Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Back at Subaru Park


Philadelphia Union returns to Subaru Park tomorrow evening after a busy month and will host Western Conference opponent Real Salt Lake at their home fortress on Saturday night, looking remain the only Major League Soccer team without a loss this season. After the team’s matchday -1 training session on Friday, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, previewing the action to come.

Scouting Real Salt Lake

While many of his players spent their four days off away from the pitch, recovering after a strenous season-opening stretch, Curtin kept his focus locked on extending the team’s unbeaten streak. He, alongside his son, Miles, traveled to his former stomping grounds to watch this weekend’s opponent take on Chicago Fire, the team he represented during his playing days in Major League Soccer.

“Saw some really impressive things from a really really organized, tough team to play against. Great performance, and I think it starts with their leader, Pablo Mastroeni, who’s an incredible coach,” Curtin said.

Real Salt Lake sits at third place in the Western Conference, and he had a live preview of their dominance as they topped Chicago 4-0 on the road at Soldier Field.

“A top team in the Western Conference this year for me. We know we have a real challenge ahead of us. But at the same time in Subaru park we do some things pretty well also. They're a very physical team but also really pass the ball well so we'll have to do a good job trying to disrupt that as best we can. We have to be ruthless in our transition moments and try and finish plays off because they don't give up much. It'll be a really tough test for us,” Curtin said.

The highlight of RSL’s win against Chicago was the outstanding performance executed by Chicho Arango, who contributed two goals and two assists in the shutout. He’ll be a top threat for the Union to contain, and Curtin wasn’t shy to share the changes he's made note of in the 29-year-old Colombian forward's play since he's moved from Los Angeles to Utah.

“Look, Arango is a guy we're very familiar with from LAFC. Right? For me, he's playing at an MVP level. He's in great, great form. I think what you're seeing differently though, with him is, in LA, he was very much a box finisher and an incredible one. But when you think about his time with LA, he did his damage inside the 18. What I see that's a little bit differently now, and again, it always comes down to personnel and different coaches asking you to do different things. but he's been incredible coming back off of the center backs into almost a #10 position, turning in the midfield, playing through balls to Gomez who can get him behind and really hurt you as well,” Curtin said.

“He's added assists to his game, I would say a lot more than maybe in LA. He's confident right now. Pablo is getting the most out of him. He's working very very hard against the ball defensively. Incredible player that is going to be a real tough task for us and it's not one person's job, it's going to take a complete team effort because like I said, he's not just going to stay in between the center backs, his movement is really really good.”

The game plan

As of the end of Friday afternoon’s press conference, it was unclear whether or not Andre Blake would start in net, though he did train in full on Friday. Curtin also confirmed that Leon Flach would return to the matchday roster after successfully rehabbing a pectoral injury that he suffered during preseason training camp. On the unfavorable side of injury updates, he shared that Damion Lowe picked up a knock to his ankle and he'll be a game time deicision.

Regardless of the final lineup, Curtin shared that part of his message to the team was about the importance of taking control of the opening minutes, especially coming off almost two weeks without full game action.

“I think the first 15 minutes in these games off of breaks is really critical. We stressed that to our guys to get the crowd into the game early. Be sharp, because you're playing as confident a team as there is in our league. They're playing really well,” Curtin said.

“Like I said, Pablo has done a great job with them and we expect a really tough task. That start will be critical off of a long break and we've stressed that to the guys.”

Prepping for Tuesday, too

Philadelphia Union will host two Western Conference foes in quick succession; Seattle Sounders will return to Philadelphia on Tuesday to resume a rescheduled match from March. Because it was paused at the sixth minute due to weather, both teams will have to field the same lineup they used on that day, and that league rule could impact Curtin’s lineup consideration for Saturday’s match.

"You have a bunch of guys that are versatile that can play multiple positions. It does make it complicated when you have to have a set lineup, so you're almost, not working backwards from Tuesday, because tomorrow is the most important, but there's some things that are set for that game, and you have to adjust and adapt accordingly,” Curtin said.

“It is unique. It's what happened in the rain out. It doesn't happen often. But we'll adapt, adjust and recognize every point is big during this stretch, especially when you have these three games in a week. It’s difficult, but these are also situations that tend to bring the best out of our group. If you go back historically, we're pretty good on those midweek games.”

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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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