Press Conference

Transcript and video of Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased

On the injury status of Austin Berry and Vincent Nogueira

Both have gotten through training sessions in the past few days. Austin is in good form and good health right now. He’s been playing well in training, so that’s a very big positive to have a center back that is actually a center back healthy. I think we only have two on our roster right now, him and Ethan White, Ethan’s also progressing nicely. So, again, it’s positive for him.

And then Nogueira has, again, I mentioned, it’s his first time ever having a groin injury, so it’s new to him. His frame of reference is kind of a zero, so I think he’s overcompensating a little bit for the groin and he has some tightness in his quad, but I don’t think it’s anything that is too serious.

On the recent reports regarding Carlos Valdes and the Union’s interest in seeing him return, he is still under contract with the Union, correct?


What needs to happen for Carlos Valdes to come back to MLS?

The tricky part is that there’s a lot of moving parts in it. San Lorenzo is also interested in Carlos in a major way, they have Copa Libertadores coming up, so it’s a thing where they could up the ante and have a clause where they could maybe get Carlos in that regard too. But he’s a guy that we’ve monitored, we’ve been in contact with. He likes the idea of coming back to Philadelphia, so it’s a positive thing. He’s a guy that is a player of ours and — it’s complicated and there’s a lot of different things I can’t speak on. But the gist of it is we’d like to have him back at center back, and he’s a player we see as a top center back in MLS.

Are there things that need to be done to convince Valdes to come back?

There’s nothing on the Union side. Carlos knows where we stand with him. We’ve made an offer to him. He’s a guy that, like I said, he wants to be here. There’s still — there’s agents, there’s third parties, there’s a lot of different things that come up with these kind of…There’s also the fact that Colombia are still alive, and he could play in a big game and in the World Cup and then, you know, then you’re talking about even more clubs coming in. It’s an issue that’s something that’s controlled by the league as well. Our league is unique in that way in that, at the end of the day, they own Carlos. If we really want to get down to the core of it, the Philadelphia Union doesn’t. So, that’s a unique situation.

Given that he had to leave the Union to stay in the Colombian national team picture, does he have motivation to return to Philadelphia?

There’s a lot of positives with MLS. You get paid on time; first and fifteenth, there’s a check, every time. So, that’s not an issue. He likes Philadelphia — that’s a fact too — he’s comfortable here. He knows the league. So, there’s positives on our end.

Obviously, the player does hold some leverage, for sure. Whenever you’re coming back from a World Cup and you’re playing on one of the best teams in the World Cup, this is probably a peak in his value right now. So, he knows at his age — I think he’s the perfect age for a center back, I think it’s a prime age for a center back — his next contract is probably one he thinks is his highest value, so he’s going to try to cash in on the success he’s had. We’ve been aggressive and we want to be part of the discussions. It’s not a hundred percent that he’s going to come to us, but we’re in there and we’re interested in Carlos, for sure.

Is it possible he could come back at the designated player level?

Yeah. I mean, he’s a player that we value in that realm of money. Again, that DP term gets used and thrown around a lot; there’s different degrees of it, there’s impact DPs, there’s all kinds of different rules, and there‘s also a possibility of a changing salary cap with the new collective bargaining agreement coming up, so, again, where that number is exactly, I don’t know where he falls. But, just know that we would like to make him one of the top paid center backs in the league. The outlier right now is obviously the Omar Gonzalez contract, which is a bigger one, but, in that next tier of guys, we see him as one of those.

Valdes got into Colombia’s national team picture as a Union player. Is that a bargaining chip at all?

It’s a good point. I mean, listen, Pekerman is an amazing coach, I think we all know that, I don’t have to talk about his resume. I will say this: I guarantee he underestimates our league, for sure. That is a definite. I think a lot of the coaches around the world underestimate our league. It’s a growing league, it’s one I thought Carlos thrived in and, you know, made his bone, so to speak. He obviously had a good career previous to it, but now he’s an All-Star in MLS, and that kind of started the conversations with the national team, and it’s a good national team, as we can all see. To be in the top 23 in that group is something special, and that shows that the is player that not just our club sees as good, the whole world sees him as a value.

With players returning from injury, is competition for starting spots up?

Absolutely. I mean, competition is great; a little fear goes a long way. You look at all the different little things that happened and are going on already: I think Amobi stepped in now and done a little more after he got to watch the Harrisburg game. I think that upped his game. I think the fact that Zac now sees Blake playing well in goal in the Open Cup, he goes, “Alright, yeah, this is a competition.” So, I think all those things are healthy and they’re things you need with every group. It’s a positive, for sure. Mike Lahoud now has stepped up and done a really good job. Competition is good. You start to look at the bench and you have an Austin Berry. Last game, we bring off the bench and bring in a former No. 1 pick, and we bring in Brian Carroll, a guy who’s done it for 13 years. So, again, the depth in the group is growing, especially now everybody gets healthy. When you look down your bench, it’s good to have some bullets to throw out there.

Injury update

Berry is healthy. He’s looked good in training the past few days. I would also add that Vincent Nogueira, it’s a newer injury for him, but he got through training today and looked good. Is he a starter, is he a sub? I’m not positive on that yet, but we’ll assess that tomorrow and go from there. That’s a good player to bring in for 25 minutes at the end of a game, that is for sure. That’s exciting.

How has your life changed since being named interim head coach?

It’s a lot of responsibility. I’m learning a lot in a short amount of time, it’s kind of an accelerated learning, a little bit like one year of college in four years. You have to learn quick, you have to adapt to things fast. It’s difficult; I’m not going to sit up here and say it’s easy, it’s not an easy job, but it’s one that I’ve embraced and really like, and I don’t want to lose. The way you do that is you keep winning. That’s the only thing I can kind of control. And, again, the process of the interviewing of other coaches, I know that’s going on. I’ve accepted that, and I have a good relationship, open trust with Nick, and he keeps me filled in on the guys that are coming in. Listen, I said it to you guys before, a lot of them are my friends, they’re guys that I talk with all the time, and they’re great candidates as well. I’m going to do my best to keep winning, that’s kind of the one thing that I can kind of control right now, is do my talking by what they do on the field. The locker room is good, guys are happy. There’s an energy at practice that competing, but competing the right way, pushing each other. Like I said, that competition — a little bit of fear — is a great motivator.

Will Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu remain in the same positions long-term?

Ideally you have two center backs that have played center back their whole career, and you have a Maurice Edu in there with an Amobi, with a Mike Lahoud, with a Brian Carroll. There’s so many options you could sit up here and go through all the different variables but, again, I know it sounds cliché, but we’re going game-by-game. This game against Dallas will be a challenge. They’re a top transition team in our league, they have some speed out wide and they can get at you. So, I’ll sit down with the staff and we’ll talk about the best way to get through Dallas. Obviously, you do have too in the back of your mind though that you’re playing a game with a quick turnaround on Tuesday. So, that’s a difficult one. But, again, our depth in midfield is impressive right now and who plays where, that will be game-by-game. Ideally, we get two center backs that are center backs, and you have Mo in front of them, protecting them. Like I said though too, he could probably player striker.

Were you surprised that Oscar Pareja left Colorado to coach Dallas?

Yeah. I played against Oscar when he was in Dallas. I was a young kid but I looked up to on the field as a guy who just competed. I mean, he was a crazy competitor. A little crazy on the field too, he would lay some tackles and get after guys in the right way. I then saw him when I was coaching in the Academy with the under-18s, and he was running FC Dallas’ academy, and you just kind of looked over and you saw the way he handled himself in front of people and it was always impressive. He’s a guy that I respect. He treats people with respect, he has a good team, he did a great job in Colorado. I can’t speak for the process there, what went on, it seems like a lot of different ins and outs and moving parts there, but he’s done a great job in Dallas as well. He’ll have his team ready to play. The trend is all these old players are coaching in the league, 17 out of 19 now, and I’d put him in as one of the most competitive guys in MLS. He fits that mold to a T — he’s a winner.

What is it about the team that it has had success on the road?

It’s mentality. I think any time you go on the road it’s going to be a little different. I think it depends on the player, but some players react a little better on the road because — this is going to sound bad — but you’re away from you’re family, you’re getting a little more sleep for the one’s that have kids, there’s different variables that actually come into it that maybe are outside the box. But they’ve shown a collective effort on the road, and a confidence that we can not only win on the road but score goals. So, there’s some positives that go into going on the road, and we’ve kind of embraced it.

To be honest, I’d like to get some of the confidence we have on the road when we’re in this stadium. I think a little bit of it is, and the fans back us a hundred percent, but they feel pressure to play well in front of the fans, there’s a major feeling of pressure, which can get compounded by, you know, we had a couple of bad results here, this year. I won’t hide behind that, we’ve had some bad games at home this year, and I think that them putting a little unneeded pressure on themselves, wanting to impress the fans and play this beautiful, attacking style of soccer, we’ve kind of gotten away from what really wins in MLS, which is, sometimes even at home, grinding out a 1-0 win, because that’s what the fans really want at the end of the day, anyway. They don’t care if we win 5-4, or 2-0, or 1-0, they want wins.

(Editor’s note: For more on this topic, see our four-part series from last season on the challenges of playing on the road, which includes extensive quotes from Curtin: Part 1, 2, 3, 4. The last two parts deal more particularly with Curtin’s comments above.)

Is it fair to say that, as a part of the Valdes loan, San Lorenzo have an option to buy?

Yeah, I mean, I guess at its simplest, if MLS gets an offer — call it any club, you don’t have to call it San Lorenzo — if MLS gets an offer for $3 million to buy Carlos Valdes, then we’re probably out of the running, that’s the reality of the situation. But, a World Cup year, it makes things a little crazy, so it’s a little more complicated than that. But that would be the simple answer to that.

People are already speculating about who will be on the 2018 World Cup squad for the US. What do players like Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams need to do to make the team, and what can the club do to help them?

First off, right off the bat, they’re both young players, they’re really young players that have been given a lot of experience and a lot of responsibility on a new franchise, to be honest, that’s only five years old. Those guys have been around for a little while here. I’d say one big thing, one piece to their development, is to be — whether it’s the Philadelphia Union or wherever they go in their career — they need to be around someone who’s done it already. I think it’s important for them to learn from a top player, not only in our country, but in the world. That’s something that, I think, pushes you along as a player. My personal experience was with a Chris Armas type, or a Jesse Marsch could get thrown in there, or Hristo Stoichkov, somebody who you can kind of look up to and learn. I don’t know that they’ve had that yet here in this country. So, again, they need somebody to kind of push them up. They have the talent, they have the ability to be great players — they already are great players in the league — it’s a matter of now realizing there’s a whole other level of fitness, there’s a whole other level of ways to ramp this thing up. Part of it is responsibility in the locker room, their growing as young players.

They’re not there yet, but Sheanon’s goal should be to be in the January camp, and same with Amobi, they should be shooting to be in the January camp with the US next year, and that kind of starts the process. Listen, four years is a long way out to predict stuff. You look at everybody’s predictions from the last World Cup and it’s kind of laughable the names that you’ll see thrown in there, who going to make it and who’s not. Four years is a long time in a player’s career, for sure. But those two guys, I respect a lot, and I want them to be with the USA, for sure.


  1. “Ideally you have two center backs that have played center back their whole career…”

    Holy fucking shit.

    Shots fired.

    Boom goes the dynamite.


    etc, etc, etc

    I want him to stay as our head coach just for that. After 2 years of idiot Hackworth moves, that line felt SO good.

  2. I love that people ask almost every week about “competition for starting spots.” That is great consistency. Keep it up, guys.

  3. If $3 million is the highest they can compete with for Valdes then I can’t really see him coming back into the fold. Surely he could command an offer like that.

  4. Pitch Prowler says:

    Valdes has only gotten into one(1) WC game I think, so it’s not like teams are seeing him play and are licking their chops to purchase his rights. (Don’t get me wrong I love Carlos and absolutely want him back in Philly.)
    Valdes aside, I have to ask if anybody else wonders if Bradley’s spotty play in Brazil was the direct result of him being in MLS and not competing at the top level in Italy this season. It pains me to say this but the Bald Eagle (maybe my favorite MNT player) was just not sharp.

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