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Bob Lilley Press Conference Transcript: Week 6 vs. Indy

Bob Lilley (left) looks on as Ray Lee (center) moves past Ropapa Mensah (right) during training. (RIVERHOUNDS SC)

As heard during Tuesday’s media conference for Riverhounds SC manager Bob Lilley, as the Hounds (4-2-0, 12 points) prepare for a grudge match against Indy Eleven 7 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium …

On the stylistic adjustment between last week’s opponent, New York Red Bulls II, and veteran-laden Indy:

“I think Indy plays differently at home. They’ll possess more. It’s a bigger field at home. That game against us they wanted to be direct and pick up second balls and get in behind us. You’re going to still be dealing with their pace, so we’ll have to have an answer for that. Sometimes when there’s a threat over the top, it stretches you. Obviously staying compact is important, or we’ll be doing a lot of chasing.”

On how the rematch with Indy might differ from the first meeting at Highmark Stadium: 

“I just think the game will be much different. I think it will be physical. Two good teams slugging it out. But I think they’ll show much more interest in hanging onto the ball. We’re going to need better possession than we did here. A team that can get ahold of the ball is going to have a bit of an advantage. We don’t expect to necessarily win possession, but we don’t want them to have 65 and we have 35. That’s going to wear us down in the second half. We want at least 40 percent of the possession. If they push higher at times, we want to take our chances to get into space and be able to hurt them. We’ve played there the last couple of years. They had a 1-1 draw in Louisville (last week), when they played (Andrew) Carleton and (Ilija) Ilić, who they rested against us. We have to be prepared to do the things we need to do to be successful on the ball. We can’t just go in and defend. We need a clear plan on how we’re going to win the game. I don’t think it serves us well to just hang in there and see what happens. Similar to the game at Louisville, where we didn’t have the greatest start, but we had to be willing to press and get higher up the pitch. When you’re dealing with that kind of quality, it’s hard to just sit deep and hang on. Our best overall performance was probably that last New York game, even though it was 100 miles an hour and crash-bang-boom soccer. We mentally stayed sharp over the 90 minutes.”

On the constant presence of defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele, who has yet to miss a minute this season:

“Thomas has been huge for all three years. He’s very consistent. He reads the game very well. He’s calm. One of those players who makes the players around him better. He’s very versatile. Through the injuries and issues in the back, he’s played there a lot. He’s a little behind-the-scenes. That’s his nature, but he’s been very important, even with all the talented players we’ve had here through the past three years. He’s one of the first guys I think about when putting the lineup sheet together. We need his quality and consistency.”

On the developing relationship between forwards Steevan Dos Santos and Ropapa Mensah:

“That still needs a lot of work. For Mensah’s goal (last Saturday), Steevan still did a good job back-pressing and forcing a mistake, then Ray (Lee) found Ropapa in that space. There were moments where they were able to play off each other, but that’s what we’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. We think they both pose problems for teams individually, but we think they can play off each other more. We have two very good forwards who should be able to get better. Hopefully they stay healthy. We’ve found goals in different ways, from different places. Pretty happy with what they’re doing.”

On whether the team took any confidence from hanging with Indy the first time, even though they lost late:

“Even considering we lost the next game in New York giving up the late penalty, I don’t think the guys forgot it. We addressed it right after and later in training. It was a brilliant individual goal. We let (Tyler Pasher) get a running start and we had done a good job limiting that all game. Obviously he’s dangerous at full speed. The game will be different. The fact that they have a lot of depth, it’s tough to pinpoint 100 percent who will be in the lineup, whether they go with (Cameron) Lindley, Carleton or Ilic. Indy did a good job on their pickups, with (Nick) Moon from League 1. First time we played them, Ayozé wasn’t in the lineup. I think they’re better with him in the lineup. We have a lot of things to prepare for. It’s a big game. We felt we could’ve won that first game. We’ve always been able to go anywhere and get points.”

On how the team has grown since that first meeting with Indy:

“That Indy game was the first game we were tested throughout the 90 (minutes). We’re starting to clean up some of our decision-making. We’re showing signs in practice that we’re holding onto the ball better. I know you can’t really see that when you’re playing New York. We’ll have to continue that with our decisions. It’s nice to see the chances we’re creating. Defensively we’re tightening up. And there’s a little more familiarity with Steevan in the lineup. We’re a little more settled and have a clear identity now. It’s good, because at some point you’re going to have rotation, you’re going to have injuries. That Indy game was important for us, because you have to keep improving.”

On whether he’s thought about the gap opening up between the top two in Group F and the rest:

“It’s too early for me. I look at it as, if we don’t get a result in that game (at Indy), we’d have three losses, and Red Bulls has four losses. And then after Loudoun we come home and face Saint Louis, and they’ll be desperate for points because, in my opinion, they play in the toughest division. New York is still very much in it. Hartford has shown they’re much improved over last year and consistently getting results, but no one’s really separated. The wheels can come off the tracks pretty quickly if you drop a game or two.”

On how the team is trying to balance a steady approach with the urgency of a 16-match season:

“We told them today, after this three-game week, we’ll be at nine games. We’ll likely have to have a little more rotation and rely on the group collectively. We’re not going to have a lot of prep time between games. We travel to Indy, then Loudoun and then we come home (for Saint Louis on the 22nd). It’s a big week for us, because there’s only seven games left after that. Our ability to grind out whatever results we can and put our best foot forward is going to be pretty critical. If we struggle over this three-game set, it’s likely to be tightening on us a little bit. We want to keep our heads above water and make sure we’re getting better. There is an urgency to what we do because of the shortened season. It’s been discussed and the players are aware. Doesn’t seem that long ago that we were going to Louisville (to start the season).”

Matt Gajtka (pronounced GITE-kah) is a columnist, analyst and reporter for Pittsburgh Soccer Now. In addition to his four-year role as play-by-play broadcaster for Riverhounds SC, he has experience covering pro and amateur sports for over a decade. Matt got his start in soccer while calling games for the Marshall University men's and women's Division I teams. He fondly remembers attending Hounds matches at Bethel Park High School, although he lapsed during the Moon and Chartiers Valley years. Like many, the construction of Highmark Stadium in 2013 rekindled his passion for the club and local soccer in general.

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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