The calendar recently flipped to a fresh month and in doing so, Philadelphia Union interim manager Jim Curtin recently took some time to discuss a number of subjects with Philadelphiaunion.com.
Curtin has very quietly guided the Union to a 9-2-4 record in all competitions since taking the reins in June, the latest a 1-0 victory over Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC on Wednesday night. With another game against Toronto at BMO Field on Saturday (2 p.m., The Comcast Network) in addition to matches against New York (Sept. 13) and a massive U.S. Open Cup final against Seattle Sounders FC at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets), Curtin took time out to discuss a very busy September, one that will be vital to ascertaining if this club will be in the mix for MLS postseason contention.
Philadelphiaunion.com: Sebastien Le Toux has been in great form. Was it surprising to see him play against Harrisburg in last Thursday’s friendly?
Jim Curtin: “We gave the guys off basically two-and-a-half, three days off. It was a good exercise. I wanted to give the group about 30 minutes. Just to get the rustiness off and to do it in a game environment makes it easier. He’s in good form right now. Part of it right now is to get them a run, get them a sweat and it’s at a high intensity level. We pulled those guys back and pushed others forward. I wanted to get Seba some time in a game environment.”
PU.com: You’re 9-2-4 in all competitions since taking over. That’s very impressive. What are your thoughts with how you’ve fared?
Curtin: “Your record, that was my first line when I got here, I said that I’m about winning. You can talk and say all these things, how you’re going to play formation-wise, what your substitution patterns are … I told (CEO & Operating Partner) Nick (Sakiewicz), we had the talent to win with this roster. We added Carlos (Valdes), Rais (Mbolhi). For the most part, it’s the same group and they’ve responded well. We have had trust right from the start and we’ve gotten some momentum. I’m a big believer that your record says what you are. I think this group has proven that’s exactly what they are.”
PU.com: September is a very busy month for you with important league matches as well as the U.S. Open Cup final against Seattle. Do you go game-by-game or do you look at the big picture?
Curtin: “I’m not going to sit here and lie and say we don’t talk about the Open Cup final. It’s a huge game and a top priority. The playoffs are a top priority as well. But you can balance both of those. We offer little hints and messages when moments are right about Seattle. That’s what you want a final to be. You want it to be something special. You want to play against the best and that’s Seattle in our league. It’s a different task for that one. You do prioritize it and say Toronto is next. There will be hints to come about Seattle and we will talk about it when the moment is right.
PU.com: This is a great chance for the Union to grab a large chunk of the spotlight in the Philadelphia sports scene. What do you think about it?
Curtin: “We can steal a little bit of Philly sports love from the fans right now. The things that are happening down here are positive and there’s a lot of excitement going on. Our fans will be here regardless, but to steal some of the new fans, you get a few wins. The city loves winners … The Phils are struggling a little bit, the Sixers are in rebuilding mode, we’ll call it. The Flyers haven’t done a ton in the offseason. Obviously, it’s an exciting time for soccer. This is an Eagles town and they’ll obviously keep it going. We have a nice little niche for ourselves and we have a great following and we can convert a few fans with some more wins. The whole idea to me is an exciting one.”
PU.com: Maurice Edu and Amobi Okugo have played very well together. What have you seen?
Curtin: “They have a strong friendship off the field which plays into it a little bit. It’s a very close knit group and the guys are good friends off field and it carries over onto the field. When the game starts, they have each other’s. It’s an exercise in playing off each other. For Mo and Amobi, when one stepped up, one stepped to cover. It seemed to be very natural. I’m very happy with their partnership on the field.”
PU.com: With such a crazy month, is there added pressure?
Curtin: “I don’t think so. The guys, you can tell, are very upbeat. They’re competing hard but they’re competing hard the right way. There’s competition at every spot. It’s good and obviously winning is the ultimate cure. When you win, everyone is happy and no one is asking questions and that’s good. Winning is the ultimate cure keeps everyone smiling. Right now, our training sessions are as intense as ever. The talent is here and now it’s starting to rise.”
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org