Before Sunday's rivalry showdown, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke on the lessons learned from the midweek match and how the squad is preparing for its third test against the New York Red Bulls.
A Good Reminder
Curtin was honest in his opening statement talking about the 3-1 road loss to last-place Toronto FC, in which the match Union saw their footing in the standings go from second place to fourth place with a single result.
“Not us on the night and we missed an opportunity to get some separation in the conference and we weren’t able to do that," Curtin said inside the Subaru Park press conference room. "It was a good reminder to the guys that we can beat any team in this league and that has been proven but we can also get beat by anybody. The players understand that and I know like always they will have a good response after a loss here at home.”
While the Union hit the pitch at Subaru Park on Sunday night, they'll be down a trio of midfielders as a result of the Toronto match. Curtin announced on Friday that Leon Flach injury that he's been battling throughout the season has finally hit a point where surgery could required but he's currently in Germany getting a second opinion. Meanwhile Jose Martinez and Jesus Bueno will have to miss the match due to yellow card accumulation and a red card suspension. With the top three options for the base of the diamond off the chessboard, Curtin was asked what his options looked like or would it require a formation change since they played with a 3-5-2 last time the two sides faced off in Leagues Cup.
“We have options and we obviously have a good group of center backs with one of whom can step in and play as a six," Curtin said. "Between Bedoya and McGlynn, they are experienced enough where they can handle being central. It is unique the way things went; to lose Leon to injury and then a tough decision with Bueno where he makes a silly play and gets a red card. He is remorseful and has apologized to the group especially for a guy that has been playing so well of late so that’s a big miss. For Jose to get involved was unnecessary as well. We are little bit shorthanded but we have a deep group and we’ll still put out a really really strong 11 on the field and we’ll need guys to come off the bench and help us.”
The Boys in Blue will face Red Bulls for a third time this season and they’re aiming to finish the 2023 series in sweeping fashion. The rivals squared off nearly a month ago in the Leagues Cup Round of 16, where the Union emerged victorious in a 4-3 penalty shootout that knocked New York from the tournament. Red Bulls took the lead early, scoring four minutes into the match. The Union didn’t respond until well into the second half, when a 68th minute Kai Wagner cross found the head of Nate Harriel who went airborne to send the ball toward the back of the net. While the previous results have gone the Union's way, Curtin was quick to call out just how tight the margins are when the two sides with similar styles face off.
“You have two teams that are coming off of losses and it’s a rivalry game. We both bring the best out of each other so it will be a high intensity game. They are very organized and tough to breakdown and they are not conceding a lot of goals. Maybe they are struggling scoring goals but they are creating chances so we don’t want them to get confidence and breakout. They have a great team and really good players and it’s a team I respect a ton. Things get said in heated games from both teams but the game is won and lost on the field and the margins are really tight between us. We’ll have to be at our max to take points.”