bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Needham Interview :: 09/09/10

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on tomorrow's game against North Dakota?
Michael Needham: It's a single game weekend for us so that's good. We're looking forward to going out and getting after it on Friday. It's an opportunity for us to continue building on what I feel like what was a very good weekend last weekend. It's another opportunity to go out and apply what things we picked up last weekend.

bc.net: Does your preparation change at all for a single game weekend as opposed to a two game weekend which is what you normally have?
MN: Preparation, not much. Expectations are a little bit different. You can go after a game a little bit differently. My preparation in terms of what I might do in the game might be a little bit different. But as far the players, it doesn't change too much. A single game weekend allows you to stick with people a little bit longer because you don't have to worry about playing again on Sunday. It allows you to do some things going forward and kind of push it a little bit, maybe go a little longer with certain players and try to impose yourself a little bit more.

bc.net: One of the things that I've observed after the first few games of this season is that your team seems to be more adjusted to playing at the Division I level and are playing a bit more physical and initiating the contact a little bit more than last season.
MN: Yeah, I think we are. We've grown up a little bit in the last year to where we understand that that's going to be a part of it. In college soccer there's going to be a physical aspect to it and you can't shy away from it. We want to play good soccer and we want to move the ball around but at the same time you're going to play teams that want to rack you up a little bit. You've got to be prepared to match that intensity and I think we're doing a better job of that this year.

A good example of that was Northern Arizona. They're a pretty physical group and last year we allowed Northern Arizona to kind of push us around and push us into not being able to get out of our own end and we weren't able to hold onto the ball because we weren't used to that kind of pressure. Where this year, we've seen that before, we've been around it and understand that's the way college soccer is and we need to be able to compete and we did that. I think Sunday was a pretty good picture of that. I think had we not been ready physically to compete we would have struggled in that game but we came ready to play and we did a good job of that.

bc.net: One of the other things that has been a big difference this year, there's not a time of possession statistic but your team has controlled the ball a lot more than last season.
MN: Yeah for sure. Again, the returning players came back with a little more experience and understanding that you have to possess it a little bit otherwise you're going to be running to defend all the time. That's one side of it. Then I think the incoming kids with their pretty solid soccer intelligence and understanding of how to play soccer and get the ball on the ground and play has been part of that. We hope to continue that this weekend.

bc.net: How do you feel like your new players have done through the first few games and how have their teammates who were the new players last year been able to help them along?
MN: I think both groups help each other and it's become one group which is what we really want to have happen. You don't want there to be returning players and you don't want there to be incoming kids, you want them to just be one group of players. I think they're doing a really good job of that.

The biggest adjustment for any of the kids in this program, and that's returning kids and incoming players, is the training environment every day is competitive. In a competitive environment it becomes necessary that the players that have been there before and understand what the demands of the game are going to be on a Friday or Sunday, have to drive the intensity of training to get it to where practice prepares people for games. I credit our returning players for doing that to this point. They train hard and bring an intensity level that they didn't bring last year even because there wasn't that much competition and they kinda knew where they stood. To this point and where we are in the season we're playing a lot of players and we're trying to find the right combination.

As far as incoming kids who have done a good job, Mary Kate Koziol has done a great job. Kristen Powers has been outstanding. We moved her to the back last weekend to add a bit of athleticism back there and to strengthen our midfield a little bit by moving one of returning players, Baili Foutz, to the midfield. That worked really well for us and I think that will continue to work. Kristen is an exceptional athlete all across the board whether your'e looking at vertical jump, whether you're looking at outright speed or technical ability. She can get it done. Moving her to left back, while you never like to take a kid like that out of the front, it definitely helps to solidify things in the back.