Jim Curtin watched his team battle New York Red Bulls to a close result at home on Sunday, and afterwards he accepted that the difficult loss still taught him a lot about his club.
Passed the test
Even with the result going against them, the Union showed for the third time in 2018 that they can lock horns with New York Red Bulls and give as good as they get. That’s something very few other MLS clubs can say this season.
“We wanted to see and test ourselves against a top team in our league, a team that's fighting for the Supporters’ Shield,” Curtin emphasized after the match. “I thought we were up for it, I thought we played some good soccer, but it just wasn't our night in the end.
“Things are tight now in the Eastern Conference but we still control our own destiny in terms of hosting a home game and that'll be our goal the last week going into New York City.
One thing that seemed clear to the Union head coach: Red Bulls won’t be hoping for a match against Philly in the playoffs. “If you talk with Armas and you talk with the guys in their locker room, that was a tough game,” Curtin said. “We had them on their heels a bit, we had some chances. It kills us to not take three points or at least get a draw but at the same time I still think we learned a lot about our group today.
“And the rivalry between us and Red Bull is a real one and I hope to see them in the playoffs for sure.”
NYC better bring their A-game
The calculus of the Eastern Conference playoff picture hasn’t changed for the Union. With a win next weekend, they still finish in third place and host a playoff match on either October 31 or November 1. “Whether you finish 3rd, you finish 6th, the reality is you're in a do-or-die game,” Curtin argued. “Obviously, we want to host a game; we want to go to New York City and get a win and move up and keep a position where we now have a home playoff game, that's critical.
“But you start to juggle and ask who you really want to play against, it becomes difficult. Nobody wants DC right now, that's for sure. Columbus is a great team, also. Montreal still technically is alive. So there's some things to still be decided. That's why it was critical we got in because you see this chaos now.
“On the decision day, the seedings will probably change five or six times during the course of the 90 minutes; it'll be exciting. We won't know where we're going or if we're staying home until the final whistle. But we do control our final destiny still, which is a good feeling to have. It's a good position to be in and I know our guys will be up for NYC for sure.”
A VAR-y long way still to go for replay
“They're doing their best with the VAR stuff,” Curtin admitted, “But it's chaos in terms of, when we go end-to-end in that moment — in fact, I thought they were reviewing that Fafa had some contact on him [by New York goalie Luis Robles].
“Got communicated that they saw that maybe there was a handball in the box. Again, they do their best with it, but there has to be a clearer way for the fans in the stadium who have no idea what's going on, the coaches who don't know all the details, people still don't have a grasp of the rules and what is reviewable and what is not. But it's a new process and it's one that they're still working through.
Curtin explained that the handball rule has some gray areas, and that the way the play unfolded in real-time probably looked different than it did on replay.
“It's a tough call. Does it hit his hand? Yes. But no advantage was really gained so it's one you could probably let go. The ball does hit his hand. But... it's one where if you have a feel for the game, that's why he didn't call it in the run of play. And then he gets to take a look at it and, again, it kind of ruined a game where a tie would be a fair result.”
The Union are back in action at 4:30PM ET next Sunday, October 28 in New York City as they try to lock up a home playoff match.