Schreuder highlights culture under Jim Curtin as he leaves to fulfill dream

After Philadelphia Union created chance after chance but failed to secure a win in a trio of home games, starting striker Kacper Przybylko was frustrated. 

He was also determined to improve. 

So while other players worked on dead balls, Przybylko ran through drills: Receive a pass at the top of the box. Shoot as quickly and accurately as possible. Now immediately peel around -- at a sprint -- to the back post, arcing your run so you can turn and pick up the flight of the aerial ball headed your way. Read the position you receive the ball and make the decision to cushion it into the center or power it toward goal. 

"In a game you don't always get good balls," Assistant Coach Dick Schreuder calls out. "And you have to handle that!" 

That Sunday, Przybylko would play an integral role in the Union's difficult road win over Minnesota United. First-timing balls as he checked into crowded zones and competing for everything in the air. 

"The last 17 months I've been with the team I loved the experience, and I'll bring it back to Europe with me," Schreuder says as he prepares to leave Philadelphia for a new job as an assistant coach at Hoffenheim of the German Bundesliga. Schreuder's brother, Alfred, was recently named Hoffenheim's head coach. 

"I feel already the last 4-5 days that I'm not happy to leave; I have a good connection with the players," Schreuder admits. "If it was not my brother that came in, I would think very carefully about this decision. I made a choice to come to the US and to stay here for, maybe, a long time.

"But I always knew that if my brother and I could work together, it would be a dream," he grins "And that's what has happened."

Schreuder had been a player and he had been a head coach. But before arriving in Philadelphia, the 47-year old had never been an assistant coach. "This has helped me a lot," Schreuder said of his time in Philly with Jim Curtin's staff. "To not be in control was difficult for me, but this season we have so much freedom under Jim. Pat [Noonan], Oka [Nikolov] and I have so much freedom to work, and that feels good.

"I look at this coaching staff -- Pat, Oka, BJ Callaghan and Tim Hanley last year -- all honest, direct people. We all help Jim how we can, and he gives us freedom. And that's what makes him a great manager."

Schreuder's addition to the coaching staff at the start of the 2018 season was an opportunity to add an experienced voice and new perspective to the ranks. Early on, the Dutchman focused on the striker position and helped the Union develop first Cory Burke and, more recently, Sergio Santos and Przybylko. 

"With all players, you look at the commitment they want to give to you," the Dutchman insists. "Philadelphia Union is not spending the most money, but you have a good environment, good cohesion, and good players that want to play for each other and work for each other."

That work has paid off this season, and the Union have scored the second-most goals in Major League Soccer heading into the turn toward the back half of the year.

The success over the last two seasons -- making the playoffs, accumulating the most points in club history in 2018, and the first place start to this year -- are points of pride, and Schreuder readily admits that he doesn't understand those that remain skeptical of Jim Curtin's coaching abilities. 

"I don't understand the critics of Jim. You can say that: I don't understand it. Last year: The most points ever for the club. Now we are in first place.

"I see people here who work day and night. I look around me and I see the coaching staff and..." he shrugs and smiles. For Schreuder, in the end, the work speaks for itself. 

The gratitude, however, does not. So he says it outright. 

"The last 17 months I've been with the team, I loved the experience and I'll bring it back to Europe with me," Schreuder explains. "I want to thank Jim for the way he managed the coaching staff and the freedom that we have. I want to thank Jay Sugarman and Earnie Stewart, Chris Albright, and Jim for bringing me to the US and letting me experience MLS and Philadelphia Union, and I want to thank Ernst Tanner for everything he has done for me and the club since arriving last season.

"I wish Philadelphia good luck and all the best," he concludes.

Schreuder moves on to pursue his dream, the Union continue towards their own: A home playoff game and a postseason victory in front of their home fans. Schreuder has played a big role in getting the team to this point, but he is confident that the coaching staff he leaves behind has everything it needs to push the club to the promised land in 2019.  

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