Lucas Zelarayan - 3.1.20 - NYCFC

QUOTES | Columbus Crew SC vs. NYCFC - March 1, 2020

Head Coach Caleb Porter

On the beginning of the game, New York City FC’s red card and what happened after the red card

You never know what you’re going to get in a soccer game. These things happen; it’s a clear red [card]. So yeah, the game changes. Now they go into a four-four-one, and actually at one point were in a five-three-one and then they went back into a four-four-one. If you’re on the other side, in their group, it becomes about trying to survive, and sometimes there’s an interesting psychology when you’re up a man: you relax a bit, think it’s going to be easier and the other group is galvanized by it. I thought they [New York City FC] did a good job of buckling in. They’re a good team, they have a really good back-four, a good midfield, and they made it difficult. 

I also thought [in the] first-half, that two things: our speed of play wasn’t quick enough and our positioning of our midfield line, that three line – specifically our wingers – wasn’t good enough.  We needed our wingers to be higher and sitting in the pockets in between the outside-back and the center-backs, so that now when we switch play, through Artie [Artur] and D [Darlington Nagbe], we’re able to roll in Youness and Pedro on the move, and we didn’t find that enough. So, we were a bit toothless at times with a lot of the ball, but it’s really difficult, too, to have to break down a block of eight guys 30-yards from goal.  Second-half I thought was much better.  We created more chances. I thought our subs lifted us, which was really good this year, too.  We’re going to have a lot of options off the bench. Sometimes, things aren’t working, and you have to go to the bench.  You need to rely on those guys, and I thought we got a good lift and we found a great goal. 

This is a game last year that we don’t find a goal, but we find a goal, and then we close the game out, which was good. I want it to be still convincing, but anytime you can pick up three points – I don’t care how you do it, don’t care where you do it – we’re going to celebrate it and enjoy it, but we know there’s still a lot that we can work on. 

On Lucas Zelarayan’s goal

I’ve been telling you guys that he’s a special player. I’ve seen it every day. He’s a difference maker, and that’s why we brought him [to Columbus]. You need difference makers on your team.  Of course, we need to be good as a group, but there’s not a good team in the world that doesn’t have difference makers individually that can pull off plays. That’s what he brings. I thought he was active all night and in got in good spots. We didn’t find him enough in the first half. Part of that is just the chemistry continuing to build and understanding that you can play him in really hard spots in between the lines and when he gets in there, he’s really clever. He knows how to work himself out of those spots and then create chances, and I thought he showed that on the day, and was a big reason we won the game. Unbelievable goal as well.

On whether Crew SC’s yellow cards in today’s match were the result of playing the first match of the regular season

I think first games are interesting. I’ve been a part of a lot of them. You can see – as much as we played nine preseason games and felt that we were ready – there was a little bit of some nerves early, which is totally normal. A few kinks to work out; it’s our first time playing a game on that pitch. For a lot of the guys that were new, it was their first time playing a real game here in the MLS and on our home stadium. Like I said, I thought we grew into the game, I thought we got better as it went on, definitely we need to work some kinks out still but I was really pleased overall and I think it was just two good teams battling and not backing down, and for me it was just a normal part of the game obviously always the referee, too, has a part in that as well but I thought he did a nice job actually overall in managing the game.

On Crew SC’s other signings this offseason like Darlington Nagbe

I think what you saw is what you’re going to see. Even [now] just I had to almost laugh – [Darlington Nagbe] didn’t give a pass away from 75 minutes. For a player to go through a game and not give a pass away for 75 minutes is unbelievable. I mean that’s what he brings, he’s a possession midfielder, he’s the link player, he’s the guy that everything is going to go through in the midfield and he’ll run the show and he’ll be on the ball more than anybody and he’ll help us keep rhythm and tempo. In a game like this, we’re going to have all the ball and he’s going to be key. That’s his game, he’s going to find passes, he’s going to switch plays, he’s going to play through the lines, and he’s going to win a lot of balls too. You just saw late in the game he was tracking back. He’s just a modern midfielder, and honestly, I don’t think there’s a better guy in the League at what he does. And I would say he was a massive part of us winning today as well.

The other one is Vito. Vito was a complete warrior today and I love that we got a clean sheet. That’s going to be a point of emphasis this year, to be tougher defensively closing out games. Late in the game here he is, getting kicked in the knee, limping, and still heading balls out and, just the confidence that he has overall, really kind of just permeates up through the team.

On Milton Valenzuela’s return from injury

He’s an unbelievable player. I mean, I didn’t get to coach him last year, I watched him from afar prior to that. Massive impact for us, both sides of the ball. He’s even better than I thought he was. This guy, he’s a top, top class left back.

On Pedro Santos setting the tone in the first-half

Again, I think we found a lot of the ball, but we didn’t find the ball in dangerous spots. So, one of our adjustments was to make sure that our wingers were higher and in between the lines more. Youness [Mokhtar] and Pedro [Santos] I thought found the ball, but more in the front of the midfield line where we needed to find them behind the midfield line, and I thought that adjustment helped. But Pedro found the ball a lot, he had some good moments where he was in a good position to create, so I think it was a good day for him, solid.

On the importance of getting a win early in the season

Yeah, it’s big. We don’t take any game for granted, we don’t take any point that we get for granted. So, along this kind of journey – we’ve got 33 more games left – you never know what you’re going to get. There’s all types of situations that happen. Sometimes you’re up a man, sometimes you’re down a man, sometimes you’re playing on the road, playing on turf, playing in the heat, playing in cold. I mean MLS, there’s no league like it. So anytime – I don’t care how it happens – [that] you could put three points in the bank, we’re going to take it. And we will also look at the film and we will correct things that we need to correct, because still we can be a lot better. And I think that’s going to be our process: Can you get three points, find a way to win, but still can we be better every week? So, we will reflect on this and there are still some things that I wasn’t happy with.

Defender Vito Wormgoor   

On getting a sense for how matches in MLS are played

I’m used to it, and it’s to my power also. I like to play a little bit physical. I think it compares a little bit with where I played the last few years in Norway. You had also big strikers and those big strong guys, and I like to fight, you know? And sometimes you go a little bit extra.

On how it felt to play in front of Crew SC fans and in MLS for the first time

It was amazing. It’s always nice to play, and over the last month or month and a half, it was nice already to play some games. But when you play for real with those guys in the stands, it’s amazing. It’s a great atmosphere. Thank you very much.

Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan

On scoring the game-winning goal

It was a good play. It was a great pass from Harry [Afful]. I was able to turn, Lluckily, I was able to score and it worked out well.

On the difference between the first and second half

After they [New York City FC] lost one of their players, we knew they were going to sit back, which is what they did. They were playing down a man, and they were very difficult to unlock. So, in the second half, luckily we were able to find a goal and be more threatening.

On playing in front of Crew SC fans for the first time

I am very thankful to the supporters. The fans have been very warm in how they’ve welcomed me, and I was happy that I was able to repay them with a goal.

On how comfortable he feels alongside his teammates and what Crew SC can improve on

I felt good alongside them. We played a tough opponent today, and it was a good game. Luckily, we were able to come away with a good result. We just have to keep working on the little things we need to get right, and hopefully we can keep getting better as the year goes on.


Head Coach Ronny Deila

On positive takeaways from today’s match

The team spirit and the discipline were very good. Hard work as well. It was very tough of course if you have 10 men so early in the game. We stayed in the game to the end. In the end there we could have gotten something also. Of course, they had more chances than us, but you can’t expect that. That is not going to happen. So, I think that they were doing – they took out everything they had, and in the end we were a little bit too short.

On what New York City FC needs to do before their next match against Toronto FC

We just have to rest now and get our minds right. We have to bounce back as quick as possible, and the first opportunity for that is Toronto [FC]. I’m sure-  I know me and all the boys want to get something out of that game

On whether playing two matches in a week factored into tonight’s result

That is not a problem, I can’t see that as a problem.

Defender Alexander Callens

On whether the game became more complicated after New York City FC received a red card

Yes, at three minutes or so, it kind of changes everything. The team knew was able to hold on and run the 90 minutes. I don’t think we deserved to lose – maybe not win either – but I think a draw would have been good.

On New York City FC still being able to create chances despite playing a man down

We knew that to be able to go on a break-away we would have to play with a line of five, a line of four. The team was disciplined and that’s the most important part.

On whether he thinks his fans will provide a similar environment to the one at MAPFRE Stadium

We know the people of New York will come out to watch us, they’ll come support us. This was a good game. Columbus is a great team and there’s always good support.


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