After Philadelphia Union fell 3-1 to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night, Jim Curtin remained fully supportive of his players.
“I'm proud of the group still,” Curtin said. “Hard as it is to sit up here after a loss and give accolades to the young back line, give accolades to the way our central midfield played this year, to our front three that cause problems for teams in Cory Burke, and Fafa [Picault], and CJ [Sapong]. I'm proud of the group overall.”
“Of the 12 teams in the playoffs, we're probably the most unexpected one,” he continued.
Curtin said that the plan that featured Warren Creavalle in the center of the pitch never had a chance to work as well as it could have because of the early goal from NYCFC. “The plan really never got into a flow and we needed a goal at halftime,” Curtin explained, “That's why we made the offensive change to Ilsinho. Warren was not at fault for any of the goals.
“Wasn't our best punch tonight and that's where it's tough. We've played some good soccer this season.”
The Union coach argued that despite a difficult end to the 2018 campaign, he sees big things ahead for Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie. “We had two young center backs that had amazing seasons that are going to become great center backs in this league and are hopefully going to play in Europe,” Curtin said. “Our players achieved our best win total, our highest point total. The season doesn't end the way we want it to, but I'm still proud of the work our staff has done, I'm still proud of the work our players have done this year.”
In the end, Curtin was glad that his team continued to play their style right to the end. “We got here by being brave,” he said. “We got here by me teaching and coaching a team to go out there and not be scared, home or away, no matter who you're playing against.
So to now switch in the playoffs and bunker in? It's not who we were. I want to try to play soccer. I don't want to just sit in and kick balls out of bounds and make it a complete fight.
We tried to play, we made mistakes, we got punished by a good team.
“That's the reality of things, but full credit to my players, I'm really proud of the season that they all had, sticking together. It doesn't end the way we wanted to and the way we hoped to, but I think the club has shown now that we have an identity of good young American players, of experienced veterans that can play with anybody in this league, home and away. A cohesive group and a group that isn't scared of anybody.”
Curtin and the Union will return to Philadelphia now to prepare for the offseason. NYCFC will face Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference semifinals this weekend.