When Jim Curtin returned from a cross country flight following a 1-1 draw against Vancouver last Sunday, no one could have predicted the week that was in store for the 39-year-old head coach. What Curtin knew was that he had two matches at home against FC Cincinnati and New England with an opportunity to take first place in the Eastern Conference table.
Curtin surely began to gameplan using players he figured would be returning to the squad. After a strong training session Tuesday afternoon, Curtin and his staff quickly had to make a change with left back Kai Wagner receiving an additional one-game suspension for his red card back on April 20. That suspension came down barely 24-hours prior to the Cincy game, so Curtin returned to the same defensive pairing that got the draw days earlier, challenging right back Olivier Mbaizo to adjust to the opposition instead of flying into the attack at every chance.
The Union head coach also continued to lean on homegrown goalkeeper Matt Freese, who was about to make his first MLS start at Talen Energy Stadium after stopping all but one shot against the Whitecaps. As the referee started the Wednesday night contest against Cincinnati, Curtin knew his team was in for a fight against a feisty squad hungry for a goal. That hunger was denied in the 10th minute as Freese made a reaction save to his left, but then the goalie stayed down and was eventually forced off just before halftime. With Andre Blake already out due to injury, Curtin turned to Carlos Miguel Coronel for the final 49 minutes of the contest and the Brazilian stood strong with three saves to complete the team's clean sheet.
As his squad celebrated the resounding win that that pushed them into first place, Curtin and the rest of the staff learned that Cory Burke wouldn't be returning for the forseeable future due to issues relating to his visa. While his club had picked up three points, Curtin was now short a goalkeeper and starting forward.
A man that prides himself on making the most of the cards he is given, Philly's head coach accepted the challenge and guided his team into what some called a trap game against desperate New England Revolution side looking up from the bottom of the table. The Union jumped out to the early lead, but New England capitalized when homegrown Brenden Aaronson went down and got the equalizing goal while up a man. Believing in his bench, Curtin changed the midfield diamond into the 4-2-3-1 which allowed Fafa Picault and Ilsinho to showcase their flash and speed against the Revs' outside backs. What followed was a five star second half with substitutes Ilsinho, Sergio Santos and David Accam all smashing home goals.
If there was ever a week that Jim Curtin deserved to be recognized for his coaching, MLS Week 10 was it. He now has one fifth of the league's Coach of the Week honors this season.