Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin was back at the microphone talking to the press on Thursday afternoon following the Union’s 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC the previous evening. Curtin was provided a glimpse into Saturday’s road visit at the Chicago Fire. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Wednesday Night’s Win Tops Curtin’s List
In the team’s first full-capacity match at Subaru Park in over a year, Curtin said that the fan support was crucial in the win over the reigning MLS Cup winners, especially after playing a hard-fought match three days before.
“[The fans] played a vital role on the night,” Curtin said. “Our players defended a lot on the night, had some fatigue in their legs, but pushed through, and the fans deserve a lot of credit for willing the players to victory.”
Curtin mentioned Jack Elliot’s “excellent” performance and praised the defensive partnership between him and Jakob Glesnes. The two center backs prevented Crew striker Gyasi Zardes from having a shot on target—Zardes hasn’t had a shot on target in his last five matches against the Union.
“It was my favorite win of the season,” Curtin said. “We’ve had some good ones in the Champions League, but this was my favorite. I love the 1-0, I love the wins where a team maybe has to suffer a little bit together to go through hard stretches of the game, to bend a little bit but never break.”
Previewing the Fire
With Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez away with the Venezuelan national team for the Copa America and midfielders Daniel Gazdag and Anthony Fontana injured for Wednesday’s game, Curtin will look to younger players to step up. Curtin added that, while he thought El Brujo is a versatile player, it is great to see him playing in a wide role at such a high level as he is doing in the Copa America.
With two games per week for the foreseeable future, Curtin knows how important it will be to balance squad rotation with keeping team chemistry intact.
“It was a long layoff, and now the games come quick,” Curtin said. “It’s going to be busy for every team, certainly. Some it’s going to be harder for than others with the absences during the Gold Cup.”
Regarding Gazdag’s injury, Curtin said that there is no structural damage and that the attacking midfielder will miss another week at most.
“He just pushed himself on the bike,” Curtin said of Gazdag. “He looked like Lance Armstrong on there, pushing physically to get in shape quickly.”
Curtin stressed the importance of the sports science and sports performance teams during this stretch of games.
In regards to who the fourth midfielder will be in Wednesday’s game, Curtin did not want to reveal too much, but hinted that Matt Real, Jack McGlynn, and Paxten Aaronson all have a chance.
“There’s opportunities for some young guys tomorrow,” Curtin said. “We’ll make a decision. Certainly, in Anthony’s absence, we’ll have to adjust. It’s not going to be an easy match, but I’m not going to give [Columbus Crew Head Coach] Caleb [Porter] any head start on who’s going to be out there.”
Midfielder Quinn Sullivan made his longest-ever MLS cameo off the bench in Wednesday’s win, playing 12 minutes after entering the match for captain Alejandro Bedoya. Curtin said the 17-year-old was long overdue for an extended stint on the pitch against MLS competition.
“He’s gotten better and better in training each day,” Curtin said. “I’m really happy with how much he’s developed, how well he takes information, and he’s really good around the goal. You guys maybe haven’t seen that yet in a longer stretch, but we see it in training.
Curtin lauded Sullivan’s mentality for stepping into a game against the reigning champions and his adjustments against Crew midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan. Curtin pointed to how Sullivan adjusted when coming up against Zelarayan, as the Crew player beat him in their first 1-on-1 duel, but Sullivan approached it in a different—and more effective—way the second time the Argentine went at the Homegrown
“He’s got that IQ where he’s very coachable, he learns quickly and takes information well,” Curtin said. “The kid’s going to have a very long professional career, and then it’ll be a matter of, is it going to be an amazing All-Star-level MLS career, or is it going to be a career in Europe?