With the final leg of the club’s three-game road trip on the horizon, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin with the media on Monday afternoon as the squad fights for a home match in the MLS Cup Playoffs that are around the corner. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Defense becomes Offense
This season has been the Boys in Blue find many different ways to score goals in 2021. Forward Kacper Przybylko leads the way with 10 goals in league play but defenders Kai Wagner and Jakob Glesnes have each added three while Jack Elliott has a pair to his name as well.
One of the ways the Union’s defense has become offensive weapons has been from set pieces which were on display in Saturday’s draw against CF Montreal. Curtin went all in saying that the opening goal should have been credited to Jamiro Monteiro for the strong volley into the box that rang off the post and the goalkeeper before trickling past the goal line. Kai Wagner added a second free kick goal to his 2021 tallies to tie fellow teammate Jakob Glesnes plus Sheanon Williams for the club record of three goals by a defender in a single season.
“We have found ways to manufacture goals off of set pieces when you look at our last 10 goals as a team, a defender is contributing in one way or another in a lot of them,” Curtin said. “Whether it is scoring them directly themselves or getting an assist or leading to the goal. Kacper [Przybylko] is the one who has hit double digits in scoring but after there is a pretty big drop off so we have to score by committee.”
The Boys in Blue conclude their three-game road trip on Wednesday night with against the Minnesota United FC. Curtin confirmed on Monday that the showdown against the Western Conference foe will see the Union regain starting midfielder Jose “El Brujo” Martinez as well as two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. Missing from the match though will be Alvis Powell and Corey Burke who remain out and questionable heading into the final stretch of the season. Curtin spoke about his approach for fielding a strong 11 in face of the adversity caused by injuries.
“We have a good group of guys to choose and from we’ll put the strongest group on the field and try and get points. Everyone has to be ready when they are called upon to contribute to the team.”
This cross-conference match is a new beast for the squad. Curtin discussed how scouting and game strategy change when facing a team for the first time in a season. Portland and Minnesota have been the only West coast teams the boys faced this year so far.
“Both teams need points. It’s a little different playing a Western Conference team, but the points are still valuable,” Curtin said assuring that despite the unique circumstances, the stakes are still the same. “When you’re not playing the teams, there’s a lot less detail in the scouting. You’re not as tuned in to the Western Conference teams because the only time you meet them is in MLS Cup.”
The Union take their six-game unbeaten to Saint Paul on Wednesday night knowing that another road result would put Saturday’s looming Eastern Conference clash into a much larger meaning. Despite that, Curtin has the club just fully focused on the Minnesota match.
“We have to find a way to put together a complete performance and brings back points to Philadelphia.”
Watching the Weather
After playing in wind and rain on Saturday afternoon in Canada, the weather outlook for Wednesday in Minnesota could be setting up for more problems. Wind and cool temperatures will see the Boys in Blue possibly have to break out the thick coats but Curtin said its just part of the beautiful game.
“For certain players it’ll be something new, it’s an adjustment,” Curtin explained. “If you want to be playing in the big games in MLS, you have to get used to the cold weather because it is inevitable down the stretch.”
Curtin said that the staff will put extra focus on the team’s warmups before the opening kick to avoid any injury concerns that cool temperatures can cause for the squad.
Philadelphia Union kicks off against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday, October 20th. Kick off is set for 8 p.m. ET with coverage beginning on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com at 7:30 p.m. ET.