The last two matches were extremely difficult to stomach.
Jim Curtin feels it. The players feel it. So do the fans.
Last Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew, in which the Philadelphia Union gave away a late 2-0 lead, has been tough on the entire organization. One match earlier, the Union relinquished a 1-0 advantage in stoppage time and finished with a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire.
“Right now obviously, morale is low,” said Curtin, the Union’s interim manager. “We have had two good training sessions. Maybe it’s almost that the pressure is off. We’ve seen a lot of good plays, a lot of goals today. Again, the guys are devastated. They feel like they let the fans down. We all feel that way. I had a good talk with them. We broke down the tape of the Columbus game, as hard as that was, and we went through it this morning. It doesn’t change. Guys are crushed. You think about the different plays that could have been made and the different things that could have been done to prevent it. We talked through it. You have to find a way to learn from it.”
Even though the Union are winless in their last five matches, Curtin is looking at the big picture.
“I spoke with the group about the positives of the past 21 games,” Curtin said. “We sit 10-5-6 in our last 21 games which is a positive. We’re trying to draw from that. I think as the lights got brighter in these bigger games, in these pressure moments, things get scrutinized more and every play matters more, we came up a little short across the board. Over the time, a tie feels like a loss and those things started to mount on the guys. Again, they have to learn from it. I encourage them, as hard as it is, to watch the playoffs, watch what those games look like because if they think that there’s pressure in games we’ve just played, it gets ramped up to a whole other level. When you look on the field, not a lot of guys have played in those playoff-type games. I believe it’s Conor (Casey), who has played in several, Seba (Sebastien Le Toux) has played in several. I believe nobody else has more than two. A lot of them have zero. They have to learn from the past 21 games we’ve had and now learn and watch the playoffs and what those games look like. As hard as it may be, that’s our goal for next season. We have to be in the playoffs.”
The Union easily could have secured a playoff berth with six points in the last two matches. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Those agonizing two matches continue to gnaw at Curtin.
“I would say, I’m a young coach but I won’t have two more devastating what felt like losses in a row the rest of my career,” Curtin said. “I will try my best to prevent that. Those were difficult to swallow. The one against Chicago, you fight hard to get up 1-0 and guys make a couple bad decisions, go backwards and we learn from it. The Columbus one was harder, to be honest, to collapse and give up three goals is inexcusable. We’ve talked about that. The guys know that and they’re crushed. They’re devastated. But you have to find a way to learn from it and you have to pick yourself up and go to 2015 and get things right.”
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org