Philadelphia Union is set to take on LAFC in a must-watch battle on Saturday night at Subaru Park. Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media on Friday after the team’s final training before the match, previewing the upcoming battle against a familiar adversary.
Philadelphia is no stranger to the strengths of Head Coach Steve Cherundolo’s squad. The two teams have already met twice this year in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals and disappointment from Philadelphia’s 2022 MLS Cup loss still lingers. This installment of the pair’s budding rivalry takes the form of a rowdy regular season head-to-head on Philadelphia’s home turf.
“It's still always a really tough game. They have great players, they're very well coached and organized. The history between us is a real one, and I think we respect each other a great deal, but neither team gives an inch when we get together. The games have been really difficult, highly competitive, one-play games that could go either way and challenging,” Curtin said.
Curtin reflected on what his group learned in their last meeting, which ended in a 3-0 Union loss after Olivier Mbaizo earned a 59th minute red card that left the squad down a man in the second half.
“We got a bad red card, if that's what I'm recalling, in LA, where it was a pretty even game, and then that kind of changed it. Look, little things can become big things in matches like that. Olivier picked up a couple quick yellows and was sent off, and that kind of changed the shape of things, which was hard,” Curtin said.
“But I think we learned a lot from that Champions League run. A great opponent in LAFC. We see them now at a different time in the year; they've added some personnel since then. We've changed a little bit as well. But it's still again, two really good teams, as you can see towards the top of each of their conferences, and then two teams that have been pretty good over the last several years, which speaks to the consistency of each club.”
Quality Quinn minutes
19-year-old homegrown midfielder Quinn Sullivan sparked the Union’s Wednesday night’s rally against Charlotte scoring the first of the team’s two goals. Curtin sent him onto the field in the 66th minute, and four minutes later, Philadelphia was only down one score. His impact was near-immediate, and Curtin told the media that he’ll likely have another opportunity to put his offensive prowess on display this weekend in front of the home crowd..
“He's gonna play a role in the game. I thought he did really, really good with his minutes in Charlotte. Obviously changed the game, impacted it well, helped us steal a point there. He was a huge reason why we're able to get out of there with the point. So yeah, happy with where he's at,” Curtin said.
“He's still only a teenager and I know he wants more minutes. He's a great kid who works hard every day in training and is deserving of more minutes and you could see that be more in the midfield where I think his full skill set can be shown.”
Sullivan’s ability to change the pace of the game comes from more than just his goal-creating capabilities. Curtin pinpointed a moment on Charlotte’s attacking end that stood out and proved the teenager’s belonging among a typically deep midfield corp.
“I'll add, look. The play he makes in the game where he tracks back defensively and chases down Derrick Jones to give us a chance to get a draw out of things is a big play. Yes, the goal was nice and setting up the other penalty was huge. But that defensive work was really good, too. So a good step forward for Quinn for sure.”
Philadelphia’s schedule has been a physically taxing one as of late, and it shows in Curtin’s current depth.
Leon Flach is currently in Germany rehabbing from a sports hernia injury, and although the team hoped to have him back for Saturday’s match, he’ll remain out. In addition to the 22-year-old midfielder, Curtin gave an update on two other players, whose statuses are in questions for the game to come.
“José [Martinez] came out of the game and in Charlotte, he's I'd say day to day. We'll see how he responds and recovers to the match there. Had some scans taken, it's labeled as a bone bruise. So it becomes a tolerance of pain, how you can handle it. So we'll see how he is. It's not anything that's going to be long term,” Curtin said.
“Jakob [Glesnes] as you guys know, has been playing through groin issues slash the start of a sports hernia, however, you want to label it. He's really really pushed all season long. 40 plus games on his legs already. So again, those two guys you know, I would label as as day to day, but they want to be part of these types of games and situations.”