SEATTLE — After a few days off in conjunction with the FIFA international break, Seattle Reign FC were back in business, training at Memorial Stadium yesterday morning. Next up for Seattle is a cross-country trip to take on the Washington Spirit. I had a quick chat with head coach Vlatko Andonovski and goalkeeper Michelle Betos about the state of the team as they near the halfway mark of the 2018 season and what they did with the a couple of days off to rest and relax.
“I went to see my family back in Kansas City. Spend four days with them and it was great. Recharge my batteries, came back ready to attack the rest of the season,” said Andonovski. While cross-country flights might sound fun on paper, going through the motions can be anything but, and when the club has done them, Andonovski has been able to squeeze in a stop or two at Kansas City. With the school year wrapping up, Andonovski says he looks forward to having the family out here in Seattle and spending some time in the picturesque Seattle summer.
As to the current state of the team as they reach the halfway point of the season (Reign FC will reach 12 games played of the 24 regular season on June 23 against North Carolina Courage), Andonovski is overall very happy where things stand.
“I’m actually very happy and I feel we’re on track with developing of our style of play and how we want to play. Not happy some of the goals we got scored on, there were a couple goals throughout the season I wasn’t happy with. One of them was the goal we got scored on by Sky Blue at home and the two goals we got scored by Houston, I was not happy with those at all; obviously the two in Houston resulted in a bad way for us. Other than that, I’m very happy on the attacking side, how we create opportunities and we’re second in opportunities in the league, I just feel we have to finish more, which is going to come.”
Second place in the league table at this point in the season is a good place to be at, and, while we know there’s still a lot of soccer left to be played, Andonovski says there’s still things to work on, as our discussion went back to goals conceded (specifically the one Sky Blue got) and finishing chances.
“I just wasn’t happy with the mentality of the players. It seemed like just because we went 3-0 up, they thought they could relax a little bit and I didn’t like that, I wasn’t happy with that and they heard about it after the game. I was happy for the performance; I thought we played well but the mentality is not who we want to be because if we go with that mindset, it’s not going to set us up for the future and they got the point and we started fixing those things.
Chicago at home, I felt we created enough to win that game, we created a lot more than Chicago. Orlando is another one, I felt we didn’t have as many clear opportunities as Chicago but we still had five, six opportunities – in the last two minutes Rumi (Utsugi) had one great run and just not a good shot and the other one was Jas’ (Jasmyne Spencer) ball across the goal, that’s usually a ball that ends up in the goal in any other game. Again, I’m glad we’re creating those opportunities, but I think we’re at the point now that we gotta start putting those away.”
For goalkeeper Michelle Betos, she spent the off-days playing something of a Seattle tour guide and discovering some new spots for herself.
“I had four of my best friends visiting from all over the country; went to college together, so just really touristy things. We were at the Space Needle, we went out to Mt. Rainier, Greenlake, we just went all over the city. It’s such a cool city and it’s kinda cool to have people in town to have a reason to go around, and especially with a few days off we can do a little more walking than normal.
Some of the places are still new for me. I lived in Alki the first year I was here and I think the cool thing about Seattle is that there’s so many cool little pockets and they’re all different, so part of it was showing them some of my favorite spots and part of it was seeing new things for myself.”
While North Carolina Courage has a sizeable lead at the top of the table, Betos says the focus for team is all about them.
“I think we’re in a good place. I think with even some of the ties we’ve had, even the loss we had at Houston, we’re playing good soccer. We’re continuing to learn about each other, you know North Carolina’s been together now for a while and we’re still coming together. I think if you watch our practices, you watch our games, there’s just so much talent from 1 to 25. So I think we’re in a good place and the results are going to keep coming. We’re not focused on North Carolina or anybody else, we’re just taking each game, trying to get three points out of it. The big thing that Vlatko’s talked about is let’s build, let’s just be better every week and the results will come, it’ll take care of itself. We’re sitting in a good spot and we’re just going to keep going forward.”
Since the start of the season, coach Andonovski has mentioned there would be a lot of rotation with his starting eleven because of the demands of the schedule and Seattle’s depth, especially at goalkeeper, is built to handle it.
“I think that’s an adjustment for anyone but I think that’s a cool thing about this team. We have so much talent that we could put out a different eleven out and feel confident in it. It’s been really fun to train, get better, and push each other. We have different strengths and we just want to help the team win, so as long as we’re helping them do that, then we feel good about our jobs. Of course I want to play week in and week out, but at the end of the day we want to get results and I think I’m becoming a better goalkeeper and I have faith in Lydia and everyone else on our team. It’s a unique situation but I think it’s pretty special. It’s nice to have that much challenge, I’m sure it’s not an easy decision for Vlatko week in and week out.”
Fortunately for Vlatko Andonovski, he’s got a bit of time on deciding his next starting eleven. Seattle Reign FC hit the road to resume league play, traveling to Boyds, Maryland to face the Washington Spirit this upcoming Saturday, when all seven of Reign FC’s internationals are expected to be back with the team and available for selection. The match is scheduled for a 4 PM PST kickoff and broadcast on go90.