Quote Sheet: June 15th, 2015

jim curtin press conference

John McCarthy
John, this is like old-home week – you go up against Reading and now Rochester, how are you feeling?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It will be nice to see the group of guys and my old coach – they mean a lot to me, the players, so it will be good to get back on the field with them, but that’s not going to be against them so it will be nice.
You have a lot of good memories there with the season you had last year – can you just talk about that and what it meant to you playing for them?
Yeah, I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me. Bob Willy and Scott (Val?) my coaches – and it meant a lot to get a lot of games under my belt as a rookie in the professional world. It did a lot for me, as you can tell – I took a step to the next level and couldn’t be more grateful for them.
Is there any extra incentive – not that you need it – going up against your old team?
No, no – it’s just something that you look forward to and want to take advantage of it – and it doesn’t matter what team it will be, now it’s the Open Cup and it’s a nice tournament that would be something nice to win and this is the first step for it.
What can you tell us about Rochester – for fans and people that haven’t seen them play and don’t know any of their players.
Yeah, they got a good group of guys. This year, they’re undefeated I think in USL so they had a really good run so far in the regular season, and the Open Cup I think they already have a couple of wins under their belt against a few teams. So they have a good group of guys, a good core, and I think about 11-12 guys returning last year so it’s really good for them.
What’s the mindset for a USL team playing against an MLS team? Do they almost feel like they have nothing to lose?
Yeah, pretty much. I mean it’s kinda like you have nothing to lose and they might look at it as an opportunity for them to get a couple extra looks throughout the season – so they go out there and give it their all, come out with their best lineup, and we’re going to take it to them.
Is that really the biggest thing you can take from being in Rochester last year or is that kind of underdog, lower-level mentality?
Yeah, I mean I’m sure they are going to be really hungry. I remember being with them last year, we played against DC United and the NE Revolution and we just tried taking advantage of the opportunity, because like I said we really had nothing to lose but it always makes you want to play a little better and maybe you want to raise your game to the highest level possible during these types of games.
What did it feel like when you guys beat DC United last year?
It was cool. It was really, really cool. It was actually a long game – with an hour and a half rain delay – so even longer than expected, but it was nice. It brought the guys together more and we had an up and down season last year, we were going through some winning spurs and some losing spurs – and to have that win under our belt made us know that we could play with a group of guys at the highest level, so it was really nice.
You guys come off of a stretch of five games where you had those three wins out of four and then kind of a disappointing loss at home to New York – when you look at now having this competition being separate from the league, how do you look at that? Is it a catalyst for getting the league back on track, is it a distraction – what’s the approach?
I look at it like it’s another opportunity to get a game.  You always want to win every game you play, and just to be in the Open Cup it has a little more to it because it’s the longest running tournament in America so there’s a lot of meaning to people in the soccer world, so if you’re one of those people that has an opportunity to win a trophy and especially in the US Open Cup – there’s definitely meaning to it.
What about for you playing wise? It’s been a little bit of a layoff for you without getting any game action, what’s your process and what is your adjustment going to be like?
My process is to just go into it like every other game. Prepare myself every day whether I think I’m going to play or I don’t think I’m going to play, so that when the opportunity does come, and tomorrow will be an opportunity, I plan on being ready to play. 
Jim Curtin
2 games this week – US Open Cup tomorrow against the Rochester Rhinos and LA Saturday. Jim will start with an opening statement then we will open it up to questions.
I think that the brief little break came at a good time for us. Played a bunch of games in a short period of time – obviously we were in a pretty good run of form up until the New York game – the result didn’t go our way, but in the game we created enough chances to at least take a point if not three from the game. A little bit unlucky – New York to their credit took their chances and we didn’t.  The amount of crosses that we got, the runs in the box and the final ball like I talked about were off a little bit – something we have worked on this past week.
As we kind of re-charge our batteries and look ahead to a busy, tough schedule. Open Cup that we will take very seriously with Rochester coming in – a very good team, a team that hasn’t lost the game yet. And then looking forward in league, obviously the Galaxy; top team in the league, Seattle, and a Montreal team that is playing pretty well also. Tough stretch of games coming up – a good challenge for us, a lot of them are at home and that’s a good thing – and we have to do a good job on our home field.
Jim could we get an update on the goalie situation?
Well, for tomorrow John McCarthy will be our starter – Andre will back him up. Andre’s looked sharp in training, capable of getting back a little quicker than we thought, which is good and a positive. Happy with the two of them. Obviously Brian (Sylvestre) is cup-tied, he won’t be able to play with us, pretty much that’s where that stands right now.
Jim how do you approach the lineup for a game like this?
Yeah, it’s a good team coming-in in Rochester. I’ve watched a bunch of tape on them; they don’t concede a lot of goals – they’ve only given up four and scored 16, they’re 8-0-4 so they haven’t been beat this year. We’re going to have to be on our game – can’t take them lightly. They’re a well-coached, organized team and they have a couple weapons. Fortunately, the Dos Santos kid – the striker – is suspended from the Harrisburg game. I don’t think they’ll press us in our building, but maybe they do, it’ll be something we’re ready for but I expect them to sit back a little bit, give us possession, and make us really have to break them down. Which will be a difficult task because they have some big bodies in there. They have guys that are MLS in one or two years and they’re guys with a chip on their shoulder – lot of familiar names if you go through their roster, a bunch of guys that are playing with edge right now and winning. It’ll be a tough task in terms of how we look at our squad – we’re going to have to field a team that is up to the task and without going into too many details into my lineup, it’s going to be a group that will go out and compete and a group that sets us up knowing that we do have a busy stretch. So there could be some younger guys that see minutes.
How do you balance that – obviously a chance for some guys on the fringe to get in, but it’s also something you take seriously.
I think across the board every team treats it differently. I’m a guy who I guess it’s ingrained in me from my time in Chicago that there are only two trophies you can win and this is one of them. We’re going to take it serious.  You see a lot of teams that will throw out – we’ll call them second teams – I don’t think there’s any MLS teams that are deep enough to field two teams yet, with the salary restrictions and stuff, so we’re going to field a strong team. We’re going to field a team as strong as we can, and look to get a result. And yeah, there is a balancing act but we had the fortunate situation – well not fortunate, but a lot of injuries that resulted in lots of guys getting minutes this year maybe before they were ready for them and they’ve rose to the occasion and some have done really well. So again, we’re comfortable going a little deeper into our bench. A lot has been made about our depth, or lack of depth, I don’t fully agree with it. I think we’ve had some injuries – especially the striker position – that instantly makes us thin. When Fernando is hurt, Conor is hurt, Antoine is out – that’s three forwards that have been gone. They are forwards that can play also as a high guy or in a wide position – so you do get thin a little bit quick when you lose three guys at one spot.
I know Conor is probably out, but otherwise it seems to be injury-wise that this might be the best week you’ve had in a while.
Yeah, with the exception of Conor and Lahoud (who had a setback that wasn’t training related, he was doing something on the side) who I was hoping to have back playing and contributing in this game had a minor setback of his own and not in training - off to the side. Disappointed with that – not happy with that since that would give us some real cover in the central midfield, so disappointing that Mike had a setback.
But for the most part, we have the most healthy bodies we’ve had going into a tough stretch. We’re going to need everyone to be called upon.
Those early games in the US open cup last year – especially against Harrisburg – definitely weren’t a walk in the park. A lot of the guys who are on this team this year know that – are they taking that into account?
For sure, yeah. I’ve been warning them as much as possible all week. The early round games are in a lot of ways the toughest – because if you run into a Cosmos, or Rochester, this is a chance for them to knock off one of the higher league in terms of standings – they want to impress and say they belong in MLS as a team, as an individual. So that parts challenging – getting the guys motivated. The key is playing at a tempo and a speed that they’re not maybe used to – when MLS games get ramped up, it is faster, it is a stronger league, but there is any given day a team that can come in here and give you a tough time. Last year you saw it with Harrisburg and the Cosmos – those were our two toughest games – because they are still good teams, they both can play, the guys get paid to play, so they are professionals, as well. It’s challenging to get our guys to be ready for it, you see it so often though, these games become tricky, and MLS teams are going to lose in this round. That’s a fact. Someone is going to go down, it happens every year, and you have to do your best to prevent it. The advantage is we have a home game, we don’t have to travel which is good, and we have a big nice field we can play on. So we have to take care of business, it’s up to us to execute and go on the field and put together a good performance on a Tuesday night.
Does it help at all, having a guy like John (McCarthy) who understands the other side and the mentality that Rochester is going to bring into this?
Yeah, for sure.  He helps in the scouting, he helps in all the little things. So again, he’s a guy who has been on both sides – he can speak to how good of a team this Rochester group is – they weren’t as strong last year, but this year they have come in and really separated themselves from a lot of the other teams in the league and are doing really well. Again, we’re not going to have a let down or be caught off guard or underestimate them in any way. John has played both sides, obviously he wants to get a win now for Philadelphia.
Jim, Wilson Palacios was out there training today. Anything to say about him?
Yeah Wilson has been in with us for about a week now. He’s done well – he is a guy who obviously his career speaks for itself. In the international level with the World Cup, with Tottenham, with Stoke, so a guy who has played at big clubs. We had him in for the week to take a look at him – he’ll still be here through Wednesday and we’ll have to make a decision after that, but he’s been good.
Is he able to be signed at this point? Contractually?
Yeah, we’re always looking to upgrade our roster and have competition at every spot, so again it’s just like any normal team right now, the window is about to open up in July and there will be some player movement not only from our team, but from a lot of teams in MLS.
Is he out of contract?
I can’t speak for him, he’s not our player.
When you look at the numbers that Rochester has posted – only four goals given up in twelve games – does that do anything for you in terms of how you’re going to craft the attack? Does that change the mentality?
Yeah, they have a big back four. Their left-back is 6’5, other centre backs aren’t as big but they are still good in the air. So again it’s not just going to be a game where we are dumping balls into the box and expecting us to get on the end of head balls – it’s going to take getting to the end line, balls cut back on the ground, the timing of our runs, the things that we did not do against NYCFC, to be honest. We did all the hard work to get into that great dangerous spot and then the final ball was lacking, so we’ve worked on getting low crosses on the ground because they do have some big bodies in there and they win their battles. They are a well-coached, organized team, so it’s going to take something to break them down and it’s only happened four times this year – it’s an impressive number.
In a lot of ways, these Cup runs are different than you’re regular season form. The two don’t always go hand in hand. You look at DC going on their run and winning – Rochester is the only team not in MLS to have won this trophy – so you see it all over the world. Sometimes cup runs are not related to form of a team in the regular season – so everyone is dangerous – there will be lots of little upsets, games that go into overtime, and penalty kicks and drama. That’s what makes this competition great – anyone can enter it – obviously the MLS teams get some by’s, but if a team goes on a run there are always these March-madness like Cindarella stories that come out which make the FA Cup so special, and which make the US Open Cup so special.
I do agree with the comments Ziggy had – it would be nice to have it be a little more random, because again you look ahead and we’re probably going to play New York City or the Cosmos so there is that East Coast plays East Coast every year, New England or DC or NY that we’re going to see – so it would be cool to get sent out West to play a USL Pro team out there. Scheduling comes up and I understand all that, but it would be nice to see different matchups each year because it is kind of strict and rigid as far as that goes and you run into the same teams over and over.
Jim, when you look at the way this team made it to the final last year, you’re a Vincent Nogueira hitting the post away from winning the whole thing – what is the players mentality (in returning)? Do you get the sense that they are looking forward to play in this tournament?
Yeah you can see there’s a bounce in the guys step. You brought up the term unfinished business – we went deep in this thing – as deep as you could go and as close as we could get to lifting the trophy. When that game finished on our home field, I made sure the guys stayed out there the entire time and took it all in when Seattle got their medals. A) Because it’s the right thing to do out of respect for the champion. But also: B) Because that’s what should drive you in pro sports. That  feeling of coming so close and not getting there and feeling so sick to your stomach – it should motivate you and push you on to bigger and brighter things. All the teams that eventually go on to win things go through these tough moments, and that was as tough and as low a moment as we could go through. I think it hurt us in our form in league down the stretch because it was such a let down and it was tough to keep everyone going, but something that I can say each guy learned from that – playing in a big game like that with a great crowd like that, against a great opponent – it’s a great teaching point for a lot of guys and to be so close and just come so short and letting our fans down, they do feel a little ownership this time, and again – you go on a five game run. You have to win five games so at this stage it’s going to be up to us to do that to get back and try and finish things up this time. It was close.
What’s Fernando’s status?
His ankle is still quite not right – he’s had some tests and scans and all of those come up negative, but you know when he strikes the ball he still has pain, so again it’s been a struggle injury wise with Fernando. Again, you guys know I love him as a player – how hard he works, but it’s just been tough getting consistent weeks where he’s healthy in training. But again, a guy who will play through anything but just has been a little unlucky with the injuries he’s taken.
And Steve (Vitoria)
Steve has been good. He got his first minutes in the Reading game, you know again different level than MLS speed of play but good exercise for him. He’s started to look good in training, getting his legs back so positives in that regard. It also gives us some depth and cover at the center back spot which is good.
So Fernando it doesn’t sound like … (will play on Tuesday)
No, it doesn’t sound like it. I was optimistic he was going to be able to play against New York City, right up until game time he did a pre-game test and failed that. So he knew right away that he couldn’t do it when he tried to push off and sort of cut so it changed our subbing in the New York game to have him for 15 or 20 minutes would have been a nice thing, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Brian Carroll has been playing very well and looks like the player who won the title with Columbus back in the day. Is it sustainable for him to play that way?
It’s a good question. Brian has had a rejuvenation – there’s no question about it – he was sharp in training leading up to getting the minutes that he got, he really earned them. He’s a lead by example, quiet guy, but when he’s gone on the field, he’s done his talking with his feet this year – he’s been excellent and put together a really good run of games. Has a little bit of a sore groin, so again the age is a factor – it catches up with him, so we have to be smart in how we manage him tomorrow and how we manage him knowing that LA is coming up and the importance of having a holding guy in there against the good LA team. So managing the minutes, not getting over-zealous, and throwing him out there game after game when he has the possibility, like any player, of breaking down. So again, he knows his body well, always fit, but his play has been exceptional and he has given us an anchor there and I think his play gives Vincent a little more freedom, and it gives Choco – it makes them both look better also. It’s good what the three of them have going right now – we do have a tough decision tomorrow to manage it the right way with the thought of getting a result against Rochester and doing everything possible. 

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