Press Conference

Video and transcript of Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: questions have been paraphrased.

Audio begins mid response to a question about the New York Red Bulls win against DC United on Wednesday night 

…got a result in the end, so we’ll expect them to come in here — it’s a time of the year though when everyone needs points, so every point matters — we’ll expect them to bring a full squad, but, like you said, a tired squad. We’ll be ready for them.

On Bradley Wright-Phillips leaving the game early

Yeah, Wright-Phillips is on fire right now. For him to be out of the game would be something that obviously would benefit us, I wouldn’t hide that. But, it was just tightness in his hamstring, you don’t know how that goes, it could’ve just been precautionary with the amount of games they have coming up. So, we’ll show tape on him, and we’ll prepare for him, we know what he’s about.

But, again, their attack always starts with Thierry Henry and trying to locate him on the field, and trying to do your best to stop him.

On Sheanon Williams’ strong form

He’s in excellent form right now. He set up both of our goals too [against Toronto on Saturday], so getting forward he’s been good. I always focus most on defense with our defenders, and that part’s been very good. One-on-one defending, being tuned in for 90 minutes — Sheanon’s in great form right now, we’re very happy with him, and contributing offensively is a bonus.

On what winning the second home game of the season against New York would mean

New York’s a — with Philadelphia across all sports — bitter rivalry. We usually don’t like each other too much, and it’ll be big to take both games from them on our field. It matters a great deal that we just protect this building and give our fans what they deserve, which is wins at home. We’ve started to establish that, now we want to keep that going.

There have been some crazy week’s this year. Is the one coming up — New York on Saturday, US Open Cup final against Seattle on Tuesday, Houston at home next Saturday — the biggest of the year?

Yeah. I won’t sugarcoat it or hide anything on that one. With a massive game against New York, and then an Open Cup final — I could say it’s just another game but it’s the biggest game this club’s ever had, there’s no way to hide that, that is a big thing on Tuesday —  we’ll focus on winning both games.

What does the busy upcoming week mean tactically for Saturday’s game against New York?

It’s tricky, but we’ll put two teams on the field that can get three points, you know, get wins. Our depth will be challenged because you never look ahead but we have a full week too with Houston, everyone forgets about that game coming. They’re all big. Every Eastern Conference game is huge right now; taking points from a division rival is a necessity at this point of the year. You can see how tight it is, you’re a win out of third place or out of the playoffs. It’s very tight, it’s going to come down to the wire. You can already tell it’s going to come down to the last few weeks, as it always does in our league.

Injury report

We are, knock on wood, we are healthy. We’re healthy at a good time. Not only are we healthy, guys are fit, 90 minutes fit. It’s been a benefit to us that we’ve been playing in what feel like playoff games for several months. We dug a deep hole early on and now we’ve fought our way out of it. Every game has been — I don’t want to say a do or die game , but they’ve been playoff type games. So, to have experience, to know what it takes to manage the Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday and get through that has been important. We’re not a team that’s going to shut guys down or all the sudden flick a switch and think that we can walk on the field and beat anybody, we’ve kind of kept it in this upward motion, and we’ve also told the guys not to get too high or too low based on one or two games.

Have you noticed a trend of improvement with New York?

They’re a handful. You look at their front attacking players — again, it starts with Thierry — Wright-Phillips has been on fire, Sam is a dangerous player out wide, Cahill, you know he’s played a ton of games with Australia now, he’ll be back in the mix with them. Dax even does a great job starting — people think of him as more of a holding type player but he gets in the box and he can score a goal. So, they’re a real handful going forward. They add Saer Sene, who’s another big guy who’s has some success against the Union in the past. They’re dynamic, they come forward in waves. But, again, I do think, if you look at the team overall, as Thierry goes, they go. He’s not a guy that you can shut down for 90 minutes, he’s going to get his chances. He can make a final pass, he can score a goal. We need to locate him all over the field. It’s not something that’s a new idea, he’s the best player in our league when he’s on.

What’s the timeline for the return of Rais Mbolhi and Michael Lahoud from international duty?

Michael is supposed to get in tomorrow, Rais the same. So, they’ll be available for selection for Saturday against New York.

On staying organized against New York

If you get in a track meet with New York, an up-and-down match where it’s disorganized, they have the guys that can pull off a play. We do too in some ways, but I prefer to be organized and not let it turn into an up-and-down match with them just because they do have the special players, the individuals that can punish you on the break. So, we’ll do a good job of not letting it turn into that, try to control things. It’s on our field, which is good. I don’t expect them to come out high pressing us all over the field just because they played a hard fought game last night, so we’ll have to be patient. If our goal comes in the 70th minute, that’s fine. If it comes early, we’ll take that as well, but it’s a situation where we have to manage the game properly and get three points at home. It’s a simple as that.

With Mbolhi coming back on Friday, will he be able to practice? How does all the travel factor into your decision about playing him?

That factors in, for sure. He won’t be able to train with us, he get’s in late tomorrow, so he won’t be with us at training, unfortunately. I like to have guys in with the team for training going into a game. So, you can read into that what you want.

On Brian Brown

Brian brings a change of pace for us. He’s a little different from Conor in that he can look to get in behind a little more. He’s not as big a presence holding up the ball as well, so there’s a little give and take with that. He’s a guy too that, when he get’s a head of steam running at you, he’s a handful, similar to Wenger when he get’s going at you. So, he can play wide, he can play up as the hold-up guy. His best quality though is in and around the box. He has a quick release on his shot

(audio cuts out for 18 seconds)

…fact our front guys that you named are playing very, very well, so it’s tough to get him time out there, but you could see him this weekend.

On the recent reports concerning Rene Meulensteen as a candidate for the head coaching job, how do you handle that?

First off, the communication and dialogue has been open with Nick and I. Our relationship has grown greatly over the past months that I’ve been in charge. We have a good relationship, and we agree on players and the selections we’ve made and different players we’re targeting and that kind of thing. That’s grown greatly. They’ve told us there’s going to be a long-term commitment to myself and the current staff, so that is reassuring to have that in the back of your head, that that is something that is real and out there.

The only other things you can control though is on the field. We’ve been a group now that, I preach in the locker room that we do our talking on the field, we do our talking on the field. For me to sit up and get too into the whole coaching thing would be contradictory to what I’m preaching to our players. I’m not a self-promoter. I’m not going to sit up here and do that. I’m not going to talk negatively about anyone else. I’m just going to do my job, and Red Bull is the focus. We’re going to go in and get three points against Red Bull, that’s the goal, and then the Open Cup final, the biggest game in this club’s history. Two big things, and we’re focused on that. That’s the priority.

You said there’s a long term commitment to yourself regardless of whether you’re hired as permanent head coach?

Yeah, and our staff.

More on balancing the roster with a crucial week of games ahead

It’s a challenge. Both games are important, we have to win both games. So, I’m going to field teams that are able to do that. Will there be a tweak or two? Probably. If you look at it too, everyone keeps forgetting that the Houston game is at the end of the week, so there’s really three big games this week. You have to weigh all those factors. We got through training today, we’re very healthy. Our guys who have been reserves are sharp right now, and they’re pushing the tempo and they’re looking to get in the lineup. I’m not going to reveal who we’re playing obviously, because I don’t want any advantage for Mike [Petke] or Sigi [Schmid], even an inkling of information that can help them in any way. But, know that we’re a deep team. We’re pushing at every position. we have competition and it’s healthy competition. Our bench in the past few games has been  — Danny Cruz has been a starter for 20-plus games, Brian Carroll, who’s been hundreds and hundreds of games in this league — I could go through every guy and say that they’re experienced and ready to come in and do a job. The advantage is that Red Bull played on Wednesday and we’ll have the fresh legs at home. Again, three points is a must.

On how the upcoming games relate to his chance of getting the head coach job

They’re all big. It’s tough to quantify these games. Is the New York game bigger? Does it mean more to our club than the Seattle game? It’s impossible to quantify these things. For the club financially, there’s impacts from both games. Making the playoffs, a lot of people don’t realize, is a big financial impact to the club. Winning the Open Cup is a huge financial impact to the club. Exposure wise, you get all kinds of different things with making the playoffs, you get a lot of things with Champions League. So, there’s a million variables into it.

Again, it’s not about me. It doesn’t really have anything to do with me. I’m just going to keep trying to win games. That’s kind of what I’ve said from the very start. My job is to come in here and win. I knew we had the talent to win, and we’ve done that. Again, I’d be a hypocrite if I started doing the self-promoting thing. I’m getting a lot of information from different people that I should be doing more of it, but I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and walk into the locker room and tell my guys to do our talking on the field, and then sit up here when I have a microphone and say that I’m the best. It’s not going to happen.

Do you have the sense that Zac MacMath has claimed the right to start the US Open Cup final with his performance against Dallas in the semifinal?

Yeah, it’s a factor, it weighs into the decision. I can tell you that Zac knows what the plan is going forward for that game. He’ll keep that quiet because I can’t be revealing  what our plan is down the road. I’m not going to reveal lineups, I’m not helping Sigi Schmid, I’m not helping Mike Petke. I could get asked a hundred times on these and I’m not going to let you guys know. Mentally, for goalkeepers, they need to know where they stand and I’ve always let Zac know where he stood. We have a good relationship and it’s been a positive one, and you’re right, Zac was excellent getting us through this run, and big in Dallas, for sure.


  1. “Curtin For President!” Of the Union, at least. Honestly, what’s not to love about him? My biggest reservation about removing the “interim” label is the outsized influence Sak would have in direction & strategy because Curtin owes his appointment to Sak for giving him his big break. Name something Sak has handled with diplomacy, skill & aplomb – the way Curtin handles everything in public. Take your time. You’ll need every second of it. Mr. Sugarman, you, sir, may take your turn at any time.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Still cracks me up how the “audio cuts out”… every week, all the time, no matter what. If I were the union AV guy I’d be real nervous. Haha!

  3. Nick Sak as the Dread Pirate Roberts to McMath and Curtin “nice job, but I’ll probably kill you tomorrow.”

    Both are handling it with a ton of class, good for them. It seems pretty clear Curtin wants to start Zach in the Cup final, as he should.

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