With a chance to advance to a third-consecutive Eastern Conference Semifinal, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media before the team flew out for second game of the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs First Round series against New England Revolution.
Curtin opened his press conference with the announcement that Kai Wagner would not be traveling with the team to New England on Tuesday afternoon. Curtin acknowledged that the investigation included many parties include the MLS Player’s Union, Disciplinary Committee and the MLS Commissioner to which the club will not bring with them their left back on the road.
Curtin also provided an update on forward Julian Carranza who left the first match of the series against the Revolution in the 67th minute with a hamstring injury.
“Julian will be a game time decision for us,” Curtin said on Tuesday afternoon. “He’s started training a little bit with the group but hasn’t really fully pushed off and really opened up in big spaces. He wants to be a part of the game and has been a huge part in our success this year so we’ll make a decision now after they are done putting him through some tests. Nothing is 100% right now so he’ll be a game time decision.”
With Wagner out of the lineup, two big question marks open up for the Union’s tactics: who will fill the left back spot and who will take set pieces? While Curtin wouldn’t announce who would be starting at left back plenty of focus was turned to Nathan Harriel.
“We’ve been a team that has found ways to rally around difficult situations and have guys step up when they are called upon,” Curtin said. “Nathan has played both sides and played as a center back so he’s done it all and had a great season which I’m really proud of his growth and development. If we go that route he’s been able to adapt and take on new challenges really well so we have a really strong group.”
As for set piece service, Jack McGlynn and his gifted left foot seems in line to get the role.
“He has taken a huge step forward and set pieces are a big part of our success offensively and defensively. Jack will take a big responsibility in that but he has a left foot and service that is inch perfect,” Curtin said.
“Yesterday, Nathan didn’t like a ball he hit because it was too close to the back corner of the six and he asked for it closer to the 12 and he hit right to the 12. He has that ability to adjust and hit a perfect ball. He’s very dangerous on those and he’s had a great season for us and he’s taken a big step forward. I like to say in the biggest games regardless of your age, these are the games to step up and good careers can be great careers and great careers can become European careers and I think both Jack and Nate can have that because these are the games where people watch.”
Finishing The Job
Wednesday night’s match on MLS Season Pass and FS1 could see the Union secure its third-consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. To do that though, the club will have to make even more history, winning a road playoff game for the first time in Union history.
“The hardest thing to do now in professional sports is to end another team’s season. I know how hard that is as a former player and as a coach,” Curtin said on the topic. “New England is a really high quality opponent that will put everything into the game in their home stadium to try to continue the series. It is our job to be disciplined, compact and not allow it to turn into an end-to-end game but instead one where we execute our transitions. Still all to play for and we won game 1 but that is just us being halfway there and we have to beat a tough New England team again.”
When was asked if knowing the club had home field advantage for the winner-takes-all third match if necessary would impact how the club approached Game Two, the Union head coach quickly shot back saying it just isn’t in the team’s DNA.
“We cannot have that approach and we have to go after this game,” Curtin said. “When you have an opportunity to go after it and end a team’s season, you have to do it and that is our goal. That needs to be our mindset because there is no switch that I can flick where we have them save it for Sunday. We have to go for it and if it does go to Sunday then in our home stadium, we know how good we have been in our home stadium. Having that killer instinct is something we preach in training and now in game situations.”