With the Supporters Shield celebration behind them the Philadelphia Union will open their MLS Cup playoff run against the New England Revolution. Head coach Jim Curtin took to the media to discuss the opening playoff match. Here are a few key takeaways from Coach Curtin’s presser.
The Brick Wall is Back
Union fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief as it was announced that goalkeeper Andre Blake is back in the lineup. Blake missed the final two matches of the regular season after suffering a fracture in his against the Chicago Fire. Following a successful surgery and a timely break, Blake has able to fully participate in the last three training sessions for the team. Passing every test so far, he looks healthy and ready to go for the Union’s match against the Revolution.
Blake will train on Monday to make sure his hand feels ready to go for the game. Along with Blake returning the club also welcomes Jamiro Monteiro back from his time with the Cape Verde national team. Monteiro played in two games before hopping on a charter flight back to Philadelphia to join the club for the playoffs. He passed all of his tests to rejoin the team and will be ready for action Tuesday night. The club will be without Olivier Mbaizo, who after dealing with green card issues had to take a commercial flight back to Philadelphia and is now in quarantine. The team hopes to have him back as soon as possible.
Having spent the season as the proverbial underdog and using that mentality to stay hungry week in and week out the Union enter the playoffs with a target on their backs. This is unchartered territory for the Union; however, the team is trying to keep the same mentality they have always had. With a team that features as many prolific young players and the sudden new media coverage it would not be uncommon to get lost in the attention and think highly of yourself. The Union have kept that in check, and the credit goes to the veteran leaders in the locker room. This group has known they were capable of more than people gave them credit for and will stay hungry and humble throughout the playoffs playing with a chip on their shoulder. After watching some of the preliminary matches and other MLS Cup playoff matches the team knows they will have to play their game and play smart. We saw some mental lapses in other games that dictated the outcome or how the playoffs will look for some teams. The Union know they will have to be disciplined and focused. Players need not try to do more than they are asked to do. As long as they play their game to the best of their ability, they should compete with any team they face along the way. The center back pairing of Glesnes and McKenzie will help lighten the load on Andre Blake, who has been in high pressure situations before and consistently performs.
Across the pitch will be an opponent the Union have seen quite well in 2020 as they’ll square off against the Revolution for the sixth time this season. The clubs know each other inside and out at this point, making the scouting work light for the Union heading into the game. The Union hold the edge with a 4-0-1 record over the Revolution, also adding a win in the MLS is Back Tournament. All that being said the Union are not taking their opponent lightly. They have immense respect for the Revolution and are well aware of how dangerous of a club they can be. Head coach Bruce Arena is well versed when it comes to the playoffs, as the league leader in playoff matches and wins, and five MLS Cups to boot. Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou are playing some of their best soccer of the season each scoring in the preliminary round bout against Montreal with Bou providing the dagger in the 95th minute. Gil is a challenge in the midfield on his own as big players are made for the playoffs, and Curtin recognizes that it will not be a one-man effort to contain him. He is not the kind of player you can shut down for a full 90 minutes as he pops up all over the field. However, the Union will use a team effort to limit his time and space with the ball.
The Union kick off their play in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, November 28th. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.