Ahead of his club’s quarterfinal matchup against Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with members of the media for his weekly pregame press conference. Here are some of the top takeaways from Curtin’s 20 minute presser.
The eyes of Europe
With nearly all of the European leagues’ seasons completed, reports have been drifting across the Atlantic that clubs are keeping their eyes on the MLS is Back Tournament with hopes of finding fresh talent. Those reports mention both Union homegrown Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson but Curtin said that the news isn’t a surprise to him.
“It’s real, there is a lot of reports and media covering our top players,” Curtin said when asked about the subject. “It’s always flattering to have some reports and interest in your young players and it’s no secret in our model is to now sell our first player to Europe. Keeping Mark and Brenden specifically humble and hungry is the job of our entire technical staff. Their talent is there and if they continue to play the way they do I’m sure some real concrete offers will come in for them and if its the right time and makes the right sense for both sides then we may be making the transaction.”
Despite the distractions Curtin said both players have just one goal for Orlando and that’s to bring home silverware for the City of Brotherly Love.
Underdogs no more?
It seems as more and more teams depart Orlando the odds raise for the Union to bring home the MLS is Back trophy as the current odds place the Boys in Blue just behind LAFC as favorites to win the event. While Curtin was flattered by the hype he continued to pump the brakes as he pushes his side for a perfect 90-minute performance.
“That’s a new role for us and one where the praise is great from the other general managers and players in the league that our team does play good soccer, defends well and attacks well, Curtin said. “We aren’t there yet and have a lot to work on and improve upon. The club certainly is moving in the right direction and it’s something to be proud of but we can’t rest for a second because more than any other sport the game of soccer has a way of humbling you and bringing you back to Earth very quickly.”
Magical Minute 63
Curtin pointed out an amazing fact when asked about his club’s ability to turn on the offense late in matches, pointing to that the 63rd minute of play has seen three goals in the club’s four matches at the MLS is Back Tournament. All three goals have been game-winning goals too with strikes from Alejandro Bedoya, Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos. So what is about the 63rd minute? Curtin said it all starts with the first 60.
“It does point to that we have a way by starting in the 4-4-2 diamond of grinding and wearing teams down a bit,” Curtin said. “Once that 60th minute hits and the teams fatigue a bit we do have a gamechanger in Ilsinho and our shape can change a little and spaces get a little bigger. We made adjustments around the 60th minute and tactically our players have been able to get goals during that time frame. It’s a credit to work they’ve put in those 60 minutes. We aren’t fun to play against and when you look at data wise that final 30 minute window is when we’ve done well.”
Philadelphia Union battles Sporting Kansas City for the first spot in the semifinals on Thursday, July 30th. Kick off from Orlando is set for 8 p.m. ET with the match to be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.