Minnesota United lines up against its I-35 rival this Sunday for the first time since joining Major League Soccer. A match at home, the Loons will look to complete this three-week homestand with three points against Sporting KC. Below is what Head Coach Adrian Heath had to say ahead of kickoff:
Head Coach Adrian Heath
On getting back to work after a tough loss:
The atmosphere was good this morning. They worked really hard, as I expect. That's one part which has been really good all the way through. After a defeat at the weekend, Monday and Tuesdays always one of them as far as getting it going, but they've been really good, so I can't complain about that.
On what's made Calvo so good recently:
I think he's coming to terms with the league. He's such a comfortable footballer on the ball, I think early on he took too many chances. I think now he's realizing that sometimes you don't get the time he had down in Costa Rica to always bring the ball out. Now he's playing what the game gives him. He's defending really well, made some last ditch tackles, comfortable on the ball — he's got a bit of everything. It's funny, I compared him, a little bit to Matt Besler, who we play this weekend. He's an international player for the U.S. He's naturally left-footed, which is always a bonus, got a really good range of passing, can defend the box really well, a bit of everything. I just feel as though he's growing in, not only to being the captain, but growing into this league as well.
On Calvo growing into the captaincy:
I think he's got good leadership qualities and now he's starting to lead as well by his actions. He's vocal in the dressing room, he has an opinion and he's growing into that position. I've been delighted with his form over the last few weeks.
On takeaways from the game after reviewing film:
I don't think we deserved to win the game, I don't think we deserved to lose either. As I said, we were very nearly good on a lot of occasions. At the final ball at times, we took the wrong option. That was the disappointing thing. It seems at the moment that we're either defending really well or attacking really well. We've got to marry the two and get them both working in the same game. We probably did a bit more of that against Salt Lake and we end up winning the game. That's got to be the focus for this week and we've got a really difficult game against, for me, the nearest cub that we should try and aim to be. Similar type of market, similar sort of size. It's not New York or LA, but I think Peter Vermes runs a great football club. They've got everything now: the stadium, really good training facilities, they do everything well. If we can emulate what they've become in this league over the next few years, we'll be making good strides.
On getting more minutes for the younger guys:
The younger guys have been working really, really hard Monday to Friday and as I say all the time, that's the only opportunity to show the coaches what they can do. I thought that Ish and Abu gave us a lift when they came on. That's pleasing because they're all young guys and it's good for competition. It keeps the guys who have been playing regular on their toes, so we'll see what happens at the weekend. They're making it more and more difficult to leave them out.
On how Sporting KC forces other teams to adapt:
I have great respect for Peter. I got to know him quite well. When I was in Orlando, they were our affiliate club. We ended up taking Dom Dwyer off them. We had a few players off them. I have an enormous amount of admiration for what they've done on and off the field. I think there's something there for us to try and emulate over the next few years. We know it's going to be tough — you look at the last three or four results they've had and they look as though Dom's coming into form and Feilhaber. They've brought a bit of youth in and a bit of athleticism back in the team in the front guys. It's going to be a tough game, but hey, it's a great one for us if you're a player.
On whether the team is finding its way in MLS after a rough start:
I think the result at the weekend — it was a narrow defeat and I don't think we deserved to win the game, I don't think we deserved to lose the game either. That shows you how far we've come. I was disappointed with certain aspects of our play at the weekend, but hey, it is what it is and now we get another opportunity on live TV to show everybody that we are getting better. That has to be the focus for this week.
On whether there's any danger getting complacent with recent success:
Certainly not from my point of view. It's something that I always preach on the players. Every single game is a new opportunity for people to come in and stake a claim to stay in the team. It's also an opportunity for us to grow as a group and I've felt as though we are. As much as I was really disappointed after the game on Saturday, having watched it, there were certain aspects of our play that I'm really encouraged by. Our combination play in the middle third was very, very good. The final ball was disappointing. If we can sort that out, then we'll cause teams problems.
On evaluating players individually now that the team is better settled:
I think the fact that we put the two younger ones on at the weekend, who gave us a lift — we're getting to see and understand what are they capable of on a regular basis. At the moment, we seem to either have a good day in the attacking half and defending poorly [or the opposite] and we can't marry the two together. That's got to be the aim this week. We're going to have to defend really well this week against a really good Sporting KC. If we can have good combination play in the middle third and get the final ball done, I think we can cause them trouble.
On attacking Sporting KC's impressive defense:
I think the one thing that they've got now is a really settled system. Peter's been there eight, nine years, so he's gradually improved and put another layer on each year and they've gotten better at what they do. But I think more than just the back four and the goalkeeper, I spoke about us defending as a group before, they are very, very good at that. They are probably one of the best in terms of defensive shape from the front. I've worked with Dom Dwyer — he puts everybody under pressure from the very, very front. It's very much a unit and they're very good at what they do. We're going to have to be good this weekend to get a result and I'm really looking forward to it, to put ourselves against what I think is one of the best teams in the league.