Breaking News

Official: Jim Curtin named as Union manager

Photo: Earl Gardner

When Jim Curtin was named interim manager of the Philadelphia Union after the dismissal of John Hackworth, the Oreland, Pa. native and Villanova graduate said in his first press conference, “I don’t care if I’m fourth in command, third in command, second in command or first in command. I care about winning in this city.”

Today, the club announced it had made him first in command, finally removing the interim tag from his job title.

“I’m incredibly honored to be the head coach of my hometown club,” Curtin said at a press conference today. “I’m also very eager to get my first offseason under my belt.”

“Jim is a perfect fit to lead our first team, because he has worked through our system, understands our great fans, partners, and community, and shares our burning passion in delivering a winning product on the field,” said Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz. “Jim has proven he can compete and win.”

Sakiewicz said Curtin “will lead our first team in all aspects and, along with his staff, he will be fully responsible for all player identification, recruiting, signings, transfers, and trades.”

The announcement ends several months of speculation about who would be named permanent head coach, with attention sharpening over the summer on Rene Meulensteen, formerly assistant coach Manchester United and briefly manager at Fulham.

However, Meulensteen seemed to be out of consideration for the manager job when Kristian Dyer reported in Metro on Sept. 23 that, according to “a league source,” Curtin “will be named the head coach sometime this week.” Dyer will be familiar to readers for his work as a studio analyst during Union game broadcasts on Comcast.

While Dyer’s report was picked up by media outlets, Curtin said in his weekly press conference the next day that the report was “Not true,” explaining, “I’m still fighting to have the interim tag dropped.”

Weeks passed with no coaching announcement.

Meanwhile, the Union, who had looked set to fulfill the promise of their summer resurgence under Curtin and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011, went on a six game winless streak that ended with their elimination from playoff contention with a disastrous 3-2 loss to Columbus on Oct. 11.

Despite the end of the team’s hopes to reach the playoffs only days before, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz told John Smallwood of the Daily News in a report published on Oct. 15 that Curtin “is the right man.” Looking ahead to the offseason, Sakiewicz said, “You can quote me that Jim Curtin, [assistant coach Mike Sorber] and [technical director/assistant coach] Chris Albright will get all the support and resources they need to bring in the players that they want.”

Speaking to Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times after the final home game on Oct. 18, Sakiewicz reiterated his support for Curtin, saying, “I’m committed to Jim Curtin long-term. He will be here a long time.”

Before the Open Cup final, Sakiewicz confirmed that Meulensteen was among the candidates for the job but that he had suspended the search for a head coach. Previously, Sakiewicz had said that Jesse Marsch, Tony Meola, and John Harkes — along with Curtin —  were also among those on the short list for the position. Meulensteen told Fox Sports NL (Google translation here) in an article published on Sept. 17  that negotiations were “in a fairly advanced stage.”

While Meulensteen is out of the running for head coach, Sakiewicz indicated in an interview published at the Inquirer on Oct. 28 that he is not entirely out of the picture. “I won’t say that won’t happen,” the Union CEO said, “but it isn’t happening now.”

Kevin Kinkead has reported here at PSP that Meulensteen could be given “some kind of executive role, such as a ‘Sporting Director’ or a ‘Director of Soccer Operations,'” adding that “This would be akin to a general manager role.” Kinkead said the current state of any negotiations with Meulensteen remains unknown. Given the description of Curtin’s player/personnel responsibilities, it seems that, at present, a general manager search is on hold.

Throughout his term as interim manager, Curtin remained focused on proving his credentials through the team’s play on the field, much as he did during a 10 year MLS career as a player.

“I’m just going to keep trying to win games,” Curtin said in a press conference on Sept. 11. “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.”

Asked about his job status after the team defeated Kansas City in the final home game of the season on Oct. 18, Curtin said, “I’m just operating as interim coach.”

But Curtin was clearly focused on being given the job permanently, explaining, “I’m excited for my first full off-season, to be honest, to go through the process of a draft and bring players in. I am excited for that opportunity, if given. And, again, I think I can do it the right way, I know what works in this league.”

That process begins in earnest now.

Since being named interim manager on June 10, and assured that the club had made a long-term commitment” to himself and his staff, Curtin led the team to a remarkable turnaround. Entering the World Cup break with the team on a 3-7-6 record in league play and fading playoff prospects, he stewarded the Union within striking distance of a postseason berth with 7 wins, 5 losses, and 6 draws against MLS opposition. Along the way, Curtin also led the Union to the final of the US Open Cup, an appearance that while ultimately disappointing was nevertheless the club’s first in a national championship game. Overall, the Union has a 10-6-7 record under Curtin.


  1. Awful, reactionary move.

    What is with this team and being blinded by honeymoon periods.

    • If it was reactionary I think it would have been done previously. seems, at least to me some thought has gone into this. I do agree about honeymoon periods though. This next season may be the most important in the long storied history of the Philadelphia Union.
      I commented a few times before — this is absolutely a must to get right- and I’m not talking about, oh hey, the Union are a serviceable team floating around mid table- I’m talking quality football with a clear vision, plan and philosophy and if that means we float around mid table for a season or two while JC puts everything in place than so be it- but God Damn I want more. Whatever it takes to turn the direction of this club around forever heading up- to the land of top four or five clubs in MLS- year after year. A club we can be honored to watch our child play for someday (who knows)- can be honored to say, it is a good and worthwhile dream to pursue to play for this club. This, our Union.
      Get the Shield. The Trophy. The Cup. Whatever. And when you get that. Get it again. Get it. Done. Do it. Get it? Got it? Good! We are Philadelphia. And we are worthy.

      • The union had a chance to create a culture from the youth through the top squad. They could have brought in an assistant from Barca’s youth or maybe an assistant from a South American club like Sao Paulo , Corinthians or maybe Boca even possibly someone from the BPL, or German League, but instead, with all due respect, went with a manager in training. Great guy, decent player, untested manager and no experience running a professional club. He seemed to have no direction or unsure of himself at the press conference. The great clubs build an identity and that runs through the whole organization from youth to top squad. Good luck.

      • Agreed. I argued your exact opinion earlier this year. A club wide vision, plan and philosophy starting at U9. I keep saying it over and over. In the meantime, this is what we got.
        Having Horst Wien come in is a help. If you notice, the Union have realigned their entire youth program so hopefully that helps build the identity of smart tactical play as evidenced by higher IQ youth players.
        There is no question Horst Wein holds the keys to the kingdom- you name a team in europe he hasn’t had his hands in at the youth level.

  2. I’m optimistic. I think Curtin more than just deserves this chance. I think he’s earned it.

    I want to see what he can do with an offseason to improve this roster and get out there and show us what he’s got.

    And, now we know the buck is stopping with Curtin. If this team fails next season, it’s on him. Not Sak or anyone else. He’s going to have to make the playoffs next season or lose his job.

    • I wouldn’t say Curtin deserves it, but I do like the guy and wish him the best.

      You’re absolutely right though. If we fail to make the playoffs next year, it’s his head.

  3. I’m looking forward to another season of PSP comments filled with the auto-corrected word “Curtain”.

    • See, now that is funny.
      We need duct tape on the table for NS every time there is a microphone in front of him.
      We need a soccer mind pulling the strings in FO and until that happens, this is all just a carousel- and we are riding the seahorse- up and down- pantomiming excitement and happiness while the carnival music blares through blown speakers and we linger in the Everton zone as Dan Walsh so aptly put.
      Good luck Jim. I see more of the same from you. Please prove me wrong. I am not above the ego and will be the first to gladly say, “this was the right move.”
      This all contingent of course on resigning #14- cause if he winds up playing for another MLS team and we go with Mo then I’ll know…….. “When I am King, you will be first against the wall.”

  4. Atomic spartan says:

    Sak needs some PR Training (as does Mbholi! But I digress). ” … a perfect fit?”. Really? Perhaps a good fit, great fit or, in a stretch, an excellent fit. But perfect? It sure is going to be hard to walk that one back if things don’t pan out. Nice to hear that Sak intends to give the coaches “… all the support and resources they need to bring in the players they want,” so we’ll hold you to that commitment.

  5. I think this is the right move, but was hoping this announcement would also include the appointment of a GM, either Meulensteen or someone else, to oversee Albright and player acquisition, etc. Perhaps that will come soon.

  6. Meh.
    I have been resigned to this for a while.
    Could be good could be horrible. I suspect it will be neither.
    And as of right now that is good enough for the MLS East.

  7. I hope that this decision works out for the best, and that Jim Curtin grows into the job and proves to be a successful manager of the Union for many years.

    I fear, however, that this is simply a repeat of the team’s last managerial mistake: hiring someone without a long-term record of coaching experience and success.

    Sak claims that Curtin “has proven he can compete and win,” but the Union’s performance down the stretch this season suggests otherwise.

    Time will tell if Sak made the right call here, but I’m not optimistic.

    • I always suspect Saks first priority is how well a new coach works with him. So I think we can get Rais signings in the future.

      • And it pretty much rules out any head coach with enough experience to tell the CEO where to stick his player acquisition ideas.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    I think with a real GM and/or technical direction, he can be successful. It does, however, remain to be seen.

  9. I’m okay with this, *if* the club finds some more senior people to fill out the coaching staff. Isn’t the whole coaching staff now three guys who were wearing cleats during this decade? They need someone (either a Meulensteen-type as a GM, or even a lifer assistant on the bench like Zevic in SKC) who has been around the block, and can keep Curtin from the decision fatigue that a full season will cause. Otherwise, come July we’ll be in a five-game losing streak due to ‘trying Casey as a center back’ or some such nonsense, and we’ll do this all again next year.

  10. OneManWolfpack says:

    I am also starting to believe that whole “audio cutting out thing” is now on purpose.

  11. In a pinch Curtin has not proven a good bench manager. This will hopefully come with time. Which makes me concerned about contracts, player signings etc… which moving forward we may still have the Sakiewicz stench all over such decisions in spite what he claims . This organization needs a soccer mind and pedigree to make talent and signing decisions. Curtin IMO should not be allowed to be the “final (?)”word. The organization needs a GM over Curtin and sakiewicz needs to step aside.

  12. I like Jim Curtin, and I think he has all the raw materials of a good manager, and that with help and time he could potentially be a great one.
    That said, this quote really concerns me: “…he will be fully responsible for all player identification, recruiting, signings, transfers, and trades.”
    This is setting Curtin up to fail. I think that at this point, in order to be successful, he needs to be able to concentrate on coaching the team above all else, and leave most of the signings/recruiting/trades to others. Sure, he should be identifying players, and giving input on who would be a good fit and who wouldn’t. But the day to day GM/sporting director operations at this point should be entrusted to just that – a GM/sporting director.

    • I’d like to ask, why is Casey still starting, and why did Mbholi (sp?) show up? My guess is Mbholi is definitely Sak – not sure about CC. Now, JC did say he was looking for a striker. It was the only defined position he identified during the interview. Without the ‘interim’ tag, maybe JC will be able to do the things in the offseason that are really needed. I don’t know…but I’m looking forward to the winter/spring moves.

    • This one quote was telling.
      Sakiewicz said Curtin “will lead our first team in all aspects and, along with his staff, he will be fully responsible for all player identification, recruiting, signings, transfers, and trades.”
      The key phrase here is staff. Will the staff consist of only the coaches? Will it include a GM? Does Sak consider himself part of the staff? I am thinking he does.

  13. Season 6 will be my last auto pilot renewal. This team better show me something or I won’t be back. I’ve given my all as a fan since the first game and they’ve broken my heart time and time again. They don’t have to win the cup but if they are not legitmately competetive next season, I’m out. WSSM can’t be the mantra anymore.


  15. Best of luck to Coach Curtin, make us proud. Now let”s start the off-season wish list… & let”s think BIG, REALLY BIG… CAN YOU ALL SAY IT WITH ME, ALTIDORE… ALTIDORE… ALTIDORE… ALTIDORE… ALTIDORE !!!!!!!!!

  16. Brilliant move, love the direction of this team. Once Curtin gets out from under Hack’s contracts and gets a season or three to shape it the way he wants, we’ll be poised to make a run at that 5th playoff spot! Sure, NYCFC, Orlando, RBNY, NER, DCU, even TFC may all have more money, ambition and bigger FO’s, but Curtin & Albright fill me with a euphoric level of confidence!!Maybe by 2017 we can double our postseason goal total!!

    Ya’ll excuse me, need to get my ticket rep on the line!! I AM REDOOOOOPPPING!!

  17. Well, I hope we don’t all end up looking as underwhelmed as Sak. It doesn’t look to me with that body language that he is convinced Jim can do the job.
    I wanted Meulensteen, and I hope Sak can pull something off and involve him. if not, I think we could have problems.
    To give Curtin ALL that responsibility?? He’s only a babe in coaching terms, and so is Albright in TD experience. Help!
    And as for Scottymac, you really think he will get 3 years??? No chance!

  18. Yeah, there won’t be a three year period. It’s now or never.
    The way I see it, Curtin has to get into the playoffs next season. Anything less is a failure.

    I have a suspicion that the East is going to be tougher next year. I think both OCSC and NYCFC are going to be competitive right away. They might be expansion teams, but ones that will have big impact players on their rosters right away. DC, New England, Toronto and Red Bulls will be tough.

    Curtin has to improve his roster as much as possible.

    Getting this roster right

    • I agree, but I am nervous that the team is going to miss the playoffs and fire Curtin and need their fourth coach after only six years…

      It’s feeling eerily like TFC…

    • Completely agree that the East will be tougher than this season. I thought this season it was pretty weak. Houston under performed and that should have given us a chance to sneak the last play-off spot.
      I fear that he won’t be able to enhance the roster, for obvious reasons. 1: money 2: who realistically worth coming will come for a rookie coach?

      • I’m worried about that last graph of yours, too. That would be the scenario you’d cynically expect. I’m just hoping for a surprise. I want good things for this team.

  19. The best way to become coach of this team is to be an assistant for cheap! You’ll get your turn. If I’m Curtin I go roman emperor and fire Chris Albright! Protect that job! In all seriousness, please hire a gm. Please, please!

  20. Congrats to Jim Curtin. I like the prospect of getting a promising young coach versus someone’s retread. Now get a technical staff assembled to share responsibility and lighten the burden a bit. And someone in the front office with responsibilty for player recruitment, negotiations, etc.

    • Your last point is the worry. It seems they have decided to leave it all up to JC. Either a masterstroke, or like someone has said previously, he’s been hung out to dry. Is he the cheap option that the FO thinks we will all be happy with? I worry it’s too much. Coaching is a skill, so is running trades, the draft etc. both skills take time to master. A rookie has to master both in 3 months before the season starts??? Worried

  21. Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap,, pave the parking lot

    • the parking lot is NOT incomplete… it is designed to allow water to permiate threw the top layer into the earth… it is eco-friendly to the river, not designed to run-off into the river. That said, there are no gaping holes or puddles when it rains, so after years of use it actually is performing as designed and in great shape… It is NOT a conventional design like most other parking lots. They could re-stripe it though!

  22. james lockerbie says:

    Still on the parking lot really? I mean now that they finally decided to put the practice facility smack down in the middle of the parking lot. I am glad they never paved it, think of the amount of wasted money and materials.

  23. 700 chopper says:

    Let’s see what happens. He might rock out and win it all or crash and burn only time will tell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *