bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Needham Interview :: 09/22/10

bleedCrimson.net: How have your practices been this week in preparation for Northern Colorado and Wyoming?
Michael Needham: Yesterday is always a competition day and a fitness day so I think it was good. They came out and competed and battled and that's what we ask them to do on Tuesdays. I'm happy with that. Today we'll get into a bit more tactical situations.

bc.net: One of the things that I noticed on the first goal in Sunday's game and a few of the goals from Friday's game against Alabama A&M is that when your kids are getting opportunities in front of the net, they're not trying to pound the ball into the back of the net, instead they're hitting a bit softer shot. How much of that is a learning process from what happened on Yolanda McMillion's shot against Northern Arizona?
MN: I think it's just getting more comfortable in front of the goal is what it is. We talk a lot about as the season goes on, you're going to get some chances and you're going to get chances to score and you've got to put those on the frame. Either mat the goal keeper make a save or you've just got to tuck it away and you can't allow chances like that to go passing. So, it's not so much any focus on what's happened in the past, it's more of what's going to happen in the future. Looking at the goal scoring chances we have, we have some pretty athletic kids up front who can get behind people and cause problems there. If we're going to get into those areas, we've got to make sure we're scoring goals when we get there.

bc.net: One of the other things you had talked about earlier this season was wanting your team to be able to score the "ugly" goals.
MN: Yeah, again I think as the season goes on, those are the goals you have to score. As the year goes on you're going to get less and less great chances to score, games are going to get tighter, games are going to get into situations where you're going to have to grind one out. It's encouraging to see us score a couple ugly ones in there. It means we're putting ourselves in good places to score goals. So that's the most important thing to me.

bc.net: You've scored 25 goals this season through your first eight games and one of the stats that really sticks out is the number of assists on those goals.
MN: It's great. It means we're playing good soccer, it means we're not just going one versus one it means we're creating chances from multiple players at one time. On Sunday we actually recorded a goal with two assists because it was a ball that was played from Crystal [Burns] on through Dani [De La Vina] and on in behind and Veronica [Subu] ultimately ended up scoring on a breakaway. It shows that we're playing team soccer and we're trying to get everybody involved. It's pretty unselfish and it's definitely a very very good thing as we start to get ready for conference.

bc.net: On Friday night you take on Northern Colorado what are your thoughts on that matchup?
MN: Northern Colorado is a good team. They're a team that will be very similar to Northern Arizona. It's a team that you have to come out and match them physically because they're strong, they're gritty, they work hard and they play in a shape very similar to ours, they'll play in a 4-3-3. Our ability to manage our pressure, they like to pressure everywhere and play real high pressure and get high up the field, our ability to break that pressure and then get into playing our soccer and going what we do will be the difference in the game. If we can manage that pressure and get the ball into players quickly into the midfield and get going at them I think we'll be very successful. If we don't manage that pressure and we give the ball away in transition I think we'll struggle a little bit. I think it'll be a good test for us.

bc.net: On Sunday you take on Wyoming who looks to be an improved team this year.
MN: Wyoming will be a huge challenge. It's a team that's in a very strong conference, the Mountain West, and it's a team that goes to the Mountain West Conference tournament every year. Their environment up there, they do a nice job of getting good crowds out to games. They do different things with their environment that make it challenging to play. Again I think the biggest challenge for us is being able to handle the pressure that they put us under and play the way we want to play. If we do that I think we come out with a great weekend. I think if we get caught up in what other people are trying to do then I think it'll be a little bit more of a challenge.

bc.net: You're obviously familiar with the Wyoming program from your days as an assistant at UNLV, what is their style of play like?
MN: They play in a 4-4-2, they play it a little bit differently, they'll have one of their forwards drop off a little bit deeper so it almost becomes a 4-3-3 which actually suits us a little bit better. They're a hard working group, they always have been. Every time they play they're trying to prove something, especially at home. They're very difficult to beat at home. They thrive off their environment, they have an excellent coaching staff, they're well coached, they're pretty stingy defensively, other than giving up six goals last weekend to Creighton. They're a good team.

These two games this weekend are a very good challenge for us as we get ready to go into some pretty challenging environments when we go into the WAC. I'm excited for this weekend. I think it's going to be good. We're a confident group, I think we're a group that's starting to really come together and starting to figure out how we play. This weekend will take us to a different level of being able to test that. I think the kids are excited, we're [coaches] excited as I'm sure both Northern Colorado and Wyoming are excited. I think it should be two very good soccer teams this weekend.

bc.net: This is your first true road trip of the season. With the kids that were a part of the team last year, how are they helping the freshmen prepare for that first trip.
MN: Even our returning kids are young so I think a lot of it comes from us just making sure they're taking care of all their schoolwork before they leave. Our graduate assistant Cortney Sobrero holds study halls on Thursday night/Friday morning then we'll kind of back off as we get into the afternoon. Saturday we'll kind of spend around. We're going to go up Friday night to Laramie right after the game [vs. Northern Colorado] so we'll get in get into our hotel and get comfortable and then Saturday we'll probably do some more study hall and come together some more as a team.

I think the biggest thing about traveling, you can look at travel as a negative but you can also look at it as a positive and I think we've come together pretty well as a team playing at home but when you go on the road you rely on each other a little bit more. You're around each 24 hours a day, it's a little different than being around each other for three or four. These are the trips when you really start to see the chemistry start to build. We're very excited about it.

bc.net: The way that you built your schedule this year you had a lot of home games up front leading up to this weekend. How do you feel that that has worked out for you? Obviously you've gotten a very good record out of it at 5-1-2 but what has it done for building the cohesiveness as a team?
MN: I think again with a young group it's important to be home as much early as possible not even soccer standpoint but just in terms of a comfort standpoint and also from an academic standpoint. We haven't had to have our kids miss a lot of classes and that's important to me. They're here to be students and then they get to play soccer. That's the added benefit of it. I think it's important because you don't lose sight of that when you're missing all your classes and traveling a lot. We've had a chance for our kids to put down a good solid foundation in the classroom. Now it's just important that we get out on the road before we get into the conference.