We FINALLY caught up with Steve Nicol this weekend to answer the questions you posed (our fault for the delay, not his). Check out the gaffer’s answers after the jump to get his thoughts on the season so far, among many other things.
Why are we playing the 4-4-1-1 system?
Because of injuries, we only had two strikers and we wanted to see Kenny Mansally playing on the left.
Why do we have that many injuries to key players in preseason?
It’s pretty much just unlucky. Obviously, Taylor’s injury is a long lasting one which has been difficult to diagnose, but we have that under control now. Badilla’s back – the back is one of those things that you can’t do anything for. Castro’s was really caused by the offseason training he’s had in Honduras. That’s where his problems started. Ralston’s was just unfortunate.
Are you expecting Badilla to make a full return to fitness?
We expect him to make a return to full fitness, but the problem is because of back injuries, it’s not a regular football injury. So when’s he going to be fit? We don’t know. As far as anchoring the backline, that’s why we got him in the first place.
Will you ever sign a designated player?
We’d like to sign a designated player.
Will the Revs ever play Liverpool in a friendly?
I hope so, but that’s not in my jurisdiction.
Who are the new players this season that you expect to perform at a higher level?
Early on, I think you can say that we’ve been very pleased with Alston, and Barnes. We’ll give them a good platform to do well, but at the end of the day, it’s just a couple of games. But obviously we’re very pleased that they had good games.
Why is it that in recent years you have searched in places like Honduras and Africa, but not in Europe?
Because of the rate of exchange number one. And number two, the wages that players are owed in Europe – even at average clubs – is way above what we can pay them with the league’s salary budget. Now, if we think somebody is going to be a star, then we’ll certainly look to pay them more. But the basic problem is that we as a league can’t compete with the wages players make in Europe.
Lots of pundits are calling this a “rebuilding” year for the Revs, what’s your take on that?
At the end of the day, we are just trying to get better players all the time. We are always on the lookout to build on the squad we have and whatever the pundits say, I’m not really interested in. We’re just trying to get better all the time.
When you signed on as a coach, did you ever think you’d see a season where one trophy and a first-round playoff slot would be considered a disappointment?
If we’re going to win a trophy every season and reach the playoffs every season – if we’re disappointed with that, then that’s a good thing. That means we’ve set good standards.
Where do you see Mansally fitting in best, forward or wing?
Until he gets a run on the wing, I can’t answer that question. We need to be fair and give him some time there before I can answer that.
Any specific options for getting the bench players competitive play during the season?
We will try to get them playing time against college teams, but obviously that depends on their schedules.
Will Gotsmanov get a full trial when his school term ends?
Yes, he’ll get a full trial. But it’s going to be difficult for him because everybody has four months with the team already, so he’s starting behind everybody. Right off the bat, that makes it difficult, but it’s up to him. If he does well and he proves that he’s better than somebody we have, then he’ll be fine.
If one of your centerbacks proves capable enough, would you like to return to the 3-5-2?
Yes. If we have all of our players available then that would be a good option.
With last year’s hectic schedule taking a toll on the team down the stretch, do you have any plans for adopting a rotation strategy in 2009?
Considering that the rosters have been cut, that’s going to be very difficult. With MLS’ structure, we’re not in a position where we’re that much better than other teams and we can play guys just for the sake to give them some time.
Can you give a brief one or two word description of each of the new players?
I can tell you that Alston’s got pace and loves defending. I can tell you that Barnes is a good defender, he makes good decisions. Videira is a guy who likes to pass the ball and can see a pass and Zack Simmons is one for the future.