Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath had some very strong words after his team's 3-2 victory Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
One quote in particular stood out: "Maybe [the players will] start listening to the coaches, instead of everything else that’s going around the club."
I asked Heath for some clarification on that statement, whether he was referring to specific players, members of the front office or the media. He said "all of the above" but declined to explain any more.
"I don’t want to go into anything from the weekend. As far as I'm concerned, weekend's done,'' Heath said. "The players were let to know exactly what my feelings were after the game, and I'm looking forward now to Wednesday night," when the Loons play New England at TCF Bank Stadium.
"What was said after the game, the player's heard a lot more than you guys [in the media] did in the dressing room after the game, so they're aware of what I meant. But we move forward now."
However, I deduced one specific area that irked him, relating to players following his direction. Center back Brent Kallman said some players made a quick decision in the moment to take the first few corner kicks, which were short, differently than the coaching staff had planned.
"Attacking-wise, I think we've still got to do a better job following the plan," Kallman said. "The coaches put up some really detailed stuff we were going to do this week, and it was. We had a plan going in, and we didn’t follow it, necessarily. Guys who make little decisions, they're probably not following the plan exactly like we're supposed to. So we've got to make sure we do what they ask of us on the attacking side.''
Kallman said sometimes players see things differently in a game and make a snap decision to go against the plan. But that doesn't always work out. Heath wasn't pleased with the choice to play the corners short given the game conditions and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
"Well, considering their goalkeeper was 5-foot-8 and the sun was in his eyes, I wasn’t best pleased with that," Heath said of the short corners. "There's a time and a place for short corners. I'm not sure that was the right time and the right place at the weekend when we deliberately turned around because the sun was in the keeper's face that way, and then we go and put the first three corners short and don’t put them in the box. Not sure that’s the right way of going about it."
Kallman said Heath addressed those issues at halftime. Overall, Kallman said the defending on corners was a lot better.
"The guys along the six in the zone attacked the ball, a lot of them were short in, [Francisco] Calvo and [Michael Boxall] did a good job attacking it. I think Calvo had a bunch of clearances on them," Kallman said. "So that worked, having the free guy to attack, and then also the other guys that are man-marking and bumping runners did a good job of not letting anybody get a free run so they can get a good fly on the ball. So I think everyone did their job. It's why we didn’t concede from a corner."
Heath said there wasn't much United could have done on Salt Lake's first goal, from a free kick, since it was so close and had a lot of pace. But he did say midfielder Collin Martin, who was tasked with blocking the ball, should have blocked it, especially since a little give-and-go before Joao Plata took it gave Martin the chance to run in close enough. But overall, Heath called both the attacking and defending aspects of set pieces a "work in progress."
Kallman said Heath had a right to be upset at the players after the game, and that it's a good thing Heath didn't ignore the team's mistakes just because the Loons managed three points.
"I do know that sometimes players have opinions, differentiating opinions, from the coaching staff, and the job is to follow the coaching instructions," Kallman said. "That’s the way we're all going to be on the same page. If everyone has different opinions, then we're going to be all over the place. But that’s what the coaches are for. They steer us in a direction, and they put the plan together. And it’s the players' job to follow."
Other notes from practice Monday at the National Sports Center:
Only outside back Jerome Thiesson (calf/Achilles) was missing from training. New winger Romario Ibarra was in training for the first time.
"He's fast, that’s one thing we do know," Heath said of Ibarra. "Obviously, he's had a whirlwind 24 hours. I think he was having medicals until very, very late last night. Think he was in the hospital this morning. I think it was 6:30 he was picked up. So he's probably a wee bit tired, I would think at the moment. But just glad we get him in here, and now we have to work from now to see how he is. Maybe Wednesday might be a bit early to even get him on the bench, but we'll see. Certainly, maybe the weekend is an opportunity that we see him in some way, shape or form."