Curtin serious
Greg Carrocio

Open and honest: Union head coach Jim Curtin provides insight into his offseason and beyond

There’s no such thing as an offseason for a head coach.

There may be small breaks here and there, but it’s a 24-7, 365 job these days.

Just ask Jim Curtin.

Earlier this week, the recently-named head coach of the Philadelphia Union was busy evaluating players at the club’s Pro Combine at YSC Sports. After doing so, Curtin took some time to discuss a wide variety of topics with philadelphiaunion.com:

On what it means to be the person in charge as head coach:

“I’ve enjoyed it. I have a very good staff in Mike Sorber and B.J. Callaghan and Chris Albright, who I really trust. Putting yourself with good people around you makes these decisions easier. I get good feedback and we have little arguments but it’s all positive. We all want what’s best for the Philadelphia Union to improve and for the Philadelphia Union to be in the playoffs. My goal is to talk to my team from the preseason on is to be in the playoffs. It’s the only thing we’re going to talk about.”

On the marathon MLS season: 

“It’s a grind. I’m going to ask from our front office on down to constantly speak about the playoffs. So much so that it becomes engrained in our players mind. I want them to hear it (playoff talk) so much that they’re sick of it. It’s part of the goal of the team. Once we get into the playoffs, we’ve proven we can play with anybody. You saw that in the Open Cup run. In one-off games, we’ve proven we can go toe to toe with anybody. Our goal is to get into the playoffs and from there we think anything can happen. We have the quality in our team to do that. We will add some pieces to put us over the top."

On acquiring C.J. Sapong: 

“C.J. is a guy I’ve liked from when he was back here playing at Reading. He’s a guy who I’ve followed closely in the league and who I’ve always put my two cents in to make a move for. When the opportunity rose, we jumped on it. To have that as one of my first moves is to bring in a player of C.J.’s quality and a double-digit goal scorer and he can play any of the front three spots. It’s a guy who gets on the end of crosses, runs hard in the box, he’s been a champion in Kansas City. I can’t say enough about him. I’m really excited to have him on board and I expect big things from him. I had a phone conversation with him the other day and we talked for a while. The conversation ended and I said, ‘All I need is double-digit goals.’ He said, ‘Great.’ So he’s ready to go and he’s excited.”

On the responsibility of being a head coach: 

“You try to delegate things and make things run as smoothly as possible. For example, B.J. has done a great job running this [professional combine at YSC Sports]. It’s been handled really well. You’re on the phone constantly. As the head coach, you have more ownership, more responsibility. It’s a responsibility that I embrace and I want. I want the pressure of it. I ask our fans to judge our roster when March comes around. We’re still piecing it together. There are highs and lows in the offseason with things that come in, the different opinions on things. I would ask to judge it in March. We’ll have some more pieces in here.”

On the players being anxious to come back and play in 2015: 

“I like to hear that. I think the way the season ended and with us being so close in the Open Cup final and getting our first trophy and then coming so close to the playoffs and not making it left a real sour taste in guys’ mouths. They wanted more. At every end-of-the-year meeting I had with guys individually, they wanted to keep going. They’re excited to get going for next year. It should motivate you. When you’re so close to something, it should motivate you as a player. I’ve said it before – maybe we weren’t ready. Again, you learn from those big moments and those big games we played at the end of the year and the Open Cup final and the games leading to the playoff push. I think you have to learn from those. We lost some heartbreaking games. Guys don’t want to ever get that feeling again. As a player, you try to never have those feelings again.”

On possibly bringing back veterans such as Conor Casey and Brian Carroll:

“I still think those guys contribute on the field, maybe not as much as earlier in their career but they play valuable roles to what I’m trying to accomplish. They spread my message through the locker room and are a big part of helping us turn things around from the beginning of the year. Those are guys important to me and you have to keep guys like that close to the team. If the team culturally wants to move forward and become the Galaxys, the Seattles, the teams that have a real culture, we have to treat our players the right way and we have to do it in a way that they are kind of the standard. The messages of the club have to get passed down from them at the highest level. They’re important parts. I can’t speak highly enough for what Brian has done for the club in the two years he’s been here. They’re going to fight in preseason to be starters because that’s how they’re programmed, but you can’t rely so heavily as they get later and later in their careers. But they can still do a job and help in this league for sure.”

On the relevance of soccer in the marketplace locally and nationally: 

“I think soccer in general … we’re close. When you look across the league and in all our meetings with the front office and ownership, we realize we need those one or two special players that make a difference and get you goals in key moments. Soccer right now is growing in our country. It’s a great time to be involved in MLS. It’s really skyrocketing. It’s a window and we’re becoming a much more relevant sport in the landscape of Philadelphia sports. It’s a positive thing.”

On his supportive family: 

“I have three kids and a wife that are amazing. It’s a very busy offseason which can be even busier than the regular season in a lot of ways with all the different drafts and mechanisms to get players allocated. It’s one you do try to spend some quality time. I do get to spend some quality time with my family. Over the holidays will be good. I did get to go away quickly with my wife for the first time since our honeymoon. Literally, you almost try to tie in your vacations with looking at soccer players in different parts of South America. Family is important but the Union is my family, too, and my wife understands that.”

What did you think of Curtin's comments? Leave yours below.

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com

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