Press Conference

Transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Photo: Earl Gardner

Note: Ed Farnsworth and Adam Cann worked together to make this transcript. Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just to briefly touch on the last result against New England. Having watched the game back several times now, I actually think the first half was better than I maybe gave the guys credit at at halftime. We talked at halftime about getting our outside backs forward more, making Agudelo and Rowe have to defend us. There’s good moments in the first half; I thought we actually created a lot more opportunities than it felt in the stadium live — that happens sometimes when you go back and really look at the tape.

Second half, though, was a poor start; they pinned us in for, what, the first fifteen minutes, had a lot of possession. Didn’t really have too many shots on goal. We didn’t give up a shot on target in the first half and then, carrying over, still they were poor with maybe their final pass and final shot, so they never really punished us much. If felt like at that stage that we needed to make a change and get a little more fresh legs on the field, and a defender in Brian Carroll, and just move Zach up. Obviously, the timing of that, I’ll take the criticism — and I understand the criticism because they scored a goal a minute later. But if you think, from the 45th minute to the 60th, we were absorbing a lot and not able to get out of our own end with possession. I thought we had technique wise and talent wise one of our best passing teams on the field and, for whatever reason, we didn’t pass the ball well on the day, did not keep possession. With Zach and Chaco out there, two attack minded guys, they lost some balls in the first half; had some really good moments but still lost too many balls to their standard.

So, again, we make the change with CJ, who told me at halftime he was probably good for about 15 to 20 more minutes. Then with Chaco, it was his first start. You never go into a game, just to clear things up, you never go into a game with predetermined subs but you knew that those two eventually were going to need to come out. There wasn’t a specific “at this point Brian Carroll going in, at this point Andrew Wenger’s coming in.” I’ll take ownership of making the decision to put the two guys in. And, again, I don’t think both Brian and Andrew were on the field for no more than two minutes before we gave up a goal so, is it a little coincidental? Obviously. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s something that is on them at all. You look at both goals…you know, again, Ray takes ownership but there’s five or six guys that are at fault on the goals, just to touch on that a little bit.

Things we need to get better at and improve on: We talked all preseason and this season about closing out games and we failed, at home. It’s something that doesn’t just come instantly, you have to go through the moments and win a few before your confidence grows and you become a team that can do it like the Chelseas of the world that seem to do it in their sleep; even when they’re absorbing tons of pressure they can still close out a game and keep a clean sheet. That’s what we’re striving for, especially at home.

Again, we feel like we let our fans down. In this building, for whatever reason, too, when we give up a goal you can sense it throughout the stadium, and on the field, that there’s a “here we go again” mentality and, until we shake that, it’s on us, and we’re going to have to deal with it when teams come in here. So, it’s something that it’s my job to get corrected and move this team forward.

You mentioned the fullbacks getting forward. Is that something you want to see more of? Does that play into the possession issue?

Exactly, I think that is the possession issue. If we’re a back four that just stays back and never gets advanced, most teams are only having one forward that splits our center backs and if our outside backs aren’t getting forward we’re never making the other team defend. And we need guys that…it’s a lot of different things. Guys need to want the ball in tight spots in the midfield, and guys need to be comfortable at holding it up up front. So, it’s a full team thing, but it starts just by our team shape. When our center backs get on the ball, that there’s a real commitment from our outside backs to get forward and be that outlet for when it’s played into a Lahoud or a Nogueira or a Pfeffer. They can then, instead of having just one option to just go forward, they can also go square to an outside back that’s moving into an advanced position.

It really comes down to making other teams have to worry about us a little more than they do. On our home field, New England in the second half has the ball almost the entire time and, again, they’re a good team if you give them that much of the ball, someone’s going to make a play. To Teal [Bunbury’s] credit, he came in, completely changed the game, and was a handful for us.

In retrospect, given the perception that Brian Carroll and Mike Lahoud play the same, is there a you could have made substitutions that wouldn’t have put you so much on the back foot?

We don’t have another attacking midfielder, currently, that was available for selection on the day. Could you have juggled it and maybe moved Zach off or just taken Chaco off and played with two in there and added a…there’s a million different ways you could discuss through it but, at the same time, the idea was, up 1-0 at home, Brian’s been very good in training, Andrew’s obviously played a ton of minutes and has an idea of what we want our system to look like. Didn’t think they were too drastic of subs. Yeah, maybe a little defensive in hindsight, for sure, but at the same time, up a goal, I thought we could hold on. And, again, because we were absorbing so much, if I threw on an attacking option I don’t know if that would have helped because we didn’t have the ball, ever. So, Brian is a guy who’s clear, knows his role in there, did a great job against Kansas City, so that was the thinking there of having him come in: Sit next to Michael, break plays up and then connect our passes as we get out, and to have Zach in front of them as the one that can kind of is dynamic enough and can run and cover a more ground than Chaco can.

So, that was the thought process. Didn’t work, so this is why I get to answer the questions. It’s fair.

How close is Andre Blake to being considered as a starter?

Andre, when he was first coming back off the knee injury had some…tough training sessions, I would call them. Getting back into the mix, the speed of things, is always drastic, it’s difficult. I think today was a very positive day for him. He was sharp, made some saves where he was flying around in the box to make the, I call it the “save that keeps you in the game” type of save, even though it’s only small-sided. And he’s special in that regard.

He’s getting closer to being himself again, that guy that we saw at the start of preseason. But still not quite there yet. Obviously, you’d like to get him a game here, but we’re not in a position where we can experiment with anything. He’s available for selection against Columbus and we’ll make a decision as the week goes along. It’s a possibility though.

Are you leaning toward any one formation going forward?

I think if everyone’s healthy and everyone’s available, I think Vincent’s a big part of our team, to be honest, and hasn’t been himself health-wise this year, yet. So I like the idea of having the athletic ball-winner — whether it was Lahoud or Mo for the beginning part — next to him, to do a lot of the dirty work. And Vincent’s kind of your connector with Chaco in front of them. I think that’s where we’re at when we’re at our best.

And then Andrew and whether it’s Seba or CJ in a version of the 4-2-3-1 still suits us the best. We played with two forwards in the first game because of different circumstances that came up and the matchup. But, at the same time, if everyone is at 100 percent and — the key is, everyone’s playing to their max potential which, right now, we just had a long discussion before film today. Guys owned things and the coaches owned some things. It was a healthy discussion. Some hard talks, but at the same time, to a man, the majority of the guys would be in agreement that they’re not playing to their max potential as individuals. And I think we probably have three or four guys that maybe are hitting that and, like I’ve told you guys before, we’re not elite enough to just go into games and have only three or four guys performing at their best. We have to have the entire group all in it, performing together. Good. Not great. We’re going to be in games; if we have 4-5 bad performances we’re going to struggle. Again, getting everyone on the same page: Everyone’s in it together. Still a tight-knit group and they want to fight. But we’ve hit the point where the discussion ends and talk is cheap. And we have to move forward now and show it on the field with our actions.

What is the latest on Nogueira?

I would call it: He’s nursing an ankle and still pretty swollen. It’s… questionable whether he’ll be ready. The question always becomes do you want him to push through it and play 60-70 percent and possibly risk losing him for a few more games or do you want him to get this ankle right to where he’s the Vincent that we all know. And I think right now I lean towards getting him back to 100 percent before we put him back on the field. Because, New York, I don’t think we rushed it, but it was still tender to him. He gets kicked, and it’s unfortunate — it happens a lot with injuries: The thing that’s hurt tends to get hit the most or kicked the most. CJ: Same thing. Balls bouncing off of his face four different times in the game. It seems to happen a lot. And the same thing happened to Vincent. He got kicked pretty good against New York. It’s a big setback.

Does not having Zach Pfeffer change things?

We will evaluate things and see what’s best. Whether it’s a 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1. Brian’s been sharp in training. Chaco’s looking better and better. I think Lahoud’s been playing very well, and one of the guys that’s performing at his top level. So we have some things to look at and we’ll have a clearer picture of that by Friday.

Is Chaco close to being a 90 minute guy?

Chaco, in the course of any game that he plays, he has highs and lows in terms ground covered and fitness-wise. A lot of special players do in that No. 10-type role. They tend to pick their moments. When they get on the ball they’re obviously very special. The dirty running isn’t his favorite thing to do. He’s shown in the past that he can do a defensive job for us and we’ll ask him to do that. If a Wil Trapp is healthy, we’ll as Chaco to do the running to kind of limit Wil Trapp’s touches on the ball. He’s a guy that likes to drop in between the center backs, so that would be where Chaco’s at in that regard.

If you think back to last year, when he had that stretch where he was in form, he was 90 minutes, he was ready to go 90 minutes. So that’s what we’re looking to get him back to. That’s when we’re at our best is when he’s on the field. That is a certainty. He adds up to assists, and this week he actually got to a goal, which is a very good goal that we couldn’t make hold up for us.

Compare facing Columbus to going to RSL and going to KC.

They’re a team that’s in good form. The tape of the last game is a little tricky because Orlando had the early red card. But listen, Columbus is, for me, one of the top possession teams in our league. I think Berhalter is one of the best young coaches in our league. He’s a guy that I text with and talk with and I respect a great deal — does a great job with what he has. It’s obviously important too, that he doesn’t have the luxury of three or four guys that make five million dollars. So I really respect what he does as a coach. He does a very good job with what he has.

And he has very good players. That’s not saying anything in that regard. They have a great team, a true system. Top possession team in the league for me. They build out of the back and there’s no secret. They stick with it and there’s no change to their game plan. They will pass out of the back, pass out of the eighteen. Wil Trapp will drop between the center backs, get on the ball, and start their attack. Higuain is a key, to find him, locate him on the field. Justin Meram is playing as well as any attacking player right now. Finlay is a guy that has given us problems in the past with that slashing run in between our left back and our center back, so something that we’ll talk through this week. They’re a good team.

Kei Kamara adds a new dynamic this year, where he can get on the end of a cross. They’re a team that we respect a great deal. A very good team. A team that we’ll have to have our best. Like I said, everyone needs to bring a good game in Columbus for us to have a shot at getting a result. Again, tomorrow we’ll deal with a lot of the tactical stuff trying to shut down Columbus, which is a tough task. Especially in their building.

Anything else on the injury front besides Vincent?

No, Fabinho is coming back. And Raymond Lee is coming back into the fold. Other than that everybody is available for selection. The only one is Vincent that’s a little iffy.

Can you talk about CJ Sapong? Is he close to going 90?

Yeah, he’s a guy who’s pretty in tune with his body. He has a real good idea fitness-wise. He’s a fit guy by nature, but he knows when something’s a little bit off. And he’s felt like himself more and more. Obviously a very difficult setback with having to wear the mask and the fractured cheekbone and the concussions. But he’s been able to get himself back in the mix and he’s done a good job staying fit as best he can, when you have a serious injury like he did.

So I would say yes, he’s inching closer to being that 90 minutes guy that we know we traded for.

18 Comments

  1. Daniel Hayden says:

    i’m hearing a guy with no ideas on how to change things up.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      It’s weird. I read those words… but I heard the same thing. What’s that definition of insanity again?

    • I agree with you, but I’m hearing a lot of it is the FO. Look what he says about Berhalter. He’s basically saying, “He’s in the same boat as me and I text him all the time for advice.”
      .
      I think Curtain could go far with a proper GM behind him. But he doesn’t have that. So he won’t.

    • Well maybe he feels he really doesn’t have many options to change things up. Look at all the injuries and games lost to suspension. I, as others have asked where McLoughlin and Catic are. But it’s not like they are lighting things up at the lower levels. Ayuk has looked great. Wenger and LeToux have been below average. Lahoud, Nando, Mo(since going to CB), have all played well. Nogs, Maidana, Sapong, and Casey, have all had some form, or multiple forms of injury since the start. I mean I’m actually starting to feel bad for the guy. He’s definitely made mistakes. His tendency for late subs for example. But he seems to learn and correct his mistakes. Though maybe now it’s just bad timing. All I’m trying to say is that Curtain is probably doing the best that can be expected of him in such a bad situation. So, in other words I’m better off concentrating on blaming the FO for their ineptitude. FREE THIS FRANCHISE!

  2. James Lockerbie says:

    From here on out if Chaco is on the field, he must be standing over the ball on free kicks. Letoux should be in the “mix” to pounce on any opportunities that come from the free kick. That i is in case the ball doesn’t end up in the back of the net! Now, I know chaco won’t recreate that shot every time but he should be able to get the ball over the first defender.

  3. el pachyderm says:

    “They have a great team, a true system. Top possession team in the league for me. They build out of the back and there’s no secret. They stick with it and there’s no change to their game plan. They will pass out of the back, pass out of the eighteen.”
    .
    Possession team or counter attacking team. This is the standard. Isn’t it?
    .
    “A true system.” As opposed to……..

    • Have to press the hell out of them…..if they stay true……they will turn it over a few times. I don’t know if we have the fitness level to sustain it for 90………..but parts of the match …….definitely.

  4. If Curtin really wants to hold out games like Chelsea I suggest observing and analyzing a whole lot of tape of them and really emphasize that their Touch is one of the most relying factors in having success with possession and that every single player on the union needs to strive at this type of play.

  5. “Compare facing Columbus to going to RSL and going to KC”. I can answer this… the stadium is going to be whollllllle lot emptier and quieter, “for sure”…

  6. I truly like Jim Curtin and want him to succeed. However it’s becoming annoyingly apparent that he is not ready for the responsibilities he was prematurely given. I sincerely hope he’ll grow. But again talking about the coaching, game plans, tactics and how this team performs is a waste of time in my opinion. This organization is a ratchet mess like some brain numbing reality show. I hate reality shows. It’s one thing to give your support to an organization with integrity and win,lose,or draw you can feel good about yourself for giving that support. But at what point do you tell yourself that you are not truly being supportive but enabling an organization that is for all intents and purposes telling you to kiss their ass. I’m getting to the point where I don’t even want to comment anymore because they don’t care and nothing will change as long as Sugarman and Sakeiwicz are owning and running things. I want to scream yell and support this team and feel the pride of having an MLS franchise here, but then I visualize this organization as whole and I feel sick and disgusted. We’ve been waiting for a Philly MLS franchise for so long and deserve better then this. I don’t get it. We have the best shield(logo). The name Union works. The kits initially looked awesome but then the most god awful sponsorship is plastered on them. Would have preferred PPL be in Philly but ok with Chester. However the devil is in the details aka Sugarman and Sakeiwicz!

    This may be my last time posting as well. Great place to vent but it’s all I seem to do.

    Sell this franchise to a competent and financially competitive owner!

    FREE THIS FRANCHISE!!!

  7. Could we try to invest somehow in encouraging and making it known that
    Mullensteen should at least be our new CEO. He knows how the game should be played and has seen the best talent around the world. Sons of ben should show they want Zak out immediately.

  8. So not one question about M’Bohli”s status? Weak.

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