Before Philadelphia Union pack up and head to the west coast for a national televised contest at Western Conference powerhouse LAFC, Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with media inside the press conference room of Subaru Park. Here are some key takeaways from the presser.
Coaching staff monitoring the No. 6 spot
A key focus of the Union’s offseason roster moves was finding a defensive midfielder that would improve the club defensively but also create transition moments. Against FC Dallas, veteran Warren Creavalle was in front of the defense and “was one of our best players on the night” according to Curtin.
“Warren has the qualities to be an MLS starter and he has over 150 [appearances] and has played in big games and playoff games. Warren earned the right in the preseason and we’re a group that is constantly in competition every day in the preseason and training.”
Curtin did note that he spoke with the midfielder during preseason and wanted open communication in regards to how Creavalle feels while on the pitch. Noting the Creavalle doesn’t go half speed even in training. Meanwhile newcomers El Brujo Martinez and Matej Oravec are still working to learn not only the new system but also just being in the United States. “They are both young players too and they don’t have a ton of games under their belt so they working hard to adjust to a new team and a new style of play that is demanding,” Curtin said Wednesday. “They’ve come into a new group and are working hard to improve each and every day. When the coaching staff which has a lot of experience in this league and recognizes when the time is right, they certainly will get their opportunities.”
Competition heats up for starting centerbacks
Just behind the midfield is another competition brewing as Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes and Aurelien Collin look to start on the road at LAFC. Against FC Dallas, it was McKenzie and Glesnes on the pitch but Curtin made sure to note that just because Glesnes started last week, doesn’t mean the competition is over.
“I talk about our stable of centerbacks and I’ll put them up against any team in our league, I really would with all four of them. Those guys have worked hard in the preseason. Jack [Elliott] missed 12 days in the preseason training which is a long time to be away getting his green card finalized so he came back with a little bit of rust after starting the preseason really well. He’s started to look like himself now training and the competition is training for the centerback spot is intense right now. You have Mark who will likely be gone with the Olympic qualifying so we’re going to need all of them to perform.
Curtin did say that Glesnes did well in his first MLS action saying that the 25-year-old did a good job in organizing the defense, communicating and being physical.
How do you stop Carlos Vela?
When asked how the Union were going to stop the reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner, Curtin was honest when the question came up.
“The answer in reality is you don’t.”
Curtin then went on to say that it’ll take the entire club to limit the impact that Vela has on the match.
“It takes multiple players and a team together and that will be our objective as a team. It won’t be Carlos Vela versus Matt Real or whoever he’s 1v1 against, it’s versus the entire team and us doing a good job to first limit the amount of touches he gets on the ball but respecting he is the MVP of this league for a reason.”