US Open Cup

Pregame quotes: Union v City Islanders in the US Open Cup

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union interim head coach Jim Curtin

Your thoughts on having to play an affiliate club this early in the tournament?

It’s unique. Listen, the Open Cup is unique, it’s one of only two trophies that you can win in this country and to play an affiliate in the second round is tricky. They know us pretty well. We know them very well. It’s a game where we should be able to dictate the tempo, especially on our home field. A lot of times these games are a lot harder when they’re at their place, maybe on not as nice of a field. That’s kind of a neutralizer. But the fact that we have it here, and that ownership pushed to have it here, is a huge advantage.

What do you think about the matchmaking process?

Part of it is just, geographically it makes it easier and cheaper. Anyone can enter the U.S. Open Cup. You’ve seen bar league teams go on a little bit of a run and knock teams off. When I was at Chivas USA, there was a big upset where a team of guys playing in a Mexican Sunday league came out and upset a pro team. That’s what makes it great. That’s what makes it exciting. I think the big thing is that most of the affiliates are closely located to their teams, not in all cases, but some. So that’s why they do it. Obviously they probably liked the Cosmos and Red Bulls matchup, too, so they didn’t want to switch that up.

How do you balance putting together a strong starting eleven and with giving some fringe players a chance to get valuable minutes in this game?

It’s tricky obviously, because I’m a new coach. I have to win. But I think that there are a few guys on our roster, and I can’t really talk about that now, but there are guys that will get a chance in this game, that we’ll get to see how they hold up. But if you put the right pieces around them, and the right leaders around them, they’ll thrive. That’s the idea. If we give them the right support and protection around them, they’ll be fine in their first game. I know they can play. I see them every day in training. It’s just a matter now of doing it in the game. But you’re right, it’s a fine line of risk when it’s a one-off, elimination game.

What do you think your emotions will be like when you come out for this game?

The first time I came out as an assistant coach, you still get the chills, the same feeling you get as a player. You hear the studs as you walk down the tunnel and it registers something, just the noise, the sounds, all of the little stuff. It’ll be special to be the head coach. I have a lot more responsibility with that and I know that. I’m up for that and I’m excited. I’ll lean heavily on Mike Sorber and he’ll be a big help for me. It’ll be special.

You said you wanted to take this competition seriously. Looking at it from the outside, you only have one day of practice. That’s a little bit of a disadvantage..

That’s a bit of a tough one because when the schedule was made, this is the way the (former staff) did it. They blocked that week as a week that players would be free to go. That was announced, then of course the (coaching) chance happens and I want them in training now, but that’s not reality. They’re in California, they’re in different places in the country right now. I can’t just ruin those plans. That would be a tough first move from the coach. [laughter] They wouldn’t like me very much. You have to be smart about that. It’s a tricky one. We’ve got one day to prepare. Is that ideal? No, it’s not. We’ll get it right and we’ll have the guys ready to play. There’s been workouts sent out to them. I had (fitness coach) Kevin Miller quickly send them out. Those will be tough workouts but they’ll replicate the volume of a training session as best as possible. We’re doing the best with that.

Going back to 2012, that game between Philadelphia and Harrisburg was a lot closer than the final scoreline..

That was a crazy game, I do remember that. Listen, I’m glad that they have to play again on (the Saturday before this game). Their schedule is a crazy one, sometimes they play Saturday and Sunday games, which is insane. But I hope they’re exhausted, and I hope they have to travel and all of those little things. It’s tricky. These games against lower teams, it makes their season. Any time that that’s the case, we’re supposed to win, let’s put it that way. Obviously I feel that we will, but it’ll be a tricky game. They’re tough, they’re gonna fight, they all want to be where we are. They want to be with our first team. They’re our affiliate, a lot of those guys think they belong with us, a lot of them we’ve had in our team and in training sessions so it’s difficult. It’ll be a tough game.

Harrisburg City Islanders head coach Bill Becher

What are your thoughts on having to play against your parent club again?

I’m a little surprised that (USOC officials) did it in this round, to be honest with you. The fact that we’re affiliated with (Philadelphia), I thought that was something they were going to try to avoid. If you catch them in a later round, like we did two years ago, then fair enough. We knocked off Red Bulls and New England (in 2012), so we had already gone through two teams before we matched up with Philadelphia. I understood that. I just don’t know that it makes a lot of sense to have them in the first round. With that said, we’re gonna come there and try to get a result and hopefully have a good game with them.

Do you think your players look forward to this matchup? Do they have something to prove?

I do. I think it’s a good opportunity for those guys, no matter what MLS team we play. I think any time you can showcase yourself in front of a higher division or a higher league, then it’s great for the players. I think our guys will be excited to do that, and to do it in Philly, then even moreso, because that’s our affiliate. We do have quite a few guys that have a connection to Philly, one way or another, whether they were drafted there, or being there for preseason. In Morgan’s case, he had a little time on the roster. Other guys have been on loan. It would be an opportunity no matter who we’re playing, but for Philly even more, because it’s a place where our guys want to be.

Let’s go back to the 2012 matchup.. It finished 5 to 2 in favor of Philadelphia, but that scoreline wasn’t really indicative of the game. You lost a couple of players to injury, there some were tough penalty calls, and you still cut the lead to 3-2 at one point..

There were some crazy circumstances in that game, no doubt. In the first 20 minutes we were down 3-0, had lost both outside backs to injuries, had a penalty kick against us, and basically handed them a goal when we played a ball backwards and it turned into a breakaway. So we went into the locker room down 3-0 on a bad error on our part, an unfortunate handball and injury and penalty kick, and then another injury where they scored the third goal when we had 10 players on the field. We had a guy being tended to that we ended up having to pull. So we rallied, got two goals back, had a chance to tie the game, and had an opportunity that I thought was a penalty that they didn’t give us. Then we ran out of gas a little bit because we only had one sub left. It was 3-2 late, then they got another penalty to make it 4-2. It was a good game, and the better team won, but I think we gave them a good game. I think it was closer than a 5-2 scoreline.

I seem to remember you had a bus trip to Florida the weekend prior to the game?

Yea, we played Friday in Orlando and Saturday in Charleston.

How about your chances in this game?

We’re gonna go there, we’re gonna battle, and we’re gonna do everything we can to win the game. We respect the team they have and the talent they have. I’ve seen a lot of their games and I think they’ve been unlucky more than a few times. I think they’ve played better than their results and I think we’re in a similar situation. I think we’re a much better team than what our record shows. Any game we go into with (MLS) teams, we know we’re the underdog and we know it’s going to be difficult. But we’re going to go in there believing, and the one thing we have on our side is that we’re 5 and 4 all-time against MLS teams, so not only do we have belief, we have some history on our side.

Harrisburg City Islanders winger Morgan Langley

What’s your overall feeling on again playing the Philadelphia Union, your affiliate club, in the U.S. Open Cup?

It’s the second time in two years we’re heading down to Philadelphia for the Open Cup. Obviously for me, being a former player for Philadelphia, I’m pretty excited. Getting to go back to the old team and play in their stadium is exciting for me. You don’t have to get me up for the game. The same can be said for the rest of the team as well, you know? Being our affiliate, and being our major league affiliate, it gets everyone excited to go over there and show the team what they’ve got and also to beat your affiliate. That’s the vibe around the locker room.

Is it strange at all to have to play against an affiliate in a meaningful game like this?

A lot of guys find it a little bit strange. For me though, I don’t see it as being strange. You get a crack at the big boys, and to have a shot at your affiliate is always fun, particularly since we’re on the lower end of that partnership. I think everybody on this team, for the most part, has had some sort of connetion with Philadelphia, whether they played in a reserve game, or trialed over there. I had been signed there. That’s where the excitement comes in, and it doesn’t seem strange to me at all honestly.

Obviously you’ll be at a disadvantage, with Union loanees like Jimmy McLaughlin being unable to play in this game..

That’s an interesting dynamic to the game coming up. To me, that’s something that I understand, as part of the game. You see it in Europe and you see it in England, when players go on loan there’s a clause in their contract that they’re not allowed to play against their parent club. So I understand it totally from that standpoint. I think it gives us a little more fight, because they’re trying to get any advantage they can have to move on. Again it comes back to that little chip on our shoulder to prove to them, alright, you can take them back but we’re still going to come out here and give you a game. I understand it, but I think it only provides more motivation for us as a team.

Take us back to the 2012 matchup..

I remember everything about that game. That was a tough game. We had just come off of a two-game back-to-back road trip that weekend in Florida. We had actually driven down to Florida from Harrisburg that year. We were already coming into that game pretty fatigued. We had to make two early substitutions because of injury and we let in three early goals. We come back, and make it 3 to 2, but I think we ran out of gas probably in the 60th minute, just from our travel schedule and the (misfortune) from earlier in the game. I think it was a decently matched game. I think we kind of, the score wasn’t indicative of what the matchup was, so I think a lot of us in the club remember that. When we’re going into this game we’re going to have that in the back of our mind and try to prove that we kind of had the short end of the stick with that game.

Philadelphia is struggling this season, just three wins going into the World Cup break. Do you think you’ve got a shot at winning?

They’re trying to recover their season now and I think this is the perfect way to recover a season. They’re going to come out and look for any possible way to win. We have to be aware of that as a team. We’ve got to match their intensity and will to win, to be honest. They’re gonna be fighting and clawing to get a result out of this game to start a positive run in the season. We understand that and we’ve got to match that.

4 Comments

  1. Anybody know if the Union/Islanders match will be available online? (I’m out in California.)

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’m wondering the same thing

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