As the NPSL season carries on, SoccerNation.com’s Nate Abaurrea and NC Battalion’s Ryan Guy continued our popular Coach’s Corner series. NC Battalion sit third in the Southwest Conference table after a tough 1-1 draw with Deportivo Coras last weekend, and host bottom dwellers Temecula FC on Sunday at 1 pm.
Abaurrea and Guy look back, look forward, talk flair, and share a brief discussion on the psychological aspects of managing a soccer team.
Nate Abaurrea: “How are you doing, coach?”
Ryan Guy: “Doing great. Always nice to chat with you, good sir.”
NA: “How’s this week been for the team, from your perspective?”
RG: “This is the meat of the season. This is when the day-to-day grind really becomes apparent, and a team truly creates itself. This is when we decide where we want this season to go, and build toward that crescendo. We’ve had a couple of great training sessions this week. They’ve been unique and challenging. Myself and the rest of the coaching staff, we’ve pushed the guys to the edge this week. There’s been some frustration. There’s been some joy. There’s been competition in training, but there’s also been a lot of positivity.”
NA: “What were your main takeaways from the last match, against Coras up in Riverside?”
RG: “The result was unfortunate. We were unhappy with a point. We felt we should have gotten out of there with all three. But being unhappy with a point is a good sign. It shows that we expect more. We dipped a little in the second half of that game though, and were kind of holding on towards the end, and they eventually got to us with that penalty.”
NA: “Any words on that penalty decision, the handball on Justin Picou in the 89th minute?”
RG: “Once a decision is made, it’s done. We were unhappy in the moment. We voiced our displeasure. We moved on. That’s football.”
NA: “What were your thoughts on James Stroud’s performance in goal against Coras, and what has it been like seeing him back at training?”
RG: “The performance against Coras was exactly what we needed right when we needed it. It’s been week to week, with all of our keepers. James is experienced, but he’s been injured. Seeing that hunger, that desire to get back out there, was beautiful. For all intents and purposes, he kept us in that game. He made some great saves, and he also made no mistakes. He was unlucky to not have a clean sheet, only being beaten by that penalty. I’m super happy. The ‘goalkeeper challenge’ is alive and well.”
NA: “Alive and well… So will Stroud get the start on Sunday?”
RG: “Most likely.”
NA: “Cheezy, Adam Meltz, played the second half against Coras, his first game action of the season since injuring his MCL in late March. What did you think of his performance and what have these latest training sessions been like for him?”
RG: “Cheezy is looking sharper by the day. He definitely wasn’t satisfied with his performance in that match. This game is about confidence and sharpness. He’s getting those things back. We saw the sparks in training this week. He’s only 25, so I hate phrasing it this way, but the ‘old Cheezy’ is about to return.”
NA: “Esteban Reyes was kept quiet really for the first time all season last Sunday. What’s it going to take for him to bounce back against Temecula?”
RG: “Again, it’s all about consistency. He was relatively quiet in that game, but he still looked dangerous. He’s so young and so talented, Esteban. He has to know his responsibilities, and continue to grow as a player everyday.”
NA: “That phrase, ‘knowing his responsibilities’, in a soccer sense is often in reference to midfielders and defenders. How does it apply to a player like Esteban? What are his responsibilities?”
RG: “It’s true. When we think ‘responsibilities’ on the pitch, we think of center backs, defensive midfielders, and other worker types. Esteban is definitely a player with flair. When you’re a flair guy, your responsibilities are 90% the same as everyone else, but there lies a special 10% in another compartment, where your job is to assist, to score, to make that difference in the final third. It must be within your means, and you must carefully pick your spots. That’s the added challenge of being that type of player.”
NA: “That 10% is often the difference in games. What’s the best way to help a young player with flair learn how to pick their spots, and help them gain that confidence to take on anybody while also not trying to do too much?”
RG: “It’s a delicate balance. You and I, Nate, have spoken at length about young players being encouraged or discouraged in regards to 1v1 situations on the pitch. I’m not a black and white guy. It’s circumstantial. But it does come back to one thing as a coach, and that’s being constructive.
I’ve known a lot of scolding coaches throughout my career, who react in anger without offering anything to truly help a player avoid making that same mistake again. You’ve got to give a young player something to work with.”
NA: “That goes along with a very calm feel that you seem to have as a coach. Who are some of the people over the years that instilled you with that mindset?”
RG: “It sounds funny, but some of the best influences for me were guys who exhibited the opposite behaviors. They showed me how I didn’t want to coach.
But as far as direct models, the first would be my grandfather. He was an old school British style coach, stern and fierce, but in the right ways. If you did something wrong, he’d always point out exactly what it was, and then say something like ‘look how much better this is’, and provide you with something that would help you not make the same mistake twice.
Another quality influence for me is Mike Nicholson. People know Mike from the San Diego Surf clubs, USD, and more. He’s a very optimistic coach. You’ll never hear the words ‘don’t do this’. Instead you’ll hear, ‘instead of what you just did, you should do this next time’.
Criticism is vital in improving as a player, but it needs to be constructive, and that’s the coach’s responsibility.
NA: “In 2011, while playing for the New England Revolution, your manager was Steve Nicol, a long time coach in America and a great player for those famous European Champion Liverpool teams of the 1980’s. That 2011 season was actually Steve’s last as a coach. Where did he fit into this whole discussion?”
RG: “Honestly, somewhere right in the middle. Steve was by no means a ‘yeller’ or a scolding type, but he also didn’t mince words. He’s an absolute legend as a player, with a pedigree of which most people could only dream. He’s also one of the winningest coaches in MLS history. I think one of the best things I took away from Steve was the importance of trust. None of us players on that Rev’s team ever questioned him. We just played. It created a culture of accountability among the players. A lot of young coaches seem to think that being an authoritarian is the only way to get that level of accountability. That’s just not the case. While very few of us have the footballing credentials of a Steve Nicol, all coaches are capable of bringing trust and accountability to their teams by showing those very same qualities themselves.”
NA: “Any chance you’ll return to the role of ‘Player/Coach Ryan Guy’ this weekend?”
RG: “Unfortunately, it’s gonna be another week or two. I’m at about 65-70% right now. I still have a slight patella contusion. I can reach the low gears, but 4th and 5th are still a problem. I am anxious to get back, but my absence from the 18 man squad also allows for someone else to step up.”
NA: “What are you expecting from Temecula on Sunday?”
RG: “They’ve got some guys that can do damage up top, and they like to play direct. As oxymoronic as this may sound, we need constructive defending on Sunday. We need to build things out of the back, starting our attacks from stopping theirs.
This is no disrespect to Temecula, but we expect to win. We haven’t won since April 9th. We’re at home, in front of our great fans. We need all three points, plain and simple. We need to win.”
NA: “You’ve already alluded to a couple. What are the three biggest keys to grabbing that win?”
- Do not lapse on our defensive shape.
- Show that our fitness has improved.
- 90 minute consistency; no more drop offs in the second half.
You know what, I’m actually gonna add a fourth for you this week.
- Goals from the run of play
We love scoring off set pieces, and they count just the same. But I want to see us get back to fluid football, great build up play, and classy finishing. That’s what we should expect on this team.
NA: “Thanks again for your time, coach.”
RG: “My pleasure, Nate. See you Sunday.”
WHO: North County Battalion v. Temecula FC
WHAT: NPSL SW Matchday 5
WHEN: Sunday, May 1st, 1 PM
WHERE: Del Norte High School
WHY: Soccer in San Diego
(If you can’t make it to the match, watch all the action LIVE with the NC Battalion YouTube channel.)