After a thrilling finish on national television that push the club back atop the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin and his squad have little time to savor the win as they prepare for a midweek contest against Chicago Fire FC. Before jumping on the team's flight bound for the Windy City, Curtin met with the press to talk about the big win and the importance of keeping the momentum going on Wednesday night. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Follow It Up
Coming off the thrilling 2-1 win against New York City FC on Sunday in front of a packed Subaru Park, Curtin kicked off his media availability reflecting on the big result. While the Boys in Blue claimed all three points to push their unbeaten-streak to nine league matches, what had Curtin smiling the most was that it was a traditional Philadelphia Union performance that met the team’s true identity.
“We got back to looking like us; being physical, winning duels,” Curtin said on Tuesday afternoon. “Could we be sharper in the offensive third of the field, obviously yes but at the same time we talked about all week that if we win, lose or draw let’s just look like the Philadelphia Union. I think we did that against a really good and strong opponent. I’ve stressed it to the guys that it [Sunday] means nothing if we don’t follow it up in what is a very game on short rest after such an emotional game.”
Avoid the Trap
After battling for first place in the East, Wednesday’s opponent in Chicago Fire FC is at the other end of the table with just 14 points in 16 matches.
“It is a trap game and I used that exact word in the locker room,” Curtin said. “The thing that I keep stressing and if we have learned one thing from MLS this season is that the records mean nothing. When the ball kicks off and it’s a new 90 minutes, anyone can beat anyone. We know how hard it is to go on the road and get results. The emotions, the highs, the lows, the never really feeling safe until that last and final whistle.”
While the Fire endured a 10-match winless streak that stretched from early April to mid June, Curtin said that the pieces are there for Chicago to break through. One of those key points has been the Fire’s defense that has allowed just 22 goals and racked up six clean sheets for 18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina.
“Chicago has really players and I know that Ezra and CJ Brown have done great work getting those guys going but it does take some time to get a group to gel. We want to guard against preventing them from having that breakout game against us. We know that we are going to get their very best. Not having a letdown after such an emotional win isn’t easy in this sport but it’s something we talked about.”
Empty the Tank
Sunday’s match marked the start of a hectic week for Curtin and the Union with three games in one week. With four homegrowns away with the U.S. U-20s at the Concancaf U20 Championship, the Union’s depth and endurance will surely be tested. Despite the lack of numbers, Curtin said that he message to the team has been to keep the energy high and empty their tank to keep the momentum rolling.
“All over the world teams play multiple games in a week,” Curtin said. “We’ve been pretty good on Wednesday nights but we have to really bring the energy and replicate what we had in the first half. We cannot pace ourselves in the game so we must empty the tank and if you cannot go any longer then we have guys on the bench that can come in and help.”
While midweek matches typically see some squad rotation, Curtin has always believed in putting the best Starting XI on the pitch regardless of minutes played in the past. Chicago presents a possible shift though with forward Cory Burke having found great success in the past against the Fire with six goals in five matches.
“It’s no secret that we are a little thin right now. The guys that have MLS minutes such as Matt Real, Olivier Mbaizo and Cory Burke. We might need to call on some guys to get us through this one but this group has responded well when we are shorthanded and missing players. Finding the right balance of who to change, when to change or do you roll with a winning team. Those are all decisions that are on-going and we’re talking about. Cory has had some good games and scored some goals against Chicago and we are aware of that. He’ll contribute in some way as a starter or off the bench.”
Philly and Chicago Fire FC meet at 8:00 p.m. ET at Subaru Park on Wednesday, June 29. Don’t miss the contest with coverage on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com starting with Union Pre-Kick Live at 7:30 p.m. ET.