That’s been the case with the teams playing very competitively. Once that happens twice, you kind of start to expect it. For us now, having the Open Cup down there and knowing that it’s so important for both teams at this point, you go into it with the expectation if the crowd’s good and they’re energized, certainly the players are going to be that way. It should be a pretty enjoyable night of soccer down there.