With the start of the Major League Soccer season just two days away, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin gave one last press conference before the Boys in Blue take to the pitch at Subaru Park on Saturday afternoon. Curtin touched on the status of the roster along with the matchups to watch ahead of the opener. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Starting Off Strong
During Curtin’s traditional opening statement, Curtin said that the first match of the season is one that he and the group always look forward to. Gone are the exhibitions that were solely about match fitness and shaking off offseason rust. Now. There are points on the line and with the Union’s season set to begin in front of their home fans, Curtin wants the group to embrace it.
“You only get one opportunity in a home opener,” Curtin said on Thursday. “We’d like to set the tone the right way for our fans, our ourselves and just show how hard we’ve worked in the offseason and preseason.”
While Saturday’s match will be the first taste of MLS action in 2022, Curtin was quick to point out that it is just the start of a long journey that will span eight months and 34 games.
“There is always pressure and urgency to win and take points early in the season,” Curtin said. “Any points in MLS is important but there is a level of comfort with the players and myself as a coach to take the long view of what the 34 games mean. Its finding a balance and its something that is important that I’ve learned during my time. We will fight for every point but every team in the league isn’t the finished product so it will take 3 to 4 games to get into 90 minutes fitness. It is a process but it doesn’t mean I won’t value these three points any less because we want to chase these three points with everything we have.”
Forwards in Transit
The top targets in the offseason for Sporting Director Ernst Tanner came at the top of the Starting XI with a pair of new forwards joining the club. While Designated Player Mikeal Uhre didn’t make it down to Clearwater for preseason, Curtin did provide a positive update that has Union fans hopeful.
“Mikael has had a positive development as he picked up his passport and is able to fly and be in Philadelphia tomorrow but probably not before training,” Curtin said. “In terms of eligibility for tomorrow, that is another one that comes down to paperwork and getting the roster in at the right time and I’m not sure we’ll get him before that deadline. The positive is that he will be here tomorrow and we’ll get to start to work with him then.”
Sergio Santos too is out of the country as he has gone to Chile to receive a green card and open up another international slot for the Union. Santos missed the final game of the preseason but did train with the group before departing for South America and could feature in the match on Saturday should he return to Philadelphia in time.
Spotlight on Carranza
With a pair of forwards possibly out, fellow new striker Julian Carranza is once again in the spotlight. He needed just three minutes in the preseason to get his first goal for the Union but Curtin said that the 21-year-old is fitting in perfectly with the team and only has big things on the horizon.
“He wants to have a big season and he has shown me on the field that he is very capable,” Curtin said of Carranza. “If you talk about the qualities of a top striker in our league you talk about the movement, the willingness to run in the hard areas, the ability to hold the ball up, to finish chances and so on. He checks all the boxes. Really excited for this season for Julian and there is no pressure on him to do anything more than what he normally does. He is also willing to do all the things off the ball that we ask our forwards to do and I think that ultimately leads to tap ins and easier goals.”