With a large contingent of players missing due to FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media on Wednesday about his options ahead of the club’s road match at FC Cincinnati this weekend. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Adapting to the International Window
Philly is sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference as they begin a three-game road trip at FC Cincinnati. looking to build off the momentum of a 3-0 home win against the Columbus Crew, the Union and Cincy have the spotlight with most of the league off. However, that also means the union will be missing numerous important players.
“We’re going quite a bit shorthanded with us missing 6-7 starters,” Curtin said. “Others will have to step up as they know they will be called upon to do.”
Originally scheduled to be played in September, the contest in Ohio was pushed into the international window due to the Union’s semifinal run in the Concacaf Champions League. With so many pieces off the board, one might argue that the ever-versatile Leon Flach’s position on the field must be locked in first.
“His versatility was part of his appeal when he came here,” Curtin told the virtually-gathered media. “We know wherever we put him on the field he’s a no-nonsense player that does his job and really executes.”
Should Curtin look to play the 20-year-old at a different position, he could look to left back where starter Kai Wagner is suspended for a match. If the squad changed to a three-back system, Flach could roam the left side as a wing back as well. Midfield has been Flach’s home for the majority of the season so he could take one of multiple roles there, playing on both the left side of the diamond but also at the No. 6 spot.
Flach’s positioning could cause another domino to fall with team captain Alejandro Bedoya. Curtin spoke about the plethora of positions Ale is capable of filling in, specifically focusing on the defensive midfielder position due to the absence of Jose Martinez.
“If Ale does play the six it is something he’s done,” Curtin said of his captain. “His versatility again helps us a great deal.”
No Easy Task
The Boys in Blue go for the “Hell is Real Derby” sweep when they make their inaugural visit to the recently opened TQL Stadium. While the squad racked up three points in a three goal shutout, Saturday’s match against bottom of the table FC Cincinnati won’t be an easy win.
Cincinnati sits on just 20 points through 27 matches with 15 losses. However, eight of those losses have been by a single goal, something the Union and Curtin are not overlooking whatsoever.
“We have a tough task,” Curtin said. “They have an incredible fan base and a beautiful stadium so that alone will be enough for the guys to know it will be a hostile environment. The guys in Cincinnati are going to want to impress [their interim coach] and are fighting for contracts next year. They are able to play a little more free whereas we are fighting for every point. They’ve played a lot better soccer than their record shows.”
Philadelphia Union faces off against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, October 9th. Kick off from TQL Stadium is set for 8 p.m. ET with coverage set to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on both PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.