Transcript: Curtin talks Valdes, roster building, and strikers

Jim Curtin spoke with the media on Thursday via conference call from the Union’s training camp in Florida. Questions have been paraphrased.

Curtin: Our guys, our forwards especially, are having success. Catic has been excellent in front of goal, whether it’s been five-a-side, 8v8, 11v11 like yesterday, he finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net which, at the end of the day, is the most important thing in our game.

CJ has given us an element to do a really great job holding up that first ball and letting us breathe a little bit and giving us a chance to move our lines. He’s been excellent in that regard. And he gets in the box and he’s dangerous in front of goal, whether it’s with his head or just making good hard runs to the near post to get on the end of things. So [I’m] happy with how the strikers are playing.

And Conor [Casey] has actually looked very good as well. Started a little bit later than the other guys, he’s a veteran that knows how to get his body ready. It’s a little bit slower with him, but at the same time he’s looked very sharp so we’re happy with how those guys are progressing.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to add another piece up top. I still think that is the goal. We have clear targets and we’re actively pursuing them. But at the same time, to see the guys that are here playing day in and day out have the success that they are having is good. I want competition at every spot. I want guys to always be looking over their shoulder and know that there is someone pushing them behind them. That’s the most healthy environment for any professional team. Competition, but competition in the right way. I’m happy with our forwards right now.

Has what you’ve seen from your striking corps this preseason changed your thoughts on what kind of forward or what level of impact you want to get from a guy you bring in?

That’s a good question. Conor is a target forward. CJ is a similar forward, a target type guy, a big body. Catic, big body. We’ve discussed maybe a different type of striker, whether that’s more of a speed guy, a smaller guy – although CJ runs very well, too – you want to find the right mix. You don’t want to have 3 or 4 of the same type of forward, you want that change of pace. That has affected the type of guy we’re targeting, for sure.

But at the same time, our league is one that, you guys know, you need to be able to run, and you need to be able to run for 90 minutes. We’re a team that creates a lot of chances, and I think we get a lot of service, and the type of guys we’re looking for are the type that get on the end of things in the box and are lethal in front of goal.

Again, I think we rode Conor too much last year and I’ve had that discussion with him. With the collection that we have, I’ve discussed it with my staff, and we’re open to playing with two forwards this year. We’re going to experiment with it in preseason. So it’s by no means the finished product, it’s not necessarily going to be one striker up there, it could be two. So, again, we’ll see how… it’ll be determined in the preseason and how things go in the market.

Tell us about some of these new trialists you have in camp. 

I would say right now we have a couple of young kids. First, I’ll go through the academy guys. We have [Yosef Samuel], who has come in and done a really good job. Young guy who has shown he belongs in a pretty quick time, he’s really made strides. I think it’s important that we’ve brought our academy kids down here and they’ve gotten a chance to interact with the guys, going out to dinner with them, having lunch with them, sharing meals and just spending time with them is great for their development. He’s going to be a pro, for sure. Just a matter of the timeline on it. We’ll make a decision at the end of these couple weeks with him. He’s kinda shown he belongs, though.

Derrick Jones is another one, 6’3″, athletic build, kind of a central midfielder that breaks up a lot of plays and has big feet for a big guy. He is a player that I’m very high on. The left back we have in from Greece, he’s done a good job, he’s been good on the technical side. I’d say above average. Above average passer. Can play the position, knows tactically where to be. My concern is the physicality of the league and we’ll have to see him in a game with the running and how physical the league can be, so that’s still to be determined with him.

[Aodhan Quinn] has come in and done a good job, a guy we thought was close last year, he was one of our last cuts. Had a decent year in Orlando, they passed on him so we have him in to take another look.

[Eric Ayuk Mbu] is a fast, exciting winger. He’s a baby though. He fits in, he’s a pro. Has already been a pro. For a kid as young as he is to do some of the things he’s done in training has been impressive. We’ll have more guys in and out as we go along.

Navid Nasseri is a very skillful guy, very technical, can run at guys, is dangerous. But, again, you have to see them in games when it gets physical and gets fast, how quickly they size things up. There’s tons of skillful guys, that’s the really determining factor for me.

Does Derrick Jones have a realistic chance of making the team?

He absolutely has a chance of making this team. Again, you can’t coach 6’3″ and having good feet. He has ability beyond his years. Still so young. Derrick has moments with our first team when he can dominate. But then Derrick is a young player so he has moments where he makes a silly mistake. I think that’s part of the growing pains. I think having him in for this 12-14 day block will be critical for his development.

He’s a quiet, shy kid. I like that part, but I want to see him get angry on the field. I haven’t seen him change expressions yet. Part of that is he’s young and just kind of adjusting.

He’s a Philly kid though, he doesn’t live too far from my family. I think it’s a great thing to see a kid who maybe didn’t take the fast way that a lot of our young players do coming up through elite club teams and taking that process. Everybody’s road is different, everybody’s path is different. He’s shown that he belongs. He’s a great kid, first and foremost. He’s quiet, he doesn’t say much, but he’s very respectful and is a product of the environment that our academy is trying to create.

Are you in the market for a defensive player? The type who might have the kind of influence that Carlos Valdes had?

Yeah, we are. And, again, I can’t really talk on the Carlos one specifically because the negotiations are not quite finalized yet. South America has a different protocol. They come out on the fly then sort it out later. So I can’t talk too much about that one. But we are looking to strengthen our defense.

Center back is a position I value a great deal. I’ve played it so I think it’s an important spot. And you need your leader to be back there. I think it’s a position where you bring in a guy who is captain-type material because they see the whole field. It’s an important spot and it’s one that we are strongly looking at as well to strengthen the squad. Does that mean Maurice moves into the midfield? Yes, that is a possibility. Mo has shown he can dominate at center back and center midfield. These next couple days will determine a lot in terms of the direction we end up going. One thing needs to fall into place, then a couple other things will come right after.

Apologies I can’t get into too much on that one.

In regards to Carlos, it was such a happy thing when he came back last year. Has anything changed regarding his happiness here or your commitment to him?

Carlos is a guy who came off of a World Cup and he was our player. I wanted to bring him back in to do a job down the stretch and make a playoff push. I think Carlos contributed a couple good games. By his own admission, he wasn’t up to where he holds himself, and the level he holds himself to. And that was discussed mutually at the end of the season.

We’ve since had a lot of discussions, I talk to him all the time, Chris Albright talks to him all the time, and he’s at the point in his career where now, financially, he’s looking to make his family comfortable, to be quite honest. I want to coach the guys who fully want to be here, and that’s kind of controlling what I can control.

Our relationship is the same, but at the same time, I have to move forward as a coach, he respected that part of it, and we’ll see what gets finalized in the coming days. Right now, he’s still our player. Right now, it’s a sensitive one.

Academy player and recent University of Maryland commit Sebastian Elney, where do you put him on the academy depth chart? How much time do you have to get your scheme organized for this season? 

With Sebastian, first of all, he’s a top striker for our country in his age group. I’ve seen him up close live, and he has all the tools to be a good striker in our league, for sure. He has to learn to do it for 90 minutes though. I think he picks his moments in games when he wants to take over, and he gets away with it at the age group because he can dominate younger kids because he’s a big boy. As he gets thrown in with our first team, it’s not as easy for him, so he has to rise up to the level. Again, he’s toward the top of our group of guys in the academy, for sure. Without question. A very good striker.

In terms of the formation thing, there’s no button you can push and all of a sudden you can play a 3-5-2, or a 3-4-3 or whatever it might be and change quickly. I do want to put our players in a situation where they are comfortable, even in games, with little tweaks. With our collection of guys and their ability to run for 90 minutes with Seba and Andrew Wenger, one forward can quickly become two when you have guys that are able to run that much. I throw Sapong into that group as well, a guy who is comfortable playing any spot. It’s not going to be a rigid 4-4-2 with me, ever.

It’s going to be something that suits all of our players. What you draw up on the board before the game starts sometimes, as the game gets going, it changes. It won’t be anything drastic, like you see the three-man back line which some teams are able to have success with, but it does take time. I don’t think our changes would be very drastic. If I was to explain it, I would say when we attack it might look like a 4-2-4 at times with Seba and Andrew out wide with two guys in front and two holding players. It could quickly change when we defend and the other team has the ball and it could look more like the traditional 4-2-3-1 with those two guys up front, the forwards, being able to run and cover ground. That’s one example of how it might look.

Anything on the injury front? 

Vincent [Noguiera] had a quad injury. It happened at YSC. I wouldn’t even call it an injury. He had tightness after a shooting exercise, so we held him out. Just precautionary. Listen, Vincent is a guy, fitness-wise, who is toward the top of the group. So he’s itching to get back on the field. And we’re holding him out as precautionary. He wants to be back out there. Just to put it in perspective, he’ll train today [Thursday], I can’t hold him out anymore. He’s dying to get back out there. That’s an important one.

Last thing, I just wanted to stress with the Valdes situation, again, nothing is finalized but we will do what is best for the Philadelphia Union and for the player. Both sides are kept in mind there. We do have things lined up for whatever scenario happens one way or another with Carlos.


  1. If this was any team but the Union I’d believe Curtin on face value. However, this organization has played( I used lied on another post but played has a shadier meaning) us so much that to me this just means they are setting things up to give them excuses for not making the signings. Until some major changes are made with ownership,FO, etc the integrity of the organization will always be questioned. They may indeed make signings however how they’ve gone about things leaves me cold. I hope Steven Vitorio is signed but we’ve been down this road a few times this off season.

    • I’m holding out hope that he can be taken at face value. Curtin knows better than to BS this fan base.

      • PhilaDOOPia says:

        I believe that he believes what he is saying. Actually getting it done(convincing a quality player to come here with the way our FO is cheap) is a totally different story. I know he knows how we think as Philly fans, he has probably thought the exact same way about the 4 other sports. Curtin is not my problem. Its those above him who wont give him the tools necessary to truly succeed in this league.

      • That is the problem in a nutshell. Your comment is right on point.

  2. It sounds a lot like a rationalization for an expectation that the club will NOT sign a striker before the season starts. It also sounds like a coming to terms with Edu as our D Mid.

    Unless, that is, the Valdes deal has really kept the plans from moving forward and now Curtin and Albright know exactly what they need to do.

  3. +1 my thoughts exactly ah, we don’t need anyone these new kids are great. Edu sure he’ll play CB, oh wait D mid yeah d-mid that’s where he belongs I mean take a second look at the picture. Curtin a got this much money to play with.

  4. The Little Fish says:

    Adios Carlos ba-bye. Now that Vitoria is in the house just give me a lighting fast striker for our front line and I’m good to go! Russia? The teams in their league are struggling to pay salaries. Get on it Rene, Chris & Co.

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