Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement begins mid-sentence

…kind of highs and lows this season. In my short tenure here, some extreme highs, and some extreme lows. The biggest thing we’ve stressed this week is not branching off into little groups of twos and threes and talking negatively about, and passing blame on, who’s at fault with different things and mistakes that have happened on the field. As a technical staff, we said the same thing: Don’t find yourself branching off into twos and threes and talking negatively about it because that’s what losers do. That’s for losers, and if we want to fight through this and win our final three games we’re going to have to do it together, we’re going to have to stick together. So, if you find yourself in one of those discussions, separate yourself.

The guys have responded very well and we’re getting guys back healthy. It looks like Sebastien and Conor will be ready to go, so that is a positive. And, again, the game against Chicago felt like a loss; I keep saying a loss when I describe it to people. But, at the same time, we did draw the game and, again, something we’re all disappointed and hungry to get back out on our home field and get three points.

Is the key to winning on Saturday mental or physical? 

I would say it’s tough to put percentages on stuff like that, but we’re going to need a killer mentality, that’s what it’s going to come down to. So I would say the mental part is huge. We know where we’re at physically, we can run and compete and do all that with everybody. Mentally, getting past that hurdle of “Is something going to go wrong,” you have to push through that. You cannot be a team that goes out there hesitant and afraid to make a mistake. That is no way to play this game, you get exposed if you do that in this game.

I thought we were a little hesitant in the first half for Chicago. Maybe the moment was big, but, again, we don’t give up chances. So that part has been positive: we’re not giving up and conceding chances. But, again, to go out with the mentality from the start, not playing scared to make a mistake and scared to lose, just going all out for it and leaving our best on the field.

What getting Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux back means for the team

It’s big. Those are the two guys that we rode during the course of the year in our best of times, those guys have contributed with goals. Little injuries and things have kept them out lately and cooled them off a little bit, but you bank on those guys because they’ve done it for so long. They’ve done it forever in their careers and they’re goals that score goals when they get opportunities,so we’ll lean on that.

Further injury news

Ethan has an unrelated issue where his back started to act up a little bit. I’m hoping, I’m optimistic it doesn’t keep him out of the game. Sheanon is fine, Sheanon’s quad is fine. Just to update again so everyone’s on the same page, Chaco Maidana had flu symptoms so he was not in today. Not good, obviously, timing wise, but hopefully he’ll be back tomorrow and then we can re-evaluate things with that. So, wasn’t in training today but, again, hopefully it’s just a sickness thing. Questionable would be the way to put it, I guess.

The team has expended a lot of effort getting into a position to reach the playoffs. Was it too much energy?

The whole time I’ve preached not making excuses. We’ve put a lot into digging ourselves out of a hole. We kind of peaked probably in the Open Cup game, and that letdown was a natural one; it’s tough when you lose a game like that where you’re so close to pushing the club forward. There was a little bit of a dry spell after that, for sure, I would call it a little bit of a letdown. Still don’t concede a lot of chances and a lot of goals, so that part’s still positive. But, again, when you go back to the mental side of things, that affects teams, I’m not going to sit up here and say it doesn’t.

But, at the same time, we’re pushing to become one of these teams that is mentally tough, can persevere through those moments, and are in the playoffs every year. That’s what our fans deserve, that’s what our club wants to become, where when the season starts and they hear Philadelphia Union, it’s a team that they know will be in playoffs. Right now, those are the Kansas Citys, the Seattles, the Galaxys, Salt Lake — when you hear those teams’ names, you know they’re going to be there. Right now, we’re not one of those teams, and that’s what we’re trying to fight through. In the course of 34 games though, I’m a big believer in you are exactly what your record says you are. I really do believe that and, right now, we’re about a .500 team. That’s what we are. We have an opportunity to improve that with these last three games. It’ll be sink or swim and up to us to take that next step.

Do you expect a Cup-like atmosphere on Saturday because of what’s at stake?

All these games have felt like elimination games. You watch last night in the crazy Toronto-Houston game where there’s a crazy penalty kick, and a red card, and tension. Toronto feels like they’ve let themselves down when you read the quotes after a game like that. Every team’s going through it right now, so every game has that same feel — we’re not unique to it. So, when New York plays Houston, or Toronto plays, you know, insert New England — whoever — any Eastern Conference team plays right now, there’s a very small margin for error. The teams  that are going to come out on top here and make the playoffs will be determined by these little tiny calls by referees, by maybe a block in front of goal, maybe a big save from a goalkeeper, or whatever it might be, but you see it’s a very, very fine line right now in the Eastern Conference, for whatever reason. Again, you play 34 games and it’s going to come down to these last three for, not just us, a lot of teams.

How is Zac MacMath doing ahead of his first start in several games?

He’s had a great week. I can’t say enough how much of a professional he’s been: he’s been very good in training, he’s helped with Andre Blake, little things like that. We have a kid in from Harrisburg right now that Zac’s been good with. So, again, his mentality’s been excellent. He’ll step in and we have full confidence that he can do the job and get us a win on our home field.

On the threat posed by Columbus’ Ethan Finlay

He’s obviously a guy who, you look at the goals they’ve been creating, he’s on the end involved in them, whether it’s crossing or finishing. He’s got speed. He’s got something that you can’t really coach: he can run. He really threatens the backline.

Higuain being out and not being the guy that can find him and play through balls helps us, that’s an advantage. But Finlay is definitely someone we’re strongly focusing on going into the weekend in trying to neutralize him. There’s little different ways you can do it; we’re not positive how they’re going to restructure things with the couple of absences that they have, but we have some ideas in place that’ll try to do our best to contain him. He is a handful though, he’s a good young player and he’s confident right now, and confidence with attacking players is the most dangerous thing.

Do you see a loose Union team on the field in training?

Yes, I would say…eh, nah, ehh… (smiling). You know, I don’t want them to be too loose, so, I don’t like the term “loose.” Again, we emphasized all week: In these critical moments, can we be the team that makes the right decision? Can we be the team that instead of rolling the ball backwards, we’re playing forwards instead. Just those little things that are not time wasting but managing the game, getting a little bit better at managing the game when you do work so hard to finally get a lead, how do you manage it, up a goal? How do you play down a goal, the urgency that needs to come with that? So, I would say that they’re the same that they’ve been in the time with me, but they do all recognize there’s no denying the window of opportunity is closing, and there’s no room for, “Oh, if we get it right next game.” That’s done, that’s out the window. So, again, they feel that; coaches feel that, players feel that. And, the good ones rise to the occasion.

What is it about the Eastern Conference that makes the season finish always so tight compared to the Western Conference?

There’s different theories on that…

(audio cuts out for 32 seconds)

…Again, that’s a little piece of it so it’s not the answer to the question. The Eastern Conference, it’s more of a grind, I guess, it’s less open. I would say, this year, that the West has probably been the stronger conference, I think that’s pretty clear. They only have nine teams, we have ten, which is another strange one for me, so you’re fighting one less team to get into the playoffs, so,  maybe there’s something to that too, it’s more of a grind. Again, no real one thing to pinpoint that. The rivalries; it’s a little closer. Everybody — New York, Philly, DC — you’re right on top on each other; Boston’s right up the road. Maybe there’s something to that too, just the proximity and location of things, everybody knows each other maybe too well.

(Audio cuts out for 29 seconds, Curtin is in the middle of answering a question)

…It has an old “best of three” playoff feel to it where you become very familiar with a team in a short window. This one will be a little different, though, because they’re missing a couple of guys.

(audio cuts out for 17 seconds)

…series, which was a unique one where we played back-to-back. So, we’re familiar with it.

10 Comments

  1. Aw, man. I was beginning to think we’d get through one of these without losing the audio. And then, BAM! Right at the end. So close, Union IT Department. So close.

    • John Ling. The audio IT department- harbingers of the break down here at Union Central. Our futbol team, can’t even quite get our fingers on that one either.

  2. James Lockerbie says:

    man that guy just won’t watch where he is going, trips over the wire every time!

  3. They need a caption contest for the photo attached to this page.

    “This is how close I came to kicking Rais right in the M’Bohlis”

    • James Lockerbie says:

      We were this close to getting offensive help in the summer window and then ….

    • “I was just that far away from Sak removing the ‘interim’ tag.”

      • I am Jack’s aching Jim Curtain, “We are this close to being relevant.”
        .
        I typed my response before reading that we had a game going on here- so added here.

  4. Our technical staff is big enough to break into groups of twos & threes? Now that’s news.

  5. I am Jack’s aching Jim Curtain picture above: ‘We are this close to being relevant.”

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