Philadelphia Union head home from Columbus with one point in tow after claiming a fifth straight draw. Before catching the team flight back to Philadelphia where the Union will host two important matches this week, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, recapping the night.
Before delving into the intricacies of Saturday’s matchup, Curtin nodded to the effort of his players, who’ve endured an unprecedented amount of games this year.
“We have a very gassed group in our 45th game of the season. I have to give a ton of credit to the players; shorthanded, injuries, everybody's still stepping up and earning a hard road point,” Curtin said.
The extensive strain his group has gone through forced him to develop a strategy that began with resting starters for the first half, then adding the team’s top three attacking weapons in Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, and Mikael Uhre in at the start of the second.
“The plan going into the game was with the legs that we had, with the injuries that we had, and the depth that we had at the moment, get us to halftime, right? So you saw the strikers work their tails off to do a great job – Quinn and Chris, make it hard on them,” Curtin said.
“Get to halftime, make the three changes, which I almost never do before a game, but out of necessity, we did it. I think that the center backs, Nathan leading the way along with Jack and Damien had a huge game again for us.”
Philadelphia Union’s three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year made eight saves against Columbus Crew’s relentless attack, playing an integral role in the team’s result. However, during the match, he didn’t take any goal kicks, instead giving the role to Jack Elliott.
Curtin provided clarity behind the change, citing tightness in the Jamaican’s groin area as the main reason.
“It's not pulled, but the amount of kicks he would have had to make tonight, you start to run the risk,” Curtin said.
“Obviously, we don't like to do it that way. But out of precaution to not have him get hurt, we had Jack take the kicks. It's always difficult now because you're stretched and you have to sprint up as a center back and put some fatigue on your legs. But overall, I think we managed that well.”
Aerial Harriel, again!
Nate Harriel scored his first regular season MLS goal of 2023, but it wasn’t the first time he’s made a game changing aerial play this season. He scored in similar fashion during the team’s 2023 Leagues Cup run as well, totaling two goals in the tournament.
Curtin spoke to the development of the 22-year-old homegrown and what he’s brought to the squad as of late.
“Nate’s been excellent for us. To watch the growth of a player play outside back, play center back on the right, play center back on the left, and do a lot of jobs for us, he's kind of become a Swiss army knife. You can plug him in anywhere,” Curtin said.
“He's such a good competitor and a good kid that he gives us so much."