Concacaf Champions Cup

Curtin Call | Crucial Away Goals

Philadelphia Union kicked off 2024 with a come-from-behind win in San Jose, Costa Rica against Deportivo Saprissa in their opening match of Concacaf Champions Cup play. After the match, which finished with a 3-2 result in favor of Philly, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, recapping his team’s first match of consequence this year.

Starting off strong

Though the first half saw the Union give up an unfavorable own-goal  to give Saprissa the first lead of the match in the 28th minute, the team wasn’t shaken. Instead, the group emerged from halftime determined, and rallied to score three goals on the road, which is paramount to success in CCC. 

Curtin applauded his team for remaining even-keeled in the face of adversity, which allowed for 23-year-old Argentine Julian Carranza to find an early equalizer to set the tone in the second half.

“Could we've been better in the first half? Absolutely. We concede a strange goal, an own-goal from 40-50 yards. I've never seen that before. But I think at halftime, we stayed calm and we executed the transitions in the counter attack, and that’s where we scored three really good goals."

Essential away goals

Per Concacaf Champions Cup rules, away goals will be weighted more should both teams finish with the same aggregate score after two legs, so Julian Carranza’s hattrick places Philadelphia an ideal spot as they’ll host Saprissa in their Subaru Park fortress in one week.

The Union now lead by just one goal, but despite the advantage Curtin assures they won’t get complacent in preparation for the home leg of the series.

“Three goals is good on the road. Anytime you can score three times when away goals matter in a competition like this, it's very important,” Curtin said.

“But at the same time, Saprissa is too big of a club, a club that we respect a great deal, and nothing is ever finished until it’s the final whistle blow. We expect a very tough match in Philadelphia, we set ourselves up in a good position at 3-2. I would have preferred 3-1, you feel a little safer.”

Saprissa's fight didn’t wane until the final whistle, decreasing their gap late with a 90th minute goal from Gerald Taylor.

“That goal gives them hope and life now in the second leg, so we'll have to be disciplined. In our building we don't concede a lot of goals but I also recognize how difficult it is to come into this building and win. So I will be happy for a short time,” Curtin said.

Striker spotlight

Carranza’s three-goal performance was the undisputed highlight of Tuesday’s match, and Curtin was quick to offer high praise for the striker who’s well on his way toward another season as one of Philadelphia’s top offensive contributors.

“It's a special night for him. He's a pure goal scorer in that all he wants to do, all he thinks about is hitting the back of the net,” Curtin said.

“He does a lot of the dirty work for the team as well with his pressing and defensive work, but when you score goals in the big games, and this was a big game tonight, the world is watching."