bleedCrimson.net Coach Needham Interview :: 09/01/09

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the North Texas match.
Michael Needham: I think North Texas is probably the best team we've played yet from a pure soccer standpoint. They weren't as athletic as UTEP but they were definitely a very good soccer team and made us chase the ball a bit. We did a good job defensively. Again, we still need to do a better job of connecting passes and keeping possession of the ball as we go forward but that being said that was the best we've done doing that yet against a good team.

I was pleased with it. I think as we move forward, the thing that struck me when I walked away on Sunday was that I was very excited to get back out on Tuesday. A lot of times when you just lose a game it's like, "I'm happy to have a day off." That wasn't the case Sunday. We're right there, everything's happening the right way, we're doing things the right way, we're approaching things the right way, so we were just very excited to get going today and head up to Colorado this weekend.

bc.net: Talk a little more about the defense. There were 22 shots by them but you still only give up one goal. That's kind of been the pattern so far, a lot of shots by the opponents but not many of them are going in.
MN: First off when you play away people are always taking a lot of shots because anything that hits anywhere near the goal is a shot, it might not be that accurate when you're away. Were they in our attacking half more? Yeah but that's because we're organized and we get behind the ball and do a good job. We've just got to do a better job when we're coming out so that we don't give people chances to attack us again.

bc.net: How do you think your kids adjusted to their first team road trip?
MN: You know, I actually thought it was easier than having a team of veterans or a team of kids that have been around awhile because these kids are coming out of their club environments and their youth teams, these kids are traveling more than college teams do. They're used to being in hotels, they handled themselves well.

We had a conversation on Saturday night after a reasonably long day of travel and sat them down and said, "Now the vacation's over, it's time to go to work." I think in the future it'll be a little more dialed in from the start. I think we were as good away as we were at home. I'm pretty happy about that.

bc.net: On Friday you take on Colorado State-Pueblo. They lost their season opener 4-1.
MN: They gave up three goals in a short period of time in the second half, otherwise it was a pretty close game. We're in the part of the season where we play and we do what we do and we see where we come out. I talked to the team and going in in your first three games, UTEP and North Texas away, those are games to prepare you for later. Those are games that you may look at before hand and say, man that's a tough environment, that's a tough place to play. Going up to Pueblo and Air Force, these are games we're going after. We're going up there to win two games. There's no question about that.

bc.net: On Sunday you take on Air Force, having been an assistant at UNLV you're very familiar with Air Force and the Mountain West teams. They return eight starters and 15 letter winners from last year's squad including their leading goal scorer.
MN: Air Force is good. There's one word to describe how they play and that's disciplined. That's goes along with their whole way of life. They don't give up a lot of goals, they defend very well. In terms of the Mountain West Conference, they're in the lower half but as far as what I've seen so far, they're a pretty good team. They just went down and played an SEC team (Arkansas) in an SEC stadium and only lost 4-2, they were up 1-0 and then up 2-1. You've gotta play every game, especially us. We've gotta perform every time we go out. I'm looking forward to the weekend.

bc.net: What are some of the improvements you've seen from game to game?
MN: I think against UTEP we were good athletically and we competed. I think against Idaho State we showed a lot of resolve, going down a goal, dealing with some circumstances that are not easy for a team do deal with and moving forward and forcing overtime with that team. Against North Texas, a team that went to the NCAA tournament and goes every year or every other year, it's either them or Denver from the Sun Belt and playing very well. We had three chances. That was probably the difference if you were to look from UTEP to North Texas. The difference from UTEP is we had zero chances, we defended the whole time. Against North Texas we defended a lot but we still had some very good chances going forward to tie the game. We had one late in the game where two of our players are sliding in for a cross and their goal keeper just does really well to make a huge save.

We're right where I want to be.

bc.net: Have any of your players emerged as leader in the clubhouse or on the field?
MN: I think Katie Graul has as a goal keeper. You'd expect that from a player who's playing all the way in the back. They can see everything and she's stepped up in performance so everybody will listen. When she says something it's like, "Well Katie said so and she's having a heck of a year so let's do what she has to say." Other than that we're still waiting on some leadership. There's some different personalities in the group. We're just trying to figure out who they all are and within the next week or so we should have a real good idea of who the leaders are. We'll have our full-time captains by then and we'll be moving forward as we head into WAC play.