Philadelphia Union kick off their Quarterfinal matchup of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League against Atlanta United on Tuesday night. In preparation for the match Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media to provide some updates heading into the first leg. Here are some of the key takeaways.
To say the Union are playing on a short rest seems like an understatement since they took off for Atlanta less than 24 hours after playing Inter Miami CF. Curtin’s side isn’t making excuses however as both teams are playing on limited rest tomorrow. What helps the Union with this condensed schedule is that they have been able to take charter flights when they travel cutting down on any wasted time and affording the players more rest.
Though they are coming off the loss to Miami, the team felt they had a lot of positives from the match to build on heading into the first half of a two-leg bout against Atlanta. The Union know what is on the line and that everything changes in these elimination games. “You can’t win it in the first 90 minutes, but you can certainly lose it” Curtin claims. “Going on the road first you have to be intelligent with how you approach it.” It all starts with the team taking the right approach in the first 15 minutes. Team defending, trying to avoid conceding any goals and hopefully tacking on an invaluable away goal.
Coming off a short week paired with the loss to Miami it is natural for there to be questions about the group taking the field on Tuesday. After getting feedback from his players the starting group from Miami is recovered and feeling good, giving Curtin some flexibility. With the lineup not set, there has been some discussion about moving Jamiro Monteiro to the 8 to control the midfield and potentially moving Anthony Fontana back into the starting lineup. Curtin is certain he wants Fontana to see more time, be it as a sub or a starter.
Monteiro provides significant lineup flexibility this season. “Jamiro is good at collecting the ball from a deep spot and starting the buildup.” Said Curtin.” I also believe as you get him closer to the goal, if he played the 10 position for 34 games, he’d get you around 10 goals and 12 assists. He’s a high-quality player and we’re at our best when he’s on the ball as much as possible.”
It can be expected that the Union will make subs early on Tuesday as they will be playing with heavy legs. The plan is to start the best group, whoever that may be right now, and then assess the team in 15-minute blocks for subs. The team will be without Ilsinho who injured his groin reaching for the ball against Miami. However, Stuart Findlay and Aurelien Collin are both approaching being 90-minute fit.
New look Five Stripes
It seems like a lifetime ago since the Union last faced off against Atlanta United, having not seen them at all in the Orlando bubble or MLS league play last season. Since joining the league Atlanta has been one of the best teams in the league and seem to be primed to replicate that this year. The Union know they are in for a battle as Mercedes-Benz Stadium can be one of the toughest environments to play in. “I won’t say I love coming here and playing in front of their big crowd and how difficult their fans make it.” That being said the team is ready for the challenge. “I like playing against All because they’re a high-quality opponent and you get to learn a lot about your team. Certainly, you want to test yourself against the best.”
There are some familiar faces in Atlanta from the last time these two clubs faced off, but there are also some new names to be prepared for, primarily Gabriel Heinze. After a down year, no thanks to some crucial injuries, Heinze has rallied Atlanta. His stalwart defensive reputation that he was known for in his playing days has bled through to the club. Pair that with Atlanta having Josef Martinez back in uniform and Santiago Sosa, who Curtin pinned as maybe the best offseason signing in the league, Atlanta is primed to make noise. “These games are fun, they are usually fast tempo, and you look at what Heinze has done in a short time with their group. This will be a difficult match.”
The Boys in Blue face off against Atlanta United FC on Tuesday, April 27th. Kick off from the ATL is set for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FS1 and TUDN.