Ahead of a hectic week of matches, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media on Tuesday talking about the upcoming slate of games and how the club will approach them.
A busy week is underway
It’s a busy week across the MLS and the Boys in Blue’s schedule is no exception. The team has three matches in a week span, but favorably, the schedule requires minimal travel.
The week started strong on Saturday with a 3-1 win against NYFC Citi Field -- next up, is a two-game home slate at Subaru Park against Charlotte on Wednesday then Montreal on Saturday.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Head Coach Jim Curtin was asked about potential upcoming formation shifts from the 3-5-2 to accommodate the heavy game load. He expects little change against Charlotte, but it all has to do with player recovery.
“I think the hard game ,like you guys always hear me say, is that third one off of the very brief rest. The Wednesday-Saturday. All the guys now, they feel really good. We have the full group to pick from with the exception of [Defensive midfielder Ale Bedoya] and the guys that are away with the [U20 National Team],” Curtin said.
“I think we're in a good spot. We recovered well, the data shows the guys bounce back quick.”
A factor in the team’s swift recovery was the pace of the NYCFC game. Curtin described Saturday as a ‘comfortable’ win for the team.
Saturday will likely be the tougher test of the team’s stamina.
“I think you'll see more change in that Montreal game, but we're going to be aggressive and go for this one. Obviously, I like how the group has played. I like how the group has raised their level. I think they've taken a new formation and ran with it and done a good job. So, we still have options and flexibility to choose from,” Curtin said.
“Every guy performed really well and they recovered pretty quickly. So the two games in a week is no big deal -- that third one is where you get into tougher decisions, I'll say.”
Starts on the horizon for Jesús Bueno
24-year-old midfielder Jesús Bueno entered the game as a defensive substitute in the 74th minute on Saturday against NYCFC, helping to maintain the team’s lead.
His role off the bench has been an important one, and he’s embraced it as of late. On Tuesday, Curtin said Bueno’s willingness to support the team in any way he’s asked to will soon earn him more time on the field, and even more bring more frequent starts.
“If you keep the lead you're supposed to, if you concede everyone points to you. So it's a hard roll, but one that he's really been up for. He's been better and better every day in training and I use him as the example to the players, as a guy that could be really pissed that he doesn't play more minutes, but instead he comes to work every day, is a great teammate, works his tail off in training. He's going to get some starts here in the in the coming weeks for sure,” Curtin said.
Bueno has just one start this in his three-year Philadelphia Union career, with 119 total minutes throughout the 2023 season thurs far.
“Anything he's been asked to do, whether it's five minutes, 20 minutes as a starter, to be a guy that keeps the group together. He's been excellent and I’m really proud of the season he's had. I know, he always wants to play more. But those minutes are going to continue to come,” Curtin said.
Charlotte FC, ranked 6th in the Eastern Conference, will visit the Boys in Blue at Subaru Park on Wednesday, May 31 for the Philadelphia Union’s Foundation Night.
Ahead of the matchup, Curtin pinpointed a long list of players that stick out in recent film sessions. From second-year striker Kerwin Vargas to former Premier League midfielder Ashley Westwood, there is no shortage of dynamic players on Charlotte’s roster.
“Tactically, they've played a lot of different formations. So every game you watch, it's almost some new nuances to their group. But they're in good form, and they're coming off of a good one in LA. You guys know how tight the table is,” Curtin said.
“I'm sure they'll have a change or two, maybe get a guy back healthy. But it's a really good group to play against. At home, though, we know we have a good team as well, and it's about us, doing the things that we do well, regardless of the formation that they come out and on the day.”