Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Sights set on Cincy


The September international break has come to a close and MLS regular season play will resume this weekend. As the contingent of Union players abroad trickle back into the country following national team appearances, they’ll join the team’s diligent preparations for their upcoming match against Cincinnati on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, delving into the state of his squad for the first time in two weeks.

Individual Attention

Seven Philadelphia Union players were called up to represent their respective countries in Concacaf Nations League games over the past two weeks – leaving just a handful of players in town to continue training in Chester. Curtin explained what the unique week looked like for his group stateside, pinpointing individual development as a positive takeaway from the break.

“We had a week where we could give some guys rest, we could work on some individual things with players, we could build some fitness with players, and we could kind of just maintain sharpness with players,” Curtin said.

“So, a lot of players that are at different points of their season, we had a week last week where we could be a little bit selfish and focus on the individual. The numbers were really, really small, 8 to 12 guys some days, but we were able to push and improve.”

Injury Update

The break also provided time for Curtin’s squad to heal after a strenuous end of summer slate featuring a deep Leagues Cup run followed by a regular season stretch featuring three games in just over a week. As of now, the team is 100% healthy with the exception of Leon Flach, who could return in as soon as two weeks.

“He did get a second opinion in Germany, and we'll try a different approach, a different procedure that could maybe get him back in about two weeks rather than the longer. Once you have the surgery with the sports hernia, it becomes six to eight weeks, depending on how you recover. So we'll try this procedure, see how he feels, see how he responds. But hopefully now maybe he can return and play a real significant role with us down the stretch of the regular season and then into the playoffs.”

Jesús Bueno as well departed from his international duties early due to injury, but Curtin assured he’s back in good health, comfortably participating in training.

“He just picked up a knock with Venezuela in the knee. Initially, there was some concern that it would be significant, and he’d mis some time. Luckily, he’s recovered pretty quickly and was able to come back from Venezuela, return here, get some tests done and felt good enough to train the past two days, which helps our group a lot. Good to have him back healthy, he's had a great season, a breakout season for us.”

Scouting Cincinnati

The team’s upcoming opponent has a tight grip on the top spot in the Eastern Conference, sitting firmly above the rest of the table with 57 points. The club is in the midst of one of their most dominant seasons to date, and Curtin wasn’t shy to give credit where it’s due.

“I'll put my politician hat on for a second and say Chris Albright should be Sporting Executive of the Year – I think that that is a no brainer for the rest of the league. The roster he's put together speaks for itself, the point total, but just the way he's done it in a smart way to build it that quickly, turn it over, and I'll just say, cover and mask some maybe bad moves in the past that he had nothing to do with has been been exceptional. So he deserves that award,” Curtin said.

He had similar praise for his former assistant coach and now opposing head coach Pat Noonan, who’s held the role since December 2021.

“Pat Noonan is the Coach of the Year for the way his team plays, offensively and defensively. He's a great person, they're both close friends. So I guess I am a little biased, but at the same time, you just sit back and watch what they've done quickly there and transformed the club, transformed a culture, transformed a way that they play,” Curtin said.

His admiration for their recent success aside, Curtin ensured his focus remains on picking apart their well-crafted team to earn three points at Subaru Park.

Clearing the air about Carranza

Transfer rumors about the Union’s standout striker Julián Carranza have been swirling around the soccer world as of late, but Curtin cleared the air on Wednesday, speaking candidly about the speculations.

“There were more than just the one that went public – the Olympiakos one. There were several European clubs in for him with real dollars and with real real offers on the table, which is flattering for our players. When you score goals, in this world and in this game, that attracts the most attention. I'll just put it that way. Right or wrong. That's where the dollars go in the modern game,” Curtin said.

“Julian's an incredible striker. He's an incredible person. He's been amazing here at the club and is having a really, really good season. I will add that we're lucky here in Philadelphia that Daniel Gazdag is incredible at penalty kicks – if you just give Julian half of them right now he'd be running away with the Golden Boot.”

Curtin shared his message to Carranza as the team embarks on their final regular season push, with sights set on the postseason.

“ I always still stress to the players, you're remembered most for how your seasons end. So, yes, the transfer didn't work out this time for Julian. I think it's no secret that winter is a real possibility. So we'll have him here till the end of the season and my message to him is to continue to score goals, make a run at the Golden Boot, and let's try to lift the trophy together,” Curtin said.

“He's been such a great player and a great person for the club. A great teammate. I think sometimes we forget how young he still is as a striker, so his future is gonna – he can play anywhere, I believe that. But let's finish this thing now the right way here.”

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Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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