We are less than one week until the Philadelphia Union kicks off in Orlando for the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday, July 9th. The nationally televised 9 a.m. ET contest against New York City FC on ESPN marks not only the return of the Union but marks the return of sports for the City of Brotherly Love.
As the team departed Wednesday for Florida, all eyes are on the early morning contest. Head Coach Jim Curtin said playing the first 9 a.m. match will present challenges that he and his team have never had to deal with but they welcome the opportunity to restart the season.
“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. “ With everything here 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 both 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 that 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.”