The MLS is Back Tournament is one-of-a-kind, but the Knockout Stage, presented by Audi, will be familiar territory for the Philadelphia Union. Jim Curtin’s men have been to the playoffs each of the past three seasons and Curtin has led his side through numerous win-or-go-home games in the US Open Cup. All that experience will be essential Saturday night when the Union face off against New England Revolution at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
Curtin focused on the team’s 2019 playoff win over New York Red Bulls as he discussed his young team’s preparation for Saturday night.
“It’s hard to create the pressure environments that come with a playoff game or with elimination games so even them being able to play in last year’s playoff games and feel that and see how tight the margins are is invaluable,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon. “There is no replacement for the intensity of elimination games and the more they get, the better. And we have one on Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.”
One of the players that gained that experience is homegrown playmaker Brenden Aaronson who started in both playoff matches of 2019 and remembers that magical feeling of coming back to overcome the Red Bulls.
“I think with the senior guys we have on the team they’ll help out with our younger guys,” Aaronson said. “I think having that Red Bulls game under our belt and those circumstances will come in handy for this game for sure. “
Players that weren’t part of the club’s postseason success last season have gained valuable experience from the MLS is Back Tournament. After the club defeated New York City FC and Orlando knocked off the Pigeons as well, a Union win over Inter Miami CF meant three points booked a ticket to the Round of 16. Curtin said that pressure offered an opportunity for development that he hopes will pay off this weekend.
“Just the intensity of that game and that feeling of guys stepping up with Andre [Blake] making a save or Mark [McKenzie] making a clearance or even Brenden [Aaronson] making an incredible play in a transition, those moments help in their growth,” he said.
Philadelphia Union face off against New England Revolution on Saturday, July 25th on ESPN2. Kick off from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.