Press Conference / Union

The focus is on defense during Curtin’s press conference

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Last week, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin announced the injuries of left back Fabinho and center back Richie Marquez. The latter is scheduled to miss about a month following sports hernia surgery. There was debate as to whether the former would undergo surgery or attempt to strengthen the muscles surrounding his injured knee.

During today’s press conference at Talen Energy Stadium, Curtin told reporters that the Brazilian defender has already gone under the knife.

“If you talk to Fabinho, he says [he’ll be out] three weeks. He’s already walking and had surgery two days ago,” Curtin said, though he added that the medical staff’s timetable is 4-6 weeks.

It leaves the coach with two choices very different choices at left back for the foreseeable future: Matthew Real and Raymon Gaddis. Both will make the trip out west. “We have a choice to make. I won’t give Colorado a head start on which way to go.

Gaddis is a veteran who has played both fullback positions in his Union tenure, but Curtin stated, “Matthew [Real] is the true left back and has played that position his whole life.” He continued: “He’s very good at getting forward and has the engine to make a lot of aggressive runs. He has the engine to recover and get back. The next step is the one vs. one defending.”

Real was called back early from international duty with the U.S. U20s in Spain. Of those overseas performances, Curtin said, “Real played pretty well in the first match against France.” The U20s coach in Europe was Tab Ramos, who has given the captain’s armband to the young homegrown defender in the past and is high on the player. Ramos also helped the Union by shortening Real’s minutes in the second game in preparation for his early departure.

In spite of the intercontinental flight, Real was one of the last ones on the pitch Tuesday afternoon, staying well after practice had concluded for extra work.

Real won’t be the only newly-signed homegrown defender flying to Denver. Center back Mark McKenzie, who was also with the U.S. U20s, will be in the 18 on Saturday. That is due to another injury to the Union’s defense.

Curtin revealed center back Joshua Yaro has a minor groin injury, but it’s “nothing severe.” The coach is hopeful Yaro will rejoin team training next week.

It means Philadelphia will have four teenagers active against the Rapids, three of whom play defense. Curtin had a telling statement that frames how the club views the situation: “The Union want to be the club that all young American players look to and want to play for.”

Curtin’s tidbits
  • On the tactical challenges the Rapids present: “They are direct. They’re the first team we’ll face with a true two forward system… it’s unique for the center backs and will present more one-on-one situations.”
  • That direct style of play is enhanced by altitude: “When you hit a 30-yard ball in Denver, it’s a 45-yard ball.”
  • On winger David Accam: “We talk about David as a guy teams are going to prepare for… teams are going to be really conservative on that side.” He also mentioned how that opens up space for runs in the center.
  • How does Curtin view his conference counterparts? “I think, unfortunately, you’d say the five best teams are in the East.”
  • Midfielder Borek Dockal’s debut came against one of those teams in Columbus Crew. Curtin commented, “It was a first game against a really good opponent… He saw a very high level of our league.” One thing he’s worked on with the time off is finding a better balance between Dockal and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. Both drifted right and occupied the same space against the Crew.
  • On Dick Schreuder’s appointment: “Dick has primarily been taking the attacking group, our wingers and forwards… He’s obviously been with us longer than the announcement yesterday.” It’s been roughly two months.
  • Very sincere moment on Haris Medunjanin’s international retirement. Curtin said, “For me, I would say him and Tranquillo Barnetta are the two guys I’ve loved working with every minute… He’s had a heck of a career internationally… I don’t think people recognize just how good of a player he is.”

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