Practice Notes & Quotes 02-01-03

Practice Notes and Quotes 02-01-03

G – Bohenick, Jorge Geddes (West Virginia, Wesleyan)
D – Stokes, Nelsen, Reyes, Ivanov, Prideaux, Swann, Petke,
M – Stoichkov, Etcheverry, Namoff, Digimarino, Woodworth, Amani-Dove, Quintinilla, Kovolenko, Carroll
F – David Hayes (Richmond Kickers), Eskandarian, Curtis, Jake Edwards, Quaranta

Convey, Rimando, and Olsen are with the National team
Stewert is expected to arrive during the week
Alegria is in the process of updating his visa

The team played 2 half-hour intra squad scrimmages.

Stokes and Swann were a little lost in the initial half of play. Stokes looked to be tucked too tight to the goal, and was caught forward a couple of times. Swann as often as not was beaten by the first step. However, by the end of the day, both began to fit in with the speed and spacing of the professional level and showed improvement. One thing that showed was they were faster learners for this particular day.

Woodworth does run constantly. It is obvious why some compare him to Olsen

Carroll is special. Compared to the initial practices of Justin Mapp, Carroll has that extra “something” that you hope to see with younger players. You saw it in Convey and Quaranta with their first practices. He went after the older players, challenged for the ball, and wasn’t intimidated by the fact that he was playing with former World Cup stars in Etcheverry and Stoichkov.

Very impressive in net was Jorge Geddes. Apparently Assistant Coach John Trask and Geddes have a history, and Trask knows that Geddes is a ‘Rimando-esc’ type of GK with his bravery and physical abilities. Geddes also is height challenged, coming in at around 5’9”, but is lightening quick.

Ivanov’s defense seems effortless. He is in the right place at the right time, all the time.

Eskandarian’s efforts showed why he will likely push Quaranta for a starting position. For much of the day Eskandarian’s level of play was superior to Quaranta. However, at the end of the day, Quaranta netted a nice chip goal, and Eskandarian didn’t score. Also, after an excellent stop by Geddes, Curtis slotted home a shot during the scramble for the ball. On the negative, both Eskandarian and Curtis still want to take the one extra touch before firing. Amani-Dove also scored a garbage goal when Bohenick slipped on the wet grass.

Nelsen and Digimarino played well throughout the day. Nelsen’s footwork today was a step up from last season’s. On one occasion he went through a double-team of Stoichkov and Reyes much to their chagrin. He also fooled Carroll with a little back-heel to himself, spin, and charge forward. Digimarino’s play along the left side of midfield was extremely well done. Outstanding speed, constant effort, and knowing when to break were marks that caught the eye of RH & Co.

Play of Practice:
During the run of play Petke clears a ball out of defense to Stoichkov on the right wing. As the ball comes down out of the air, Stoichkov one-times it 50 yards to the left flank for a perfect lead pass to a streaking David Hayes. Moments later, Etcheverry round kicks a ball in mid flight, with a back spin, that plops down perfectly for a streaking Ali Curtis.

How did the first day of practice go?
“They didn’t see each other . . . they didn’t know each other . . . they’ve never kicked a ball with each, and I thought they did outstandingly well. Lovely stuff. It was passing exercises. It was like a jousting contest at times between Stoichkov and Marco at who could top off each other with the more breath taking passes! It was lovely to see. It was smashing. I’m very, very pleased.”

Was there any one thing specifically that surprised you?
“No, not particularly. I think they all . . . . I think Stokes looks a very good player. Eliseo looked nice and comfortable in the middle. You could go on and on. Galin looked nice and comfortable back there. Stoichkov was . . . If you ask what was the surprise, I’d say Stoichkov. He looked f—— great. Dema looked smashing.”
“It was . . . there was a good sort of buzz amongst them, that was the thing. It seemed to be the first day at school. They are all new faces, they didn’t know each others names basically, and there’s no comfort level there yet. . . . they haven’t slept with each other. They’ve just looked across the room at each other. And it’s going to take awhile for all the familiarities, and the real appreciation where each other is going to move.”
“And then you know Ernie is not here . . . Benny, Bobby, Nicky, there’s a lot of good stuff to come back in here.”

It’s also the first day for you with basically a new team. What kind of plans you have going over the next two months?
“I think it’s a case of weighing them all up. They’re obviously some very talented, good, athletic players. Eskandarian, I’ve got to give a big thumbs up to him as well. For me, he looks like a f—— diamond, that kid. I mean he’s going to do f—— great! It might come up overnight, but I thought he showed up tremendously well.”
“But, I think the next couple of months it’s bringing them together; it’s getting that comfort amongst them, that expression, just getting them bedded down and really seeing where that good chemistry is between them.”
“It’s going to be hard. Everybody said it. But after looking at this, and thinking of who is coming in, it’s going to be f—— impossible. I mean ‘Esky’ and Stoichkov. How the hell are you going to leave them out? I mean, ‘Stokes-ie’ looks f—— great! It’s going to be extremely difficult to pick this team, pick this eleven.”
“I think over these two months the eye will become more alert to different players habits. You’ll start to see different combinations, and the where good compliments is going to be. That’s what I think what we’ll be looking for in the next couple of months.”

Do you think you want to play a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2?
“I think we’ll probably play a skewed 4-4-2. It will look more like a 3-5-2, but I think we’ll be flexible enough, with Bobby Convey especially; he’ll be a key influence I think. Plus the fact that Bruce (Arena) is looking at him as a left sided defender. So that would fit in good to us, having Bobby come out of that left side. He’s got the energy to run up and down there all day, that’s what he’s all about.”

So would you play him at left back?
“Possibly. Possibly. But like I said, it would be a skewed type of team. But it’s too early. It’s too early to start picking the formation. But I like the 3-5-2. I mean, I could see us playing the 4-3-2-1 with these guys, with somebody else holding in behind there. The ‘Christmas Tree’ formation they used to call it. This team could do well with that because we’ll be attacking from all sides from the back. We’ll be playing football from the back.”
“I’m very, very comfortable with this set. I don’t think we’re finished. I think there will be another one or two more coming in though.”

You’ve got to like the personality of the team.
“Oh sure, that goes without saying. But I think the personality expresses itself in the football. It’s not just about character, it’s about what Stoichkov is . . . that’s the type of guy he is . . . character, and all the bravado. It’s the same with Etcheverry. They just express themselves. Ernie Stewert is going to be the same. Benny Olsen is another one.”

Do you feel this is your team now?
“Absolutely. Unquestionably it has my paw prints all over it now. And I hope it’s a team I’m proud of in the way they play.”
“When we started at Miami, it wasn’t building as much even as a winning team. I wanted to entertain, and with the entertaining, fluid type of football, with players that can pass and players that can move, that it would produce results, it would produce wins.”
“We’re not going to lower our standards and play ‘Route 1’ football, ever. It’s all about passing and moving, and that dynamic stuff will come out with this team, especially when the internationals come in.”

Last year you held high standards from Day 1, and some of the players didn’t make those standards, but you didn’t move the players. Can we expect you to act quickly if some of these players don’t reach your high standards?
“I think in terms of changes, yeah. I think this team . . . I said right before we kicked the ball off this morning, ‘We have to keep our standards really high.’ And I think with this team the players will have to play well. I won’t drop the guillotine on a player if has a bad game. But I probably will if he has two bad games. There’s too much talent. We’re going to be too stacked. The standard cannot come down. There’s got to be total commitment, and total execution in the way they play. They have to play extremely well for 90 minutes every game. They have to be because someone’s breathing down . . . every position on the field, I would say, there’s somebody very close to them breathing down their neck – right from Santino on the top, all the way back to . . . well maybe Nicky Rimando, to be honest. The Clemson kid (Doug Warren) is a good goalkeeper. So, it’s going to be throughout the team. The competition for places is going to be very good, and that puts pressure on the players to perform well. And there’s nothing better than that when you’re f—— winning with that sort of atmosphere. You’re keeping good players out . . . that’s the goal. ‘Are you good enough to keep that good player out?’ The only way to do that is by performing with a real hunger.”
“I don’t think we had that last year. I think we were a little soft. I think players felt, ‘What’s he going to do?’ It’s got to be in the back of their mind. There’s that comfort zone. And we were so limited as to where we could turn last year once the season got going.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be that way this year. Don’t be surprised! There’s no . . . We’ll build a team towards our best players that are going when the game whistle blows. Those players take on a different thing between the white lines. You go with that. You don’t bank on the youthful inexperience. You bank on the guys who have been through hell and high water, and they can do it. Now if they do it, that’s all well and good. But if they don’t, we’ll give youth its chance, definitely.

Has Stoichkov done anything off the field, in his role as assistant coach that stands out in your mind?
“No, you just hear him. He’s a loveable character. He’s not Bulgarian either. He’s got to be Italian. He’s not f—— Bulgarian! He’s got Italian stamped all the way through him!”

How so?
“Just his expressiveness, and his emotions and stuff, and everything.”
“Galin (Ivanov) is the Bulgarian. The stone-wall face, and the tattoo on his tongue.”
“But Stoichkov . . . he’s going to be great with the guys. It’s the manner in which he gets on players. Even if it’s fire and brimstone, it’s a manner which is hard to argue against. That’s why I think he wants to get into coaching. There’s nothing else like when he’s playing on the field when he’s holding his standards. You don’t want to let a guy down like that. You don’t want to! It’s shaming him . . . it’s diluting his brilliance. And he still cares about that.”
“Marco is exactly the same. These are the true leaders of men. You can’t get enough of that; you can’t get too much. I think we’ve got that.”
“I think we’ve got the players that want to respond to that. The likes of Bobby and Dema, and Petke is going to be very similar as well.”

Do you see Stoichkov and Etcheverry on the field at the same time?
“Take a look. They’re looking pretty good to me! They really did. I don’t see why not. It’s going to be one that looks beautiful for a lot of the time. But it’s a compliment again. We cannot get away from the compliment. We have to keep the balance. They’re two brilliantly gifted footballers. But let’s be honest, they’re not 25 years old anymore. You’ve got to get stuff around them. You’ve got to get the energy. But, there’s things they do that defeats athleticism with the stroke of one f—— left foot. And cannot do doggies to put that into players. It’s that magic. There will be plenty of opportunities for that to come out.”

Stoichkov talked about going back to Chicago regularly to see his family. How often will he be allowed to go back? Every week?
“No . . . no. You know what? If you ask any of the guys, I have a very good way of dealing with that. The guys with the national team I told, ‘Take two or three days off after the game.’ It was the same way with Petter Villegas last year. You’ve got to give the kids a chance to get back amongst their own.”
“Some coaches are very, very dictatorial that way.”
“But no. If after a game ‘Stoich’ wants to get back for 2 or 3 days, I have no problem with that. It’s not like he’s going back to the old country. But, it’s not just him it’s everybody. Same with Jaime last year when he needed to get back to Bolivia, or Milton to Honduras. I like the guys to feel if there’s ever a break they can get away.”

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