Head Coach Caleb Porter
On Crew SC’s offensive efforts
Normally in game like that, when a team [Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC] sits in and makes it a defensive game, it’s difficult. I thought it came out fine, just fizzled out in the final third at times but for me, when a team plays like that - it’s difficult. I've seen that game hundreds of times and half of those games ended in a draw, maybe the other quarter end in a loss and other quarter end in a win - so it’s difficult when a team plays that defensive and it’s easy to destroy a game. We had to be patient and I thought we were [in the] second half. We made a few adjustments - we dropped [David] Guzman in line with the center backs to make a three-versus-two there and pushed our wingbacks higher, our wingers more narrow and then kept Pedro [Santos] higher as well as in the pocket. I thought we did a nice job of unlocking them in the second half - should've scored more goals though - but I think it was a really good second-half, good performance overall out of the group. We had some guys that obviously gained some confidence in the game. We win and advance. Tournament football, that’s what it is about: winning and advancing. The group looked hungry, they wanted to advance. We have four more games to go. Next week we want to get into the round of eight.
On Crew SC building momentum following tonight’s win
Yeah, I think we’re gaining confidence - still want more. I wanted a second goal, a third goal, still need to show more killer. I thought we made progress last game and I thought we made more progress this game. We had a lot of good performances today: Alex [Crognale] I thought had a really nice game, [Patrick] Mullins probably had his best game of the year - created the penalty kick, probably should have scored on the cross from Hector [Jimenez] when he took it behind his leg. I thought Artie [Artur] had a really solid game and that was important for him. Connor Maloney - you start to add up guys who are in the game and you know, we got good performances today across the board, really. [I] Still want to see a little bit more in the final third and like I said that that killer instinct. I thought, [the] first 20 minutes [of the] second half they [Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC] couldn’t get across midfield and it was very dominant and very purposeful the way we played. We score the goal and we're still knocking on the door and then we don't get the second goal. I thought there a couple periods where we took our foot off the pedal, so we got to keep pushing that aggressiveness and that killer Instinct to put the game to bed but it was a good step in the right direction.
On Harrison Afful’s return to the field
Yeah, it means a lot. He’s a great player, obviously, and the way that we play outside back getting forward is a big part of our attack - we needed that today. They [Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC] played very narrow and you could tell it was set up to allow our outside backs to try to make the game. I thought second half those guys delivered - we needed that. First half, not as much but you know, I think it's a little bit us just figuring out how to unlock their team, which takes time. Even the best teams it takes time to break down 10 guys 35 yards from goal.
On how he goes about rotating the squad while competing in the U.S. Open Cup
Yeah, I don't know what happened in years past, but I don't know why you wouldn't try and win every game that you play. For us, we try to win every game that we play and you only have three opportunities to win a trophy, so we don't ever try to not win a game or a trophy. But when you look at how many guys we have injured or gone, I don’t think it was much of a choice and also the way the [Lamar Hunt U.S.] Open Cup fell this year with the [Concacaf] Gold Cup - why would you rotate in this game? You need to keep players sharp, so at the end of the day there was no other decision for us other than to play the best group that we have and try to win.
On Alex Crognale’s role with Crew SC
Part of the reason why we felt confident letting Lalas [Abubakar] go out on loan was because we knew Alex [Crognale] – we felt really good about Alex and I think you saw that today. He’s a good player, good on the ball. He’s good in the air. He’s got a lot of tools, a lot of tools and he’s very steady - reads the game well. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, very cerebral. We have been following him in all of his games with Indy Eleven and we felt confident that he could cover us.
On Crew SC’s defensive efforts
We prioritized that side of the ball this week. Specifically, in speaking with Gaston [Sauro] and Hector [Jimenez] and Alex [Crognale] and Harry [Harrison Afful] and Connor [Maloney], we knew all of them would play. We programed Harry [Afful] to only play 45 [minutes] and Connor [Maloney] to go in for the second half. Early in the week we talked about getting back to being a good defensive team and taking pride in clean sheets. Defending is not a curse word, and I think sometimes people think if you prioritize defending it's a negative thing and I think it's ridiculous. There is never a good team that doesn’t defend well, and the best teams are balanced. If you look at the best teams in our League - they’re balanced. They don’t just bleed goals. LAFC [Los Angeles Football Club] is a good defensive team but it’s the balance of the two. We wanted to get back to being hard to play against defensively. It didn't mean we wanted to give up anything going forward but you have to get both sides of the ball going - two sides of the coin - and you need to get both going to be successful. I told the guys I’d buy them dinner if they got a clean sheet.
[All of them?]
The back four.
[Does that include Connor?] I don’t know if that’s legal [laughter].
[This isn’t college] Exactly. But no, you see with Alex [Crognale] at the very end, they wanted to get a clean sheet and it’s very important that we take pride in that.
[What kind of dinner are we talking; Chipotle? Something a little more upscale?]
I don’t know. It depends, we’ll see. I’ll be thinking about it.
On Artur and David Guzman’s performance
I thought those two guys really gelled today. Like you said, they haven’t played a lot together. They had a good weekend training. I like the hunger in the group in the last two days of training. It felt really good - the energy. I think a little bit, maybe we had a bunch of guys with things to prove. On paper, we have some of our top guys gone and one of the things I said to this group was could they help turn this season around? And they knew it was going to be on their names and we talked about them stepping up and them taking a role in the season and being the ones that actually turn the season around. Our goal right now is to have a really good comeback - everybody likes a comeback team and we need to have a very good second half of the year. We’re hoping that we’re kind of the comeback kings this year.
Goalkeeper Jon Kempin
On how it felt to get the clean sheet tonight.
It was awesome. I mean we haven’t had a clean sheet in a while, so it was good to get a clean sheet and to get the first win in the Open Cup, and hopefully get some momentum going.
On taking pride in the defense’s performance
I mean the defense was unbelievable tonight. Winning every single header, every single duel, from the center backs all the way up to the attack. So, I definitely commend them, and they did an awesome job.
On earning his first shutout in an official competition with Crew SC
Yes definitely, it’s always good to get a shutout. For me, the most important thing is to get a win. Obviously, a shutout is a bonus, but the win is what’s most important.
On what he saw from CrewSC that may have been a little different than in previous matches.
I felt like everyone was comfortable. We were relaxed. We played good soccer. We took pride in winning at home. We took pride in playing in front of our fans. And I thought that everyone showed a little hunger tonight. And I think that’s important going forward.
On the momentum Crew SC has following tonight’s win
I mean it’s definitely good to get the win - to get some more minutes, some more confidence. It’s just taking every game, game by game, and continuing to improve, regardless if I’m playing, training, whatever. So, it’s just learning from every experience.
Midfielder David Accam
On what he saw on Pedro Santos’ assist
I know Pedro (Santos) is a good passer, of course, so when he got the ball, I just had to make a run behind it. Luckily, he found me and I just had to make a little touch, and it went into the goal.
On this group’s hunger to continue to compete in the Open Cup
For us, we want to win every game and today wasn’t any different. We came in to win this game, and I think we were more aggressive, and we tried to be positive playing forward. And even though we did not score a lot of goals, I am still proud of the team because we pushed really hard and created more chances.