With the Boys in Blue about to depart for a midweek clash in Toronto, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke on Tuesday about the match importance of following up their weekend victory.
“Means nothing if we don’t follow it up”
As he does every press conference, Curtin started his remarks first looking back at the Union’s 3-1 victory over rivals D.C. United. While he was happy with the performance, he did say there was still moments the squad could find improvement.
“Started the game really well where we created some good ball wins near their goal and punished them a few times and then held on,” Curtin said on Tuesday. “If I’m being critical the second half we a lot of 2v1’s, 3v2’s and 4v3’s where I feel we can be a little more clinical on and take care of it a little quicker.”
Wednesday’s game north of the border is a major one in terms of the calendar, serving not only as the final match of August but the start of the final 10 games of the 2023 MLS regular season. The Union currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference but have no breathing room beneath with New England and Orlando tied on points with the Boys in Blue while Columbus Crew sit once point behind.
While Toronto FC sits firmly at the bottom of the East and the whole league, they will present challenges for the Union if they are looking ahead to the Labor Day weekend clash against New York Red Bulls.
“We recognize them that as a team they have had some changes since the last time we played them but still have very dangerous attacking players in Bernardeschiand Insigne that we’ll have to do a really good job on in limiting their touches and where they get on the ball. A tough test in Toronto and the good result in D.C. means nothing if we don’t follow it up with another good performance in Toronto.”
Bueno Gets The Call
The Union are in the midst of a three-game swing in eight days not only because of Leagues Cup but also the FIFA International Window that runs in early September. On Monday evening Venezuela announced their callups and it included a pair of Union players: Jose Martinez and Jesus Bueno.
Curtin said that the club celebrated the callups earlier in the day during a film session and again echoed the development of Bueno who has gone from getting regular minutes with Union II in 2022 to one of the breakout stars from the 2023 Leagues Cup.
“I think development is not just about homegrowns, it’s not just about young players, old players, local talent or international talent. It is about everyone,” Curtin said. “He’s an example of a guy that had some decisions go against him early in his time here in Philadelphia but he kept his head down and worked really hard and got better as a player. He got his opportunity and he’s ran with it. The game is hard and it’s hard to make it as a starter in this league and it’s very hard to get into our starting lineup as a player so when guys get their opportunities it is important for them to step up. He’s a great example of a player that put his head down and worked hard and been a real professional and pushed guys in training when he knew he wasn’t called upon to play or start. He’s getting his reward not just from us by getting minutes but also now with the Venezuelan National Team which is the ultimate honor to represent his country. Really excited for him and it shows development always happens at all ages and throughout a career and if you do the right things, the game tells the truth all the time.”
Midweek in Toronto
The list of changes for the Union’s opposition is quite long since they last played in April. Gone is Bob Bradley and on Monday the club announced that Canadian Men’s National Team Coach John Herdman will take over in October. While the side has claimed only 19 points in league play and has lost 10-consecutive matches, the Union cannot overlook the side that boosts big pieces that can singlehandedly win a match on their own.
“They have played some good soccer over stretches and can hurt you if you’re not prepared. They just named a new coach so they are trying to impress a new coach which is always dangerous. Midweek in MLS historically we’ve been a really strong team but traveling makes it really hard but we will keep the squad fresh in a similar way to how we have done in recent weeks. The games are adding up and in this league anyone can beat you if you’re not prepared. That has been our message to the group. We respect Toronto a great deal and they still have incredible players and they are a good team that will be tough to breakdown. We have to be at our best because if we play our way then we will create chances in the course of 90 minutes but we also need to be stable defensively. Their two key guys and a player we know in C.J. Sapong can make plays for them so we have to do a really good job defensively.”
Curtin continued: “Anytime there is a managerial change all over the world there is a bump but this one is a little unique. Herdman will be accessing things from afar so players will be motivated, they are professionals and playing for positions in the future next season so it’ll be a unique position.”
Philadelphia Union wraps up August north of the border with an Eastern Conference clash at Toronto FC. Kick off for the Wednesday night match is set for 7:30PM ET with the match free on MLS Season on Apple TV!