Pressing Points

Pressing Points | All To Play For at Pachuca


After Sunday’s long travel day on the heels of a weekend washout, Philadelphia Union have arrived in Mexico for the final leg of their Round of 16 matchup against CF Pachuca. 

Ahead of their first training at Estadio Hidalgo, Head Coach Jim Curtin and homegrown defender Nathan Harriel met with the media for their official Concacaf Champions Cup press conference, previewing the match.

Leg One Lessons

Curtin kicked off the press conference with a brief recap of the team’s leg one matchup against Pachuca at Subaru Park, which saw both teams finish the match 0-0. Though neither side hit the back of the net, the result was more favorable for Philadelphia, as away goals mean more and they can advance with either a win or draw. 

“The first test against Pachuca was a very difficult one. They're a team that is very well coached, an incredible coach that has them organized and very aggressive especially in the attack. In a lot of ways it almost looks like they play a 4-2-4 formation and they take a lot of risk,” Curtin said. 

“We're the only team that hasn't conceded a goal against them, so that was a real positive and going into the game we wanted to stay more compact and tried to keep a clean sheet. We've set ourselves up with a zero but we know how difficult it is to come here and score a goal. We know the task is hard.”

Top players like Sanchez, Indrissi, Rondon impressed in the first match, as to be expected, but on Tuesday, Curtin cited another opposing player to watch that his side was circled as one of their toughest to play against, especially on Pachuca’s home pitch. 

“For me, maybe a forgotten player for them Gonzalez the left back was incredible in the first leg, his ability to to run to overlap Idrissi and add to the attack is something that at home we know will be very, very dangerous when you factor in the altitude,” Curtin said.

The elements

The altitude is one of multiple uncontrollable elements that will impact Tuesday’s match. Pachuca, which is the capital city of Hidalgo, is about 8,000 feet above sea level, whereas Chester, Pennsylvania is just 69’. With their busy schedule and travel impacting their legs, plus the raucous Supporters Sections Liga MX teams routinely host, the Union is anticipating a tough battle ahead. 

“When you factor in the altitude, the ball travels an extra 5-10 yards in the air, the difficulty of a team like Pachuca that high presses and makes it hard on you. We don't want to play end to end because that's a very dangerous thing, so we want to be very organized and compact,” Curtin.

Result aside, the team’s experience in CCC, regardless of the challenges it has brought, is one Curtin thinks will help shape his team for the season to come. 

“I think anytime you get to play in these Champions Cup games, you learn so much about your team, you get stronger, you grow from it, you learn what to do, what not to do, what risks to take, what risks not to take, what the crowd is going to be like which will be very hostile, difficult environment.”

Playing for a Goal

Philadelphia Union needs to score at least one goal in Mexico to advance to the quarterfinals after shutting out Pachuca last week. 

“We recognize we have to score a goal – that's number one that has to happen for us to move on. Outside of penalty kicks, obviously, but we want to try to score a goal. From there, obviously defend well as a team and be hard to play against,” Curtin said. 

Whichever team has scored the most goals at the end of the night will move on, but their totals are knotted, the Union will be the victors as away goals are weighted more. 

“I have a very brave young aggressive team that is not afraid you know and you can't be afraid when you play against good teams because as a player and as a coach, if you go in reactive and not proactive against top Liga MX teams it is a very long night in Mexico.”

Harriel chimed in on the team’s priorities too, recalling their match against Atlas last year.

“in Atlas, it was a huge experience for all of us. Last year, we got ourselves yourself in trouble, if anyone remembers that, where we had to score a goal and we had to defend for our lives,” Harriel said. “The crowd is very hostile. They score their goal is the crowd gets behind them and we know tomorrow that could  be the exact same experience. Just learning from last year and trying to apply that till tomorrow will be a huge thing."

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