Press Conference

Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Video begins mid-sentence with Union interim head coach Jim Curtin wishing Taney Dragons good luck in Wednesday night’s Little League World Series game

…bandwagon fan with that one. I have a six year old daughter, Ryan, who actually plays little league in Taney — she plays T-ball — so we’re involved heavily in the Taney family and it’s been really cool to watch. Inspiration for my daughter, inspiration for girls everywhere, so it’s been a cool run, and good luck to them tonight. While I have a little bit of a voice up here, I figured I’d get that out. Go ahead with the questions.

What’s going on with Rais Mbolhi?

There’s a good way to explain that one. There’s an international glitch right now with the US State Department on visas and passports everywhere. It’s an issue that arose, unfortunately, right at the time — I think it was July 27, if you Google it, Washington Post just ran a story on it. We’re not the only country suffering from this; anyone who’s trying to get a US visa and US passport globally right now is running into issues and, unfortunately, we’re a victim of that. When Rais signed and we were up here introducing him we thought that everything was taken care of. Something went wrong, and now we’ve kind of had to deal with the repercussions of that. Again, it’s not a Union issue, it’s a United States of America issue, so it’s kind of out of our hands in that regard.

As soon as we get him we’ll be happy and, again, he had a hiccup leaving the other morning. Josh Gross got an email at 4:30 in the morning that he was in a car crash — nothing serious, fortunately — on the way to the airport, so everything is fine in that regard, he’s supposed to arrive today at 1:40 pm. Again, until his body’s physically here we’ll wait to see. But 1:40 pm is the arrival time on the flight.

Does that mean all of his visa stuff is squared away?

It has been. He has his passport in hand, everything’s taken care of, and he is officially ready to go now.

Does that mean we can expect Zac MacMath to start on Sunday against San Jose?

Yes, that is probably the way it’s going to shake out now. We’ve had two really, really hard days of training, the past two days we got after it very intense. Tomorrow is an off-day; with the Sunday game we wanted to shut them down during the middle of the week so they can recover for Thursday and Friday where it gets more tactical. So, obviously, Rais missing the two most important days of training this week and tomorrow being an offday, he’ll do something on his own tomorrow, we have it set up for him to come in and work with the goalkeeping coach, BJ Callahan, on that one. That’s a quick turnaround, he’s been sitting in Paris for a little while, getting this sorted out, so — he’s been a guy that says he needs to be a hundred percent mentally ready to go before he debuts, and debuts are special. Goalkeeping’s a unique position in that you can not be that involved mentally for 89 minutes and then you’re called upon to make one save, so he wants to be one hundred percent sharp — I totally get that so, we’ll respect his decision. I’ll talk to him when he arrives.

On not playing Zac MacMath against Houston

Of course Zac wanted to play, he’s a competitor. It was the only time of the year where I thought I could get Andre a game. I saw a window, and he deserved a game, to be honest. Our team has faith in him, the players have a tremendous amount of faith in him, Zac has a lot of faith in Andre. Zac’s a young goalkeeper but he’s been very helpful and instrumental in Andre’s learning how to train, day in and day out, all those little details. We saw a window there where emotionally Zac’s been through a lot, physically Zac’s been through a lot, played a great game against Dallas, was able to give him a little bit of a rest mentally because there’s still going to be a lot of games for Zac the rest of the year, as well, with Rais going to the African Cup of Nations and all the different little things.

Andre stepped up too, I thought he played a good game. I think he got a lot of experience, he learned a little bit of the balance of when to step and when to come in a real MLS game is different from some of the Open Cup  — which he did good in the Open Cup too, but it gets ramped up. In Houston, on the road, its as tough an environment as there is in our league, even though they’re a little lower in the standings now, but that is a tough — that is a real game, as we say, it’s a playoff type game. He got a ton of experience and he held up well. Gave up an own-goal unfortunately in extra time, but you don’t put that on him. And there’s five different things that could have happened on the goal; there’s actually a good thing on the MLS website on the breakdown of that goal and all the different things that could happen, I thought that was actually pretty well done. Not to plug Greg Lalas, but that was a good one.

On Carlos Valdes and his fitness

Good, very good. He’s obviously — anytime you come off of a World Cup there’s an emotional relaxation, and he needed some time to shut it down and, obviously with the success of Colombia, he had some partying, I’m sure, to do, ’cause that’s what they should do, they had a great run. He’s been a true professional. He’s back in the mix and he’s a guy that we’re very high on. His engine is — he’s a competitor, he raises the level in training. You could see today, very intense in training today, he gets on guys and gets after guys — in the right way — and he’s a leader, he leads by example.

Physically, I think he has a whole nother level of fitness that he can get to — and he will, soon — but I’m very happy how he got through 90 minutes in a very difficult game in Houston.

On how well Zac has handled things

Zac’s been a pro

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…He’s still a good young goalkeeper and we have a lot of faith in him.

What did you say to MacMath about Blake starting against Houston with him coming off the best performance of his career?

I think a lot of times, I don’t know, “Best performance of his career”? I don’t know what that means but, yeah, he played good, he saved penalty kicks, he did very good in that one. Zac would tell you that he made a mistake on the goal, but, again, it’s very fickle, our sport, you can have highs and lows. But, he came out and did a great job in the penalty kicks.

Zac was disappointed when I talked with him, of course he was upset. Like I said, he’s a pro, he wants to compete, he wants to be out there, he was in a good groove. I could talk you through every change we made. We can starting back with Montreal, I could walk you through the three field changes that we made: moving Mo back to center back because there’s less running; then the following week we change five field players and we changed the goalkeeper, so we’re not using the “We were tired” — we had enough fresh legs on the field, we didn’t perform well enough and if you have questions on the subs and the different things, we can easily talk through those. It’s not like we flip a coin and throw a bunch of guys out there, there’s guys competing every week, there’s discussions that happen with every player: where they feel physically, are they able to get themselves up for Houston in a quick turnaround, so, it’s not a coin-toss decision. With that one, that was

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…any way, shape, or form, Andre Blake played very good, so, if you want to throw blame, blame me.

On Pedro Ribeiro getting his first start

Pedro was good, I thought Pedro was good in the first half, held the ball up well for us. The one lesson Pedro gets from the game is when Horst is on a yellow card and we send a through ball and he’s got a guy hanging off of him — you know, I never encourage diving, but he was fouled there — and if he just kind of even stops — I’m not saying he goes down on a dive, but if he just stops there — the ref

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…Tough call though, during the course of the year there’s a hundred calls that could go either way, and it’s a tough situation for the referee to be in. But that one, when you look at it, it’s a foul, for sure. And is it a last man foul? Yes, it is. So, tough, but he learned from it. Again, great experience for Pedro. He tired at the end, no question. The idea was to pull him — when you saw Conor up on the sidelines, Pedro was supposed to come out, but Seba whispered to me on the sidelines that he was gassed and that was it for him, so we had to adjust on the fly. Again, I’ll talk you through every change and the reasons behind it, you just have to ask me. I’ll let you know exactly, I’m an honest guy.

How is Cristian Maidana doing?

Chaco was very good today. Very encouraging. The medical staff was not happy with Dallas, they thought we might have forced him a little too early. He got an injection in the hamstring, and he’s been on a plan now that we were finishing up in Houston,on a very good plan. Fingers crossed, it’s very positive, he looked great today, he looked like the Chaco Maidana we saw for the good run that he was on. We need to get him back there — this team wants to not just make the playoffs, but to make a run in the playoffs. If you want to be a real team you need guys like Maidana on the field because he’s special, he has the things you can’t — I can’t teach, you know what I mean? I’m a just a defender. He see’s the game differently, and those guys are few and far between in our league, in our world right now.

So, again, fitness wise, he has to improve. Hamstring is doing better. He is a guy that is a big piece, a big piece, whether it is centrally, whether it’s wide left, so, it’s important.

Any other injury updates? 10:46

Fabinho took a knock the other day with his knee. It’s a little bit of a scary one so he’s getting checked out right now — MRI — fingers are crossed on that one but don’t speculate, we’ll see. But yes, otherwise, we are very healthy. Soon, of course, as you say that usually three injuries happen, but, yes, we’re pretty healthy right now.

On getting Vincent Nogueira back into his preferred position

Yeah, Vincent’s a guy who, I’ve said it up here a bunch, he’d preferred to be in the deeper spot, like you saw him against New York where he played with Brian Carroll and they did a good job together. He’s very good at starting your attack, he can play that 50 yard ball, whether its even on the ground or in the air, that gets us started forward. A lot of times now I’ve asked him to be the No. 10 and he does a good job at that but, again, his strongest quality is to drop deeper, get the ball, and start our attack. A lot of times he’ll still do that in the No. 10 spot, so he’ll drop deep and get it and he doesn’t have a lot of places to play, so those are the moments when you see he puts his arms up like, “Where is everybody?”. And he’s got a point, we need to move better for him when he gets on the ball. A guy like Chaco, him and Chaco have a good understanding of each other, and they like to play and move, and get it and give it back, and all of our other players benefit a lot from a Maidana as well. If you can Vincent and Chaco in there together, I think it could be special. Chaco can still play on the left, as well. You know, you talk to Conor, Conor likes the service he gets, obviously, when Maidana’s out wide. It’s a lot of different options, it’s an option that we want to have because, like I said, he’s a special player, Vincent’s a special player, as well. You could tell toward the end of the Houston game, Vincent’s logged a lot of minutes and did a ton of running, so the legs started to go a little, but that’s to be expected. But, we’re happy where he’s at. If it’s playing a little more advanced, he’s still a good option there.

Thoughts on San Jose Earthquakes

They’re a dangerous team, they are very dangerous. I watched them play this weekend and you see them play against the Dallas team that we played — that was the Dallas team minus four guys that got hurt in our Open Cup game. It actually said a lot to the defending we did against FC Dallas because they are a handful. Castillo right now is a handful and San Jose learned that. But San Jose is a team that they compete like crazy, they get after it in the right way

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…long balls and dump balls but they’re changing that, they’re in the transition of changing so there’s a little unknown, which is tricky — Clarence Goodson coming back from injury, different little things that are happening with the group it’s tough to prepare for.

On our home field, though, it’s about us. We can talk about San Jose all we want but we know we have seven of ten here down the stretch, so we will only be able to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the year and say we’re a playoff team or not, and it’ll be our fault if we don’t make it, and it’ll be because we played well that we do make it. But we’re on our home field in this stretch

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On Mbolhi missing upcoming games because of national team call-ups

We’re aware of when he’ll be here and when he won’t be here. We’re dialed in on that, we don’t just say, “How about that, the African Cup of Nations, I had no idea that was coming.” So, we know when he’ll be here and when he won’t be here. We’ll be prepared; Zac knows where he stands, Xac knows he’s going to be asked to play in big games down the stretch. So, again, when Rais is ready and he tells me that he’s a hundred percent he will start. If he’s at the African Cup of Nations, he will not start for us, ok, because he will be playing for Algeria then. But when he’s here, he’ll start, and Zac will do a great job when he’s not here.

So, Mbolhi will be away for the September international break?

The African Cup of Nations? Yeah, he is playing for Algeria in the African Cup of Nations.

With the team having a full week of rest, and San Jose coming in the midst of a road series, do you feel like the team almost needs to stomp on them?

Of course. You look at it now in MLS and teams go on the road midweek, it is challenging. Seattle plays in the Open Cup, 6-0 against Chicago at home, plays a great game. They go on the road to Salt Lake and it was difficult for them. I watched that whole game on the plane live, and Salt Lake was a handful. It’s the same thing:  it’s tough to go on a road game after a midweek game, always, in our league. Seattle’s the best team in the league right now and they struggled with it and Salt Lake took it to them that whole game. If you watch it, it’s a 2-1 scoreline but Salt Lake had the better of the play, Seattle gets a late goal. So, it’s a tough thing to do. Anytime you look at the schedule — I always look — if a team’s going away midweek, that’s a good thing. Then they have to come across the country? That matters in our league too, the travel element is huge. So, they’re in a difficult spot. I expect San Jose, though, they’ll fight. They’ll fight for their coach right now, [Mark] Watson’s a great coach and a guy who always has his team prepared to play and compete. So, they’ll go on the road tonight in Seattle, they’ll put up a fight — typical MLS, they could probably win the game, because you never know — and they have to come all the way to us, and that’s a long way to go. We’ll have to jump on them early. We have fresh legs, we’ve been rested, and out guys are getting the appropriate rest and just the right amount of fitness ramping up for this home stretch, so we’ll be ready to go.

On the possibility of Zach Pfeffer starting against San Jose

It’s an option, but right now, Zach’s fighting to get in an 18, he’s not fighting to start. So, he has to do that first before he’s considered for a starting group. He played a game with Harrisburg this weekend and I think it went ok, just ok, from the messages I got from the coach and talking with him, so I would say that would be a long shot. Tough to get in the 18 before you can be in the 11.

Thoughts on the start of construction for the new practice facility

Special. It’s something that’s been in the works and to see the dirt start moving over there is really important. It’s important to this club to have a field where we can just walk out the door and be on that isn’t our stadium field. You start to get two things: It should feel special when you play on your game field and sometimes, when you play on it every day like we’ve had in the past month or so, it loses a little bit of, you know, how special and important that is on game day. To have that facility over there does wonders as well for the fact that, if guys want to stay after and train and be on the field. It’s been for the past, you know, years, it’s been pile in the van

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…When big time foreign players come over here and see that it’s appealing, it goes a long way. So, we’re thrilled it’s getting done, and it’ll be very special once that gets opened up and running.

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…getting tricky. They’re a team that had a bad result against Dallas, I guarantee they bounce back tonight with a tough showing. They’re a handful. Montreal came in here to our house and dictated the game to us, so we’re not naive to the fact that anyone can beat anyone in this league. Sometimes, desperate teams are the most dangerous, too. So, it’s going to be a tough game. The Western Conference — the one thing no one talks about, I feel it needs to be brought up more, is the fact that they have nine teams in five make it, and we have ten and only five make it . It’s like the most obvious no brainer that it is easier to qualify in the West, but it never really gets talked about. No, they’re going to be a handful, it’s going to be a tough game. We’ll be ready for them.


  1. Every time Union audio cuts out during press conferences, and it happens everytime. I always it is something good. Like the existence of alien bodies under ppl park. The face that Zac Macmath is a baggy eyed goblin in a wig and makeup.or that Juan Diego Gonzolez lives in the basement of PPL Park still drawing a paycheck.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    I can only assume more Bimbo money will allow us to fix the audio issues.

  3. I appreciate his straight forwardness. He doesn’t give fuzzy answers.

  4. The way the audio cuts out is very Nowak. It’s like the old Nowak KGB Iron Curtain didn’t approve of whatever is cut out. I’m surprised it’s not dubbed over with overly positive stuff.

  5. Here’s where it changes for league play: all the pressure Sunday nite will be on the home team. Quakes are young, loose & confident. And a draw in Seattle last night will produce energy to offset travel fatigue. Now JC shows us if he can coach up to expectations.

    • I watched that SJ-Seattle game last night, and Bernardez got scissor tackled by Obafemi Martins and had to be helped to lockeroom. Plus their new DP attacking MF is out 4-6 weeks. Don’t like to see injuries, but they would be 2 big players missing for SJ. And they have to fly cross country on a short week.

      • Didn’t see game or report on Bernardez. Yes, Garcia was already out. These kids, Thompson & Koval, got raves on mlssoccer. Neither has played much at all this year & could bounce back fast.

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