Preseason is underway as Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin held his first weekly press conference of the 2021 season after the club wrapped up its third day of training at the Chase Fieldhouse in Delaware Here are some of the key takeaways as the Union ramp things up ahead of next week’s departure for Clearwater, Florida.
El Brujo healthy and going 100%
When Curtin talks about Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez he has nothing but high praise for the Venezuelan midfielder.
“Jose Martinez came into our club under the radar and not a lot of people knew his name as a household name,” Curtin said. “In a very short time, at a position that maybe doesn’t get all the accolades because he’s not a goal scorer or a striker he has impressed the entirety of the league.”
The strong 2020 campaign Martinez strung together for the club seems to be the tip of the iceberg as Brujo has fully recovered from his offseason surgery.
“Coming off of the minor knee surgery that he had in the offseason, he’s come back from that and looks even stronger. I have to try to tell him to calm down a little bit in training. It’s only day three here and the tackles are flying in at 100 miles and hour. He’s just so aggressive, even on the astroturf. He has no 50 miles per hour speed, he only has 100.”
Always a warrior, Martinez was a key factor in the team lifting their first trophy in club history last season. The electric energy that El Brujo brings to the defensive midfield position looks to be shining even brighter for a 2021 campaign with high expectations.
To follow up the most unique season in MLS history it only seems fitting that there was a unique offseason and preseason. There was a long period where there were no hammered down start dates for the season which made planning for the 2021 campaign difficult for all clubs.
Of course, with the addition of the Union competing in the Concacaf Champions League adds complexity to the schedule but at least gives the club a fixed date and opponent to focus on. With all the uncertainty surrounding the schedule and how to prepare for this season the club has relied on a strong culture.
“People think culture just means when 11 step on the field and how they do in that game,” Curtin said. “Culture really for me is when your not together what are you doing? When things are going bad how does the group respond?”
This group has embodied that with the players actually holding voluntary workouts for four or five weeks now. The group has come in to camp much the same as last season with a few departing players and bringing in some new talent to the first team. Many of those new faces aren’t really new at all being homegrowns that have been in and around the club for years and understand the club culture. It’s safe to say that the culture the Union has fostered has brought good times before during unique circumstances, and that they will weather the storm again with this unique preseason.
Who is in Camp
The Union squad has not been made full yet ahead of their trip to Clearwater for preseason, though some absences are for positive reasons as Jim puts it.
“Kacper had a baby boy Leo the other night, so he will rejoin the group on Friday. Obviously want to get things stable and family always comes first so congratulations to Kacper.” Cory Burke will also be rejoining the club tomorrow, he had some testing that he had to go through before rejoining the group.”
The newest member of the Union, Stuart Findlay has not joined the team in camp yet with Curtin providing an update on his status.
“He will be joining us as soon as possible. These days with travel and visas it becomes a little more complex. Certainly, at the latest he will be in Clearwater with us.”
Unfortunately, the team will be without their 2020 leading goal scorer, Sergio Santos, for the time being. Santos suffered an injury to his big toe that will keep him out of training. The hope is that his injury won’t keep him out too long, but he will miss some preseason action. Curtin remains focused to have Santos at 100% for the games that really matter with the club’s first Champions League match against Deportivo Saprissa coming up.
The Union will head to Clearwater to begin the 2021 MLS preseason on March 8th. The Union will open its preseason exhibitions against Orlando City at 12pm on March 15th.