In his post-game statements to VCF Media following a goalless draw against Real Sociedad, Valencia and USMNT midfielder Yunus Musah took encouragement from the team’s much-improved defensive performance.
Valencia has been nothing short of a defensive disaster in La Liga this season, by the standards of a team that has been historically one of Spain’s more successful competitors domestically and in Europe.
Their 36 conceded goals through their first 22 games were enough to make them the fourth-worst defensive team in Spain’s top division, with only the three likely relegation candidates Cadiz, Alaves and Levante having been forced to pick the ball out of their net more times.
This has been the main factor holding them back from climbing towards the European places; their 35 goals scored over the same span of 22 games was the league’s fifth-best prior to this weekend’s action. After Sunday’s draw, they are in 11th place, five points back of European qualification, however even a slightly improved ability to keep opposing teams from racking up goals would have certainly put them in a very different position.
Sunday’s game against Real Sociedad, who came into the in sixth place, showed a very different, and perhaps encouraging side of Valencia, as they were able to hold their vistors to a scoreless draw.
In Musah’s post-game comments released through FC Valencia’s VCF Media, he was happy to praise his team’s improved defensive performance, one to which he directly contributed as the starting right midfielder.
His full comments (in Spanish) can be viewed here:
“It’s more important to pick up points,” he spoke of the point earned in the draw. “We improved today in terms of not conceding. We have to continue like that but scoring as well.”
To the point of scoring, he did note that they were at times wasteful in executing their own chances.
“They are a very good team,” he continued, complimenting the Basque team. “We had chances to win the game but didn’t manage to. I’m happy about the clean sheet, as it is something that we have to improve.”
Musah’s appearance in the starting 11 was perhaps a slight surprise, as he had just returned from World Cup qualifying with his USMNT teammates. Still, he took this as a sign of his coach’s continued faith in his abilities, something which he hopes to repay each time he sets foot on the field.
“I’m very happy to have started the game and I wanted to give everything to repay the coach for his decision. I wanted to give everything and continue this good dynamic.”
In his absence, Valencia took a major step towards what could be a well-earned trophy, as they beat Cadiz in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal to reach the final four.
With heavyweights Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid already knocked out, Musah and his teammates are laser-focused on the two-legged semifinal against Athletic Bilbao. Should they win, they will face either Rayo Vallecano or Real Betis in the final, which could add another trophy into their cabinet and give them a direct path to the Europa League next season – should they win.
“I was very happy when the team won,” he spoke about the victory in his absence, adding “and now I want to help the team reach the final. I wanted to play the game. You have to try to win both games and that’s it.”
Valencia visit Athletic Club on Wednesday in the first leg of their semifinal, then visit Alaves in the weekend.
Musah covers these topics as well as a range of others at the link above.