Press Conference

Video and transcript: Jim Curtin’s Weekly Union press conference

Editor’s Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

(video begins mid-sentence)…the task at hand, we know what we need to do. Big picture wise, if you step back, we went on the road to play the best in the Eastern Conference; we came up a little bit short. It’s our first loss in-league since August 15. So, again, it’s a feeling we weren’t very familiar with in-league over the past long stretch, it’s one we don’t like, and we have to get back on track against Chicago at home.

Update on injury status of Ethan White and Sebastien Le Toux

Ethan was able to push it a little bit today, he opened up and ran for the first time. I wouldn’t say a hundred percent but he at least was able to do some difficult running with [fitness coach] Kevin Miller. It’s positive with Ethan but, again, its his first hamstring injury so he’s unfamiliar with what it’s supposed to feel like in the process of coming back. He’s a fast guy so muscle injuries are scary because he relies a lot and pushes off hard. He has good pace and opens up in runs, that’s one of his strengths, so it’s not something where I want to throw him back in there unless he’s a hundred percent because hamstrings are tricky — you could lose him for the rest of the year if he does it again in a serious way. So, we’ll be smart with that one.

With Seba, MRI got back and, fortunately, nothing is broken. That’s the first positive news. He’s able to do some stairs work — he’ll be day-to-day, he’ll be close; it’s a week you wish you had ’til Saturday, to be honest, but, quick turnaround for Thursday. We’re monitoring that and hopefully he’ll be available for selection.

If Le Toux can’t go, what are your options?

We have a couple of different things you could do. The clear one would just be to put Danny out there. He gave us some energy I thought in the second half [against DC]. There’s the possibility of moving Maidana out there and you have a Fred off the bench. So, there’s different things you could talk through. If you look at Christian, he likes to drift out there as well, he pops up all over the field, so maybe that could be something, and he gives good service. So, there’s a couple of different things we’re talking through, Brian Brown’s an option too. They’ve been competing good in practice. We haven’t made a decision yet, we’re still monitoring Seba and we’ll see how it goes. But I said it to you guys last week, and I said it to my team last week, somebody in this things is going to have to step up in a big game when someone does down and score a goal, or make a play for us, that gives us that boost to get us back on track and in the playoffs.

Does the fact that the team hasn’t been scoring lately change the concern about replacing Le Toux?

It’s a good question. If you go back and look at the games, and you take it game-by-game, it isn’t an instance where we’re not creating any chances. It’s not like we’re going out there and getting blown out 4-zero, a couple of results have gone against us. There’s been a couple of opportunities we’ve had in the attack; we’re getting crosses, we’re getting chances, for whatever reason it’s just not going in right now. We will have to tinker and maybe shake some things up and give a different look, but at the same time, it’s not something we’re really harping on. I’m happy with the amount of chances we’re creating, we just have to have a little more commitment to get in the box and finish some of them, get on the end of stuff

Thought on the “big picture” in terms of the playoff and how much the team need three points on Thursday

First and foremost, we want to become a club that…

(audio cuts out for 17 seconds)

…at home we’ve been good, in our last eight we haven’t been beaten at home. That’s a positive thing: we have turned things around. The goals will come if we keep creating chances, keep getting good crosses, keep having that commitment to run hard in the box from everybody. It’s a situation where if it’s ten times you have to run hard, ten time in the box and maybe only one comes to you — nine times it doesn’t. The one time it bounces to you you’re rewarded for a goal.

Again, I don’t want to make too big of an issue about the goals because our guys are competing, they’re doing everything they can to create chances and get goals.

On the resilience of the players since Curtin has taken over

We haven’t lost two games in a row, so that’s something to be proud of. We bounce back. They’ve dealt with a lot this year, fighting their way to get back in this playoff race. And if you look at the schedule, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you play Columbus twice, so that part of it will be in our hands. Toronto, obviously, if you look at their schedule, it’s difficult — everybody’s schedule is difficult. I’ve gone through — I have them written out on my desk right now — and you look through and you go, “Shoot, they could lose every game. Shoot, they could lose every game. They could win every game.” You know, it’s this game where until the whistle blows and it’s sorted out over the 90 minutes, you won’t know. You won’t know how the Eastern Conference is going to go until the last weekend. That’s how it’s going to be. There’ll be huge games, there’ll ebbs and flows, and the team that you think’s definitely in right now will probably drop out., and the team that you don’t see coming like a Houston could sneak in. This is just the way it’s gone all year. We’re in that mix right now. We know the urgency, we know what needs to be done. We know we have the advantage of being at home for three in-a-row. We like that, and we have to show the fight to do whatever it takes to get three points.

How do you see the team’s depth at target forward? 

Unfortunately, right now I’d say our deepest spot is holding midfield, and that doesn’t help you in scoring goals. That’s tough. Our depth up top is young, it’s young depth, so you have highs and lows with that. You have a kid like Pedro who’s done a great job for us; he had a heck of a week though. You think back to it, against New York he scores, draws a penalty. He has a chance in the Open Cup final to score the game-winner and then against Houston, maybe he could go down and it’s a penalty kick at the end of the game. It’s a fine line with young players between getting breaks and it going the other way. But he’s learning, he’s great in training — he’s a great young player that’s going to have a big future at this club. But, those are those little fine lines that we talk about that young players, you go through those ups and downs with.

Brian Brown, same thing. He’ll come in and he scores a great goal against Kansas City. He’s had some good moments, some really good moments, and then he’ll have some moments where he’s still learning, and he’ll disappear for times of the game.

Again, we’ll have to…

(audio cuts out for two seconds)

…they’re going to be playing in some big spots for us down the stretch, and I have the confidence in them that they can score big goals for us.

Thoughts on Rais Mbolhi’s play

It’s never easy when you come in you’re having to go away a couple times on international duty, but he’s been great. He’s done well in goal, he’s saved what he’s supposed to save, and that’s what you ask from a goalkeeper. I thought the goal DC scores there’s nothing he can really do on that one, it’s kind of a snap header. Could have been tighter marking in the box and dine a little bit better on that. But he’s been great. We’re happy with Rais.

On call-ups for the upcoming international games

Nothing is a hundred percent, we’re just kind of starting those discussions with several different national teams, whether it’s the US, whether it’s Jamaica, whether it’s Algeria, Colombia. It’s going to be interesting down the stretch, to be honest. A lot of teams are in a tricky spot now where you’re literally fighting for your playoff lives. The ultimate goal for a soccer player is to play for your country but, at the same time, we have something big going on here. And it’s not just our team, it’s every team. So, it’ll be interesting to see when Jurgen’s list gets announced how that will affect these big games down the stretch for both teams in the East and the West.

How hard is it to tell a national team coach that you need a player here given the playoff race?

Some understand it, some don’t care. At the end of the day, they have a job to do as well, and I respect that. You have discussions with the players, it’s not just a one-way thing, yes or no, it’s an open discussion, it’s ….

(audio cuts out for 18 seconds)

…the guys are paid by their club team. It’s a balance and no issues have come up, negative or positive, yet with it. But they are going to be discussions that have to be had in the very near future.

Any update on the coaching situation?

Nothing new, no. We talk every day, myself and Nick; it’s positive,talks are good. We’ll see how it goes down the stretch here.

Do you draw on your own playoff chase experience to help prepare the team?

Yeah. I mean, I’ve only been on a few teams where we ran away with things and then kind of clinched; we had the Supporters Shield team that won. But, every year there’s these battles and, until you’re in them as a player, you can’t prepare for them. I can give them a million stories but, until you’re in that moment when the lights shine a little brighter and…

(audio cuts out for 11 seconds)

…The good thing is, I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but we’ve been in must-win kind of games this whole stretch, the past 16 or 17 game have all felt like that. I joke about it: every week it seems like somebody in my family, or a fan or whatever, they come over, “Oh, this week’s a big one,” and it’s like somebody says that to me every week. The guys know that, they know the moment, they recognize things. We do have some guys who are battle tested and been through this grind that is getting into the playoffs in MLS. It’s unique to any other league in that you can get hot at the right time in this league, you can have a losing record and go into the playoffs and get hot at the right time and win the whole thing. That’s where our league differs from, you know, “It’s going to be Man City” — you know who’s going to be in the top of England. You can be an Everton in our league and get in and win the final. So, again, the good teams can get on a run at the very end win, whereas maybe it’s not that case in the Premiership.

On Chicago and their many draws this season

I’m very close with CJ Brown on their staff, and I know Frank [Yallop] well, and Clint Mathis is obviously there too. They’ve been a team that’s been pretty unlucky. If you look back at missed penalty licks late in games that could have swung things for them in a different way. All those little ties — talk about the time the fine line in our league between wins and losses and if a few of those go a different way they’re right in the mix.

They’re a dangerous team, though. Amirakwa’s a handful up top. They have Harry Shipp, who can make a play. It’s dangerous because if you look at the standings they’re getting close to being out of it and then maybe the urgency’s different because there’s guys playing for their jobs for the next season, you know what I mean, and they can maybe take a little more risk, and throw bodies forward, and they have to get three points. It’s a dangerous one, and I’ve talked to our guys about that. It’s something where we don’t want to fall asleep,  and we don’t want be hesitant and take them lightly in any way, shape, or form because they’re a handful, they play in a lot of tight games. Not many teams are beating them, they’re playing in a lot of tight games, a lot of draws. Again, a dangerous team, a team we respect, and a team that we know what we need to do get three points.

Is Antoine Hoppenot available for selection?

Antoine’s in the discussion for sure. He had a tougher middle part of the year. He went out to Harrisburg and he’s got on a good run for them, scored some big goals for them. So, he’s a guy that’s up for selection for sure. We all know Antoine well to know what he does give us that maybe we don’t have a lot of in the target forward spot, which is speed. You think about the matchup that we have with Baky and Larentowicz playing back there for them and their strengths, which are they win everything in the air, they’re physical, they’re big and they’re strong. Yeah, Antoine is available for selection and that speed threat is something that we’ve thought about and just him being a pest up there and looking to get behind, which maybe gives us a little bit different look. So, yeah.

On other players who were on loan to Harrisburg

Yeah, Jimmy was in with us today. He’s sharp. Anytime you go on a run in the playoffs those are valuable games, so he got a great experience there. Looked sharp in training today. A guy that I’m high on, I coached for a long time in the Academy and now here. He’s in the discussion as well. And Richard Marquez, another young guy who at center back position got a ton of experience, put in a ton of games, and a guy that looks good.


  1. I’m beginning to wonder if the investors put the brakes on the leaked “interim” tag removal. That would be really good news: an adult yanking Sak by his collar. It’s unconscionable that your CEO hides behind his coach for 8 days after what clearly is a correct report that he intended to take it off – in the midst of this swoon. Bold prediction: Nick Sakiewicz will never lift a MLS Cup. Your move, Mr. Sugarman, sir.

  2. These press conferences feel similar to the actual season:
    We’re doing great, scoring goals left and right. Win win win.
    (Feed cuts out)
    We can’t buy a goal. No options. Loss loss loss.

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