Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Fighting Back


Before facing off against fellow Eastern Conference foe Charlotte FC on Saturday evening, Philadelpiha Union Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media to discuss the matchup.

Strong Foundation Established Up Top

Curtin began his press conference like he typically has in the past, reflecting on the club's previous contest that saw big moments for depth pieces but ultimately come up on the wrong side of a seven-goal shootout with FC Cincinnati.

"A heartbreaking ending to another game where there was a lot of good individual performances but collectively we let ourselves down in the defensive box," Curtin said. "There is no time to feel bad for ourselves because we have to regroup quickly and we will need the fans 100% to be behind the players as we go into a tough game against Charlotte. The third game in a week is always tricky but we know that the fans will have our back and we know that we are capable of a strong performance."

While the result wasn't in the Union's favor and saw them slip below the Eastern Conference playoff line, there is still half the season remaining for the Boys in Blue with positive signs shown under the surface.

"If you look at the last two games, Miami and Cincinnati and as painful and unique are those losses, those are the two best teams in our conference and each game we are certainly not that far off while missing five key starters. That is the message to the group and we need a breakthrough play whether that is a big block, a big save or a big goal that changes the momentum. Not too dissimilar to what Tai Baribo and Jesus Bueno gave us in our last game that should have led us to a point in Cincinnati. Those efforts from those two players who stepped up in a huge way but right now everything tends to go unlucky against us and we are the only ones that can undo it."

Baribo's first start of 2024 was a memorable one with the forward scoring his first two goals with the Union which earned him MLS Team of the Matchweek honors. That connection alongside Mikael Uhre established quite the foundation at the forward position with Curtin expecting things only to improve as the two learn more and more about each other's tendancies atop the Union's lineup.

"Tai is a different player than Julian and hard decisions when against him for a while but like a true professional he stepped up and did a great job. I was most impressed with just how much he was willing to run and press to the 90th minute of this past game. That’s not easy when you don’t have the minutes in your legs but he really showed maximum effort and gave everything for the team. I think him and Mikael will only get sharper together as more games and time goes by. You can see that Tai is comfortable coming underneath Mikael and vice versa and finding that balance will be something that gets better with reps and game minutes."

Cracking Charlotte's Defense

Philly doesn't have to look too far back into the archives to find footage and tatics on Saturday night's opponent, Charlotte FC. The two teams met just over a month ago and finished in a scoreless stalemate. The North Carolina squad under the direction of Head Coach Dean Smith leads the league with eight shutouts.

"When they get back into their two blocks of four, they don’t give up hardly anything," Curtin said about the opposition. "We’ll have to find a way to hit them in a transition moment or win a ball higher up the field and hit them before they are fully set up. They have great goalkeeping and a strong back four and there isn’t a lot of space. You don’t see a lot of the big flashy names like Miami or Cincinnati but they are really together and fight for everything. That’s a credit to Coach Dean Smith who has done an amazing job with them."

Youth battling to break through

With five starters away due to injuries, Euros and Copa America, the younger members of the squad have been getting some spotlight with Union II midfielder CJ Olney added to the matchday roster last time out against FC Cincinnati. Friday's press conference was the first opportunity Curtin was able to speak about the progress of the 17-year-old who is second in MLS NEXT Pro with six assists.

"CJ has done a really good job with Union II games and he’s been training with us and he’s done really well so we rewarded him with a call up as we’re a little bit shorthanded," Curtin said.

"The Union II games and minutes will still continue and we’ll want him to dominate those games and that will be the next progression in order to become a first team player and get rewarded with minutes here. Happy with where CJ’s at and you’ve seen through a lot of the goals that Union II that he’s involved with them. A really talented young player who is fearless and relentless with his attacking and defending. A name alongside Vazquez and Sullivan, those are guys that are working hard and getting their first experience with the first team training each and every day and that’s how you get better and develop. I know everyone wants it to be immediate but those guys are in a really good spot and showing the staff they are getting closer and closer to first team minutes."

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Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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