"Huge" early goal, "silly" late red says Curtin

Last year, there were matches in which the Union played well but didn't come away with three points. So a win over Montreal Impact when his team didn't play as well as he wanted? Jim Curtin will take it. 

"The performance on the field, we'll all say, wasn't our best," the head coach began. "You have to find ways to win these types of games. To do it 3-0 and keep a clean sheet at home is important. As the game goes on, the next man up mentality is seen again with Kacper who steps up and does a great job for us. Andre goes out -- things you can't predict -- and Matt Freese steps in and does his job."

Players stepping up was a theme that began even before the first whistle. Aurelien Collin started in place of Mark McKenzie after the homegrown center back's appendicitis diagnosis. Jim Curtin wished his young defender well in his post-game press conference. He also gave an update on Andre Blake, saying that he had a groin pull but that there was no timeline yet on his return. 

"When a goalkeeper feels something like that, they know their body pretty well. Something was off," he explained, adding that Blake was unlikely to face Vancouver in a week. 

Speaking of steps, Cory Burke took another huge one as he seeks to replicate last season's double-digit scoring form. The big striker took a loose ball and finished it far post from outside the box in the 14th minute to open the scoring, a moment Curtin called "huge."

"We talked all week about Montreal not having given up a goal in the past three games," he said. "They are hard to break down. When you do score early it forces them to change what they're excellent at, which is being organized, being behind the ball and hitting them on the counter."

Curtin said that knowing how organized Montreal gave him a short moment of anxiety when he found out McKenzie would miss today's match. "When you wake up at six in the morning to a text that Mark is about to go into surgery, you look at Montreal and go, 'Here we go again!' I think Ernst's first game at home here was against the and we got killed; embarrassed. 
"Every team has one that they don't match up against," he continued. "But we changed that today and it's a big three points for us. It's a clean sheet against a team that has given us problems. We recognize they're not at full strength either because Piatti's not here and he can change a game. But they have a really good attacking group."
Curtin's big takeaway from the win was that his team still has another level to hit. "I thought the first 20 minutes of the game was us," he enthused. "Good pressing, good rest defense. In the first five seconds after we lose the ball keeping them pinned in on the break. We get the goal, we get the penalty kick and guys take their foot off the gas a little bit.
"We did less sprinting, less closing of the ball, and if you give guys in this league -- any team -- time and space, they can start to pass through you. I think you saw that in most of the second half, unfortunately.
"I sound negative after a 3-0 win, but I want these guys to go to the next level, and not be an average MLS team, which is what we've been in the past. I want to be a great MLS team and we have a lot of work to do still for that."
The last point -- well, points -- Curtin had to make was about Kai Wagner, who was sent off at the end of the match after another strong performance.
"Silly," he said before the question was finished. "In his defense," the coach continued, "the ball goes over the endline and it should be a corner kick after Bush's save. After 3-0 maybe they don't look at that as closely as they should. Leads to a break. All these decisions affect things in a big way. 
"So now we'll be without a left back that, for me, has been the top left back in the league for a game. Kai has to do better and be smarter there in that situation."
The head coach wouldn't commit to a replacement for Wagner in Vancouver, pointing out that Matt Real, Fabinho, Olivier Mbaizo, and Ray Gaddis would all be capable of stepping into the back line if called on. 
The Union return to action next weekend when they travel to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps at 5:00 p.m. ET on PHL17. 

Download the FREE MLS App

Follow the Union's scores, updates, highlights, analysis and more.