RSL vs. St. Louis City SC Mastroeni post-match quotes
Unedited quotes from RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni's post-match press conference follow.
Our biggest issue is not being able to put the ball in the back of the net. You can only defend for so long without capitalizing on those moments, because those moments change games. They got a fortuitous goal on their corner. I think the disappointing part is how the mood and the mindset kind of left us, and then you concede two, three and four. That's what we talked about, is that strong teams look at that first goal as an obstacle. They don't look at it like the end of the world. We've been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves as a collective defense by not capitalizing on opportunities. If you don't score goals, you don't win games.
On St. Louis
There are so many variables that go into getting results. I'll tell you that they fight really hard for each other, and they battle. They put teams under pressure going long, and they pick up second balls, and they just don't stop. We did a great job of that in the first half, really neutralizing what they do and really taking advantage of some of those opportunities. They're in a good way, they're catching the breaks. As a collective, they're a strong group.
Matching up with St. Louis physically and second-half changes
We wanted to do more of what we did in the first half. Again, goals change games, and it changes psychology, it changes momentum. I felt like we stopped playing after we conceded the first goal. I don't know why that is, and that's something we have to talk through this week. The first half, we created enough opportunities in that half to score goals. And if you don't score goals, you're not changing their psychology. They're thinking, "How did we get out of that half not conceding considering we didn't have a lot of the ball."
Again, there are really three objectives that we wanted to achieve in this game. One, we wanted to compete the right way, and we did that in the first half. Second balls were huge, given the way they play, and they go long. The guys in the middle did a great job of winning those second balls. And the last thing was, we wanted to score a goal. We achieved two of the three, and obviously the last one is the hardest and the most critical to really put teams on their heels.
When you're away from home and you concede that first goal, it's difficult, mentally, to get back into the game. And we just weren't able to find.
Goalscoring helps the wins, and wins help the confidence of the group. I'd be remiss not to point that out and make that the part. Again, if you score the first goal, you have confidence, and you have belief, and you double down on what you're doing. If you concede, now you have a little bit of doubt.
The other thing is as a group, we've just got to be stronger as a group of 30 players. For various reasons, there's been a lot of chop-and-change with players in, players out, players not available because of visa, Jasper suspended the second game. There hasn't been one game where we've had the whole group and been able to go, OK, this is what we have.
Tonight, obviously with those players away on international duty and all the injuries that we have currently didn't help that. I think we've got to get back to the basics of team, everyone playing for each other, especially because of the situation we're in from the first four games.
Concern around losses in the first two games at home
Again, I think every game is its own event. Listen, that's very disappointing, alright. Home in this league is critical. I look at it, and the optimistic self says, "OK, now you've got to go on the road and do it." There's no way to look into the future and see if this was a great thing for us to come together as a group and really rally around. We don't want to feel like this. We don't want to do this for our fans. Again, I want to thank the fans for sticking around. It's not easy to stick around when your team is getting beat 4-0. Even at the end, it was the same thing: We want a goal. We want a reason to stand on our feet and cheer.
It all goes back to the same thing: If you can't find the back of the net, nobody's going to be happy, including the fans.
Thoughts on Ruiz
I think it was a fantastic first half, and it was a tough second half, really. He brings a lot with the ball, and I think in the first half, him and Jasper did a great job gobbling up second balls, switching the point of attack, which is a big area of focus for this week. But in the second half, him and the group as a collective really couldn't find that same type of drive and execution that we were looking for.
What were the conversations like with the team before the game?
Again, we had two weeks to prepare for this game. We knew exactly how we wanted to go about the game on both sides of the ball, and the guys executed. The only thing missing was the goal. That's been our achilles heel in the first couple games: We've got to find the back of the net. Goals change games, change momentum, change psychology. I felt we did enough in the first half to find them, I thought Vera at the end had a really good chance. But again, I think the guys executed, they were ready. The second half starts, and when you concede a set piece goal, it really deflated the group today. That's the bigger question: Why did it deflate the group? Those are conversations that we'll have (ahead) of our next game, but again, I think the guys were great in the first half.
How did Brayan Vera and Emeka Eneli perform?
I think they both played well. Individually, I thought they both did a really good job. I think Brayan (Vera) slid into center back and was calm on the ball, had quite a few switches of play, which is really important for us, found passes between the lines. It just always felt like we were going to build through his side. Defensively, I thought his positioning was good, he had some isolated 1-v-1 moments in particular in the second half, and I thought he handled them really, really well.
Emeka is a player that we've had the opportunity to have since preseason. He's just a really cerebral player, and we played him in four or five different positions in preseason, given all the different players coming in and out. We've been training him there for the last few weeks, and he's done a really good job of learning that position. He's a player that I think will only get better with time.