Fans' View

Fans’ View: Behind the Curtin

Photo: Earl Gardner

Twenty-five minutes or so into last Wednesday’s game against New York, a feeling came over me, leading to the following Twitter exchange:

Twitter exchange

Wednesday night was a perfect night for soccer, and we were rewarded with one of the most convincing victories of the season. That feeling continues to grow. I’ve read Jim Curtin’s press conference quotes, seen his appearance on Comcast SportsNet, and seen him in action for a handful of games now, and I like what I see. I like what I hear. There’s something incredibly refreshing about the Jim Curtin era already.

I’m not naïve. Everyone loves an interim coach — first and foremost because he’s not the guy he replaced (remember the first home game post-Nowak?). It’s also pretty typical to see a bit of a bump in performance after a coaching change, with players out to prove themselves, and a new voice in the locker room. I also believe that no matter how well Curtin does managing the team over these next few months, the Union won’t be willing to risk taking another flyer on an inexperienced young coach from inside the organization, given how the Hackworth hire played out.

That said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jim Curtin, and hope he stays in the organization when the new regime is announced. Something just feels right with this team now. The man appears to be a straight shooter. Instead of post-game rants about referees or what could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been if a few balls bounced our way, he gives an honest assessment of what went well or what went wrong. He recently mentioned his belief that as team, you generally are what your record says you are. I have no doubt that John Hackworth is a good man, and likely well regarded by his players, but there’s a real honesty and authenticity with Curtin’s communication style that I find really refreshing.

Managing the team, Curtin keeps things simple, gets his team organized, and puts players in the best possible positions for the team to succeed. No tinkering with converting forwards to center back, and no tinkering with putting square shaped  4-2-3-1 parts into a 4-3-3 round hole. I suspect he had difficult conversations with Antoine Hoppenot and Leo Fernandes, who Curtin does not seem to rate as highly as his predecessor did. We know from interviews that he sat down with Maurice Edu and told him he would be playing at least a few games at CB, for the good of the team. Maidana moved into the middle of the field, where he’s flourished as a playmaker. Casey and LeToux are locked into the lineup and scoring. Ethan White has been thawed out and showed great promise in his three league starts.

There’s no desire to demonstrate that he’s smarter than everyone else with unexpected lineup decisions (eg. Wheeler at CB, Fabinho on the wing of a 4-3-3 line up?). He simply puts the right players in the right spots, and lets them play. Smart tactics and smart lineups are being employed, and the Union has been on a good run as a result. What more could you want from a young coach thrown into the fire at midseason? It’s easy to get behind Jim Curtin, and what an unexpected turn of events to have meaningful games ahead of us again.


  1. John O'Donnell says:

    There’s more than that for me. He’s played in this league and knows that veterans win. Leo Fernandez hasn’t gotten on the field. He had a couple of good games and after that kept getting time, much like Hoppenot. To me that is only something a veteran should get as they have a history. Young players should have to prove themselves. Leo looked lost to me for more than a few games and I think a coach shouldn’t let his confidence get crushed. Look at Hoppenot now, he looks like the goal has shrunk to the size of a hockey net when he shoots.

  2. Totally agree. I wasn’t sold that a mid-season manager change was a great idea, but I can’t really complain about Curtain, and I’m a sucker for a local guy.
    Ok, I actually can make one complaint. I get the impression that Curtain is a little bit “old-school” in his tactics. By that I mean that he prefers big bodies over technical skill. And that he’d prefer to play negatively and defend a 1-0 lead rather than keep pressing for more. Understandable that a new coach is not too keen on taking risks, but it can result in boring soccer. So far, that has luckily not been the case, but I think those decisions cost us two points against CO. I just really don’t want to see the park the bus and lump in crosses from the wings tactics that started the Hackworth era before he got a little more brave. The results weren’t there, but I did enjoy the style of play he eventually employed with the 4-3-3 mentality (that was never actually a 4-3-3).

    • kingkowboys says:

      This is not directed at spugger, but your comment brings up a topic I don’t understand, playing negatively and boring soccer. To me NO soccer is boring, I get chills defending as I do watching Maidana nutmeg someone to start a play. I don’t understand why all out attack is “attractive” soccer. Beating someone 1-0 is better in my opinion that beating them 3-2. Yes you scored more goals, but you gave up 2 goals. Against good teams and in a playoff scenario giving up less goals translates to wins more than scoring more goals. Bottom line is that I want wins, nothing more nothing less. There is a time and a place for everything including bunkering in and weathering the storm. I will go into the bunker with this team, and love every second.

      • No offense taken. This is an age-old debate. While I too can appreciate a well-oiled defensive machine, it’s also a lot of fun to DOOP. Just my preference. If you’re a business, you should care about goals. Just look at the huge rise in popularity of Liverpool this year compared to Chelsea. Both at the top of the table. One scored a boatload of goals, one didn’t. Liverpool profited immensely from their style of play and took all those 3-2 wins not only to the bank, but nearly to a title. Ultimately personal preference. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it “ugly” anymore. It’s just my personal bias as a striker creeping in. My guess is that you’re a defender? 🙂

      • kingkowboys says:

        Liverpool is awesome and a personal favorite in the BPL. They are the only team I really follow, especially now that Chomper is gone (can’t stand him). Having said that I don’t feel the same vested interest that I do with my home town team, so my position may be skewed on them. I envy Chelsea’s championships though, and would love to have that kind of success with the Union. I would love to hear people bitching about our tactics all the way to second place.
        As for my position, I was a do everything for the team kind of player. I played every position, mostly CM/CDM and was very much defensive oriented, but loved, loved, loved to counter attack. Same approach to hockey, I was the PK guy that would block a shot, pick your pocket, and go the distance to score short handed. Some of my proudest moments. You analysis of my position is mind blowing by the way.

    • 18 goals in 8 matches under Curtin and a record of 5-1-2. I’m not sure how that’s negative or boring soccer.

      • Scott Ellis says:

        Agreed. First and foremost, I want to win. Tactics in the Colorado game were mentioned above, though the lahoud ejection really forced his hand that game. He’s done a good job of putting his most dangerous players (Casey, maidana, LeToux) in the best spots and letting them go. They’re scoring and the defense seems more stable. If they win the open cup and make the playoffs looking like they have lately, I wouldn’t have an issue with Curtin coming back. I just don’t see the FO risking it though.

  3. Curtin has done a commendable job, and I sincerely hope he says with the organization. Nevertheless, we simply must bring in a manager from outside the organization.

  4. kingkowboys says:

    I certainly have been happy with the change in manager. I thought it was the wrong move at the time because I expected to not see a vast improvement in the coach. I expected a stewardship until the next manager could be found. I think what we have is someone who is genuine when he says he only cares about winning. Personally I think that is THE #1 trait for a professional manager. No matter what you personally prefer, you put a team out on the field built to win above all else. If that means 3 in the back, do it. If that is 5 in the back, do it. If that means your USMNT hopeful CDM has to play CB, do it. I personally believe that Hackworth was too much of a “players coach” with tendencies to value players and/or certain attributes too highly.
    For those wanting a new manager, would you still want a new manager if Curtin does something no one in Union history has done, win Open Cup and/or a playoff game (or more)? I would go for results. If we win our first trophy, and we finish minimum 6th in the East he gets next year. If we make the playoffs I will be torn, and if we make a playoff run he gets next year.

    • Scott Ellis says:

      I think it would be a really tough sell to keep him around, even if they won the open cup. There’s something about him that is easy to believe in though, and I hope we do keep him in some capacity.

  5. How about this scenario. David Moyes with Jim as his assistant?

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