His team broke Seattle Sounders’ nine match winning streak with a late road goal, but Jim Curtin was still focused on playing defense as a unit after picking up a huge three points.
“Weathered the storm… took their best punch”
The Sounders went hard out of the gate, and it took some mental fortitude for Philly to survive that early scare and fight their way into the game. “We talked a lot about the character of our team,” Curtin told the media after the match. “I thought that the players deserve a lot of credit for stepping up. Looked more like us tonight in terms of the competitiveness, the team defending, and breaking pretty quick on the counter and giving a really good Seattle team some problems.”
In particular, Curtin saw the work of Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones in the center as key to climbing into the game. “I thought that Derrick Jones and Haris were asked to do a job of breaking up plays in the middle,” the coach said. “They had a lot more recoveries than on a typical night and really started some good attacks for us.
“The first 15 minutes they had us on our back heels,” Curtin admitted. “We navigated that a little bit. Andre made a save or two which you always need from your goalkeeper. The guys stuck with it.”
“Late as it was, we were still rewarded”
When asked what helped the Union keep their heads as they scrambled in the early moments of the match, Curtin pointed to the collective identity the players have developed over time. “It's a strong group,” he emphasized. “The locker room is together.
“After a pretty good six game run, we had a performance against Montreal that no one was happy with. So I think we showed some character tonight. Even down a man, still going for it at the end. Good pressure by Jay Simpson, who we called upon. Fafa [Picault] does good to read it, and we make a play.”
In the end, Curtin said he cared far more about collecting three points than about ending a winning streak, even a record-breaking one. “We're happy to end it,” he shrugged, “But it's not really about streaks at this point. It's about getting points, and I thought that our guys stuck with things and deserved the three points tonight.
Fa-fa-fire on the road
“He's put together a really strong season as an individual,” Curtin argued when asked about goalscorer Fafa Picault. “But we'll continue to stress that as the team has success and gains points and plays in a final, the individual accolades will come, and Fafa will probably be recognized at the end of the year for having a really good season.”
The goal was Picault’s fourth straight tally on the road (and Philly’s next road match is a final…), and this led Curtin to note how the team was stronger when they traveled this year compared to those in the past.
“Last year was not a good season for us on the road,” Curtin admitted. “This season we've strengthened our mentality. The guys have belief now when we go on the road and play fearless. It's not easy to get points on the road and any time you can come to Seattle and walk away with anything, let alone three points, it's a good night.”
The Union are not on the road this Sunday. Instead, they welcome Sporting Kansas City to Talen Energy Field for an afternoon matchup that will be televised on ESPN.