Ahead of tomorrow night’s rivalry showdown against D.C. United, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss what the Boys in Blue have been up to this past week. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Back to Basics
After picking a 1-1 draw last Saturday night against CF Montreal, Curtin said the focus in training this week has been the basics. He noted that with such a congested schedule in 2021, it has been difficult to find time for the technical staff to work on the little things with the full group but it finally clicked into place this week. The timing is perfect as the Union look to sweep D.C. United and improve upon their 10-game unbeaten streak against their rivals but Curtin said it won’t be an easy task.
“All of the games have been one play games and they are a very organized and difficult team to play against; we’ve been on the fortunate end of a few bounces that went our way against them in the recent games but at the same time we know how strong they are,” Curtin said. “[D.C.] are very brave in the attack and defend as a team very well so we’ll have to be on top of our game and execute in the attacking third.”
When asked what changes have been implemented on the training grounds, Curtin said that the focus has been not add any new wrinkles per say to the club’s philosophy but just improve the decision making when the players get into dangerous opportunities. However that cannot sacrifice the club’s stellar defensive record that ranks near the top of the league with eight shutouts.
“There isn’t a need to add too much new because when we are going good like last week, what makes us good is our team defending. It is okay if teams have the ball against us like NYC and we showed that we can do the little things, remain organized and keep a clean sheet. When we played Montreal that approaches a game where they want it to be slow, we still need to improve on creating chances in those games where a team sits deeper and we have to break down a block. We have to find little ways to break teams down but we aren’t going to all of sudden change who we are and put 65 passes together to break a team down. We can sure up the decision making on when to shoot or when to pass. Maybe when to dribble a little more and create a better chance. We are working on all those little things. We haven’t had much practice time this season with the way the schedule has been but that’s normal. It’s been a good time to have a full week to prepare.
While the Union are one of the top defensive sides, Curtin did say that that club has sacrificed more goals in an effort to get more shut outs. During the full week of training, Curtin said the focus was not just on creating chances but creating the right ones.
“We have to find little different ways whether it be 1-2s or a third man running to break teams down and get into a more dangerous areas and cross from very dangerous spots,” Curtin said. “We are trying to improve but every team in the league is trying for that. Improving our attacking movements, creating more chances, being more dangerous or a little bit more brave by taking a risk at getting forward is what we are looking to do more of.”
Curtin said that he isn’t too concerned with the group as the goal is to be peaking at just the right time when the points count even more later in the season but noted that the squad has netted some impressive goals lately.
“I know that goals come in bunches but I get concerned when the chance creation when it isn’t what it’s been. At home we typically get 10-15 chances to score to allow the fans to get into it but the last couple games it hasn’t been that high. There is something about being clinical which we saw with Kai to Ale and Quinn Sullivan gets Goal of the Week so we are efficient which is important but winning is the ultimate thing. I do recognize that we do need to improve the amount of chances we are creating in a game.”
Full Team Effort Needed
While the focus is squarely on the Saturday night showdown at D.C. United, Curtin said that the Union’s following match against the Eastern Conference leading New England Revolution will see a lot of squad rotation. Originally scheduled for mid September, the match was rescheduled to Friday, September 3rd which falls in the midst of a FIFA International window.
Curtin didn’t name specifics and said it would be announced in the near future, he said. That the match will call upon the squad’s depth and youngest stars once more for a battle against the Revs.
“We will be proactive to get guys minutes because you’d like to have a full 90 minutes before playing a game against a great team like New England. We will make sure that everyone is fit but they have that 90 minutes under their belt last time against New England but the replacement for game fitness is hard to find. Luckily we have a week build up ahead of that game on Friday.”