Curtin_2021

The first four matches of Philadelphia Union’s April slate are on the calendar as the Union kick off Concacaf Champions League competition on April 7 and 14 against Deportivo Saprissa. Four days the 2021 Major League Soccer schedule begins on the road at Columbus Crew SC on April 18 followed by the home opener at Subaru Park against Inter Miami CF on Saturday, April 24.

With the club’s preseason entering Phase II with closed-door scrimmages in Clearwater, Florida, Head Coach Jim Curtin said he the busy slate is something his staff will learn to navigate.

“Is the intensity this early in the season something different, for sure,” Curtin said during his media availability on Wednesday. “To have the travel to different countries, to have play high-intensity games, recover and play MLS games. Hopefully we advance and it continues to be a problem going forward early in the season but it can make it hard on teams.

“We will have to navigate those things and it will be new for us. It has crippled some MLS teams early and those that made deep runs into the competition have had bad seasons for the quality of their team. It is a very fine line and a slippery slope that you don’t want the competition be a detriment to your entire season.”

Competing in the international competition is always a highlight for clubs however over the past few years it has come at the result of setbacks in domestic campaigns. In 2019, Sporting Kansas City made it to the Champions League Semifinals and started MLS with a 2-1-3 record before running out of gas to finish 11th in the Western Conference. In 2018, Toronto FC fell in penalty kicks to Guadalajara in the Final and ended up missing the MLS Cup Playoffs via a 9th place finish in the East. Curtin believes that his club is different from those clubs thanks to areas: Youth and his athletic performance staff.

“Congested seasons have actually suited us well as a club because we stay healthy and our sports performance does a great job with our guys physically but also we are young,” Curtin said during his media availability on Wednesday. “The age of our group has come down three years this offseason which is very significant so we will have young legs. When the games come fast, we’ve done really well in particular on the Wednesday games.”

While Curtin admitted that having additional international travel will add an extra layer to the Union’s early schedule, he is confident that the two matches will prepare the club as they look to crash the defending MLS Cup Champions home opener party at Historic Crew Stadium.

“We will have two games under our belt before we get our first MLS opponent. [Columbus] is a top team in MLS and we are coming to their building so it will be a very tough game and a team we are familiar with and had some heated and good games against them. We open our season at Subaru Park against a very good opponent as well. There are no easy games in MLS and it is really two tough opponents to start. The good thing is we will have those two Champions League, high-intensity matches under our belt early on which can help us prepare for live MLS action.”

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