In the midst of another two-match week, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media on Friday afternoon ahead of the Union’s showdown against CF Montreal on Saturday night. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Six Point Week
After picking up a big three points against New York City FC on Wednesday night at Subaru Park, Curtin said the message to his squad the past 48 hours has been that Saturday’s match must have that same intensity.
“It was one of our stronger performances of the year and we were very good in defense and attack against a really strong opponent," Curtin said. "I stressed to the guys that great result means nothing if we don’t follow it up with another strong performance at home against a very organized Montreal side.”
While Montreal enters the match after not registering a shot on target in their scoreless draw to FC Cincinnati, Curtin said the team cannot overlook the Canadian side that is in the playoff picture that features a bunched Eastern Conference.
“A team that likes to build from the back and Wilfried Nancy has them very organized and tough to play against. We’ll have to try and pick up the tempo of the game at home where we like to press because they are very good with the ball at making you run and chase so we have to be disciplined with how we set up. They didn’t have a ton of turnover to their roster and [Joaquin] Torres that they added is very clever and can play that final pass; he hasn’t gotten the accolades of other but he was a really smart signing. We are familiar with their personnel but Wanyama is their quarterback and rock in the middle that we need to disrupt because if you give him time and space he can pick you apart.”
Brujo’s Magical NYCFC Night
Curtin remarked that one of the big plays of the night came in the 73rd minute from Jose “El Brujo” Martinez right after the Boys in Blue grabbed the lead and was the top highlight from the “enormous performance” from the Union’s No. 6.
“I will say that there probably not many players at all in his league that can make that tackle on Medina where he combined with the 1-2 but Jose makes the last-ditch tackle in the box about as hard and clean as you can make,” Curtin said. “It is one of those where leaving your feet is a big risk there but he timed it perfectly and that sums up Jose in one tackle.”
Brujo led the team with four tackles and 11 possessions gained while also blocking three shots in the home win that resulted in the club’s eighth shutout in MLS play.
“When he plays simple and is executing his passes and defending forward then he’s as good as any player in this league. He is going to go and be brave every time and we don’t want to take that aggression away from him. He’s gotten smarter with the referees in the league and what he can do and get away with on the edge. He continues to get better as a player and on a night where they had eight attackers that are all amazing, we needed him to be big in a spot where he’s playing the No. 6 alone.”
Healthy Competition Emerges
Since the retirement of Ray Gaddis this offseason, Olivier Mbaizo has been at the top of the depth chart for Curtin since the club first took to the pitch in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League. But the last two matches has seen a competition grow with the emergence of Alvas Powell who came on after Mbaizo left with an injury at Club America last week and put in a strong performance on Wednesday night against NYCFC.
“There is great competition now at the [right back] spot. The game at Mexico and following up with the great performance against NYC. No matter who New York City put on his side and it escalated from a $3 million player to a $5 million player to a $10 million player, he did his job. He got tired doing it but he did his job in that game. We have a healthy competition at right back which is good for the club.
While the lineup on Wednesday night didn’t have Mbaizo in the roster, Curtin reminded fans and media that the Cameroonian missed the match due to yellow card accumulation and not injury.
“He’s fine and it was a fake tooth that we found out after the game so at least it wasn’t like one that needed to be replaced completely so maybe that is why it came out like a cartoon in that instance. He’s fine and doing fine. No concussion or diagnosis of a concussion so everything is fine with Mbaizo. He was suspended last game which is why he didn’t play but he’s available for tomorrow.”