Jim Curtin isn’t used to losing back-to-back games, and he’s not planning to let his squad get used to coming out on the wrong end of results, especially at home.
After early lapses doomed the Union against Orlando last weekend, the head coach told the media the team’s struggles were the result of little issues rolling together to create bigger problems, but that he expects a big answer from the group against Sporting Kansas City.
Get back to being us
“The players did put a lot of effort and work in to get back into the game but like I said before once you dig yourself into a two goal hole it becomes difficult to get out of,” Curtin explained. “[Daniel] Gazdag trained fully today, other guys arrive and fly in today and will be in training tomorrow, so we'll have a good two days with them, and then should be pretty much at full strength going into Kansas City.”
Looking back to Julian Carranza’s red card against Montreal and the two goals in ten minutes his team conceded to Orlando, Curtin refused to dwell on the errors he saw, instead reminding everyone that this is largely the same unit that went to MLS Cup a year ago.
“I think it's as simple as being without Andre, any team when they're without one of their top players, they don't look the same,” he said. “I think that's natural. It'll be good to get everybody back, from international duty and from injury, and we'll go from there.”
Keep it simple
The goal against Sporting KC? A performance that looks like a Union team. Curtin knows he still has one of the most talented groups in the league and a great atmosphere to play in.
“I think the group will have a good response against Kansas City,” he stated. “Win, lose, or draw I think we want to put on a good display to our fans and show that we are still a very good team that had a bad outing last game.”
Still, there is no doubt in the head coach’s mind that his squad will face a tough test on Saturday, Curtin and Peter Vermes have been involved in MLS as long as anyone else coaching in the league right now, and the Sporting KC coach is nearly synonymous with his club at this point.
“When you think of Kansas City you think of Peter,” Curtin shrugged. “The trophies, the success, the strong teams, it's really incredible what he's done there. He's been a guy I've looked up to a ton, a guy I've learned a lot from.”
Vermes and SKC were formational in Curtin’s coaching growth after the midwest side knocked off the Union in the US Open Cup final.
Players returning will make a difference
Curtin kept his eye on players on international duty and was very impressed with Damion Lowe’s showing against Mexico. He said he’s hoping the defender’s late injury will be minor but won’t find out until the Jamaican star returns on Thursday.
The head coach was also thrilled with the performances of the young players that are due back with the team tomorrow.
“You look at the young guys, the U20s, that were performing well. I got to watch the whole France game, I got to watch the whole England game,” he said. “They did a good job helping that team qualify, which is no easy process, and now they're looking for a place to play the U20 World Cup at the moment because there's some controversy in Indonesia. But hopefully that all gets sorted out and those guys are able to get selected and represent the USA. It's that next batch of young players that our academy has been able to produce and you guys have seen them with the first team as well do a good job.”
Of course the biggest returnee could be Andre Blake.
“The hope is that he does play on Saturday, obviously,” Curtin said of his keeper. “He's the best goalkeeper that our league has and we're stronger with him in the group. He's a great goalkeeper, he's been a quick healer in the past and hopefully everything stays on schedule. Leadership-wise, in the locker room, he's been doing things even when he's not playing to help out, and it speaks to the player that he is.”
However, the head coach also noted that Kai Wagner needed a check on his hamstring to ensure he’d be good to go for Saturday’s match. Matt Real saw his first action of the year in midfield against Orlando and Wagner’s absence could means he’s called on in defense now.
The Union and Sporting Kansas City face off on Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET live from Subaru Park on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app.