Week Four Q&A with Graham Winkworth
Sun Devil Soccer head coach Graham Winkworth gives the latest scoop on the team as it travels to Tucson this weekend for games vs. Nebraska (Thursday) and Texas Tech (Sunday).
On the team coming off its first loss of the season: All credit to LSU, they are a phenomenal team and well coached and they are going to cause a lot of problems in the SEC. The difficult thing in losing the game on Sunday was we didn't play poorly. We made individual errors that we must eradicate from our game in both penalty areas. We actually created more and better goal scoring opportunities than our opponent. If we were sitting here after a defeat and we were not doing that I'd be more concerned because then we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is almost more frustrating to lose a game that you didn't necessarily deserve to lose based upon the chances both teams created. We just have to be more clinical in both penalty areas. We play in the Pac-12 and we might lose two or three in a row at some point – we did last season but ultimately still made the NCAA Tournament and that is part of playing in the best conference in the country. We don't need to get too high after and victory and not too low after a defeat. We just need to take it one game at a time.
On LSU: They are going to beat most of the teams they play this season, and they already have. They are a very good team and I felt like we gave them a really good effort, particularly in the second half. No shame in losing to them at all, just frustration because we created enough changes (vs. LSU) to win a couple of games.
On this week's opponents Nebraska and Texas Tech: Nebraska is a really hard working team. They are well coached and well organized. They are a little more direct than LSU in the way they play different formations as well. They are going to be a huge challenge. They've got a great record to begin the season. They are a really good and talented team. Texas Tech – I haven't seen them as much yet – but if the past is anything to go by they will always be very athletic, fast and physical. These are going to be two physical games. We've got to get tougher in these matches because we are going to be challenged in that area. Texas Tech is a well-coached team that is a perennial NCAA (Tournament) team. Much like us now, they had a few players missing in the spring and so they didn't have the spring they wanted but they are back to full strength now and so we know we are going to be in for a huge challenge against (Texas Tech head) coach (Tom) Stone.
On players who have emerged recently: Catelyn (Johannes) is coming on and doing a good job off the bench and is pushing for a start. On Sunday, she really caused some problems for LSU (on the offensive end). We need to get a little bit more out of her defensively, but she is definitely causing some problems on one end of the pitch. Defensively, I think Olivia Coleman and Lauren Kirberg both came off the bench and provided quality minutes against LSU and that is not an easy game to be thrown in as a freshman, particularly next to another freshman and so I was very proud of the way they handled that challenge. And then players like Kennedy Mayo, I love the work ethic. We have to work on the end product a little bit, but work is a choice and she has chosen to work and I have a lot of respect for that.
On players who the team hopes to have return from injury at some point: Lieske (Carleer) came out of the game on Sunday and we'll get her back at some point. Lucy Johnson will be back. Lara (Barbieri) will get back, Vildan (Kardesler) we may get back at some point during the season but it will be a little ways. Alexia (Delgado) we are going to get back at some point. We haven't had Keri Matthews yet because she had a pre-existing injury when she arrived and unfortunately it took longer to solve that than we had hoped, but we should have her hopefully soon as well. Isabel (Dehakiz) we should get back at some point, Giulia Cascapera probably not. Basically, at some point we should get pretty close to full strength, but they are going to come back at different points and different stages. We may get one or two of them back this week. It's been frustrating, but it is nice to know there is light at the end of the tunnel… Credit to every player who is going in and doing her job. These injuries – although we never choose to have them – you have to look at the bright side because they have enabled us to take a look at other players we might not see with a full-strength squad and so now other players have shown us they have the ability to come in and cause problems for other teams and as we get more healthy it is going to become increasingly difficult for us to pick a travel squad because we'll be so deep.
On how the styles of teams can impact the game: Different teams play different ways. For example, LSU this past weekend was the most open, expansive I've seen in probably 20 years. They were playing very 3-4-3/3-5-2 and their back three (players) were more spread out than some teams back four (players). Other teams you see will be so compact defensively and that it is very difficult to break them down. Against a team like LSU, we almost had the attitude of, 'we're just going to go out there and score one more goal than you.' And for the neutral (fan) is awesome. For the coaches, especially a coach that comes from a defensive background, it is a nightmare because you want clean sheets and we have to do more defensively because we haven't been keeping clean sheets. But the style and system of play is a big deal. Some teams will play very direct, other teams press, some teams will play a more fluid, passing style of soccer and there is no right or wrong. That is the beautiful thing about soccer. There is not right or wrong way to play. They can all be excellent ways of winning and having success. Some coaches prefer one style over another. I personally prefer and enjoy coaching a more possession-oriented way. And a lot of players enjoy playing that style. And so that is us, but at the same time I respect these teams that are more direct and have a lot of success doing it. Some teams win playing that way and some don't. It all comes down to a coach's preference. And that is the great thing about the Pac-12, you are going to see some teams that rely on set pieces, you are going to see some teams that are more direct, you are going to see some teams that pass the ball like Barcelona from 2011. Beautiful soccer. That's so much fun when you've got such diversity (of play) within one league. It means preparing for those teams, particularly the Sunday opponent, when you've only got a couple of days (in between games) is really challenging but a lot of fun.
On if the team is where he hoped it would be at this stage of the season: Yes, particularly with the adversity we have faced from an injury standpoint. We are creating a lot more (scoring) chances than our opponent in every game we have played this season. If we do that in every game, I am happy because more often than not we will win the match. But we have to show more quality where the game is won and that inside both penalty areas. On Sunday, we created plenty of chances. We just have to be more clinical at that end and more stingy and disciplined at the other end.