Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin and captain Alejandro Bedoya addressed the media ahead of Thursday night’s first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal at Club América, which kicks off at 10 p.m. on FS1. Check out our pressing points from the interview stands.
Last MLS Team Standing
Of the four teams left in the SCCL, the Union are the only team from Major League Soccer. As the last MLS representative remaining, Curtin wants his players to rise to the occasion.
“When you play in a big game and score a goal in a big game, for example, a lot of eyes come on you,” Curtin said. “If you aspire to be a top player in CONCACAF or in the world, playing and performing well in the biggest games is what gets you there.
While Curtin has tried to keep things loose in training ahead of the first leg of the semifinals, he has full confidence in his players’ ability to perform well. The team has already put in good performances in SCCL play including a 4-0 home win against Deportivo Saprissa and a 3-0 away win against Atlanta United
“The winner of this competition gets to play Chelsea,” Curtin said. “It does sound crazy to say that, but our players have to dream and have that belief.
Facing off against seven-time SCCL champions Club América at Estadio Azteca, the team looks forward to making the most of the opportunity to play in this high-profile match. The game will take place in front of a 20,000-person crowd rather than the full capacity of 87,523.
“Our players have worked hard to get here into the final four in this competition, the top four teams on the continent,” Curtin said. “I’ve asked [the players], dating back as early as when we played Saprissa in this competition, to dream. To dream that we can eventually move on in this competition and play against the champions of Europe [in the Club World Cup].”
Curtin said that having experienced players like Bedoya, Andre Blake, Cory Burke, and Alvas Powell in the team is valuable. Their experience in CONCACAF competition, particularly with their national teams, will help the rest of the team.
“For a lot of the young guys, stepping out in Azteca in the beginning is a ‘wow’ moment in a stadium that big with so much history and tradition,” Bedoya said. “It’s something about these homegrowns, a few of them have already scored on their debuts. Not just a random goal, but golazos. So, they’re up for it. They know what’s at stake here.”
While the first few SCCL matches took place in the beginning of the MLS season, the semifinals are taking place in the beginning of the Liga MX season. Club América have started the season with seven points in three matches,
“We’re 20, 25 games into a season right now, so that can only help from the fitness standpoint of being ready to play at altitude,” Curtin said. “For us to be 25 games in versus Club América, who had the preseason and is three or four games in right now, that’s certainly a benefit to us.”
In addition to match fitness, the Union have a new player to consider for selection. Matheus Davo joined the club on Wednesday and is with the team in Mexico.
Although the Union are in the middle of the season, they will not take anything for granted against their opponents on Thursday night.
“We know it’s going to be a tough task,” Curtin said. “We can’t make any mistakes or give away anything easy.”