Defender Jan Gunnar Solli took a few minutes after Thursday's training session at Red Bull Arena to catch up on a few topics including team chemistry, the Red Bulls' attack, San Jose's offensive threats and his appreciation for the supporters who took the trip to Columbus.
So far, Thierry and Kenny have done a great job providing offense up top. What do you guys need to do to get offensive production from other areas of the field, specifically from the wings and wing backs?
It’s about finding the right balance between when one fullback goes the other one tucks in. Obviously we are defenders first. But when we are here at Red Bull Arena that’s where we would like to entertain and also to show that we can attack from different areas. That will be very important because our strikers have been on fire lately, but we can try to provide them with assists and make it easy for them to have a few tap-ins as well because some of the goals have been really, really good. Finding the right balance I think is the key.
The San Jose Earthquakes have an impressive striker of their own in Chris Wondolowski (6 goals, tied for 2nd in MLS). How is the team addressing the challenge of stopping him?
We know it’s a good team in form. The way they press us is they come on high even if they are away. It’s definitely a challenging way of getting into the game because usually you get in the front seat when we play in our Arena and the team drops back and waits to counter attack. Now it’s a little different game. They have a lot of confidence. They have more points than us but this is our home. I’m not going to talk about the whole plan but we have a good strategy to break their first line of defense. I’m pretty sure if we can come out with a ball they will have to chase us.
The Earthquakes are 4-1-0 this season and sit in second place in the Western Conference. How can the team build off the confidence you gained during this three-game winning streak against a tougher opponent this week?
We have been scoring a lot of goals which gives us a lot of confidence. The way we go into the game, we know it’s going to be a battle. There’s not going to be any nice play before you kind of dig into it. It’s all about the team spirit which I think has been phenomenal over the last couple of games. And that’s what we need to build and have the confidence that, this is our home and the way we believe in our strategy and our plan, and everybody moving in the same direction. It’s going to take a very good San Jose team to beat us. I think this team looks very hungry and that’s the way to continue.
With the offense running in high gear, I’m sure the guys also want to get that first clean sheet of the year. Can you talk about the play of the back four so far this season?
The last game I think it was one of those set plays that got into the back of the goal. The guy heading the ball, he had a very easy job to put it in, but obviously he’s a big guy too. I think we’ve stepped up our game in every aspect. Obviously the strikers are getting a lot of attention as we’ve been the hottest team in the league right now scoring the most goals. But yeah, everyone in the defense and our goalie would like to have a clean sheet for once and why not start against San Jose. But like I said, nothing can be won before you actually go into the battle and everybody works their shirt off and stays focused. Maybe that’s the key to keep a clean sheet, the way we communicate with each other and take responsibility in dangerous areas.
The team has gotten off to a good start at home this season. How has the team been able to feed off the fans at Red Bull Arena?
This arena is amazing. To have the fans here and our home crowd, you can definitely feel like MLS is on the rise and it’s getting more attention through every game. I know how it is with good results. Good results affect people and people want to come and see maybe one of the hottest teams in MLS right now. It’s not only the star players of our team which have been good but also I think we’re showing the team spirit which the crowd really appreciates. I’m very excited about playing home games. Also, I gave a big shout out on my Twitter to all the guys coming into Columbus who also stayed and watched our reserves play. It’s not all about the first XI players and the substitutes who enter every game. It’s also nice to see that there are actually true supporters who follow our reserves and I know they really appreciate it too because everyone wants to get noticed. That’s how we create and build a team and I think we’re definitely working in the right direction.