It’s Friday afternoon, which typically means we bring you the match preview, but we’re going to press pause on that this week in favor of an interview we did with Republic FC manager Simon Elliott as part of our season-long Extra Time with Elliott segment. You can visit the Republic’s website for the full match preview to get you ready for tomorrow. We did touch on this weekend’s opponent (Las Vegas Lights FC) at the end of the interview, because well, why not!
In this episode, we discussed a variety of topics with Simon including his thoughts on the first four weeks, the play of Cameron Iwasa, Josh Cohen and Keven Alemán, Open Cup, and more. As always, please share and leave a comment below. Here. We. Go!
Well Simon, your Club is off to its best start in its history. What is your assessment of the first four weeks of play?
I think performance wise we’re disappointed in the level of where things need to be. I think results wise, we’ve picked up points, which is pleasing, but performance wise, we need to be better. There’s a lot of little things that we can improve on and I think you saw that in the last game where we’re not quite playing at the level we want to.
There’s been some encouraging signs, but I think we all believe that our standard needs to be higher, and we’re hopeful that points will follow from that.
On that point, I think we all recognize that the Club hasn’t played it’s best, but you’ve still managed to gut out three wins and 10 out of a possible 12 points. That’s got to tell you something about the character of the team?
Yeah..we’re pleased with the character. We’re pleased with the culture. And everyone is playing their part...the players, the staff, the sports science guys...I mean, everyone. I’m referring to more of the performances on the pitch. We feel there are encouraging signs, but we can be better in a number of areas, and we need to be better.
Has the job as manager been what you thought it would be? Any surprises?
I mean, there’s always little things and there’s always challenges, but I think part of the appeal of the job is that it has been challenging. It shouldn’t be a bed of roses. Like, being a professional footballer is difficult. If it wasn’t everyone would be doing it. It’s the same thing being a coach, same thing being part of a professional team. There’s been nothing sort of super surprising.
There’s always challenges of who plays, who doesn’t play...why this guy over that guy, how we prepare for [against] our opposition, but they are things that I’m somewhat familiar with from my playing career and coaching. If you’re in this profession to learn and grow, you have to challenge yourself and put yourself in situations where the margins are thin.
Have you been pleased with what some of the new guys have brought to the Club? I’m thinking of guys like Josh Cohen and Keven Alemán.
Yeah, look...I think we’re fortunate that we have two good keepers in Josh and Rafa [Rafael Diaz]. Josh has been doing well at the moment, but Rafa is right there waiting for his opportunity. He’s been better and better in training, and when his opportunity comes, I am very confident that he’ll take it.
I think Keven Alemán has shown the club and fans that he has a lot of upside. He’s dangerous with the ball at his feet. He works hard for the team when we don’t have the ball, and he has the potential to have a good season, but he’s got to keep working at it.
You’ve seen Cameron Iwasa play for several years now, maybe a little more distant in the past, but now up-close. Is this the best he’s looked as a professional?
I haven’t seen as much of him as I would like, but I think he’s coming hungry. He’s had a taste of a higher level and he wants more. We have a number of guys like that. Cam may feel like he’s got a point to prove after last year, and that’s great for him and great for us. He’s meeting every challenge so far.
What is the plan moving forward with Jure Matjašič? I can’t imagine you guys brought in a player of his caliber to just make spot starts.
No, he’s another piece that we think fits well within the group. We think he has quality...he’s an experienced European professional and fits with the culture. He wants to be here, wants to compete and wants to win. Like anybody, if he performs in training, then he’ll play.
We have the signing of [him], guys coming back from injury, and now we have more competition for places on the team, and we think that’s a healthy thing.
With Open Cup play announced yesterday, how will you approach the competition especially given the intense USL schedule? As you might recall, in 2016, Republic was bounced early, and last year, the Club made the competition more of a focus and advanced to the Round of 16 knocking off an MLS side.
It’s a difficult challenge and we’ll obviously need to handle it very delicately. We have a lot of games coming up over the next five to seven weeks. As I was saying earlier, part of the reason why we brought in a player like Jure is we always want quality players to pick from, because not everyone can be expected to play every single game when we’re playing two and three times a week.
The Open Cup is a prestigious competition and we want to do well in every game we play in, so there’s going to be a balancing act there. There may be a rotation. We’ll have to wait and see.
Looking ahead to this weekend, you face off against Las Vegas Lights FC for the first time ever. What do you see out of their side?
I see a tough, gritty and skillful team that is unbeaten with a coach that’s vastly experienced and put together a good squad. We’re expecting a very tough game.
Indomitable City Soccer would like to thank Coach Elliott for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Be sure to follow the Extra Time with Elliott series all season long. You can follow William Hodges on Twitter at william_hodges.