September 23, 2016
One of the lousy parts of being a beat writer is speaking with athletes who are going through rough patches. We don't enjoy shoving a recorder in the face of a struggling player, but it's a necessary evil if key storylines surround that person specifically.
Ken Tribbett is one of those guys.
The Union's first-year center back was pulled at halftime in the 3-1 home loss against Toronto FC back on August 20th. He lost his starting job and has only played one game since.
This weekend, he gets another shot at TFC, since the player who replaced him, Josh Yaro, is out due to red card suspension.
For Tribbett, it's a chance for atonement, as the Union make a final push for the club's first playoff berth since 2011.
"Obviously it wasn’t my best performance," said Tribbett of the 3-1 loss. "I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play well against them. Of course there are certain things you can always improve on, spacing in behind, (playing against) a big strong guy (like Jozy Altidore), you’ve got to learn to use your body. There’s a bunch of different things. I’ve learned my lesson and hopefully it’ll pay off on Saturday."
Truth be told, Tribbett didn't get a ton of help from his teammates in round one against Toronto.
On the opening goal, Sebastian Giovinco beats Tribbett for pace, but only after a lost aerial challenge and brilliant first-time ball from Jonathan Osorio.
Giovinco won't stop. 16th MLS goal this season. https://t.co/oHKy9DpD5C— The Lads (@LadsOffThePitch) August 20, 2016
Tribbett went down to the other end of the field to score the Union equalizer.
"Good opportunity for redemption," said head coach Jim Curtin at his midweek press conference. "Ken’s a guy we’ve leaned on heavily this year. He’s had a lot of great games for us. Obviously, it’s no secret the Toronto game was a difficult one for him. A lot of the instances where we gave up chances last time against Toronto were actually off of balls in our attacking half of the field that were turned over quickly and there was a second ball that was bouncing and we fell asleep for a split second. And I think Ken learned from that game. Because in the critical moments - you talk about critical moments - we fell asleep and came up short against Portland, in that Toronto game, I’d say it was similar."
On the second goal, Tribbett was beat on a corner kick in which Curtin claims there was an arm tug in front of the referee.
It's hard to spot, but there is contact before the service. Tribbett just has to learn how to be nastier against a savvy veteran like Drew Moore.
Tribbett was probably most culpable for the third goal, when he played Jozy Altidore's outside shoulder and allowed the American international to turn inside.
The technique was wrong, but maybe he could have been bailed out by Richie Marquez, who took Jonathan Osorio's diagonal run beyond the offside line. With Tribbett trying to recover, Alejandro Bedoya tried to stick a leg in, but couldn't snuff out the danger.
"When you play against a big strong guy, you’re supposed to maybe stay off, don’t wrestle with him so much," Tribbett said of his matchup against Altidore. "So I’ve learned that. If I can’t go and win the ball right away, then maybe just take a step back and watch the ball instead of getting into a wrestling match."
Giovinco's status is up in the air for Saturday, but Altidore is in top form right now. Toronto certainly has star power that the Union can only match with a comprehensive, team-first performance.
"We were playing with them, we bounced back and Ken actually scored a great goal and it felt like we had some momentum going," Curtin added. "But it’s just a lesson in how quickly these top players can punish you. It was Giovinco on that day. But, again, now it’s going to be a hot Jozy, possibly Giovinco, we’re preparing for him if he plays. But Ken is a guy who is confident. He plays the same way. We’re going to encourage him to still pass out of the back, in moments when he needs to be direct, be direct. He’s great in the air. He’ll win his battles, and it’s a game where we know we’ll get a good performance from Ken bouncing back."
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @Kevin_Kinkead