With playoffs hopes dashed, media coverage and some fan questions have shifted to who exactly will Union interim manager Jim Curtin and his technical staff play in the season finale this Sunday against the Columbus Crew (4 p.m., The Comcast Network).
Many believe that with season under wraps, Curtin should give younger players a run in-game simply just to do so. And while Curtin vowed that young talented players will always hold a spot on his roster, young under developed ones won’t ever crack his Starting XI.
“I have 30 guys that I deal with and it would not be fair that if they’re ahead [on the depth chart] for the first eight months, and they outperform in training every day, who am I to just say ‘eh, the season’s over, I’m going to throw them out; all your hard work meant nothing, we’re going to start these guys now,’” Curtin said during his final pregame press conference of the regular season. “I don’t believe in that [way of thinking] and I don’t think it’s respectable to the other guys on the team.”
Since taking over the position in June, Curtin has repeatedly said that the best XI will crack the field. However, during the course of the season Curtin has rewarded players down on the depth chart with a spot in the game day 18 and even earning minutes over the course of the season.
But now with the season “lost” as many believe due to a disappointing final third of the MLS campaign, the notion that you trot out youth just to give them experience is bad practice for any young up and coming professional, says Curtin.
“[Look at players like] Jimmy [McLaughlin] and Zach [Pfeffer] who were rewarded by dressing for last game," said Curtin. "I think it’s a process. Jimmy had a good season with Harrisburg and we were very happy with how it went. So the reward was to put him on the bench. Again, I don’t know if it’s best for a guy’s development to just throw him into the fire, especially against Kansas City or a Columbus team that is very good. They’re up for selection, but I don’t believe you just throw guys out there because they’re young and the season is over. Just because I don’t think that sets them up for success. It’s a gradual process where you work your way up.”
Players know this is how things work too.
Recently Zach Pfeffer addressed members of the Union’s youth academy and during his 10 minute presentation repeatedly preached hard work and patience. Pfeffer, who was the Union’s first homegrown player signing in 2011 has trained with the first team for the majority of the 2014 season, but has entered only a handful of matches. With the last match of season, Pfeffer continues to battle daily in training and hopes that it equates to some meaningful minutes.
Could it happen? Of course it could, but to expect it is something Pfeffer as a professional knows isn’t going to occur.
“We can’t really sacrifice games,” said Curtin. “Again, I don’t want to be the team that does that. I still think that every time you put your team on the field, you learn something from them. Could I start one of [those] guys? Yea that’s still an option, it really is. I’m not just going to throw three or four out there to get their butts kicked by Columbus. I don’t think that’s been beneficial for anybody. Can they get thrown into a game and pull off a play – could Zach [Pfeffer] or Jimmy [McLaughlin] score a goal? Absolutely. They’re capable of that. But does that guarantee they are guys that are pros and ready to start in MLS? I don’t believe that.”
Do you agree with Curtin’s comments? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org