Ahead of tomorrow's crucial third matchup of the season with Sporting KC II, Head Coach Kenny Bundy spoke to the media about bouncing back from last week's result, playoffs, and league expansion.
(on bouncing back from last week's result) "Disappointing, yes, but also a learning moment for the group. There's been four games where I think we should have gotten all three points, and we've left with either two or one. I think it's important that I look at it in two different ways. It's disappointing, but it allows the staff to be a bit harder on the details because you're not talking about leaving the game with a result where we were outplayed and we didn't get a single point. These are moments where we can teach these players. Obviously, that's our goal. So very disappointing, because we made one mental mistake at the end of the game. I think, for the first three minutes of extra time, we were fantastic. We handled extra time exactly like we needed to and I'm very proud actually of that roster because we had three, well, we had four players with the youth national team, we had one with an illness. The guys that play serious minutes. So, for the boys to step up, and for them to actually do what they did in Vancouver, it was nice to see. Now, we need to see that game out. We need to see the three points out. And it's something that we've talked about, we focused on, but it's much easier for me as a coach and for the staff to put more pressure on the guys and demand more when they're walking away with a point on the road. We never use these as excuses, but I have to give the guys credit because those trips are really hard. To fly for hours the day before and then play on the surface that we played on. It was not an easy game, but we did enough to win the game. So, the mentality has been great because they're just ready to get back and play again."
(on playing Sporting Kansas City II for the third time) "I don't look at it as easier or harder. We approach the game just like every other game where we're looking at tendencies over the last three or four games from them. So, player personnel, what players have been dropped down, what players have they potentially moved up to the first team, what different setups have they gone through, what do their set pieces look like? I think it's interesting, this one, because we've won one and we've lost one and I feel like the game that we lost, the boys were very disappointed in themselves in the way that the game went. So, there's a motivating factor to play Sporting Kansas City again. It's also a rivalry. As much as we want to talk about FC Dallas, these games like this, this is a conference rivalry and I think we're really excited to be at AVEVA Stadium. Like I said, the training session every day this week has been, it's been intense. There's been real focus. But we have to be prepared for some of the different tactics that they put in place since the last time we played them."
(on his confidence that the team will make the playoffs) "The message starting this week was every game we played now is a playoff game. I want the mentality to start right now. We put ourselves in a position where we're fighting for the top four spots. Now it's about each game throughout every week, but focusing only on that game. I don't think we as a staff or the players have looked ahead at all this year, but I think the emphasis from this point on is every game needs to be treated like a playoff game, like a one-off game. I think the one thing that will do for us, it will get the mentality right, where if we are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, we won't then have to walk into a week of a playoff game and say 'okay, guys, you know, now that mentality needs to shift.' I think the most important thing for us as a staff to project to the players is that every single game from now to the end of the season is a playoff game. It’s a three-point game. I don't care if we're home. I don't care if we're away. You know, we need to go in doing everything we can to get those three points. It's been really nice, some of the issues that we've had, where their development tools, there are areas to develop, I think it's been really nice that we've hit those in the middle of the season. You know, we went on that three-game skid. That allowed us an opportunity to refocus and address some things that we can improve. You know, we've dropped some points from a winning position, which is something we pride ourselves on not doing. It's great now, because we can start talking about why those situations have occurred. This all builds into that final push, and, you know, honestly, our focus right now is on Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
(on MLS NEXT Pro expansion) "Yeah, we knew this was going to happen. Obviously, when the league was built, we knew there were there were clubs that were locked into USL deals and that they'd have to see out this year. To see the announcement, to see it kind of take shape, what the league is going to look like, it's really exciting. The competition is going to be outrageous. Look at, look at the way it is right now, just kind of the difference between the two conferences. Still even though there's some guys running away with points on the Eastern Conference, the parity from some of those teams at the bottom, it's really, really close. So now you're going to add in teams who have established second teams, who have had a second team for a number of years, and now they're going to build into this league. Yes, their roster may adjust. And they may have to take a different approach as far as how they're building their roster, but it's going to be amazing. For us, you look at both LA teams in the Western Conference, you look at Austin coming in, you look at Nashville, and where they're putting their team. It's going to make the week-to-week battles, even bigger than they were this year."
(on which Dynamo 2 players have had the best development this season) "Wow. I can't name one player, because I don't think there's a player that we have that hasn't developed. People have moved at different paces. I think what you're seeing with this league, you can look at the guys that we have in the youth national teams. You can look at the guys that we have week-in-week out with our first team. You can look at some of the players that have come to us based on what we're doing with other younger players. So, I look at the development of the team. The individuals, you could go player for player and say this is an improvement. No one in our group has stayed stagnant or has digressed as a player. Everybody always focuses on the tactical and the technical, and the physical. The professionalism is what really separates a lot of the second team players to first team players. It's that professionalism. It's understanding what it takes to be a pro. Everybody wants a professional contract. Everybody wants to tell people they're a pro. But there are very few individuals that actually can live that life because that life is not glamorous at times. That life is a grind. That life is a lot of commitment to do things that 99 percent of the people don't do. The way you eat, the way you drink, the way you rest, all of these things. It's allowed us to really push a lot of these young guys in their professionalism, which I think is the one thing when you don't have a second team, that's one of the hardest jumps from an academy to a first team. Even training sessions, it's just the preparation that goes into that training session, the level of intensity that has to come every day. It's over the span of 10 months. It's not just over the span of a college season or you know, an academy season that has these breaks. Overall, we've been very happy with the development of the players. I will say this, there's a lot of room to improve. So, we're already starting to plan for the future and how we can improve not only individual but team development and take it to the next level. I think we've been successful in the first year. But really it's about us making sure that we don't get complacent with the standard and we always push the standards to be better and better."