I recently had a chance to catch up with Sacramento Republic FC Manager Simon Elliott in the midst of the Republic’s all-important two-game road trip through Oklahoma.
In this episode, Elliott and I discussed his thoughts on the club’s recent run of play, the loss of Adam Moffat and Jaime Villarreal, the promotion of another Republic Academy player, and more.
Without any further delay, let’s jump in!
Simon, let’s talk about Wednesday for a minute. What were your takeaways from the performance?
I thought it was scrappy. We were a little disorganized and gave away the ball a little too cheaply. I thought we kept working hard as a group to get it right, and eventually we did enough. We got things to work on, but we’re not going to complain too much, because three points is three points.
It’s hard to believe that there’s only five matches left in the regular season. Given the recent play of the club, do you feel like they are playing as well as they have all season?
We’re getting there. Part of being a coach is that you got to make sure to reward the guys and compliment them when they do well, but we always expect a little more. [But] I am really pleased with the mentality [particularly] over the last few games.
I think we’re still turning the ball over too cheaply and I think we’re a little bit passive when we defend. We’re a good team when we commit as a team to defend together and that means being proactive. Too many times we’re reactive when we defend, so we’re getting to a good place.
But as you said, there’s five games left to go, so we’ll see what happens. That will give us a much better idea of where we’re situated.
I understand that Adam Moffat and Jaime Villarreal have been ruled out with season-ending injuries. Obviously, it’s a blow to the midfield. However, I feel that the club has more depth this season to withstand it. What are your thoughts on the loss of both players and how will you manage it moving forward?
Yeah, we’re disappointed for Jaime...we’re disappointed for Adam. They’re big parts of what we’re trying to do. They have both been good this year. Adam is obviously an experienced player and having those guys around the team, whether they are injured or not...they’re very important in my humble opinion.
Injuries are just part of it. You never know when and where they are going to strike, but know they are going to happen. [However], to lose guys for the season is something you never expect or want.
Part of what we’ve been trying to do is create a culture where [injuries create] an opportunity for someone else. I think a good example of that is Hayden Partain. We played him out of position at the start of the year, and he adapted to that well...then he got injured and worked hard to come back.
We had just lost Jamie and Hayden came back finally at full fitness and played in Reno and played well. And since then, he’s just been off and away. That is what we want from everybody.
If you’re not playing...nobody wants to sit on the bench....but if you are not playing, keep working hard and when [your chance comes], make sure you take it. As I said, Hayden’s been a great example of that.
We saw another Republic Academy player sign a professional contract last week. What does this mean for a player like Mario Penagos, and what does this say about the Academy?
With the aforementioned injuries, we wanted to add another player that can play at midfield, and Mario was sort of the next one up. We have had guys in the Academy training with him, so we want to get him comfortable being around the first team.
We want to sign [Academy players] in case we need to use them. But once they sign, they’re like everyone else. If you perform, you will get to play...and if you don’t, somebody else is going to get it. And they know that. The guys that we have signed have put their hands up playing in the Academy, in the U19s, performing well in training, performing well in games...and then they come to us and train well.
Since the Academy began, these players have been working hard as a group to get where they are. Mario for example, has been with us since the beginning. So now you’re starting to see guys that have been together for four years. That time and commitment pays off.
It’s tough to gauge though right? The first team outlook is more short-term whereas the Academy outlook is very, very long-term, so it’s hard to say when it’s going to start paying dividends. Is it five years in...ten years in? But it’s much more a long-term project.
So we’re happy that guys are getting a look three or four years into it.
The playoffs are not that that far off and you obviously want a top seed and to make a deep run. What do you need to see from the team over the next couple of weeks to ensure this happens?
[Our] mentality [needs to be] big. Being able to go out on the road and get points. Unselfishness I think is really important at this stage of the season. That means making sure the team comes first. Keeping the ball...there are turnovers where there is pressure on you, but it’s the one’s where there is no pressure on you. Those are the one’s we are trying to eliminate.
I think we need to be able to get behind teams. If you are able to get behind a team, it causes all sorts of problems. Those are the areas I think we need to tidy up on.
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.