Curtin Call

Curtin Call | This point matters in a big way

#CLTvPHI | Jim Curtin

The Philadelphia Union are going to the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs! The team’s 2-2 come-from-behind draw against Charlotte FC earned them their sixth consecutive postseason berth. After the match, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media to recap the game and preview what’s to come.

Fresh legs

Curtin sent out a never-before-seen lineup for the midweek matchup, featuring newly signed forward Tai Baribo and Chris Donovan up top. The Union are set to play five games in a two week span, and Curtin's strategy in the Mint City began with resting consistent starters like Julián Carranza and Mikael Uhre for the first half, hoping to bring them back in full force when the team takes on LAFC on Sunday. 

“A Wednesday night game here on turf with the busy schedule that we have, the plan was to rotate and trust our depth. I have five guys that will keep fresh legs for the rest of the week here,” Curtin said of his decision. 

“Part of the plan was executed well – to get to halftime with a zero. That meant a Charlotte team that is desperate to get into the playoffs has to start to throw bodies forward. I think the plan worked, obviously, until we conceded it.”

Reflecting on the starting attacking duo’s showing, Curtin provided insight into what he shared with the pair before the first whistle. 

“The message was, we need intensity to start the game because again we're playing against a desperate team, which is always hard. So, we told them if you can only go for 45 minutes, it's got to be at your max, run around, and make it hard on Charlotte,” Curtin said. 

“They're still getting used to playing with each other, obviously. But there's a couple of dangerous moments where, I think on the one, Chris maybe could lift the ball over the goalkeeper, maybe even dribble around the goalkeeper who was out high. Some flicks where Tai ran off him had some decent action. But overall, they worked hard, emptied the tank and helped us do two things – get through the first 55 minutes, but also, preserve some legs.

The starters held Charlotte scoreless through the first half, and though the hosts earned a 2-0 lead in the second, Union persevered to find two of their own, leaving Bank of America Stadium with one point.

“A point on the road is always important. Dealing with the elements, the turf, the different things that go into it, some mistakes that we've made. Overall, we'll take the point and get out of here,” Curtin said.

New Era Union

The club is in its most successful era since its inception and league dominance is no longer out of grasp as it was at the start. Heading to the playoffs for the sixth time, Curtin described the shift in mentality of his locker room over the years and how this time around the reaction to clinching postseason play was far different.

“There's a bunch of guys in there just quietly looking at their phones with their jerseys off in there. Some of them weren't here when this was the case, but at this club back then, in the early days, there used to be champagne and beers flowing after a playoff clinch. Now it's, when I say nothing, you can walk in there, it's crickets and they're mad that we didn't get a win. So that's a good change in mentality,” Curtin said.

“Still six games left to play. And we're going to push, you see how tight it is in the East, it's going to be a fight. So this point matters in a big way.”

Quality minutes from Quinn

19-year-old homegrown Quinn Sullivan entered the game to replace Alejandro Bedoya in the 66th minute on Wednesday night, and his substitution quickly spurred the Union’s two goal run to close with a tie. 

He scored the team’s first goal of the night in the 70th minute, marking his first of the season and his fourth since joining the first team in 2021. After the match, Curtin applauded what he saw from the young academy product off the bench.

“We've had different discussions. Myself and Quinn, positionally, what's his best spot? He feels it's midfield, which is fair and it's good. During the year when we had a really really crowded midfield this season. Obviously that's changed a little bit now with injuries with Leon [Flach] and obviously [Andres] Perea moving on,” Curtin said. 

“I thought his minutes would be more as a striker and we talked through that. He got some opportunities, probably not as many as he wanted, but it was good to see him on the side of the diamond make a big play for us and also help set up the second one as well. So, he did a really good job.”

Within a deep midfield corp, Sullivan’s seen the field in just 17 matches in 2023. Curtin said his impact on Wednesday was exemplary of what he expects from players vying for more time on the pitch. 

“That's what we need from all of our players, to come in and make an impact. I say all the time whether you get 90 minutes, 45, or two at the end of the game, you have to execute your role and those minutes will come so he did a great job.”

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Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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