Concacaf Champions Cup

Curtin Call | Survive and advance


Tuesday night’s Concacaf Champions Cup matchup against Deportivo Saprissa was one fans, viewers, staff and players alike won’t soon forget – Philadelphia Union emerged from the hard-fought 120 minute match with a draw on their home turf to advance to the Round of 16 against Pachucha. After the back-and-forth extra time battle, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, recapping the chaos that ensued at Subaru Park.

Defensive Difficulties

Philadelphia’s first two matchups of the season were far from walk in the park, and Tuesday’s was no different, as both teams finished the match with three goals apiece. Though Philadelphia finished knotted with Saprissa, they won the series on a 6-5 goal aggregate to move on to the Round of 16, Curtin opened his press conference with words about his team’s defense, which has turned in a string of uncharacteristic performances to start the year.

So far in 2024, Philadelphia has let up seven goals, which is atypical for a defense that formerly set a record for the fewest allowed in Major League Soccer history in 2022. Curtin expressed his displeasure for the number of opposing goals that have hit the back of the net, especially on their home turf.

“Look, anytime we concede goals at home, we're never going to be happy with how we defended. I thought about it already, what I was gonna say here, and I think the easiest way to sum it up is I think our group has really, really big heart, and big character and big guts. But all of us, staff, players, had really small brains in this game because we made it really hard on ourselves when we didn't have to,” Curtin.

“Again, it's not a lack of effort, but we certainly are conceding too many goals at home, which is uncharacteristic of us. You have to give credit to the opponent – Saprissa came here with real fight with real commitment and real intensity.”

Saprissa was able to finish full-time ahead 3-2 which is the only score that would require the need for two 15-minute extra time halves to break the aggregate tie.

“I will say it over and over again, why we've been one of the best teams over the last five, six seasons is our defensive work and our foundation is our defense,” Curtin said. “If we go end to end with all these MLS teams now with the attacking talent that they have, we will lose, and I think our guys understand that. So we need to tighten things up defensively for sure.”

Regroup and Recover

Though Mikael Uhre was able to score an needed equalizer in the 94th minute that put the Union ahead, the additional minutes saw both Jack Elliott and Damion Lowe pick up card disciplines, which will leave unavailable for the opening leg of the series against Pachuca. With a quick turnaround to Saturday’s game against Sporting Kansas City, Curtin admitted that the way Tuesday’s match unfolded will shift their game plan for this weekend, similarly to how it did in-game.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face, right. So, we had a plan going in, but it changed drastically. Now you factor in the red card to Jack, Damian picks up yellow cards, so they’ll be suspended also against Pachuca,” Curtin said. “So you guys can probably pick our center back pairing for Kansas City pretty easily, because they won't play on the Tuesday.”

Elliott and Lowe will likely be the pairing on Saturday, but as for Tuesday, fans could see an unusual defensive formation or a new face with Glesnes the only typical staring center back available.

“It’s unfortunate, but it now has to be next man up. We'll regroup or recover, go to KC, try and get points, but also realize that we have Pachuca as well on Tuesday, in an important first leg, where we're gonna have to score a couple goals at home to have a chance to move on because it's hard to go there and score that's for sure. So not ideal, not perfect. But if it was easy, everybody would do it.”

Tickets on Sale For Round 16

Tickets on Sale For Round 16

The Boys in Blue are marching on in Concacaf Champions Cup and will host the opening leg of the Round of 16 against Liga MX's CF Pachuca on Tuesday, March 5th.

Homegrown Greatness

Homegrowns midfielders Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan have earned the start in all three of the team’s opening matches, impressing more with each minute on the pitch. McGlynn was a workhorse on Tuesday night, playing all 120 minutes from first kick to the final whistle, while Sullivan earned CCC’s Man of the Match award after both assisting Julian Carranza’s goal and netting one of his own.

After the match, Curtin sang his praise for the budding stars who got their start at Philadelphia Union's academy.

“Jack, for him to gut out the 120 minutes there and do more on the defensive side, I was proud of him because that was a tough game. Jack's always going to be exceptional with the ball, and I think you saw that tonight with some of his passes, his ability to get out of tight spaces. He's not a sprinter or a quick guy that's going to be on the dribble, but he beats you with deception and some of the passes he makes are really world class,”

As for Sullivan, Curtin cited Quinn’s ability to play outside of the diamond and finish plays off, which he did when he scored by taking advantage of a third rebound in front of the net after attempts from Anderson and Gazdag.

“When we talk about shooting in and around the goal and the exercise, he hits the target and scores goals at a rate as high as any of our guys,” Curtin said. “He's picked up some really important goals and assists for us, and he's done really good work on the defensive side as well.”