After Major League Soccer’s announcement of the MLS is Back Tournament schedule, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin conducted his weekly press availability. He addressed the key tournament change that sees the third place finisher in the Union’s group, which includes six clubs total, move on to the Knockout Rounds. Curtin advocated for a modification last week when addressing the press, and he welcomed the league’s decision.
“I think they got it right in terms of the fairness of the competition,” he appraised. “I think that it’s unique that one team has a group with six teams in it and to add a third team from that group to advance to the Round of 16 was necessary.”
The head coach also addressed the team’s return to Chester and the release of the MLS Is Back Tournament schedule.
Back at home
Curtin started off his presser announcing that the club held its first training session back at the Power Training Complex on Wednesday. After three months away from their home grass, the players and staff were excited to be back.
“It’s a great step forward in the process,” Curtin said. “Everybody is excited to be on in our own training facility and on our fields. It was nice to be back home. Once the ball rolls out there and they get into the first exercise of practice there is a bit of buzz. They are professionals and want to play on the best surfaces and facilities, and ours is really good right now. As great of a host the two venues were in Delaware, home is home and it was great to be back there.
MLS is Back Tournament takes shape
The top news item of the day was the Union’s Group A schedule that sees the Boys in Blue kick off the tournament on July 9 against New York City FC at 9 a.m. ET., followed by matches against Nashville SC (July 14, 8 p.m. ET) and Inter Miami CF (July 19, 10:30 p.m. ET).
“I can safely say that I’ve never played [at 9 a.m. or 10:30 p.m.] in a professional soccer match so both will be new experiences,” Curtin said on his reaction to the kick off times. “Not just in soccer but everything going on in the world right now, there is no coach’s manual, blueprint or book to get a real advantage. We are going to do our best in terms of preparation knowing that it will be a 9 a.m. kickoff for that first game so we’ll have the guys training pretty early in the morning so we will be acclimated to the heat. Will it be unique to have your pregame meal at 6 a.m., absolutely. These are changes we will embrace and make the most of it. Everyone from the sports science departments to the technical staffs, we are all experimenting with things to prepare. I like where our group is in how they’re training and that’s the most important thing.”
On the pitch, squaring off against New York City in Florida is exciting but presents challenges. Curtin called NYCFC “the most talented team in terms of skills and dangerous guys in the Eastern Conference” but made mention of the neutral site being helpful against NYC.
“It’s no secret that Yankee Stadium is a tough place to go to and one that we’ve struggled in but that is out the window,” Curtin said. “We will be in Orlando on a neutral field at a unique time for all of us, and does that level the playing field for everybody? I think you will see some results go differently than people would have thought on paper and we will be up for the challenge of playing a really good team in New York City FC at 9 a.m. in Orlando.”
With the group announcement also came a change to the Round of 16 spots, with Group A now getting the top three finishers into the next round of the MLS is Back Tournament. After advocating for changes last week in his presser, Curtin was happy to see the league make the correct call.
“I think they got it right in terms of the fairness of the competition. I think that it’s unique that one team has a group with six teams in it and to add a third team from that group to advance to the Round of 16 was necessary.”