Smith Q&A: CCL, MLS decisions
Colorado Rapids Head Coach Gary Smith
On the team that is traveling to El Salvador:
You can see that there’s a cutting edge to the group. There’s four forwards in the group, and we have some experience in players like Tyrone Marshall, Wells Thompson, and Scott Palguta, who has played a decent role in the first team over the last two or three season. There are guys in the group that have had not only first team experience, but are very talented guys
There’s no doubt we have enough. There’s no doubt in my mind we had enough against España here. The way the game unfolded, we had the vast majority of the chances in the first half, we were unfortunate to not be in front or be in the game, and mistakes will, in any game, play a big part. No game is the same. We have good enough players, I believe in those players, we all do, and if I didn’t they wouldn’t be here. We have a good strong group of players, and I believe this week will be a definitive week in our season.
On how Wednesday night’s match could play out:
If you look at possibly how the game is going to unfold down in Metapán, it will be very competitive. They’re still working towards their own qualification, taking advantage of their own pitch, but in the guys that we’ve sent, I think we’ve got enough to win the game. It’ll be no different to any other game. How the guys apply themselves, how the guys affect the game, the sort of passion that they put into the game will be instrumental in what we achieve.
On sending a less experienced group for the Champions League game:
At this stage of the season, we’ve got a challenge on two fronts. The teams that have been put out in the Champions League have been criticized in some quarters, but for me the only game that we were beaten and had to hold our hands up was against Santos, and with a strong side. In any given game there can be mistakes and refereeing decisions that are going to change the course of events, we made mistakes in our home game against España. But in that game, we had plenty of opportunities with a very competitive side which will be similar to the group that goes down to Metapán. These will be difficult circumstances, on a tough pitch, but we’re capable of winning, and the guys will give everything they possibly can to do that. The group that stays here will be working towards the weekend.
Unfortunately for us, we’re teetering on the edge in both competitions. The more senior players are staying here, so I’ve leaned slightly toward the domestic competition, but I would only say slightly. The difficulties in trying to put two competitive teams out, the fact that we play away, the long travel and the game that will unfold in Metapán will be very different than the one at home against Dallas. We have to face up to those challenges and I have to make a decision on where and how these players are going to be implemented. I think by offering the opportunity to our senior players to focus very firmly on the MLS game, I hope to get a little bit more out of them, of course. A long journey and a very difficult game midweek is certainly going to do no good to our form returning domestically. So that has been a little bit more of a focus, and avoiding injuries of course.
On splitting the squad:
As much as I can, I’ve tried to offer up the opportunity to each group to focus very firmly on the job at hand. The group that will travel today will focus firmly on the game on Wednesday and will have little inclusion other than substitutes on Saturday. The group that stays here will focus firmly on Saturday’s game against a Dallas team that we’ve always had a real battle against. They’re a good side, we’ve got a bit of history with them now, and for us, it’s an important moment in the season to try to add three points to the board. The fact is that our league form has not been where any of us would’ve liked it to have been, and there can be a number of reasons for that, but at this point we can only focus on the main, which is to turn that around.
The only way I know to give players a little bit more confidence, a little bit more belief that we’re going to get the job done, and that we’re going to be not only in the postseason but doing well, is to keep working. What I hope is that the guys that are here will keep working, they’ll be around each other, and they’ll build that rapport and fluency as much as possible towards the weekend. The reality is there’s nobody who wants to get out of the Group Stage more than I do, there’s nobody who wants to get into the playoffs more than I do. I don’t think there’s any coach in the world that wants to fail, but what they do end up doing is being logical. I have to appreciate that through our successes last year, there are two competitions that we’re in, and making sure that we’re competitive on both fronts and dealing with both competitions, has proved to be very difficult. Of course, our domestic form really comes into that, and that’s where we find ourselves.
On Steve Guppy coaching the team in El Salvador:
First and foremost, I have every faith and every belief in Steve Guppy and in the team. Both of us work with these players day in and day out. In terms of a pure figurehead, you’d expect to see me, but this is a slightly different situation. Two extremely important games in one week, and I had to make a choice to try to offer the opportunity to both groups of players to be as clear as possible. I don’t think the players will be any less motivated with Steve taking the team – in fact, a new voice and a slightly different perspective on the day might just be the difference. All in all, I think that the week can unfold as we would all like it. There will be two very competitive games, and I hope, two very decent performances and results.