Philadelphia Union have claimed the 2020 Supporters’ Shield, the first trophy in club history, and now have fully turned their attention to the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Head Coach Jim Curtin took to the media to discuss the upcoming playoff run. Here are a few key takeaways from Thursday’s media availability.
Sunday night was certainly a moment that both players and fans won’t forget as the Union celebrated at Subaru Park the Supporters’ Shield win after knocking off the New England Revolution for the fifth time in. The team took their time to celebrate after the win taking pictures with both shields and enjoyed a couple of days off to enjoy their victory.
Wednesday also saw the league announce that a few Union members are up for big awards this season. Andre Blake is in the running for the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year as well as MVP, Mark McKenzie is up for the Defensive Player of the Year, Brenden Aaronson could be the AT&T Young Player of the Year in addition to Curtin being a finalist for Coach of the Year. Curtin has said all year long that when the team has success the individual accolades will come, and theyhave. This is just the start for the Union who have effectively hit reset since the Shield win and now have their eyes on the MLS Cup and nothing else now. The team will certainly have a target on their backs as the top team in the league, but don’t expect them to change the way they play. This is a team that has flexed their versatility through the season and relied on all 11 playing as a cohesive unit to compete with any team in the league
Like other regular season trophies in American sports, there is worry that there is a Supporters’ Shield curse as only seven teams have won the double in the same season. In even more recent history on only three teams have won the double in the last 17 seasons. The Union are not buying into the curse, but merely recognizing that the MLS Cup is extremely difficult to win. The advantage the Union will have is that any team that wants to claim it has to come through Subaru Park at some point, a place the Union made league history as they were the first team to not suffer a home loss all season. Being at home often creates pressure in the minds of players who feel that since they are at home they should win. This concern should be alleviated for the team as long as they are not trying to do more than they have all year. They have had a winning recipe with all 11 playing their role, and Curtin’s coaching staff will make sure to create an environment to relieve that pressure. They believe they have what it takes to win the MLS Cup and under Curtin’s guidance the club will play their style of soccer that has gotten them this far.
Center Back Pairing
After weeks of wondering who the center back pairing will be for the Union during their playoff will be run it seems the team has made a decision. The team is comfortable with the pairing of Mark McKenzie and Jakob Glesnes, who have done a great job this season. There will be an element of looking at who the opponent is and what line up best suits what the team needs, but as it stands these two will look to lock down opposing forwards during the club’s playoff run. Having such a wealth of talent posed difficult decisions for Curtin where he knows that not everyone will be happy. However, the professionalism the team has shown all season just goes to show that this team is one cohesive unit right down to the last man on the bench, all striving for the same goal of an MLS Cup. Jack Elliott could see some time at the six position, as he has a few times this season. With some key players likely to miss some time with their quarantine period after the international break, Elliott’s versatility provides the Union with a lot of breathing room for the playoffs.
The Union will begin their run in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, November 24th at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The Boys in Blue will face the lowest remaining seed from the Eastern Conference Play-In Rounds which could be the Montreal Impact , Inter Miami CR, or New England for the sixth time in 2020.