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March 4, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Coach Sigi Schmid previews Seattle’s CCL quarterfinal against Tigres UANL of Mexico

schmid mug 2013Here is the transcript of a conference call Monday night with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid. Most of questions were regarding Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican league-leaders Tigres UANL.

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(Did you have any impressions from the Montreal game a couple days later? And what are the plans logistically for the next week or so?) “Obviously we weren’t happy with the result, so that doesn’t change. We know we’re capable of playing better than we played that particular game. We had some chances early. Watching it again on film, they had some good chances, as well, even though I think we controlled most of the game. We’ve just got to be a little bit sharper and take care of things. That sort of sums that up. Right now we’re here in Dallas. It’s what we sort of started last year with trips in CONCACAF and the Champions League — to sort of break up the trips into two legs when we’re not chartering and just taking regular flights. Layovers being at the airport, etcetera, etcetera, just makes for a long travel day when you do it all in one day. So we’re training and we’ve got this game Wednesday. We’ll come back and we’ll train, give them a day off, as well, and then we have a game against next Tuesday. So our time is pretty full.”

(You seemed to question your team’s mentality a little bit after last game, what have you seen since as you go into this huge task versus Tigres?) “I’m not really questioning the mentality of the group. You look at San Jose lost in their opening game, as well. We’re missing some people. It was more a situation where they were maybe not overconfident but were pretty confident in what they could achieve and things had gone well in preseason. And so sometimes when you get that, if you as a coach scream at them, they’re looking at you and saying, ‘Why are you screaming at us? We just won all our preseason games and won the tournament.’ So you’re saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to complacent…’ but it’s just human nature where you maybe just relax and take your foot off the pedal a little bit. That’s just human nature. But the guys’ reaction is good. I think we’ll be ready to play on Wednesday, and they know they want to have success in this tournament and have success in our next league game against Portland.”

(How will the injury to their top scorer, Emanuel Villa, affect things?) “They’re a team that with their coach, Tuca Ferretti, he’s played basically the same lineup every game. He puts the same guys out there. Villa, obviously having scored eight goals in eight games, is an important part of their team, but the other 10 guys are the same guys that have been starting every game. In the first part of the Champions League, (Ferretti) didn’t play his normal group, his normal league group in those games. That’s why they did not as well and they sort of scrambled to win their group. But right now, I think he’s going to come with his top group, and those are the guys who have been playing week in and week out for them. So missing Villa hurts them, but there are so many pieces that understand each other that it’s probably not as difficult just to replace that one piece.”

(What can you take away from their current league form knowing sometimes things change in different tournaments?) “Obviously for the second year in a row we’re playing the best team in Mexico at the moment in these championships, so I’ve got to figure out a way to not finish as high as we did in our group play and get a better draw. (laughs) … It seems if we would’ve finished a little lower we might have had a better draw. But it is what it is. They’re a team that believes in itself right now. One of the things that may help us is maybe because they’ve played so many games as a group, maybe there’s a little bit of fatigue starting to set in. Maybe the league is so important that that’s their main focus. I don’t know. But also maybe they’ve won enough points already that they’re saying, ‘Hey, we can relax in league a little bit. We’re going to get into the playoffs and have a favorable seeding, so we can maybe concentrate now on this next stage.’ So don’t really know what the inner workings are in the team — what the importance is in regards to their own goals as a group. Certainly their league form is something that’s going to help them in this competition because they’re confident right now.”

(What do you think you can take from your past experiences in Mexico and how much does it help knowing you’ve won a game there before?) “Obviously we went to Monterrey the one year and won 1-0 in the group stage, and that was important to us that result. I think we’ve shown we can play those teams tough. We beat Santos at home last year, but the biggest thing for us is we haven’t always done well in two-leg series and especially when we’re playing the first game away from home. MLS experience has taught us that. Now we have to go out on Wednesday night with the maturity to play a good game defensively and not get caught up in the enthusiasm of the game, no matter what turn it takes, and lose by more than we should end up losing. We obviously want to win the game. If we don’t win it we want to tie it. And if we can’t tie it, we only want to lose 1-0. All those things are important to us and the maturity of the team is stronger over the years of having gone through these types of series and having played games in Mexico, that it is something we want to achieve.”

(Are you going to play your forwards like you did against Montreal?) “Right now, that’s something we’re still thinking about. We haven’t made a final decision there.”

(How are guys like David Estrada, Djimi Traore and Shalrie Joseph?) “Traore is with us, so we’ll make a decision on that, as well, over the next 24 to 48 hours. But he’s with us. He’s been training. Estrada is also with us, did more work today, so we’ll have to see how he responds to that as we move forward. Shalrie we left at home, so he’s still back in Seattle.”

(Where do you think MLS stands right now compared to Mexico, quality of play, attendance and so forth?) “The comparison is difficult because … when we play in preliminary group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League, we’re a little bit in better rhythm than the Mexican teams are because they’re just starting the Clausura. And as a result of that, for us we’ve been in a rhythm of games, we’re in the middle of our league, our fitness level is better. Then when you get to this stage its the complete opposite. They’re in a rhythm, they’re in the middle of their season, they’ve already got eight to nine games under their belt, and we’re at the beginning of our season. So sometimes those comparisons are a little bit askew just because of the timing of the tournament. In general right now, Mexico is the top league in our confederation. I think obviously the U.S. is the next best league. I think the gap is closing as evidence by Dallas being able to come down here and win, us being able to come down and win at Monterrey. I think when you look at the lineups that they’ll put out there against us, and the lineup that Santos put out against us last year, they’re going with first-choice lineups against MLS teams now. If you go back maybe three years, even at this stage of the competition, they would not put out a first-choice lineup. I think that shows that they have a greater respect for our league and that the gap between the two leagues has definitely narrowed. They know that if they don’t play their top teams, they’re not going to come away with a result, and even if they play their top teams, it’s going to be a battle. I think it’s definitely narrowed, but the edge is still with them at this point in time. Hopefully that’ll change in the next two to three years.”

(How have Jose Torres and Jonathan Bornstein done for them?) “Torres starts for them every game, usually gets subbed out in the second half at about the 70-minute mark or so. But he starts for them every game. He’s sort of their playmaker. They play a 4-2-3-1 and he’s sort of their playmaker of there two holding guys — Salcido is more of their defensive guy in there. He’s a good passer of the ball and he’s played very well for them. I think they’ve been very happy with him. Jonathan Bornstein obviously hasn’t seen any playing time in league at this stage for them. Is he somebody who’s going to play in the game against us? Don’t know. Their best attacking outside back is their left back; he’s an important part of their team in their team attacking, getting goals, so I don’t know if they’re going to make a change in that particular position.”

(Anything you can take from the Montreal’s 4-2-3-1?) “It’s like I always say when you put numbers on the systems: Not every 4-2-3-1 is the same. Everything is different. When you look at, for example, Tigres, they attack with their left back and their right back stays back a little bit more. Their left winger is a very quick, dribble- and attack-minded winger who comes inside. The guy on the right is more of an up-and-down, stay-at-home type of winger, so the balance is different. It’s just a different way that they play. Montreal was different in terms of they tried to do a lot more things through the middle with Felipe and Arnaud. Just formation-wise and matching up, I think Montreal played a good game against us and made things difficult for us, but I don’t think it was their formation that stymied us or anything like that. I think our execution needed to be better at key moments and it’s the same thing going into Tigres. It’s not the formation that is going to be the problem. We have to be aware of the formation, we have to tactically have the right approach, but at the end of the day you have to execute and you have to work.”

(Will you talk about the team’s history when it comes to first legs of a series on the road?) “It will definitely be strongly impressed upon them over the next two days.”

(What have you learned from those experiences?) “It’s like if somebody throws you in a pool and you can’t swim. You either figure out that you want to learn to swim or you don’t go in the pool again. For us, we’ve had bad results in the first leg of some two-legged series, so we either have to turn that around or just not make the playoffs anymore and not get into those series. I think the team would rather take the first approach of learning how to deal with it, so it’s important to us to bring resolution to how we approach Game 1 and bring a more mature approach as the game’s going on. The whole key in soccer is you can’t call timeout. When you look at all the American sports, when it’s football and they’re over there huddling with the coach after each play if they can, so you can really influence that. You can get their focus back and you can climb on them. In basketball, you call timeout and get on their case and get into them. In baseball, same thing. You’ve got guys coming in the dugout and you’re talking to them every four to five minutes. In soccer, once they get out there and start playing 45 minutes, and you have 50,000 people in the stadium, I can’t hold a discussion with somebody if I see he’s starting to lose his composure. We’ve either got to have that composure or we really have to think about finding other people who will have that composure at key moments.”

(What do you feel about having the second game at home?) “Last year, we played the second game at Santos Laguna in Torreon, so that was a difficult place to go. It’s always better, I think, when you play the second leg at home. Also, the past playoff series in MLS have shown that we have been able to really get up for that Game 2 and really rally and make things very interesting. The thing for us is not to dig a hole in Game 1 because we’re confident in Game 2 that we can get the result we need.”

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