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E-terview: Manager Gene Klein

Posted by espo On 2:51 PM
Recently I sent the gaffer an email asking a few questions, my first ever e-terview...nothing ground breaking, just trying to get a bit of insight on the team and his assessment of the 2009 season. Thanks again Gene!

me: What formation were the Hounds playing for the most part in 2009 and what dictates the decision to play a certain formation?

Klein: Each system was designed to try and fit our personnel. We started with a 4-5-1 that became a 4-1-4-1 once Niko Katic entered the line-up. We then went to a 4-3-3 in an effort to get more numbers in the attack. When Randolf Jerome had to leave because of visa problems, we went to a 4-4-2 because we did not really have anyone to fill Jerome's role. There were often injuries, suspensions or just different players making their way into the line-up, and as a result we had to tweak things to fit what we believed were our best 11 for that day.

me: Are you often forced to switch up the formation and tactics when players pick up injuries or do you try to plug in a player who can fill a specific role?

Klein: We don't like to switch up the formation too much because we want to maintain continuity, so normally we would try to look for someone to [fill] a role. However, as mentioned, that was not always possible, so the system may have changed. The best example of that would've been the last game versus Crystal Palace Baltimore. Due to injuries and three suspensions, we were forced to start with three in the back for the first time all season. Sometimes it was more subtle, maybe just the shape of our midfield.

me: As tough as it is missing out on the playoffs, were you happy with the team's improved record from 2008 to 2009? What enabled the team to play so well away from home this season?

Klein: We still lost ten games and missed the playoffs, so no I was not happy with the results, but I was usually happy with the effort. The league has done a good job insisting team hotels to adhere to late check-out policies. That makes things a little easier as far as getting proper rest and a pre-game meal. I also think the veterans on the team did a great job setting the proper attitude.

me: Moving forward into 2010, who/what do you see as the core strength of the Riverhounds and where could we improve the most on the pitch?

Klein: Strength - We were pleased with our attitude, commitment and focus. We also hope the fans saw we attempted to play good soccer with proper team shape, collective defending and good combination play. Improvement - We need to find players who can finish consistently, as well as breaking down opponents with the dribble. We gave up too many soft goals at the wrong time and they have to be eliminated. We weren't quite dangerous enough to make up for any mistakes.

me: We were very impressed with Randolph Jerome in 2009. What made you pursue him after watching him play for Cleveland in 2008?

Klein: We played Cleveland three times last year and he showed he could play as a target with his back to the goal. We had been looking for a player like that. He was a fine talent and would do whatever was asked of him.

me: How were your assistant coaches able to help throughout the course of the season?

Klein: Justin Evans was great. He was truly a coach on the field. I also enjoyed discussing different options with him and found we were almost always on the same page. His contributions were vital. Paul Child could always give me a honest "outside" prospective. he could sit back and offer unique insights that only come from his 40 years in pro soccer. Jeroen Walstra would ask challenging questions that made you think and provide another view. In the end it was my decision, but everyone had input.

me: Who really stood out this season on the field?

Klein: Justin Evans just made 2nd team all-league, he still commands tremendous respect from the league's coaches.

me: Who was the season's biggest surprise?

Klein: Our rookies, Niko Katic, Tommy Gray and Tony Labudovski, although not a huge surprise because we knew they could play, they still made a significant contribution and we were very happy with their performance and attitude.

me: What, if anything, was this season's biggest disappointment?

Klein: Aside from not making the playoffs, the lack of support from the soccer community. Too many people were more interested in criticizing our short-comings than providing us with some support to try and make pro soccer work in Pittsburgh.

me: In your opinion, what does it mean to the players to have the support of the Steel Army?

Klein: It is so important for the players to know that we have a group of supporters who are with them through thick and thin. it was also great to hear the special cheers for the Justins, Salsis, Haydens, etc. I personally was very gratified to know that the Army recognized that the bulk of our crowd were young children and their families.

me: If you could sign any one player from any USL2 team for next season, who would it be and why?

Klein: Matt Delicate. He is dominant in the air, very effective on the ground and does a great job of bringing other players into the game, not to mention he scored a ton of goals. Unfortunately too many were against the Hounds.

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