Pressing Points

Pressing Points | Heading down to D.C.


Philadelphia Union take a trip down the road to take on rivals D.C. United on Saturday night. After their final training session before loading the buses for the short trek, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, previewing the matchup.

Onward to overcome the East

Philadelphia Union has closed the door on a tough stretch against teams from the west, and now, they’ll focus on besting Eastern Conference opponents, beginning with D.C. United. Before he addressed the match ahead, however, Curtin took time to reflect on Tuesday’s loss against Seattle Sounders.

“Obviously, it was a game where we had an inexcusable half of soccer and were punished for our mistakes. Good teams like Seattle will punish you when you give them goals. The response in the second half was a good one, but we do not want to make a habit of having to come from behind,” Curtin said.

“We recognize at home, it's rare that we get beat twice, like we did, and I expect the group to have a strong response against DC United, a team that has kind of adapted the new style of their coach Troy Lesesne, who's done a really good job organizing them.”

Although their upcoming match is against a familiar opponent, it’s the first time they’ll face the team from the Capitol under the leadership of Lesesne, who took over at the helm ahead of the 2024 season. Before D.C., Lesesne was an interim Head Coach at New York Red Bulls, and Curtin said he’s brought over some similar tactics to his new club.

“They've taken a lot of Red Bull influence in direct play and fight for second balls and have played some good soccer as well. So it'll be a tough test. Done with the Western Conference now this year, and the focus is to try to get as many points against the Eastern Conference opponents as possible,” Curtin said.

“Always difficult on the road, but our groups had a really good mentality on the road this year, and we're gonna need a complete 90 minutes, not 45, not 60, not 30, a complete 90 minutes to get a result.”

Injury updates

Andre Blake did not play against Seattle Sounders on Tuesday, and during his press conference, Curtin announced that the 33-year-old Jamaican would not suit up to play against D.C. United on Saturday, either as both he and the three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year agreed to prioritize caution and long term healing as he rehabs from a lingering injury.

“Andre still has pain in the knee. We obviously have a good, open, clear dialogue and have been together for a lot of years and respect each other a ton, and he's not quite ready yet. So, we'll be smart with him, and it doesn't make sense to risk possibly injuring it worse,” Curtin said.

That being said, rookie Oliver Semmle will take over again as the starter, and Andrew Rick will supplement the bench as a backup. The 18-year-old Philadelphia Union Academy product and current Union II player has reached the threshold for number of allowed short-term call-ups, and though there has been no official announcement, Curtin was clear about the team’s future plans for the budding net protector.

“Nothing is official, and there's still paperwork going on. But as you guys said before Andrew Rick's going to be a Union first team player sooner rather than later, call-ups and all the different rules aside.”

Curtin was clear about his hopes and expectations for Andre Blake in the future as well, giving an unsurprisingly glowing endorsement of the keeper and he his importance to the club.

“His body still has a ton of years left in it. Goalkeepers can play at a higher level for a lot longer than field players and I think history and time has proven that all over the world. He's a guy who takes care of his body, ultimate professional, ultimate pro on and off the field,” Curtin said. “Great dad, great person, and on and on. I think you guys know what I think of Andre. I think things will get sorted out eventually and we'll have him back in goal as soon as possible.”

Dangerous D.C.

After addressing questions surrounding his team, Curtin dove into the D.C.’s play, citing not only Christian Benteke, who’s Golden Boot-contending goal scoring production has essential to his team so far in 2024, but their entire attacking corps.

“You really have to do a good job with whoever comes for the ball of their attackers. The first person has to be tight, there might be an aerial ball, you might not win it, but you really have to be alert for the second ball because they're very well trained on running behind off of flicks and different things like that,” Curtin said.

“So team effort to have us challenge the first one, but then also be tucking in and staying compact and close to each other to fight for the second ball.”

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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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