Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media ahead of his team's road game against New York FC at Citi Field. Check out what he had to say about the team's recent success, the upcoming matchup and more.
Quiet success before a challenging road trip
Curtin opened up his Thursday afternoon press conference with grateful words for the team’s passionate fanbase. It was another packed house on Saturday night for the Boys in Blue’s 3-0 win against New England at Subaru Park, and the crowd certainly made its presence known.
“Thanks to the fans, making the atmosphere incredible again. Another sellout, another instance where they pushed us on in a game that was very important for us,” Curtin said.
The team’s success has trended upward through its recent five-game stretch, taking four wins and a draw, most recently earning three points against New England. Curtin was sure to give praise to the defense for maintaining a clean sheet on Saturday, preventing any Revolution goals.
“I think the team defending from the front three to our back four was nice and compact. I thought we did a good job limiting New England's chances. Obviously, big three points,” Curtin said.
Looking ahead to the team’s upcoming slate, Curtin knows it’ll be no walk in the park. The Union have a challenging road test on the horizon against New York City FC. Saturday’s game against NYCFC will be played at Citi Field, the home of the NewYork Mets MLB team and the smallest field size permitted by FIFA.
“I give the players a ton of credit for quietly going 4-0-1 in that block of five games that I talked alot about. We now start a new set of five games with some difficult road tests and that starts with New York City. Always a hard place to go.”
“It’ll be our first time going to the Mets stadium, so we'll have to be on top of our game to get a result. The field dimensions obviously play a role. We're training on a 70 x 110 field right now just to get used to it and want to be very compact, because they have a really strong team and a group of attacking players that can really hurt you 1v1.”
Confidence is key
The Union have only allowed one goal in its last four MLS games, using three different formations. On Thursday, Curtin said it all boils down to players and principles.
“When these guys are confident, formations are just the starting point, so we give them some ideas. It really matters what our principles are as a club, and I think that those are clear. So, you go from the principles we have in the diamond in staying 35 yards from front to back, if a team plays a negative pass we want to press, if it's a straight ball we want to press. All those principles stay the exact same, regardless of the formation we're in,” said Curtin.
He followed with an example of how team depth of talent can promote flexibility, mentioning the team’s ability to add in a Damien Lowe as a third centerback and have little zero drop off in position play.
“That credit always goes to the players. The changes in formations, sure your starting point is maybe five yards higher or five yards to the left, but once the whistle blows, if our backline whether it's a four or three kind of control space, the rest of the guys in front of them will hunt the ball, and we've done a good job of that in the recent weeks,” Curtin said.
“I think the full credit there goes to the players, our fans for helping us in our stadium when we play at home, and then going on the road and being a little bit gritty and grinding out some, 'll call them, ugly wins.”
International interest builds around Jack McGlynn
Three Philadelphia Union homegrowns have impressed on the biggest stage at the FIFA U20 World cup as the USYNT is off to a hot six-point 2-0 start. The trio, which includes Brandan Craig, Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn, were all featured in Head Coach Mikey Vara’s starting lineup.
During Thursday’s press conference, Curtin looked down to his cellphone, telling reporters that it has been constantly buzzing with calls from around the world inquiring about McGlynn in particular.
“A lot of friends that are coaching in different parts of the world right now, whether it be Holland, Switzerland, Germany… His play, you know, jumps off the page right now. His ability to control tempo, play passes, and everybody sees that for a young player how talented he is,” Curtin said.
Curtin is certain the 19-year-old defensive midfielder has European soccer in his future, but says it’s all a matter of timing and fit.
“We're a club that obviously wants players to reach their absolute maximum. I've said it to you guys a million times from the time Jack's been here – he's going to play in Europe at a very high level,” Curtin said.
Though international eyes are locked on McGlynn thanks to USYNT exposure, his experience playing in the MLS at a high level has been crucial to his development.
“We'll recognize when that time is right, but certainly the interest is going up not just because of this U20 competition but because of the work he did in MLS as a starter and really contributing to our team now, each year getting a little more time each year, getting a little bit more used to pressure. Little things like scoring a penalty kick one year in the playoff game, into now playing in an MLS Cup final, into this year establishing himself as a starter.”