Union mix proper planning to grind out goals, results heading into second half of 2014 season

Less flash, but more fight has amounted in results under Curtin

Curtin pacing sidelines

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Soccer is called the beautiful game.

But sometimes it simply isn’t. That’s fine with Union interim manager Jim Curtin, who’s first two matches since taking over the role haven’t been artistry from the Union for 90+ minutes, but there have been enough moments of brilliance to have Curtin sitting at 2-0 overall thus far. 

As a result, the Union has qualified for quarterfinal play of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup which will be held again at PPL Park on July 8 (7 p.m., purchase tickets).

What the Union have been under Curtin is effective and a lot of that is recognizing the opposition and reacting to how they both attack and defend. Curtin noted as much in his postgame press conference following Tuesday night’s win in extra time over the New York Cosmos.

“The way that they play they’re very organized and [the Cosmos formation] almost turned into what looked like a 4-2-4,” said Curtin.  “They’ll throw four guys forward and have two guys holding. We kind of mirrored that with Brian [Carroll] and Amobi [Okugo] just holding and breaking up plays in the middle and we would attack with Danny [Cruz], and [Cristian] Maidana on the outsides. We played with two forwards for the first time in a long time.”

Curtin paused and added:

“Was it perfect? No, definitely not, but at the same time I knew this was going to be an ugly game where it was about competing and winning second balls and fighting for long balls. It wasn’t going to be about short passes. I watched the tape when the Red Bulls played the Cosmos [in the fourth round] and they tried to pass out the back and keep possession on a tight field on Astroturf and it didn’t go so hot because the Cosmos come at you and they put pressure on. A little bigger field here so it was a little harder so they were late sometimes and that’s when we got our chances but again the idea was to kind of mirrors their lineup and stay man-to-man.”

On Saturday, in the New England Revolution, Curtin will have a slight luxury that many of Revs coach Jay Heaps men will be coming off a midweek battle of their own in fifth round U.S. Open Cup play against the Rochester Rhinos, but this is a New England that sits second best in the League standings.

It’s also a team loaded with attacking prowess in players like Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, rookie Patrick Mullins and others. It may not be another pretty match, but Curtin is more concerned with the end result – not how sexy the soccer looks as a quest to regain steam in a tight Eastern playoff race is still in sight.

“New England is a team that is a strange matchup for us,” said Curtin. “In the games where we have tried to go end-to-end with New England it’s not pretty they’ve put five goals in against us in the last four games. The games that we have won against them are the 1-0, grind it out, not let their guys get a full head of steam and start to run [type of matches].”

So what’s the game plan to ensure points are pulled from Saturday’s matchup?

“They have a plethora of attacking options and at New England is a tough place to play, so there will be some tweaks but we’re going to stick to the things that we have stuck to over the past two weeks, which have been to win your individual battles, that’s very important.”

Curtin ended the statement with a promising look at things to come, especially with the July summer transfer window looming.

“There will be some reinforcements that come in after the World Cup; that is something that is in the works and we’ll look to improve from there, said Curtin. “I still think that we have a group that can go on the road in two tough games in New England and Dallas and pull out results. “

What are your thoughts on Curtin’s tactics thus far? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com