Gary Smith and Cameron Lancaster spoke to the Speedway Soccer after training ahead of this weekend's away match against Hartford Athletic.
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On Daniel Ríos's performance against Bethlehem and how other attackers stepped up: "Part of a good team is being able to cover any cracks that appear, be it in an attacking sense or defensively. [Ríos] was a little bit quieter than usual. Maybe the circumstances, and by that I mean the field, the dimensions were way below the standards and the minimums that are recommended. So therefore there’s a lot less surface area to play on, and maybe the pace of the game – it makes it quicker. But it was certainly below the standards that he sets for himself anyway. The fact that we scored from two set pieces, one of them which came after their goal very, very abruptly, two minutes later and got us back in the game, and on a good footing again, and I think to a large degree shifted any momentum that they might have gained when they scored. Delighted, of course, to see Cameron come on and get back on the scoresheet after a little layoff again. And almost a once in a lifetime Kosuke Kimura goal. The last time I saw him score was in 2010, but he tells me he’s scored since then."
On Hartford’s playing conditions and performance this season: "Well they’re playing on a temporary site, and it looks as though the field has been in very good shape. It’s certainly a lot more conducive to playing, to putting on a professional game. Their last three games have seen them turn their form around, three very good performances after a really tricky start. I’ve said it before, we know what that’s like, brand new side, just coming together, and to compound their problems they’re away for what was it, eight games? So it’s never easy, but they’re just starting to show some much better signs. The team has been together a little bit longer, they will have learned a lot about each other, they will have certainly had to deal with some adversity, and now they’ve not lost in three games with a very good win at the weekend. So I’m sure they’re in a much better mental place, and there’s no two ways about it that the team is looking much, much better than in the opening exchanges of the season. So we’re expecting a tough game. I just don’t think there are any games on the road that are easy anyway. You’ve got to deal with too many dynamics as you travel and stay away and so on. But we’re in a good run as well and the players are in a good place, so I would expect that we’re going to go there in the right frame of mind."
On Ropapa Mensah’s recent form: "He started to show some signs of the old Ropapa, coming off the bench on a couple occasions. Without going too far back, he didn’t come into preseason or the start of our campaign in the sort of shape that would be necessary. And it’s taken him time to find his sharpness, to find the right mentality, to get back to that robust and positive and bright player that we know he is. So we get some encouraging signs off the bench. He plays against Indy for his first start. I thought he had a fantastic impact on the game and really attacked the game, which was more important than anything. And he deservedly started at the weekend and again has scored a very important goal. The second one was vital. The game at that point, at 1-1, was quite even, and with the clearest sight of goal, he gets us in front and gives us belief against. So very pleased with his form, but we’re looking at a very small portion size at the moment, and that needs to be a little more consistent."
On hopes for Cameron Lancaster going forward: "I’d just love to keep him fit, and I know he wants to stay fit as well. He’s had four minor injuries that have really broken up what would otherwise have been some decent playing time. To that degree, we’re back in the process of making sure he’s in the right place. He’s trained well, he’ll certainly be in contention for the weekend, but getting 30 minutes under his belt last weekend was really pleasing for him and obviously for the team."
On the team’s improved road form this season: "First of all, it’s a different game on the road. It’s tough for the away team, always, but I think the home team, as we know, are put under more pressure to make the game, to force the game, to sometimes be the aggressor. It’s not to say that as the away team you don’t want to stamp your authority on proceedings, but I don’t think there’s the same type of mindset and mentality as when you’re at home. Does that give us more freedom? Do the players feel less pressurized to really force the issue, and again maybe promote some confidence around possession and controlling the game rather than being so aggressive and having to really make an impact on the game? I don’t know what the differences are, all I can say is that our mentality is always good on the road. The players have got a great camaraderie whenever we go away. There’s a good spirit and a good feel, and I’ve said time and time again to anyone who wants to listen, I’ve never seen this group not give everything they’ve got, and that always stands you in a nice place when you’re away from home. They work hard, they compete well, and the rest of it on the day, if we’re confident and the players find some of the form they’ve been in, then we’ve got a good chance. But you certainly need the group to be working hard and competing before anything else, and they do that on a regular basis."
CAMERON LANCASTER (Forward)
On getting a goal quickly after coming off the bench: “It was great. I think I needed that for my confidence. It’s been frustrating these last month or maybe two months, just getting these niggling injuries, but it felt really good to help the team out and get the goal.”
On his hopes for the rest of the season: “[I want to] get in the team, score goals, and help the team out as much as I can. That’s the main goal for me I think.”
On his relationship with Nashville’s wide players: “It’s great. We’ve got loads of pace with Alan, Kharlton, Taylor on the left. We’ve got pace for them to get down the wing and get balls in the box, and that’s where I like to be and score the goals. So yeah, it’s great.”
On what he saw on his goal against Bethlehem: “I sort of just anticipated it. I thought it might take a fortuitous bounce for me, so just being in the right area and sort of hoping it sort of falls to me, and thankfully it did.”
On the team’s improved away form this season: “I think last year was their first year. It takes time for any team to gel, so the relationships are probably strengthened this season. We’re more like brothers out there rather than a team, so we’re working for each other in every game, away and at home. [The off the field relationships] can’t hurt. If the relationships are good off the pitch, it’s only going to strengthen us on the pitch.”