Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Midweek in the Mint City


Philadelphia Union’s midweek matchup against Charlotte FC is quickly approaching and before the team hopped on the plane to head south, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, previewing what’s to come.

Curbing Complacency

Philadelphia conceded a two goal lead against Cincinnati, resulting in a less than favorable result on Saturday that kept them in fourth place. During his press conference, Curtin was asked how to combat complacency, and he gave insight into his team’s present mentality on the field and in the locker room.

“We know when we're favorite, we know when we're an underdog, we know when we're at home and away and what those different variables bring. Look, we're a team and a club that when we play at our max, we can beat anybody. When we don't, we can get beat by anybody. There's five years of data now and facts where we play for play for things for sure. There's five years of us being at the very top five in points per season, and also spending time in the bottom five. These are things that – I'm still proud of our players, I'm proud of our staff, I'm proud of our unique way that we do it and achieve it,” Curtin said.

“I don't think there's complacency because we're in September or August, or what it might be. Closing those games out and keeping the clean sheets is really important. It's what our identity has been. I'm so proud, very proud of this club and what we've accomplished. Over the years, we can play with anybody, we know that. But if we're not at our max, we can get beat by anybody. That's our margins and we all recognize that. And as a club, I think we've embraced that instead of running and hiding from it.”

Claiming clean sheets

Philadelphia Union is in fourth place among a very congested upper half of the Eastern Conference standings and every team is battling for a spot at the top as the playoffs approach.

Curtin emphasized that their team’s success isn’t about what formation they start the game in, which has often been changing, rather refining their overall play.

“I don't buy that it's as much about the formations as it is about us playing in our principles because you look at the intensity in the game, we played against Red Bull with three in the back. The first half that we play against the top team in the league in Cincinnati. We're capable of playing regardless of what the formation is, three in the back or diamond with the best teams. But what we didn't do was do it for 90 minutes,” Curtin said.

With just seven regular season games left, Curtin’s hope for his squad is to focus on maintaining clean sheets and capitalizing on chances when they arise.

“I stress to the group, as the games get tighter and the teams are all desperate now, you know you're in a position where the chances are few and far between. So getting back to those clean sheets that we haven't had as frequently this season, something that really defines us. Keeping a clean sheet is critical, especially as you move into the playoffs, in the games where the margins are razor thin, and there's not a lot of chances,” Curtin said.

“So sometimes you need a little luck, you need a deflection, you need a big block, whatever it might be. There's been games this year where we've kind of ran away and gotten a little comfortable and maybe conceded a late one that keeps us from getting a clean sheet. But overall, in general, eliminating the little technical mistakes is a method to get more of those clean sheets, or at least put yourself in a position to get them.”

Busy September Slate

Philadelphia’s match in Charlotte is the second of five in two weeks, and the squad has already far outpaced their total number of matches from the 2022 campaign. Curtin informed the media of his plans to utilize substitutions to keep his squad sharp, healthy, and able to boost their point tally.

“We have to have some freshness in the team, there will be some rotation to get some fresh bodies out there,” Curtin said.

“You have home games, you don't value one set of three points higher than the other at all. But you want to approach it and give yourself the best chance to win. So we will have some rotation just like I'm sure Charlotte will going into this game.”

With a match against rival LAFC at Subaru Park looming, Curtin shared what it’ll take for his team and other’s to get results amidst hectic fall schedules.

“We have a quick turnaround and have to play a really strong LAFC team who is playing for the Western Conference against St. Louis on Wednesday, and they have a Campeones Cup game with us sandwiched in the middle. So, the teams that use their depth the right way, the teams that execute and play at their max and at their best will come away with a result and that's the reality of our league. And that's the reality of our sport,” Curtin said.

Talking Turf

Artificial turf fields have become a spotlight topic throughout the sports world and for good reason as injuries have mounted between both soccer and football athletes.

Charlotte FC is one of just six teams with turf, sharing Bank of America Stadium with the Carolina Panthers. On Tuesday, Curtin shared his thoughts about the future of sporting fields and it’s impact on player safety.

“These players are getting bigger, stronger, faster. The contracts, the investment in them is incredibly high. The last thing you want as a coach of any sport is injuries and having those great athletes missing time due to injuries that are preventable,” Curtin said.

“So, I think everybody would be in agreement that natural grass is the best way to go across all sports. Always easy for me to say because I don't buy the stadiums or do the maintenance or that type of thing. But certainly, the sport of soccer, and I believe the sport of football as well, is safest played on natural grass. It is a big topic right now, and I hope someday every field does shift to grass. I know that's easier said than done, but hopefully, in the future, that is something that comes through.”

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