Philadelphia Union have their much anticipated home opener this weekend hosting Inter Miami CF. Ahead of the match Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media to provide updates. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Not the same Miami
The Boys in Blue faced off against Miami twice last season, emerging victorious both times. That being said, this is not the same Miami team that the Union saw last season. On paper the Miami line up has not changed greatly, but last season the team was never able to get their footing. Dealing with injuries and players in and out of the line up as well as the ongoing pandemic that everyone had to deal with, we never saw the full potential of Miami; and even with that they were still a formidable opponent.
One major addition for Miami this year is new manager Phil Neville, a longtime staple in the English Premier League. Though Curtin is not as familiar with Neville as a manger, he of course knows the player from his Manchester United and Everton days. Curtin spoke highly of the new coach in Miami. “The teams he has managed are very organized defensively they’re difficult to play against.” Curtin said. “He wants to have a true identity and true style with his group, and you are starting to see that very early on.”
The Union faithful will be excited, or perhaps a little fearful, to see a familiar face in the opposing net. Union alumni, and Philadelphia local, John McCarthy has become the starting keeper for Miami since the last time these two sides met. McCarthy and the Union went their separate ways after the 2018 season as McCarthy went in pursuit of a starting position in the MLS. After being the backup for Luis Robles in Miami’s inaugural season, Johnny Mac has found one in Miami which Curtin couldn’t be happier about. “I love John McCarthy the player, and I love John McCarthy the person. He’s as hard of a worker as there is and he makes the most out of everything that has been given to him from a talent perspective. I’m really happy and proud for him.”
Union getting healthy
After a whirlwind few weeks for the Union with injuries the team is finally starting to return to full strength. Both Cory Burke and Ilsinho have returned to training with the group and will be available for play this weekend. Both players will likely be limited to about 20-30 minutes each to avoid reaggravating their injuries and ease them back into the lineup. Sergio Santos increased his playing time in the last two matches after returning from injury and will more than likely see that trend continue moving into the starting lineup. Jack De Vries is still in concussion protocol, but he is progressing and remains the only player held out with injury.
With the good news comes some tough roster decisions for Curtin this week. “There will be difficult decisions this week. Players who aren’t in the 20-man roster who have been playing very good, and we’re going to have good players that aren’t going to be in the starting line-up. It’s completely normal and a real part of any good team.”
Balancing big games
With the Union advancing to the Quarterfinals of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League there is no shortage of big games coming up. Following Saturday night’s match against Miami, the Union quickly depart for Atlanta to meet the tournament’s requirement to arrive 48 hours before kick off. Overall those are just two of the nine crucial games the Union will play before the June break. Like a good captain navigating stormy seas, Curtin is taking it one game at a time. “Our full focus has to be Miami. We’ll put our strongest group out on the field. Some decisions will go against guys that are tough. but I think some of those guys will be called upon to start against Atlanta.” The “sprint to June” as Curtin calls it marches on and this Union group is primed to make the most of it.