Head Coach Caleb Porter
Obviously, a good start to the tournament. It’s been long road to this point. We mentioned to the group: 126 days since our last game and our last goal, and we reminded them that we were a good team then. We were off to a good start and we were flying, and our goal was to pick up where we left off in our first match back. In saying that, we also felt that we’ve gotten better, believe it or not, during these 126 days. Even though we were off, we got better as a team. We got closer, we got stronger and we got tougher. I think it helped us in different ways. We seemed to have more of a killer instinct today, and that was really good to see.
On how the performances of Lucas Zelarayan and Gyasi Zardes helped the rest of the team
Players win games, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve always believed that. My role is to take the group and maximize the potential of the group. But players win games, and these two guys [Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes,] on my right and my left, they were exceptional today and it wasn’t a surprise that they both have quality. It was great to see both of them linking up. They haven’t played together that long, but it was nice to see the understanding with your nine and 10 which is something that’s so important. We’ll need them to obviously continue to make plays to help us win games, but it was good to see, obviously.
On Crew SC’s central midfield trio (Lucas Zelarayan, Artur and Darlington Nagbe) and how they work together
It’s key in the vision that I have for my team. It’s not just my vision, it’s the Club’s vision as well. You need the right balance in that midfield triangle, and we’ve got that. We have a pure 10 chance-creator in Lucas Zelarayan, which is why that signing was so important this offseason. Artie [Artur] is your midfield rangy destroyer. He covers more ground than anyone. When he gets around, he’s always around the ball, and he’s become a tenacious ball-winner, and that’s something we’ve talked to him about, something we’ve worked on and he’s showing that. He’s an animal. And then, Darlington is your rhythm guy. He’s the player that links the game from our build up into the final third, and rarely loses the ball, gets us out of pressure, and is also – like I’ve said before - an underrated ball-winner and covers a lot of ground. The balance of those three is really important. The game is won and lost in the center of the park, and those three guys really help us dictate the game on both sides of the ball.
On whether he was excited to see Sebastian Berhalter and Aidan Morris make their team debuts
I was this excited [smiles]. It was good. I like young players, I like all players, that’s why I do this. I do it for the players. I enjoy working with players like Gyasi [Zardes] and Lucas [Zelarayan] because they’re exceptional talent – they’re senior players. But I also love working with younger players and bringing them along and developing them and helping them along and getting them started in their careers. I was pleased to give Bouba [Aboubacar Keita] his debut last year as a Homegrown Player from our Club, and I was really excited to give Sebastian and Aidan their debuts today. I don’t give young players their debut unless they’ve earned it, and those two have been working very hard and they earned it. It was a nice moment for them, but also for the Club. We believe in our developmental academy and our developmental pathway, and fortunately, we’re having players come through. Hopefully we’ll have more.
Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan
On the importance of his connection with Gyasi Zardes
This connection with Gyasi has been really really good. Ever since I first arrived to the team, I knew this would be an important part. He’s the goal-scorer of the team, and my function is to assist him. We’ve been working hard in trainings. It’s very important to work together. Every time that I receive the ball, I’m always looking for him and I’m very happy to be able to assist him today, and I certainly hope to continue this pattern.
On what he was thinking before converting the free kick
When you’re positioning the ball, you’re obviously thinking, hoping it is going to be a goal. You kind of picture yourself celebrating the goal. That’s exactly what I was thinking, and fortunately enough, that’s exactly what happened in the end.
Forward Gyasi Zardes
On what it felt like to be back on the pitch after not playing for four months
It was a great feeling just to get back on the field. During this break for the Coronavirus we participated in multiple Zoom workouts with the team collectively, and I think it was just great to come down here a couple [of] weeks early and start team training in the environment that we were going to play in. So it was important. Also, I kind of felt like it was a season opener because it’s a new tournament that we’re participating in and it’s extremely important to get off on the right foot.
On whether scoring 20 goals a season is a realistic target
I’m obviously highly motivated to keep working hard. You see the strikers in the League are starting to get plus-20 [goals], so I think it’s very important as a striker to set your goal for that, and just try to get in the right spots. Like coach said, as long as I’m getting service, I should finish the play. So, I’m just going to keep working hard like I always do and strive to do that and get more goals.
On Youness Mokhtar’s performance
I thought Youness Mokhtar had an amazing game, specifically on my first goal. He turned in the pocket and it was a great pass right ahead of me and allowed me to take two touches and bury a goal, so I thought he had a phenomenal performance tonight.