Ahead of Philadelphia Union’s second leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League against Deportivo Saprissa, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media to provide some updates ahead of the club’s contest at Subaru Park. Here are some of the key takeaways.
It’s only halftime
With some Saprissa players being held out of play for various reasons, the team is likely to lean into some of their younger players. While some outsiders believe that is an advantage, Curtin recognizes this is a dangerous situation for the Union as these players are hungry to make an impression on their coach and willing to go the extra mile. Add in that we all know a 1-0 lead is the most dangerous lead to have.
“We’re up 1-0 at halftime of a competition against a really good team,” Curtin said. “We have our destiny in our hands.”
The first half of the competition ended in ugly fashion with Kai Wagner on the receiving end of a tough tackle which made its rounds on the internet. The good news is Wagner is healthy and fit to play in the second leg of the competition. Though there was some confrontation after the tackle Curtin has made it known to his team that there will be no retaliatory effort. Additionally, the player who committed the tackle reached out to the German left back via social media to apologize for the play.
Some good news for Union fans with a welcomed roster addition that cannot be overstated, Sergio Santos is back!
“He’s available for selection and as a coach I’m going to select him every time to be part of the 18 because he is so talented,” Curtin said. “It was great to have him back today. Whether we are winning, losing, or tied, there is a pretty darn good bet that he’ll be on the field at the end of the game to get himself going, get fitness and because we are a better team when he is on the field. To get another striker back is key right now.”
On the striker front, Cory Burke will still be held out of action for the second leg match against Saprissa. Additionally, Ilsinho won’t be available tomorrow evening. Both players are expected to return to training next week.
Curtin wants full Saprissa squad
To put it lightly Jim Curtin is not happy about the Saprissa players who are being held out of the competition due to travel restrictions. Curtin made sure to distinguish he wasn’t referring to the Saprissa members that had tested positive for COVID-19 but instead the members of the Costa Rican National Team that competed in Europe within the last 15 days. Current travel restrictions within the United States will see Saprissa short their complete roster as well and Curtin commented on the situation.
“It’s completely unfair that their players are not allowed to come into the States at this time,” Curtin said. “I understand that there are different protocols and rules in place in different countries. At the same time you have to use common sense, we just played against these players in Costa Rica. They’re being tested so if they are clear and healthy they should be allowed to get on the plane and come in.”
More than anything Curtin feels bad for Saprissa’s players who are missing out. “I feel bad for them and I feel it’s a little unjust. When you’re in this competition it’s the champions so you want to play teams at full strength, and they want to play with their teammates. When there are positive covid tests we understand that they won’t be a part of things, that is clear and 100%. When you get into them playing in a game several weeks ago in Europe and not being able to come into the US. We talk about the optics of safety rather than actual safety. It’s no fault of their own, they want to help their team and be here, and for some reason they’re not allowed to come in and I don’t agree with it.”
The Union look to close out Saprissa and move on to the next round of the Quarterfinal Round of the CONCACAF Champions League. Kickoff is tomorrow evening at Subaru Park at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on FS1.