jim curtin press conference

Just to briefly touch on Toronto, I thought at moments in the second half we pushed the game well, especially with the three in the back. A couple guys had good performances. Richie Marquez really stepped into a tough spot as a center back. He performed really well against two of the top forwards in our league. It was really positive in that regard. I thought Ethan White had a solid game as well. They’re two good, young center backs to hopefully build on and get some momentum as we struggled giving up goals. So again, we’re happy to have that performance from them.
I thought the goal Fernando scored was a good goal. Looking back I think Collen Warner keeps him on side. When things are going bad though, you don’t tend to get the benefit of the doubt on these tough calls so it’s disappointing. We have a real tough task to go to Vancouver. They’re a team that is a top team right now in the league defensively. They lead the league in shut outs. We’re a team who’s struggling offensively so it’ll be difficult. They have five clean sheets and then attack wise, with Rivero and Matias and Morales with them in the middle. They’re a top attacking team as well so it will be a tough task to go there on the road. We’ll have to put together a game plan to defend well first obviously and then to hit them a little on the counter.
On goalkeeping:
Jim- First, Rais is a Philadelphia Union player still. That part never changed. There have been teams in Europe that have inquired about him in the future and the windows aren’t open right now. We’ll always listen and explore but he is a Union player first and foremost. Yesterday in training we had both goalkeepers go down with injuries. Unfortunately with Andre, we just got word and confirmation that he tore his right meniscus. It’s almost the exact same injury as the preseason. He’ll be getting surgery tentatively, probably as soon as possible.
Coincidentally, I got an email today from Jamaica asking to call him in and be a part of the goal so I’m really devastated for the kid. He’s had a tough run, obviously with the knee injury, so I feel bad for him. John had a strange play in the game where he actually threw the ball and fell awkwardly on it. They stopped the game for a little bit and there was a little contact to his head. Concussions are very sensitive right now, as they should be, and in training right after Andre left, John had a ball that was blocked and it hit him in the side of the head. It was just evaluated by the doctors and he’ll be out with a concussion.
What was the timeline on this?
Rais came in yesterday evening and that was his first training session. The injuries were after he showed up.
What was the discussion with Rais on coming back?
We’ve been in contact with Rais and we had him scheduled to come back and the thinking was to train, stay fit and stay sharp. Obviously this unique situation arises and we have to adjust and we have a decision to make for the weekend. There are a couple options that we’re exploring right now and we haven’t made a final one but we’ll see.
Who are the other candidates?
There’s guys that are familiar with the team and Brian Sylvestre came to mind. That was the first one that popped into my head. Again, these players are going to be on other teams right now so it will be a unique situation where you might have to loan for a guy, similar to Montreal. It might be a short-term loan scenario. With Andre’s injury being a long one and knowing that you’re going to miss him anyway in the summer, a decision will have to be made.
When Rais left the first time, whose idea was that?
It was my idea. I decided that it was best for him to be away from the team. We took him away for a month and decided it was time for him to come back.
Is there anything specific in a contract where if a player is not playing he still must train?
He is still a Union player. If you mutually agree to have time away that’s fine. You can’t physically prevent someone from training if there’s a violation of team rules, which in this case, there hasn’t been.
Have you seen any kind of change in him since he’s gotten back?
He’s been sharp in training which is good. I’m all for second chances. So again, we’ll see how it goes. We’ve had some unique situations. I had a good conversation with C.J. Sapong with a similar thing where now he’s going to get an opportunity again, after making a little bit of a mistake. It’s a part of pro sports and it’s a part of life.
How is the team doing with the goalkeeping drama?
It’s a lot. The group has been through a lot already this year in terms of crazy finishes and some things going against you, injuries, and difficult things. They’re still a tough group. I think that we are still together and we’re going to fight to try to get a result in Vancouver, a tough place. Nothing really galvanizes a team more than working together. That’s the only solution at this point. You can talk about having team meetings, staff meetings, talk about trading guys, bringing in new players, or keeping the group together. The only thing that solves it is the 90 minutes on the field and getting a result. That’s the only cure. Talk becomes cheap at this stage so we have to go into Vancouver and find a way to get a result.
Is there any timeline on Andre’s injury?
I literally just got out of the room with the trainers and it was the same injury, the meniscus, so the timeline will be a similar one. Again, it’s a really hard situation for a young kid. He still has a lot of years in front of him. He’s got to get through a tough situation and try and stay positive in a tough time.
Is there a timeline on John?
He felt bad last night. “Woozy” was the way he described it. He just didn’t feel like himself so he came in today and was evaluated by the doctors and they diagnosed him with a concussion. The protocol is that until he has no symptoms and feels fine he will be out an additional six days after that at a minimum. They’re very cautious now with head injuries, as they should be.
Is there any connection with John and the injury on Saturday?
I don’t think so. I don’t think the incident in the game helped. It was a strange play where the pass gets played back to his feet. He was a little hesitant and looks up and gets closed up and he ends up having to slide and kick the ball and it rockets off of Catic and hits him in the temple. He wasn’t out cold or anything but he was out on the ground for a little while.
Is the timing of this all pretty crazy for you?
Yeah, I’d say the timing is beyond crazy. I’ve never seen two goalkeepers get hurt in one training session. I’ve never seen two goalkeepers get hurt in a season, let alone 45 seconds apart.
How do you try and manage all of this with the other players?
You have to try and keep things on the inside and try to keep the group tight going together and on the same page. We haven’t played great soccer. We’re aware of that and we can all play better and do a better job. We have fought and worked hard. With the exception of the Columbus game, every game we’ve been involved in we’ve been IN the game. You have to kind of keep things inside. We’ve had some good, hard discussions and we’re trying to improve and get better each week. It’s been a difficult time. We see different articles that are written and it’s been tough for NYCFC and all of the teams that are toward the bottom of the table right now. We have to stick together and dig ourselves out of a hole.
On Ray playing the right
If you go back to the offseason, I had a tough conversation with Sheanon. He’s a player that I like a lot and I think highly of. He had a decent preseason. The season started and he some decent moments in games and he had some tough moments where he may be responsible for goals being scored, as were other players. I think Ray’s been the one who has always sacrificed and moved to the left on his weak foot. At this stage I’ve made the decision to move him to the right. Again, Sheanon had some good games and some bad games and now we’ll let Ray be the one that makes that position move forward. We have to work on all of the angles and playing passes out with his right foot. Sheanon will compete with Fabi for the left back spot.
On Sheanon this season
I think players go through highs and lows in their career and luckily for him, his career is still young. It’s early on. Again, in the offseason we had a tough discussion where I’ve said that I think he has the talent to be on the national team. It’s up to him now to grab ahold of that and keep going. He does have the qualities and a player that a lot of coaches in our league think of highly. He’s got a good right foot and the ability to get up and down the line but talking about it and doing it are two different things. I just want to get him back playing more consistently.
How is your confidence level on Rais against Vancouver?
It’s only been two training sessions so I can’t say that I’ve seen anything different. We have two injured goalkeepers and he’s our third one who’s under contract. We still will explore. It’s an environment in Vancouver where you’re going to have to make some saves to stay in the game no matter who is in goal. Hopefully he’ll be up to the task if we do decide to go with him. It’s a tough place to go and get a result.
When was the agreement on bringing Rais back?
I believe it was Sunday evening, late.
Who will start in goal against Vancouver?
It’s to be determined. The one thing that I know is that Andre is out 100 percent. John is ruled out and then we have a decision. Rais is obviously up for selection as the last man standing so we will still explore and see what that looks like. We have some calls coming in already to see who’s available and what we can and can’t do because we’re going to need to add a second goalkeeper regardless because you can’t go there with just one.
Who was on the field today?
That was Andrew Verdi. He’s an academy goalkeeper.
On other injuries
Fernando had the pin removed from his hand. He says his quad is 100 percent so he’ll be fine and ready to go. Nogueira trained full today for the first time. He trained a little bit yesterday as well. He looks good but probably not 90 minute ready yet. He might be used as a reserve. We’ll see as the game gets closer. Vitoria is unlikely for the weekend. Lahoud will be out. He has a hip flexor injury and he will be out 4-6 weeks or so.
On Lahoud
It’s difficult with Mike because he’s been in the best form in his career and now he has a setback unfortunately. In the third minute it actually happens and I think he left the game in the fifth but it’s a freak one. He’s a guy who’s very fit and takes care of his body very well.
On Vancouver
Everybody talks about how they’re a young, dynamic team but if you really look, their back line is playing as good as any right now. I think that Matias Laba does a great job and is underappreciated in our league. As a holding midfielder he breaks up a lot of plays and he is a big reason why they lead the league in clean sheets. Some games they’ll go with Koffie next to him and that’s when they’re a little more defensive. Teibert is another great young player that doesn’t get the appreciation. Rivera up top is scoring goals for them. He’s a handful. He is a good, young, attacking player. I think they’re underappreciated but they’ve done a great job defensively.
On Richie
If you look at Toronto, Toronto didn’t high press us. Vancouver will but you’re not going to play two better players than Jozy and Giavinco. Richie was up for it. He’s a kid who rises up to the occasion. For a young player it’s going to be a big jump on the road and at the center back spot, it’s crazy. There’s going to be moments where his head’s spinning and it might feel like too much but those are the moments where you have to grab ahold of things and trust in your abilities, make a couple good plays and realize that something will click and I think there were moments for him where he belonged in this league. Physically, he can compete with anyone. You can look at the testing and he’s off the charts with vertical leaps and speed. He is above and beyond the usual. The thing you can’t really prepare him for is the speed of play. When the game starts and you have two and three things to deal with and you’re looking over your shoulder and your heads on a swivel, that’s new to him. So it’s going to be tough for him if we do decide to go with him but he’s had some good days of training. Like I said before, the only way we improve or learn as a player is to go through the 90 minutes together, stick together, and Richie was a bright spot.
Is Richie going to start?
We’re not 100 percent yet but with process of elimination there are only so many bodies that can play center back for us. We’ve talked about Ray in the back or other ways we can do it but I don’t think we quite have the personnel who is healthy right now to make drastic changes or roll the dice with someone in that regard.
On C.J.
I had a good talk with C.J. but it’s a personal one that will stay between us but the league has decided for C.J. to go out California. He’s being evaluated for a week and we’ll make a decision on how to move forward. He’s still a player I believe strongly in. He’s a good kid. He’s an intelligent, young man that made a mistake. He’s dealing with the consequences right now but he’s a guy that I still believe strongly in and the Philadelphia Union believes him.