Minnesota United Head Coach Adrian Heath and the rest of the club picked up three points over the weekend in the first of three home matches at TCF Bank Stadium. We caught up with the gaffer after training on Tuesday to talk progress of individual players and the team as a whole as the club looks to capture its third win at home against the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday.
On seeing the defensive work pay off :
We've done a lot of work all the way through the season but obviously when you concede the goals that we did early on in the season, then it's an ongoing process. I certainly felt we defended the box better and I don't think it's just the four. I think the six in front of them are getting better. Certainly the two wide guys and the two central midfield players are taking better spots to stop the ball coming in the box in dangerous areas. That does help the back four.
On guys getting into each other:
After a while when you start to feel comfortable, you start to get after one another and if somebody feels as though somebody is not training hard enough or somebody's not doing what's been asked of him, you feel more comfortable to maybe bring that up. After forty years of doing this, I've seen some very heated discussions, shall we say, that have been a little bit more than words. I think it's a sign of how comfortable everybody's feeling with each other that they are prepared to get on to each other if they don't feel as though people are doing enough. I've never been against people airing their opinions to each other, but there has to be a constructive reason for doing it.
I think the biggest thing for Ibarra is he needs to get time to play again. He's been down in Mexico and it was a great move for him, but the bottom line is he hardly played for 18 months. I think he played nine games. It's a long, long time not to be playing and he's got to get into a rhythm. I thought he started slowly but gradually worked into the game and I think the goal will do him no end of good. He'll be better for that and confidence is a huge part in football and he'll be better for the fact that he's had the crowd on his side and he's got a goal and it turned out to be so important. As I said, it was a good day for him. He was in the right spot at the right time. It is one thing that we've spoken about in terms of getting wide guys in the box. Can we get three people in the box every time the ball goes in there? And he was in there: right place, right time.
On the improved defense:
Can we keep improving? Can we keep working on what we think’s getting better? Can we make it even better? I think the most important thing for us is after three halves without conceding a goal, can we make that four? Let's take each half as it comes. It's going to be a really difficult game at the weekend. Wondolowski, one of the top goal scorers in the league, probably the top active goal scorer in the league. We know that if we fall asleep like we did early on this season or make errors, he will punish us. We need to keep it going now.
On the midfield on defense:
In the modern game, we expect the full backs to be high and wide and be putting crosses in the box. In reverse, we expect our wide guys to help out when our opposition's trying to do the same. The back four has gotten quite a lot of criticism this season and some of it might have been justified, but I don't think we had enough protection in front of them at time as well. That's something else we've been working on. It's an ongoing process, but it does look as though we are improving in that area of the field.
On the NASL players making the leap to being MLS players:
For Ibson, it's a different kettle of fish. This guy's played 30-odd games in the Champions League. What I didn't realize is that he's still got so much in the tank. I think his energy levels have been terrific. The question mark was always the other ones. Brent — could he make the step up? Same with Christian. 60-odd goals, can you score goals in MLS? So the good thing is they're getting minutes at this moment in time, but as I said to them, one swallow doesn't make a summer. They've got to keep working hard week in, week out to maintain their place. And if they do, keep playing like they are doing, they'll keep their place in the team.