By John Boyle
When Sigi Schmid and Michael Gspurning both refer to a game as a “slap in the face” that can’t be a good thing, right?
Well that’s both how they described Saturday’s season opening loss, and in the locker room there was a consensus that the team underperformed, but also that they can bounce back quickly from the loss.
Here’s a bit of what was said after the game:
SIGI SCHMID: “We had bits and pieces in the first half, I don’t know how connected we were. I thought it was better in the second half. We had a good opportunity when Evans hit the post, Eddie had a pretty open shot that he hits off the crossbar, (we were) close on a couple of corners, but at the end of the day, we can play better. Hat’s off to Montreal, I thought they did a good job defensively. They made it tough, they compacted the middle.
“They forced us to carry the game, which we tried to do, but we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.
“Maybe we thought because we went undefeated (in the preseason) we thought it would just keep going… We’ve all got to look at it and say, ‘hey we’ve got to come out a little hungrier and a little sharper.’”
(On the team’s lack of offense) “They know and we know we’ve got to be better. Our quality of crossing wasn’t very good today. We hit too many with crosses every time we were looking to cross the ball… Against a team like Montreal that packs it in the middle, you’ve got to get behind them and you’ve got to have quality service in behind their back two, and we didn’t do that often enough.”
(On bouncing back) “Any time you get slapped in the face like this, hopefully you rise from that and you become a little more determined, a little more motivated, a little more focused.
“It’s important how we finish, it’s not so important how we start. What’s really important is how we finish things, so this maybe is a good little wakeup call.”
(On heading to Mexico to face Tigres this week for CONCACAF Champions League) “This team will bounce back. There’s enough quality in that locker room, there’s enough pride in that locker room. It’s a difficult opponent, a difficult place to play in Monterrey, but we’re a proud team and there’s a lot of proud guys over there who are disappointed today, and we’ll come back.
Goalkeeper MICHAEL GSPURNING: “It’s tough. We had a bad game, we know this, and the only thing now is to look to the future and continue with hard work. Maybe it’s a good warning for us that the preseason is over. We got slapped in the face, and we have to say, ‘OK, we have to go to work and battle through it.’ It’s tough because it’s the home opener, everybody is expecting a win, the fans, the players, everybody, and then you lose. But that’s soccer, and the only thing is to look in the future.”
(On Davy Arnaud’s goal) “He made a perfect goal. If he touches one-time over my 6-foot-6, that’s brilliant.”
Midfielder STEVE ZAKUANI
(On bouncing back) “We have to. There’s not excuses. We just didn’t do it tonight. It wasn’t our best game of football, obviously. Once they got the goal, we were climbing a mountain, and we weren’t able to do it.”
“It’s disappointing obviously. We didn’t play well, we didn’t execute. You always want to put on a good performance for your fans, and we didn’t do that. So that hurts, but it’s a very, very long season, a very, very long season, and we have enough time to make up for it and get things right. I’m confident in this team, I’m confident in the group we have, and we’ll figure it out in not too long here.
“You don’t want to overreact and panic over one game. We didn’t become a bad team because of this one game, we have to stay confident and stay on course with what we need to do.”
(On starting the season with a loss) “A couple years ago we lost the first game to L.A. and lost the second game to New York, and we still had a really good year. So we’re not going to panic, but we do need to look at what went wrong and how we can sort it out.”
Schmid and GM Adrian Hanauer also discussed the team’s decision to buy out the contract of midfielder Christian Tiffert:
“It’s a situation of we’re still looking to add a player up front, and with that situation, and with cap reasons and everything else, we couldn’t carry those amounts of DPs,” Schmid said. “So we had to make a decision as to who we were going to carry and who we weren’t. So that was the decision.”
Schmid said the decision was less about Tiffert’s play, and more about the salary cap. Even though Seattle added another DP in Shalrie Joseph, and plan to add a forward, Joseph is not counting against the cap fully for Seattle because Chivas USA is still paying part of Joseph’s salary.
“I thought Christian did well for us,” Schmid said. “It was just more a situation of where we were at cap-wise and we really had to go from three DPs to two. I know Shalrie is a DP in name, but he’s not a DP in terms of how he hits our cap, and we really needed to go from three DPs to two. So we decided we were going to keep Mauro and we decided that we needed to add a DP forward, so that takes care of your two DPs, so you’ve got to make a decision.”
And here’s what Hanauer told reporters after the game (transcript provided by Josh Mayers of the Seattle Times. I think I owe him a beer now or something).
(Can you explain what went behind the Christian Tiffert buyout?) “Sigi was dead on. We had some tough decisions to make coming out of last year. We knew that it was possible that this would be one of them. Christian had started to play more as a wide midfielder for us, and we’ve got Zakuani, Rosales and Mario Martinez playing wide midfield, and we had to make decisions on … where we were going to use our designated player money and for which positions. Sigi answered dead on. This was not an issue of Christian not performing or being a good teammate. I read something of Sigi and him having a falling out, which is just absolutely, categorically untrue. It was just a situational thing with the cap and where we thought we needed to invest big designated-player dollars.”
(Would you say signing Tiffert ended up being a mistake?) “Look, anytime you buy out a player, you probably have to admit some sort of flaw in the plan. That said, we also made a strategic change in the way we think our designated players come December of this past year, where we said we’re going to try and maybe invest a little bit more in one or two. So our strategy changed, as well. Not to make excuses, but it’s a tough league to manage through the cap — salaries increase faster than the cap increases, especially on a team that does well, because either you’re restructuring contracts, guys’ contracts expire, or bonuses that players hit because your team is good count against the cap. You saw Real Salt Lake run into it. They obviously didn’t have designated players necessarily, but I know they weren’t happy to lose Olave and Espindola and Will Johnson. Those are three pretty quality players, but it was sort of the reality of the situation. We want to keep certain players, certain core players and unfortunately Christian was one that was sort of dealt the short straw I guess.”
(In general, does getting rid of Tiffert indicate you feel someone else is coming in quickly?) “I would say they’re related, but not … completely related, for lack of being more eloquent, because in order to have another designated player we had to move a designated player, but it doesn’t (mean that) tomorrow morning we’re going to have another announcement. It’s a fluid and complicated jigsaw puzzle, but obviously from the reports, from what I’ve told you guys, we’re trying to sign a striker and we’re hoping we can get that over the finish line. If we can, fantastic. I guess if we can’t, we’ll go to Plan B.”
(Fair to say the pursuit of that striker hasn’t ended?) “Correct.”
(When you say, “If it doesn’t go through…” has that become of a likely scenario recently?) “No. Not necessarily. But again, it’s a complicated transaction and a player that the team doesn’t want to lose.”