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Quote Sheet: Union vs. Chicago

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin
Opening Statement...
Just to start, I’d like to give a ton of credit to the players. It was a gutsy performance, not our best soccer wise in the first half, but I though showed a lot of character in what was an important game in a lot of ways. We obviously had to deal with the elements, just like Chicago [Fire] did. I thought started the game with a good rhythm and good mentality. Tried to play at our tempo and our speed to make it uncomfortable for them. Got a great goal from Marco Fabian and then kind of relaxed a bit. Chicago came into the game now and we allowed them time in space, and they created too many chances. Halftime, nobody was happy. I thought the response though in the second half was an improved one. Still, not our perfect game, not a complete game, but a very professional performance. In the middle of July, or the end of July, you need these types of wins and you need a clean sheet to be honest. It’s been a while since we kept a clean sheet, so for those things to happen I’ll continue to say a very professional performance from the players. We can improve on a lot, for sure, but at the same time a big three points for us in a lot of ways. A couple results now you look at are going our way, so now you try to get some separation here in the Eastern conference. So full credit to the players on a brutally hot night, probably the hottest one that I can remember as a player and a coach to be honest. So for them to put their bodies on the line like they did, maybe it looked like a slow tempo form the stands, but the effort that they gave I commend them for.

On Anthony Fontana receiving more playing time...
He’s earned it. That’s the easiest way I can put it. He’s earned it with better performances with [Bethlehem Steel FC]. Ernst [Tanner] had a talk with him that lit a little bit of a fire under him and now he’s raised his level. Every chance now he gets for minutes with the first team, he’s pushing. We’re going to put the best players on the field and Anthony has been one of our best players now in training every day. He has stepped up in a big spot and scored a big goal for us. Happy for Anthony, we don’t want to get too high though cause there is still a lot of work he can do and improve, but he’s given us a boost now in a couple of games. In Orlando, the limited minutes that he got me made the most of, him and Mathew [Real] did. Now for him to get big goal to kind of seal out the game and close it out was special. Every one of our homegrowns, every one of our veterans earns every minute that they get. That’s the way we preach things to them. For Anthony now to take it up a level is a credit to him as an individual player.

On the response after getting the early goal...
I think the goal [Marco] scores is a spectacular goal. It’s a great goal from Marco, it shows you guys the game changing quality that he has. He is still building fitness, he missed a lot of time, it’s not going to come back naturally and a 108-degree night doesn’t help things from the fitness side of it. We recognized the Orlando [City SC] game we dropped two points and were angry about it, but I know some things that were maybe talked about this week being a must win or whatever we might say, were 2-1-1 in our last four games so it’s not this dire situation. It’s a big three points, but I think that it was different from the Orlando game. We showed more energy in the second half, we got the second goal. That’s the sign of a good team. We talked about it in my pregame talk, I said, great teams respond after bad performances. After losses, great teams respond, and this team, if you look at now, every tough loss this year, which we haven’t lost a ton, the next result has been a very big one. In Orlando for example, after the New York City one where we had a bad taste in our mouths. Really good response after [Real Salt Lake] which was a disaster, for a lack of a better way to put it. The guys responded well and again, to get that second goal is the key.

On getting the clean sheet tonight...
We were a little bit shaky in the first half, we got punished a couple times, but Andre [Blake] made a save or two, came out on a cross and cleaned things up. It’s a team effort. Our defending is from our front line to our midfield, to our back four, and then Andre obviously. It’s been too long since we’ve had a clean sheet. Were at our best when we’re playing with a lead, I think you guys all know that. So to keep zeros is really important. To get that zero tonight was needed, and I think that builds confidence now. You can see, last few games now, three goals, four goals against, its starts to weigh on guys’ minds. Is there more they can do and sometimes they press and try to do too much. To get the zero I think is a good stepping stone towards next week, but we have two difficult games now, Montreal [Impact] and D.C. [United] on the road where it’s going to get magnified even more to keep the clean sheet on the road is a real challenge.

On Marco Fabian’s positioning going forward...
The moments we work for are the transition moments where he is on the ball running at the back four, and you saw three or four of those tonight where maybe he didn’t execute it perfect, maybe he turned it over, maybe passed when he should have dribbled and maybe dribbled when he should have passed. It’s not perfect right now, for our whole group, which is actually ok, we don’t want to peak in July. I still think that this group has a lot more to give, a lot more we can improve on and we have some pieces that are now getting healthy and coming back after injury. Again, Marco can change a defense, just by the goal he scores now, if you think about it, center backs and the back line has to step out and that leaves space for Fafa [Picault] or Kacper [Przybylko] to get in behind. It changes everything. The more repetitions we can get him, the more times we can put him on the ball in those transitions in the center part of the field, the better. We don’t want him, like he did a lot in the first half, coming all the way back and getting the ball off of our defenders and towards the side lines. That’s not going to make a team panic. They panic when he can turn in the pocket, face the defense, has the ability to shoot from 30 yards out and then when teams do step to him, he can then slip balls. It’s good question and that’s what we have to do more of, we have to put him on the ball in those pockets.

On playing from the top of the standings...
We talk about it all the time. We’re not sneaking up on anybody. The secret is out, we have a good team, were a good club, we have good young players that are brave, our players play with confidence, and we can still improve too. Again, I think it does need to be said, it’s harder to play from the top cause everyone wants to beat you. As simple as when we played our last three games and the other team’s twitter account, the first thing that comes out is Eastern-Conference leading Philadelphia. There is weight that comes with that and I think our players have navigated it well. We have to continue to build and try to create some separation because we want a home playoff game. However we have to get that, I think our players recognize now that every point is going to matter down the stretch here. We have a target on our back now, as the top team in our conference, as a team that has beat a lot of the good teams in the East already, a couple from the West as well, so were not sneaking up on anybody and that’s different for us. We’ve never been in this position as a club, and we have to be brave and continue to push to try and improve.

On Fafa Picault’s performance tonight...
I thought his work ethic was great. His ability to get on the ball and make the defense back pedal I thought was good. He will always measure success with goals, as many strikers do, but I thought that the work he did on the defensive side tonight, he was one of the few bodies out there for both teams, that looked like he had a spring in his step and the heat didn’t really affect him. Happy with his performance, made some big plays even tracking back to get a tackle, followed [Bastian] Schweinsteiger a couple times and turned him over, and all those little plays he made tonight were big in the coach’s eyes. I know he judges himself by assists and goals, but I thought it was a really strong performance from him and I am really proud of him.

Midfielder Marco Fabian
On the importance of preparing for set pieces in practice...
I think it’s good for this team every week. We work a lot and we talk a lot. We know we have a good season, we are in first place in the eastern conference, but it’s not enough. Every week we still try to keep moving forward and just try to keep this going. We have more games and we have to get to the final this season and the most important is coming in the playoffs.

On how having more time to train has affected his playing with the team...
Yeah for sure. I feel more comfortable now because everybody is good to me. Good coaches and good teammates, and I feel better because after my injury the most important thing is you want to be good for myself and my body and now I played games after when I come back and I feel good every week. So I just keep working and I try to take more of my best for the team.

On how the heat played a role in today’s match...
We know in the week and we know today, it’s so hot. You are inside sometimes, you want to run, but you can’t because it’s so humid and you have to worry about it. I think we kept the ball and that’s the most important. I said we tried to keep the ball, and I know [Chicago Fire] played last week, last Wednesday, so we tried to take this one for us.

Midfielder Anthony Fontana
On his goal tonight...
All I remember is Kai [Wagner] going down with the ball and then I just knew if he got up there was so much space at the back post so I just made my run there and the ball arrived. I knew It was just an easy tap in from there.

On moving past his last few performances...
Anytime you get advice from the GM, you have to take it to heart and really work on the things that he said and I’ve been doing that. Yesterday we sat down and just watched some video and obviously I’m just looking to improve. Everything he’s saying I’m working on and I’m just happy I was able to get a goal tonight, because that makes that conversation 10 times better.

On if his injuries from last season are behind him now...
Yeah, I feel like some of that might have just been due to over training, because I would do a lot of stuff individually and the trainers might have said you should just ease off. This year I’ve done a lot of work, but I’ve been smarter about it and also it could have been with me growing into my body. I do feel like it’s behind me hopefully; knock on wood wherever that is. I’m just doing everything off the field to keep me as healthy as possible really.


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