Ahead of Philadelphia Union’s return to league play against New York City FC at Subaru Park on Saturday, May 1st, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with media members to provide team updates. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Heading into this battle against NYCFC it is hard to ignore what they did last week against Cincinnati. Winning 5-0 is a statement in and of itself. What makes it more impressive yet is that all five goals came off set pieces for NYCFC. “To score 5, it’s no secret that that opens everyone’s eyes in the league and makes you tighten things up on your preparation. I imagine that’s come kind of record.” Curtin said. “We practiced a lot on defending set pieces this week, as well as on our own attacking restarts there is room to improve and get better.”
The most eye-opening thing about the five set piece goals is that it’s not even the most concerning part of NYCFC’s game. “Not unlike Atlanta, NYCFC wants to open you up and pass out of the back. They have quality all the way down the spine of their team starting with two good center backs in Chanot and Callens who attack the ball really well on their restarts. The delivery and service from Maxi Morales, one of the most dangerous pieces in our league and best assist guys in the league. You know you can’t shut these guys down for 90-minutes, you just want to restrict where they get the ball.”
With the sprint to June still very much in effect for the Union it is a safe assumption that some new faces will grace the field this weekend after yet another short week for the club. As has been the case in all Union games this year, the whole 18-man roster has to be prepared for his number to be called upon though some of the fresher legs may want to be more prepared. “We’re Not going to rotate 7-8. That is a recipe for disaster and the data shows that.” Said Curtin. “A couple of new faces will get minutes. Get fresh legs for guys who have logged a lot of minutes, but everyone has to be ready when their name get called.”
This is exactly the situation young talents like Anthony Fontana and Jack McGlynn provide the club with an added level of flexibility. Having played the role as one of the first off the bench for the team, and logging some minutes in the starting 11, Fontana is likely to see a minutes boost this weekend and provide a spark for the team looking to claim their first MLS victory on the year. Jack McGlynn, also one of the clubs new faces that has had his number called on early in the season, may well see a boost in production this weekend.
The back line
Through five competitive matches so far this season the Union have only conceded one goal in the run of play. It would be easy enough to just accept this as par for the course for the Union who were characterized by their defensive play last season. That is until you remember half of their starting back line from last season is no longer with the team as Mark McKenzie was sold to European club K.R.C. Genk, and veteran Ray Gaddis announced his retirement. Right back Olivier Mbaizo and center back Jack Elliott have filled the big shoes left behind nicely.
“I think the job Mbaizo has done has been incredible,” Curtin said. “He has been really good attacking, good defensively, and good recovery sprints, in particular late in games. His fitness will only improve as the season goes on. The partnership between Glesnes and Elliott has shown to be a very good combination of physicality and size while also providing the ability to pass and start our attacks. Kai Wagner is playing like he wants to go to Europe again. Playing high level locking down that side of the field. He’s doing it in a way where he wins one-on-one duals but also getting into attack at the right moment. He is so smart and savvy with his defending and makes the right decisions most of the time. Andre has been Andre, we’re lucky to have him. Can’t stress enough a guy that should be talked about as a top player in this league.” Added Curtin. You throw the likes of Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, and Alejandro Bedoya in front of this group to help, and it should come as no surprise the defensive success the Union have found."