With a berth and home game assured in the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke to the media about the challenge they face heading to Yankee Stadium for their Decision Day matchup against New York City FC. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
When the Union’s starting XI against FC Cincinnati was revealed on Sunday night, midfielder Jamiro Monteiro’s was absent. Monteiro had suffered a knee injury in training in the lead up to the regular season home finale and while the Union cruised to a 2-0 win, many wondered if Monteiro would be back for the postseason. Those nerves were put to ease on Friday afternoon when Curtin was asked on the subject.
“He’s back and trained fully and no real issue with knee,” Curtin said. “I’ll be honest when the initial MRI was read it was listed as a potential grade 3 sprain which is you’re done. He’s bounced back in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense and the strength of his knee is stable and he’s trained fully the last couple days and looks great. Knock on wood, its a good spot for Jamiro.”
Monteiro has been on a strong run of form over the past month, combining with fellow midfielder Daniel Gazdag as the Boys in Blue have shifted to the 4-3-2-1. Monteiro has generated 10 key passes his last three starts and completed over 90% of his passes.
Battle for Second
For the third time in 2021, the Union and NYCFC will square off with both sides looking to secure second place in the Eastern Conference. The Union currently occupy the inside edge for the No. 2 spot with a win at Yankee Stadium locking up the spot against Nashville SC. Meanwhile NYCFC currently sit in fourth in the table and are looking to knock off the Union to possibly grab the second spot.
“The importance of home field comes up and it’s something that is in our hands. We’ll have to be at our very best, it’s obviously a very difficult place to go and play,” He said in reference to Yankee Stadium. “They play very well there against all teams in our league, it has unique dimensions obviously.”
Yankee Stadium presents NYCFC quite a home field advantage for the hosts, adjusting their strategy to take advantage of the unique setup of the soccer pitch. With a narrower pitch, Curtin and the staff have adjusted the training style to prepare the club for the situation.
“With the way the field dimensions are, New York City has become very comfortable and used to it,” Curtin said. “For us, we can replicate it and make the dimensions tighter, but were going to have to solve the problems on our own, their record in Yankee stadium speaks for itself.”
Denying the Golden Boot
One player that the Union are keen to lock down is forward Valentin Castellanos who has netted 18 goals this season and enters Decision Day leading the race for the Golden Boot. While Castellanos presents his own challenge, teammate Maxi Moralez is dangerous and garters his own respect with a team-best 10 assists.
“Right up the center of the field is where it becomes critical to cutoff the service to those guys as best as we can. We want to try and limit their touches,” Curtin explained of the duo. “Tough matchup, tough field, tough dimensions. But there’s no excuses now going into the last game and trying to get a result.”
Philadelphia Union takes on NYCFC for Decision Day on Sunday, November 7th. Live coverage of the regular season finale will begin at 3 p.m. ET on both PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com ahead of the Eastern Conference synchronized kick off at 3:45 p.m. ET.