Midfielder Danny Cruz made sure to attend the press conference officially announcing Jim Curtin as the Philadelphia Union head coach.
Cruz wanted to show his support.
When Curtin took over on June 10 in an interim role, the Union were struggling mightily. By the time the season ended, the Union came within a post of winning the U.S. Open Cup and also within a couple of tough results of earning a playoff berth.
Curtin trusted the players.
And the players fully supported Curtin.
“For me, it was pretty evident from the beginning that he had plenty of belief in all the players,” Cruz said. "He tweaked a few things and saw we were willing to fight for him, we were willing to listen to his ideas. Our assistant coaches, everybody … we were on board and we said we had to fight for them. We believed in him and knew it was his audition. If we did our jobs, we knew he’d be the guy to lead this club. He had our respect as an assistant. For me, he showed us when he came in as an assistant coach what he could do. We knew what he could do and what he did as a player in this league. You automatically respect him from that standpoint.
You learn from him and you listen to his ideas and you can see right away what he’s able to offer. We listened to all his ideas. It didn’t change anything when he came in as an assistant. We had to come together a team and we did that for the most part.”
Even though the Union came up short in their quest for the playoffs, they made major strides under Curtin.
Now with the interim tag removed, the players are stoked moving forward.
“I think there were a lot of positives going into next season,” Cruz said. “Little moments like that are what changes the trophy case. A team becomes a championship team or doesn’t and it’s the little things. We did a lot of things well, but there’s always more to work on. We didn’t make the playoffs so there’s still a lot of work to be done. It wasn’t enough. We made some mistakes, some very amateur mistakes that put us in position not to be in the playoffs. But I can tell you this: there wasn’t a guy in that locker room who didn’t want it for Jim. He saw we were into it. To come up short, a post short in the Open Cup and a few points in the playoffs is tough. The fact that we were able to dig ourselves out of a deep hole is a positive.
“The more games we see on TV right now, we wish we were there. We know what we have to do and we know where we want to be next year and that’s in the playoffs. The exit meetings probably went the way we expected. I know I didn’t do enough for me as a player and I have a lot to improve on. I know as a group we expect to be in the playoffs next season and we’re going to work toward that goal beginning now.”
Preseason training is just around the corner in January. The 2015 regular season will open in March.
For the Union, that means the sixth season is not that far away.
“I feel like we’re on the right path and we’re excited to have Jim as our head coach,” Cruz said. “We’re going to fight for him and we know he’s going to fight for us. We’re all competitive and want to see this club in the playoffs. I know that we have a lot to forward to next season."
What do you think of Cruz' comments? Leave yours below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org