The Loons are back at home this Sunday, taking on LA Galaxy for the first time this season. We talked to Head Coach Adrian Heath and midfielder Sam Cronin following training this week to get their perspective on the upcoming matchup.
Head Coach Adrian Heath
On assessments after the first third of the season:
You look at where we are after a third of the season and I think it's been two parts of that third if you like. The first was really poor: conceded too many goals and at one stage, looked as though it might be a step too far for us. And since then, we've more than proved that we can play in this division, more than hold our own, and I think we look onwards and upwards. I think I'm looking for the next middle portion of the season to kick on from where we are now. The result at the weekend did nothing other than confirm to me that we belong at this level and we can make life difficult for any team in the league.
On the team's performance against the top teams:
That's the guideline, that's the marker. You look at the league table the last two or three weeks, we've played the team at the top and we've done really well against them both. The Galaxy come in here next week and although they haven't had the start they wanted, their last two results have been really, really good. And they've got three DPs, they spent a lot of money, they've been the standard bearer of this league for many, many years. So, it's not going to get any easier for us this weekend. But I know going into this game that I'm confident if we can play and do what we're capable of, we're more than capable of getting a result this weekend.
On whether there's a danger of falling into playing to the level of the competition:
I don't think so, though it remains to be seen. I don't think that comparing us with the Galaxy at this moment, one team after three or four months and one team that's been the standard bearer for ten years … so it's going to be a difficult game for us: Alessandrini, Dos Santos, you go through and they've got five or six DPs in the team over the years. I'm looking forward to it and I know the group are.
On Molino's recent performance:
I think the change of position helped him a little bit. He was a little bit more involved and a little bit closer to goal more often. As I said before the season started, I fully expect him to get double figures this year in goals and assists and he had two at the weekend, so he's getting better all the time. Still, his teammates can use him more at times, show more confidence in him to give it to him when he's under pressure. He'll be fine.
On LA Galaxy:
We know it's going to be tough against a really good club. They've had a difficult start but they look as though they're suddenly getting it all together. Dos Santos, Alessandrini, they've got quality players. Ashley Cole still is probably as good as any left back in the country. We expect it to be difficult, but we've proved we can play at this level and I'm confident if we play to our best, that we're more than enough to get a result this weekend.
On settling for being level on points with Galaxy after 11 games:
After the first three or four games, I would've done, yeah. I'm not sure that the Galaxy would have settled for being level points with Minnesota after this amount of games. I think it's two teams who are getting better. We're certainly getting better. I had a brief look at the Galaxy game over the weekend. I thought they were outstanding against a really good Red Bull team, so it gets no easier for us, but we're looking forward to it. It's a good little marker and it's good for our supporters to see one of the marquee clubs come into Minnesota.
Midfielder Sam Cronin
On slowing down LA's attack:
They have good attacking players for sure and then they added the winger, Alessandrini, this season — he's been scoring goals pretty consistently. With good attacking players, you can't give them time and space, you've got to make sure you limit that. Make sure we're in good spots defensively, good communication, all the things we've done okay with and we're getting better with. We'll for sure have to be up for it because the first goal will be important.
On which position has the hardest time acclimating to a new system:
I'd say probably attacking positions. The hardest thing without question is create goals, score goals. I think there's so much nuance and timing and rhythm that goes along with that. Just in general, offensive rhythm is the hardest to acclimate to.
On LA Galaxy's status as a marquee team and what it means to play a big-name team:
It's important. They always have — apart from this season, really — a marquee international player. It's a big game, you'll have people tune in across the country and even around the world where their DPs have always lived and they've been a marquee club since the league started. It's a big game for us, we're on national television again, which is good for us as far as evolving our brand and getting our style of play out there. We want to win the game; we need to start well and do all the little things well.
On the national TV audience:
There's more energy around the stadium, around training the day before and all that. A little bit distracting but as a player, you want to play in the bigger games. That makes it a little bit bigger and the same thing happens with playoffs, the championship: the bigger the game, the more the attention, the more that's on the line.