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ECNL Jun 29, 2012

TSW Q&A: Vardar coach Todd Heugh at 2012 ECNL National Finals

By Jimmy LaRoue

Waukegan, Ill.–Coming off their high school seasons, the players on Todd Heugh’s Vardar Under-16 team were a bit rusty, but the Michigan side still pulled out a 2-0 win over top-seeded FC Delco in their first game of Flight B Top 8 play at the ECNL National Finals on Thursday, thanks to two sublime goals from Taylor Timko.

Under the revised playoff format for Flight B teams, Vardar narrowly slotted into the eighth and final playoff spot with an 8-2-5 Flight B record (8-6-3, 6th place, Midwest Conference), but showed well in the win.

Vardar coach Todd Heugh spent a few minutes with The Soccer Wire to discuss the team, the win and changes in the Elite Clubs National League for the 2012-13 season.

The Soccer Wire: What were you looking to do coming into the 2012 ECNL National Championships?

Todd Heugh: We were looking just to compete first. We’re coming off our high school seasons and we’re a little bit rusty with our possession and stuff like that, so we talked about hard work first, and later on, hopefully, the soccer will take care of itself.

TSW: How much rust is there?

TH: There’s a little bit. We only get 10 to 12 days to come back together and train, and even though we have good players, we still can’t replicate what the ECNL offers to us. We can’t replicate the speed of the game as much as we would like to replicate the speed of the game. We were hoping to work hard first, and then execute chances when we got them. If you only get two or three a game, then you’ve got to put those away, and we had two – Taylor Timko scored two very good goals today.

TSW: Some people around me were talking about her second goal, in particular [a blast from 20 yards into the upper left corner of the net].

TH: She does that a lot for us, to be fair. She’s a very good player, and she always seems to have an impact on games for us. She seems to get on the scoresheet whether it’s a pass, or a goal or whatever. She stepped up today and I thought we got a lot of good, gritty work out of everybody who played our midfield, and I thought they defended well, and I thought they did a lot of good things. I hope we can shake off the rust as the rest of the week wears on.

TSW: Was it a good confidence-builder to beat the top seed in FC Delco?

TH: Absolutely. We had a very good game with them two years ago in Raleigh — down in the snow, actually, at an ECNL event. And we had a similar game, only they came out on top by one goal, so a lot of our girls remembered the game, remembered the matchups, remembered the style of play. All the teams are so good. I mean, one, eight, 15, six [seeds], they’re all good games.

TSW: Given this heat, how much do you have to factor in hydration into your substitution pattern?

TH: Quite a bit. We have 14 players here with this group, three subs. We kind of save the one a little bit, later into the game. She did pretty well, actually, when we put her in, some fresh legs. It’s a big factor. It really is. The heat is bad, but it’s just, as soccer players, you’re supposed to be fit, you’re supposed to be trained to play through a lot of this. You see the kids who can, and the kids who cannot.

TSW: What did you think of the ECNL’s playoff format change that made it a Flight B top eight playoff, rather than a promotion/relegation among Flights A and B?

TH: I like it with this team. It was great. I coach the [U-]15s, and they were the no. 1 seed in the B Flight, and we lost in the semifinals to Washington Premier. I like that the games mean something. That’s what I like. I like that you come here and everybody’s playing for something. I do like that we’ve done away with the flights and gone into conferences and let everybody compete.

TSW: What have you been told of the changes coming to the league format for next season?

TH: We hear that it’s going to be no A Flight, no B Flight and that it’s going to be everything done by geographic conference, which is what we did last year, so we, as a B Flight team, finished fourth or fifth in our conference, but we played A Flight teams twice. I mean, we played just as many A games over the course of the season as we did B Flights. On the boys’ side, the Development Academy works [with] geographic conferences — you finish in the top three in your conference, and you make the playoffs.

TSW: Is that the kind of symmetry you think is going to work?

TH: I hope. I hope so.

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