With an important Eastern Conference showdown against Nashville SC tomorrow night at Subaru Park, Philadelphia Union Head Coach chatted about the club’s mentality and prep ahead of the second place clash. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Goals create Confidence
While the Boys in Blue didn’t claim any points in their midweek loss to Minnesota United, Hungarian midfielder Daniel Gazdag turned some heads with both of the Union’s goals. Acquired during the summer transfer window, Gazdag’s goals were his first from the run of play and Curtin says performance will help the midfielder over the final four regular season matches.
“Goals always give confidence but he’s been doing a lot of those things in training so we know it’s in him,” Curtin said on Friday. “I cannot stress enough that he has 50+ games in his legs so he’s still getting acclimated to his team but you saw the quality especially on his first goal that is in him. I’ve also played him out of position and asked him to play as a second striker a lot. He’s best suited to be a true No. 10 and we’ve tinkered and played with two 10s and I thought they complimented each other well. We are asking him to do a lot of things whether its in his comfort zone or not but those two goals give confidence and will propel him down the stretch of the season. I say it to the guys all the team, people remember the end of the season the most so lets have a really strong finish in our last four games because we can finish from second toward the bottom so it’s all to play for.”
Despite the amount of matches since August 2020, Curtin said that Gazdag in his eyes is one of the fresher players on the club when you look at the minutes played this month. As a result, the head coach expects Gazdag’s performances to continue at this high level shown in Minnesota.
“I thought he performed great and he only has the one set of 90 minutes in his legs so he should be one of the guys that should bounce back and be an impact player for us on the weekend,” Curtin said. “To get the two goals was huge for Daniel and two really good goals but overall in the run of play I thought he was really dangerous. When you score two goals on the road and create the chances we did on the road, you’d like to get points out of it. Within the group, he’ll have the fresh legs to turn around and do it again.”
Battle for Second
Just three points separate the Union from Nashville SC who occupies second place in the Eastern Conference. While outsiders have #PHIvNSH circled as a must watch given the implications, Curtin stressed that he doesn’t see the match as anything except the next one on the 2021 schedule.
“You see the table and you know what is on the line. They are all big at this stage but it’s a really tough matchup against a really organized, tough team to break down that doesn’t give up a lot of chances or goals.”
Curtin announced that both Andre Blake and Sergio Santos are healthy enough to participate in Saturday’s clash but it hadn’t been determined quite yet whether the Brazilian striker will be in the Starting XI or a weapon off the bench.
“It’s great to get another striker back especially with the speed that Sergio provides,” Curtin said. “Sergio was in really good form and then picked up a little bit of an injury and that hurt us a great deal. We manufactured some results along the way and have tried some different things; some worked really well and some we can improve on. To get another striker back certainly helps us now especially with the unique skill set that he has to run in behind and stretch the field for us which is very important.”
While the Union are getting back pieces, Nashville SC will be without their top offensive weapon, Hany Mukhtar who will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.
“He’s an incredible player and he’s having an incredible season and has been the creator for them similar to Reynoso who we just played in Minnesota,” the head coach said the media. “A top class player and suspensions are part of the season. You have ebbs and flows where you catch teams at full strength or sometimes you catch teams when they are missing a player. These are the breaks of the year where they tend to even out. We get a really good Nashville team regardless of an injury or player suspended because they have really good depth but Mukhtar has been one of the top players this year.”
Philadelphia Union welcomes Nashville SC to Subaru Park on Saturday, October 23rd. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET with coverage on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com beginning at 7 p.m.