It is time to get back to business for North County Battalion. After a tough loss to Albion Pros, the first dropped points of their inaugural NPSL campaign, NC Battalion now head north to Riverside this Sunday night to take on Deportivo Coras.
Nate Abaurrea caught up with Battalion Head Coach Ryan Guy, discussing the focus level of the team moving forward, and some recent developments within the squad.
Nate Abaurrea: “After last Saturday’s loss, what was the team’s overall mood like in training on Monday?”
Ryan Guy: “We were definitely in two minds for a bit. We were unhappy to lose to Albion, but it was also just the third game of the season. We played a good style in the first half of that game, and if it wasn’t for a controversial offside decision, we could have been up 2-0. There were so many positives to take away from that game. There were also some negative things that we need to clean up, those costly errors that really hurt us in the second half, but it’s just not worth focusing on the negatives. We are going to fix things, rest assured, but we also need to continue to play our style. Monday night training was great in the sense that it reminded everyone that we are still us, and that we can beat anyone in this league if we focus on all the little things that we need to do.”
NA: “You’ve had a few days to move on with life after last Saturday. What have been some of the main things you’ve enjoyed over this past week of training?”
RG: “Seeing players compete with one another. Guys want an opportunity, and it’s not easy on this team. We’ve got a few new guys coming in, as well as some top players coming back from injury. We need consistency from everyone, and if everyone is constantly being challenged in training, it makes it that much more likely that we’ll find that consistency.”
NA: “Who’s shining right now, for your money, be it in training or even over the last couple games?”
RG: “We talk so much about consistency. Berrick Rastok has probably been the most consistent player on this team. I think he had his best game so far against Albion, and he’s such a strong presence on the practice field for us. He’s a rock in that midfield.
Michael Harrow has been a great surprise for us of late, and a fine example of what hard work can do. He’s worked his way into the coaches’ heads, and he has made himself a major part of this squad.
A lot of people locally are of course talking about Esteban Reyes. He continues to shine, every day.”
NA: “I’ve seen an interesting dynamic between Esteban, a player who just celebrated his 20th birthday, and some of the elder statesmen on the team, the likes of Joe Shah, Kichi Perez, and Nelson Pizarro, players ten and eleven years his senior. What have you seen in terms of the relationship between those guys?”
RG: “When you have a team that’s filled with all young guys, and someone plays as well as Esteban has been playing, there’s often a sort of ego inflation that can happen, and in turn a bit of jealousy and resentment in the air from other guys. When you have a team that is as diverse as ours, both in terms of age and cultural background, there’s none of that. Nelson and myself have played in MLS and other top competitions as professionals. Joe, Kichi, and a few others, we’ve all been at this for decades. We see a guy like Esteban and honestly say, ‘he’s just another player’. I think that’s actually really good for him. It keeps him motivated within the squad. The plaudits can and will come from the fans and media. To us, he’s just a guy battling to keep his starting spot, same as the rest of the guys on this highly competitive roster. But judging by the way he’s been playing, it doesn’t look like he’ll be giving up that spot anytime soon.”
NA: “Rumor has it that Adam Meltz is fully healthy after nearly a month out with a knee sprain. Can you verify this?”
RG: “Cheezy looks like he’s back. Nothing is guaranteed, but he will most likely make the 18 man squad that will travel to Riverside. He’s such an interesting player to coach. He puts pressure on me and my staff to find as many ways as tactically possible to get him involved in the game. We want him to get lots of touches, but we also don’t want him to do too much. That’s a type of challenge that most every coach in the world would love to take on.”
NA: “What are you expecting from this Coras team on Sunday night?”
RG: “I’m expecting another unique challenge. Whether it’s Coras, Albion, Hasental, etc., there’s no pushovers in this conference. You look at the results around the NPSL Southwest, and they’re all close games. I love that. That’s how it should be. When I played with the Flash in the NPSL, we were sometimes winning games by seven or eight goals. That’s just not happening anymore, for anybody, and that’s credit to the growth of this league. I expect yet another close, hard-fought battle with Coras on Sunday.”
NA: “Shall we get to the ‘3 Keys to Battalion Success’ for this weekend?”
RG: “Let’s do it.
1. Defensive Shape
Our communication at the back has to improve, and there absolutely can not be those momentary breakdowns.
2. Eliminating Individual Errors
Soccer is a team sport, but individual errors cost us big time against Albion. We have to get those out of our system if we are to accomplish what we are truly capable of this season.
3. Finishing Chances
We did it incredibly well in our first two and a half games. That second half last Saturday was tough. We had so many opportunities to score and we just didn’t take them. I’m confident we can get back to our strong finishing ways.
NA: “Lastly, any words to the Battalion supporters?”
RG: “After the incredible turnout that we had last Saturday… After the party in the rain we had at our home opener… And after seeing so many of you travel all the way to San Bernardino to support us on opening day… All I can say is please continue. There has been substantial growth on and off the field for this club, and you are right at the center of that growth. As much as these players are being talked about, the local media is also talking about the fans. They’re talking about the ‘atmosphere’. That’s something that you the fans create. Thank you for everything, and let’s keep growing together.”
NA: “Thanks for your time, coach. See you in Riverside.”
RG: “Always a pleasure, Nate. Look forward to getting back in the win column.”