The Philadelphia Union head down to Washington, D.C. on Sunday night to take on D.C. United. In the middle of an 8-day gap between games, Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke to the media to give updates. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Scory Burke’s On Fire
With two goals in his last three games, striker Cory Burke leads the team in scoring despite having started half of the team’s six league matches so far.
“The example of the work rate that he brings on the training field, he gives maximum effort and it’s no coincidence that it translates to goals on the field,” Curtin said. “He’s a very unique forward because he has the combination of being able to spring in behind, he’s a physical presence, he’s tall, he’s strong, he’s fearless in the box and will stick his face in front of a defender’s clearance.”
Burke has displayed quality finishing in just 296 minutes of play: he scored his goal against New York on 0.34 expected goals, which means that his scoring chances added up to a 34% chance that he would score.
Not only does he add a scoring threat, but he makes life hard for defenses all game. “He hurts when you play against him, and I mean that in a positive way,” Curtin said. “When you play 90 minutes against Cory, you’re going to wake up in the morning and you’re gonna feel it, and that matters.”
Saturday’s 1-0 win over rival New York Red Bulls saw a couple of players in different positions: Jamiro Monteiro returned to the left side of the diamond while Kacper Pryzbylko made a 32-minute cameo off the bench in attacking midfield.
“I didn’t get to see [Kacper in attacking midfield] long enough,” Curtin said. “To put those three on the field together where now Cory [Burke] and Sergio [Santos] can threaten and run in behind and occupy the center backs and keep them pulled back, Kacper can arrive later in the box where he’s a little more free and doesn’t have two center backs draped on him like he often does in a game.”
Curtin also noted that having the 6’4 Pryzbylko at the No. 10 gives the Union an advantage on attacking set pieces. Monteiro returned to the position he played during the team’s Supporters’ Shield-winning season in the win against the Red Bulls, and he recorded four key passes and the game-winning assist.
“There are certain matchups where it depends on the other team’s [No.] 6, it depends on the other team’s strengths and if we’re going to be able to get Jamiro the ball a lot,” Curtin said. “I thought against New England, we didn’t put him on the ball enough, and part of that was New England had two guys in [midfield] and one always chased Jamiro around the field—literally man-marked him. That becomes difficult. Red Bull obviously scouted that New England game and thought we would give them the same look, but we tweaked it and put Anthony [Fontana] up there, he occupied their 6, and now Jamiro could pick up the ball 10, 15 yards deeper.”
Because of the 8-day gap between games, the schedule allowed for the club to give minutes to the club’s role players including seven homegrowns that saw time with Union 2 on Tuesday evening. Curtin along with members of the technical staff watched on the sidelines of the Power Training Complex and liked what he saw.
“They’re getting better and better each day,” Curtin said. “I’d say Paxten Aaronson has taken a huge step in the last two weeks, which is something I’m really excited by. There’s a little more quickness to him, and I think that comes with confidence. He looks more explosive and he looks more powerful. … He will be a guy in the very near future will be getting his debut with the first team.”
Curtin said that he’s happy with where the players are at the moment and sometimes “you have to press the pause button and remember how young they all are.” While comparisons will naturally be made to his brother, Curtin reminded the media that Paxten is way ahead of schedule for his age.
The Union 2 match also saw minutes for experienced members of the Union in the lineup for its 4-0 win against Real Central NJ. Jose “El Brujo” Martinez played for 45 minutes as he makes his return from a red-card suspension while center backs Stuart Findlay and Aurelian Collin locked down the defense in front of Matt Freese. In the win, homegrowns Brandan Craig, Jack McGlynn and Aaronson each scored a goal apiece to further push for minutes with the first team.