Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Breaking Down Nashville


The Philadelphia Union are heading south to take on Nashville SC, and as usual, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media before the team’s departure. This time, the limelight was fixated on him, as the club announced his contract extension just two hours before the press conference. Amidst many questions about the future of the team and his coaching aspirations, Curtin made certain to set the stage for the upcoming matchup, emphasizing it won't be an easy one.

An admirable adversary

The Union left the West Coast without any points this weekend after a 3-1 loss against LA Galaxy on Saturday night. After a quick reflection on what went wrong, Curtin looked ahead to Nashville, who are primed to be a substantial opponent come Wednesday. 

“Good news is we have a quick turnaround now to go and try to pick up points against a strong Nashville team that’s for me, one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference. Always well coached, well organized, and a difficult team to break down,” Curtin said. 

Curtin knows it’ll be a tough test and he alluded to the likelihood of some rotation in the lineup during the matchup in Music City. Nashville is ranked 2nd in the conference behind Cincinnati, and they’ve lost only two matches on their home pitch so far this season. 

“As a team and that atmosphere there in Nashville, it's incredible. Beautiful new stadium, Gary Smith has them playing very, very well,” Curtin said. 

“It's always a very physical, tough game when you play against Nashville. They compete for every second ball, they have so many great players that are experienced right up the spine.” 

Curtin pinpointed center back Walker Zimmerman, midfielder Dax McCarty, and midfielder Hany Mukhtar as top threats on Nashville’s league-leading roster that has allowed the least amount of goals of any MLS team so far this season. Still, Curtin is confident his squad is up to the task. 

“While we're not at our sharpest moment right now, and missing some key pieces, we still can beat anybody on any given day. That's the beauty of this league and and our team also has some real high quality as well,” Curtin said.

Bendik Back in Goal

After responding to the news about his contract extension, Curtin was immediately asked about who would start in net for the Boys in Blue on Wednesday night. The Union have allowed 11 goals over the past four games, which is uncharacteristic of the squad who had previously conceded just 14 through the first 17 matches of the season. The team is without it’s starting keeper in Andre Blake, who is competing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup with the Jamaican National Team alongside Union defender Damion Lowe.

“We have a situation where we miss Andre. I think when any team loses one of their best players, that's the scenario.”

Despite the recent challenges, Curtin ensured that 34-year-old veteran goalkeeper Joe Bendik will remain in goal for Nashville. Next up on the depth chart would be 24-year-old Holden Trent, be Curtin cited a lingering broken finger as part of the staff’s reasoning to keep Bendik as the starter.

“Joe's earned the right to start so we have to get behind him. We have to help him. We've had mistakes as a team that have left Joe in a bad position, Curtin said.

“So again, every week, guys, we evaluate and look at each position and have the mindset that we're going to pick the best team to win. And right now, he gives us the best chance to do that.”

Overcoming Obstacles

Lowe and Blake departed for Gold Cup competition following the team’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 10th, and since, Philadelphia has only claimed one win. Curtin spoke to the difficulties that come along with fielding less than his best 11 players during an extended away stretch.

“It's not often that we lose two games in a row. I don't want to oversimplify it. But if you take two best 11 players off of any team in our league, it becomes difficult to win on the road. That's the reality of things,” Curtin said.

“I know we have a great squad. I know that when everybody is back – look, I wish Jamaica well I hope Andre and Damion play great, then again, you want to get your guys back. Once we do have the full group, we'll go into Leagues Cup and make a run at that. We’ll then have 11 games left, with a bunch at home where we're really strong.”

Even when describing the undeniable obstacles, Curtin remained steadfast in his high expectations, parting the clouds with positivity about the remainder of the season.

“I know it hurts right now, I know. People are upset because we don't have many of these losing streaks and two-gamers. But I also see the positives in this group. I see the work that they do, and I know that we can get better and finish the season the right way."

Philadelphia Union is back in action tomorrow night with kick off at 8:30PM ET only on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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