Pressing Points

Pressing Points | All to Play For


It’s almost MLS Decision Day! Philadelphia Union will take on New England Revolution in their final regular season outing on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. Ahead of the postseason-shaping matchup, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, previewing what’s to come for the Boys in Blue.

Back in action

Philadelphia Union will enter the pitch for the first time since their scoreless draw against Nashville SC on October 7th at Subaru Park, and Curtin said his squad is 'antsy' to get back to MLS competition. 

On Thursday, he had nearly his entire team back in Chester for the first time since the international break which saw seven Union players called up to represent their respective national teams. 

“Just to reflect on the last two weeks, obviously, a lot of guys are away with the national teams, good to get just about everybody back today. There were some little knocks and bumps and bruises that were picked up along the way when guys were away with the national team, we're kind of evaluating those right now. But overall, a good day to have everybody back in the group,” Curtin said. 

With a limited number of first team players available for training, Curtin welcomed younger talent to the group during their recent preparations for Saturday’s matchup.

“We were able over the last two weeks to see some younger guys from Union II and the Academy. I thought they did well and also we were able to prepare for a New England team as best we could,” Curtin said. 

“When [seven] guys leave, it's always going to be a little bit different. So to inject some new young blood, to fill out the numbers, to also take a look at guys I think gives a different kind of energy. You find yourself having to reteach or re-explain exercises, so for all of us, it keeps everybody sharp from the staff, to the players, to everybody that's out on the field trying to get better.”

Decision Day prep

Despite the atypical week and playoff anticipation, the Union is locked on their opponent ahead. They'll take on New England Revolution for the second time in 2023, now with postseason seeding on the line. 

"We've had some really hard fought battles with New England over the past years, there's a playoff history between us, and then they're are really tough team. They've lost a legendary coach midseason, which is always difficult, and they've had a little bit of a dip in their last six games, I think they've been beaten four times. So they'll be looking to get that momentum back to with a good performance for their fans on the final day of the year."

Curtin pinpointed Carles Gil as one of the top opposing players his group will look to lock down, citing the 30-year-old Spanish Designated Player as one of their most notable offensive assets.

"He's their top player, he's a guy that we have to know where he is at all times, and it's going to be a really hard test against a team in New England that, if certain things break a certain way, we could see again in the first round of the playoffs. Then you're playing them four times in a row which is unique."

Injury update

There’s a long list of players who’ve faced injury difficulties recently, and Curtin provided updates on each of their statuses, starting with midfielders Leon Flach and Jesus Bueno, who he forecasted as ready to make their return to the group on Saturday.

“Leon [Flach] has rejoined training fully. Jesus Bueno trained for the first time today and he looked really good so hopefully he’ll be able to have an impact on the game whether as a starter or off the bench we’ll have to make that decision. With both of those guys the turf plays a role as well so you have to be smart but it is great to have them available for selection,” Curtin said. 

He followed the positive update with a less favorable one, noting two more recent injuries within the roster. 

“Olivier Mbaizo picked up a little injury behind the knee that could take some time. Matt Real rolled his ankle [Wednesday] in training so we’ll be a little bit thin at the outside back spot off the bench. Some good news getting guys back from the international window but you also have some negative things that go along with that too. Every team at this point is not physically at 100% but we’ll have the majority of our guys to choose from outside of the guys I just mentioned,” Curtin said.

Playoff picture

MLS will introduce a new postseason format in the upcoming weeks, rolling out a three-game series for the first round of play beginning on October 29th. The team with the higher seeding will earn home field advantage, hosting two of the three games. After that, the higher seeded teams will host through the remaining single-elimination rounds. Curtin provided insight into how the new playoff shape could impact his group and their momentum.

“So it's that point of the year, where we would all love if there was just forward momentum for the league, and we went right into playoffs and it was do or die right away. The reality is this year, it's going to be a little different. It's going to be a little unique. I thought last year was really well done where the timing was just better. But this year, I think the three game series is exciting. But an international window right after it isn't the most exciting, you know, so that forward momentum is tough to get.”

After the first round, playoffs will pause for the International Break from November 13th to the 24th before the Conference Semifinals. 

“It is a good chance to reset to get guys healthy, to have them recover after it's been a busy time. So we'll try to move forward in a way that our group can kind of maximize making a run in this postseason. We're a group that's played in a lot of playoff games together, a lot of elimination games already this season with League's cup and Champions League. So I still say this group is a really tough out and I know a lot of teams don't want to play us.”