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September 23, 2012 at 4:43 PM

A stop and chat with Ezra Hendrickson

hendrickson mug 2012.jpgSounders FC assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson manages the club’s reserve team, which finished it season 4-5-1 after a 3-0 home win Sunday against San Jose. He chatted after the game about the result, the season and a change he’d like to see in the league going forward. Here is the transcript:

* * *

(What are your thoughts on today’s result?) “We needed that, because when we played these guys down at their place, they handed it to us 3-0 also. My point to the guys before the game was, ‘Hey listen, this is a chance for revenge. We put ourselves in a position where we can’t win the league, but at least we remember what happened to us when we went down there.’ … I’m glad we came out and gave them the same kind of beating that they gave to us down at their place.”

(You started off strong. Was that the message?) “Well yeah, and added to that I reminded them that down in Portland we had a chance to come back in that game, but we had put ourselves so far down — 15 minutes into the game we were down 3-0 — and how hard that was and how hard we had to work to get back into that game. We didn’t want to let that happen again today. So we wanted to come out from the start, step up and pressure and move the ball quickly. Just play our philosophy of playing — quickly out of the back, get the ball to our wingers and our forwards, the guys who play the piano, and let them do their thing. I’m glad with the response I got from them the first 10-15 minutes of the game and I think we took that straight into halftime. It was good that we came out in the second half — kind of sluggish at first — but we got a hold of the game and were able to finish them off.”

(How would you assess how the reserve league season went at 4-5-1?) “Well, it was kind of up and down. But what happens when you’re a team that’s involved in CONCACAF, you have the regular MLS season, and you go very far — into the finals — of the Open Cup, it kinds of takes away from the players that you have available. We had injuries and stuff like that, so in a lot of games we weren’t at full strength as far as having to use a lot of academy kids — sometimes five, the full maximum of five. The kids came out and played well every time we called upon them, but it’s just not that strong of a team when you have so many other tournaments and games that you’re playing with the first-team guys because you have to limit guys’ minutes. Sometimes maybe you have 10 first-team players, but you have to play them 45 (minutes), so you have to stagger your substitutions and you lose a substitution here and there. So there are a lot of things you have to deal with, a lot of variables, but the guys gave effort and always played hard. We lost one game in L.A. in the last 30 seconds. We tied up in Vancouver — we were up and they tied us in the last 30 seconds. Here and there it was a good season, not as well as we performed last year as far as the win/loss, but it was always a good effort from the guys and I appreciate that. That’s all I ask for them every time. No matter who’s here, maybe we have injuries, maybe we have five academy players that have to start, I always ask for effort from them, and they always responded. I was happy the way we finished out today.”

(How should a reserve league season be judged? It seems wins and losses might not be the best way…) “I think that depends on each team individually. Like I said, the teams who are not involved in all the other tournaments that we are, they’re probably going to put out, on the day, stronger reserve teams. But here our philosophy is developing the young kids, keeping the guys who are reserve players, who are not in the first-team on the Saturday night, keeping them sharp, and guys who are coming in from the first team and maybe got injured and are coming back from injury, give them some minutes so they can be sharp and ready to go again. We look at it not as a win-loss situation, but more, ‘Are we making our first team stronger?’ Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about — the first team. We’re just trying to develop guys from our academy, and sometimes we have trialists in and it gives us a chance to look at them, but mainly the whole thing revolves around making the first team as strong as possible.”

(Would you make any changes regarding how the league is structured?) “I think the one change I would make if I was running it would be allowing teams to use as many academy kids as they can. Right now, it’s limited at five. Sometimes there are times where … we’d have 13 players or maybe we’d have, with two goalies, just 12 players, because we’d have like six or seven of our guys and you can only use 5 academy kids. I think because it’s an academy system and those are your guys that you’re trying to develop. If you have to play 10 players because maybe you have a CONCACAF game coming up in two days, then allow the teams to play all their academy kids. That’s one change I would make. But I don’t get into that part of the business. I’m here to coach and teach what I know from my experience in the league. I’ll let them worry about how they’re going to structure that or restructure that.”

(Did you ever want to come in and play for yourself in a game?) “I wish they allowed us to do that, but you can’t. Coaches and employees of the organization are not allowed to play. But I’m 40 years old, you don’t want to see me out there playing. Trust me.”


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