Stoke City manager Mark Hughes, striker Peter Crouch and US defender Geoff Cameron attended a press conference yesterday evening at FC Dallas Stadium ahead of their preseason friendly tonight versus FC Dallas.
The trio discussed a number of topics relating to Stoke’s preseason tour of the United States, including Hughes’s opinion about his team’s 2-0 loss to Houston Dynamo that occurred Wednesday night:
“From our point of view it was more about preparation. It was our first real test. We knew it would be difficult for us because we’d traveled only 48 hours previous and maybe our body clocks were a little bit askew. But I thought in terms of what we were looking to get out of the game, in terms of looking at things we’ve worked on at home, we’ve had two weeks together, and I was pleased with what I saw. We talked before the game about transferring the work that we’ve done on the training pitch into matches and I think we did that to a certain extent. Overall, it was absolutely what we needed at this stage of our preparation because we’ve still got three weeks to go. The games that we have [on the preseason U.S. tour] are the right quality, they’re good tests, and that’s what we need at this stage of our preparation.”
Hughes was also asked how important this U.S. tour would be in selecting his starting eleven for opening day of the Premier League season:
“We’re still trying to get minutes into the guys, get game time into them, so we’re not about trying to formulate personnel for the team for the first game against Liverpool. We’re not at that stage – that will come later. Obviously I’m new to the team. I’m still learning about the capabilities of the squad that I have, so these three games will be invaluable in that regard.”
Inevitably, the “what do you think about the quality of MLS?” question came up. Every European manager visiting America on summer preseason tours gets asked this and I’ve yet to hear one say, “MLS stinks.” The European managers are always diplomatic and complimentary. Nevertheless, here was Hughes’ take on the MLS quality question:
“There’s definite improvement in the standards. I think everybody accepts that. The MLS is a well-regarded league by everybody in Europe. I think you will see more and more teams coming over because we now know that the challenge and the competition here is good and we get the right level of opposition to test us. And I think it’s a credit to everybody who has put so much hard work into the infrastructure of American soccer. You can see it’s building and the interest here obviously is representative of that. Maybe a few years ago that wouldn’t have been present. So I think it’s very encouraging for soccer in this country. We’re pleased to be here. The quality of the opposition is correct and we can benefit from it.”
What does Hughes think of American midfielder Brek Shea, who only started one match in his half-season as a Stoke City player last spring?
“We haven’t had the opportunity to see Brek yet. But, obviously he’s playing with the national team. We’re pleased that he’s progressing. Ideally, from my own point of view, I would’ve preferred that he was with us so that we could work with him. But he’s part of a team that’s doing really very well and we wish him luck in the [Gold Cup] final.”
Shea will have a ton of catching up to do when he finally joins Stoke after the Gold Cup.