Press Conference / Transcript

Transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Photo: Earl Gardner

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

First off, I’d like to extend an apology to our fans that came out to Columbus. The players and the staff failed to acknowledge them coming out and that’s unacceptable. Won’t happen again. And they stuck with us win, lose, or draw, and for them to come out and for our players not to acknowledge them.. we’ll discuss that internally and it won’t happen again.

On to the performance. Not a good one, obviously one we are very disappointed with. If you go back and watch the tape, like we do, early in the first fifteen minutes I think we had two or three chances to get a play right in the box; we don’t. In turn, a lot of the goals we give up, off of a back pass, starts the downward spiral of things. You look at the stat sheet at the end of the game: We give up four shots on goal and we give up four goals. That tells you we’re giving up shots from very, very dangerous areas. Something that we’re looking to fix this week in training. We know we have a good team in Toronto coming in, one that will be a tough opponent, one that just got a good road victory in Orlando, a team that has stars on it, but also has a solid group of role players as well.

Obviously, Michael Bradley will be a key, to try and shut down his distribution. Giovinco: Busy, dangerous. A guy where you can’t give up fouls around the box because he’s clinical on restarts. And then Jozy, obviously, will come in confident, and he’s a beast. A guy that’s going to be a tough guy to handle. Especially when he’s going good. And he’s a strong, top player in our league. So, we have our hands full with them coming in to PPL, we know our fans will be behind us like they always are, and we have to put on a good performance to get a result at home.

What kinds of changes will you make to the lineup?

Without giving away our starting lineup, there will be changes to the group. Anytime you give up four goals – 17 in 9 games, unacceptable – I’m a defense first guy. And defense starts with the front line all the way back. Again, watching the tape of this game in particular: Not that our guys don’t work hard. They run a lot; the data shows they run a ton, they cover ground and work. But that last two yards, so when you close a guy down, we’re getting within five yards of a guy and still being able to pass right, left or backwards comfortably. Need to take a bit of a risk and really know what it means to close the ball down in a way that prevents passes from being made. And Columbus had far too easy of a day passing through us. Again, there will be changes. I thought there were guys that came in and gave us life.

Obviously, Ayuk was dangerous on the day and gives us a spark. I thought CJ put in a good shift and those are a few guys that are in good form for us right now. And Fernando looks like he’ll be back with the group, so that’s a change. And then defensively there could be a change or two as well.

What about the goalkeeping situation? Where does it stand this week?

Andre has been sharper in training. He did have, middle of last week – I don’t want to call it a setback, but he felt the knee, it was scary for him. Had a discussion with Paulo Grillo, our goalkeeping coach, yesterday and he sees what the rest of the staff sees in training, where Dre is getting closer to himself but he’s not quite there yet. Good for him today, he got to get 45 minutes against an opponent in Harrisburg and see some live action. While he wasn’t busy in the exercise, feel just to have crosses coming in, facing a couple corner kicks like he did, kicking the ball well, again it’s an injury situation where he’s coming back. We’ll evaluate it close but I still would lean toward John [McCarthy] being the starter for this week.

How is McCarthy doing confidence-wise after last week?

It was tough. If you go back, you always look at what the whole team could do differently on each goal and John would be part of that discussion. Is there one or two where he could’ve bailed us out with a save? Yeah. And he would tell you the same thing. But none were specific blunders or anything that he made a drastic mistake on. If I would go through the goals: The first one: Can he kick it a little bit better? Initially, a little further up the field, yes. It’s on his left foot, we give him a bad back pass, a bit of a scramble. Again, you can always pick apart five or six different things. We look at our goalkeeping as well.

The second one: A good ball’s put in the box. Steven has a chance to head it. Fabi doesn’t do a good job following his man.

Third one: You could say he could do better on, but at the same time, Mo takes a bad angle and allows Meram to continue dribbling. Kind of a toe-poke, in close, tough angle shot.

And the last one is just: You challenge for a ball at midfield with Kei. Kei wins it because he’s a strong, good player. He gets it down and plays a through-ball in between Steven and Fabi and they don’t do well. So he could bail us out in a couple of those situations, but none of the goals in that game — while it might be hard on confidence – you can specifically point to the goalkeeping.

It sounds like Andre just isn’t ready physically. Is that safe to say?

Yeah, that’s part of it. The legs are a lot more important than people probably think. People think with goalkeeping it’s reflexes and hands. But a knee injury is a serious injury for a goalkeeper. So to push off right or left and be explosive and be confident and be yourself, it takes a little bit of time off an injury like he had. A serious injury where they have to cut you. Any time they have to cut you open in this sport, it takes a while to recover and you’re, to be honest doctors never tell you, it’s not quite the same ever again. That’s not what I’m saying about his situation, but it goes along with surgeries. So again: It takes a little bit of time, I don’t want to throw him out there until he’s 100% and ready to go. And right now I don’t see that.

He’s been saying he’s ready to go…

Of course. I want every player to say that. I want every player who’s not starting to tell me that they’re 100%, they’re fully fit to play 90 minutes. That’s the nature of pro sports. It comes down to evaluating it at training and doing what’s best, not only for Andre, but for the team at this moment.

There’s a plan with Andre, and a long term one. So you don’t want to throw him into a game now where he might not be ready, something goes wrong and we’re going back to John and then confidence in both goalkeepers is at a low. So again, you have to handle it the right way. I know the pressure of the number one pick and the fans and a lot of people want to see him out there. But I still want to do what’s right for Andre and what’s right for Philadelphia at this moment.

That said, if John got hurt, he’d have to be in there, right?

Yeah. That’s a different situation. It’s not like he’s far off of his normal self. It’s just that last little — I hate putting percentages on it – but last little five percent to finally be 100%. And John’s come in and done a very good job for us as well, and we think we can get a win with John.

Anything else on the injury front this week?

Vincent was running today. Still swollen in the ankle. Was a pretty serious ankle injury. He had an injection — a PRP injection — to try to speed up the recovery process. But it’s not ready yet. It’ll be very tight for Toronto.

Fernando feels good. Didn’t participate today in the game with Harrisburg, but I think he’s a probably option for the weekend, so good to get guys back.

If I was to judge our group: Defensively we’ve been an F as a team. Offensively: I’d still say it’s incomplete because Vincent hasn’t been consistently out there, Fernando hasn’t been consistently in training with the group, Chaco’s finally getting back on the field. And Seba and Andrew would tell you their production hasn’t been where they hold themselves to standards-wise. So I’d say we’re incomplete on the offensive side. We have scored some goals. So still to be determined on that. We have to improve defensively as a team. 17 goals in 9 games is not acceptable and it’s something that I have to fix.

Can you point to something as the problem?

I’d say, specifically the defenders, they’ve been called upon to put out a lot of fires. And when that number rises high, especially on the road, you’re not going to be — when you’re called upon to put out 15-16 a game… You want to try to limit the chances you’re giving up to teams. And part of that starts with how we press as a front line. How our midfield cuts off passing lanes. It’s been a team thing. And the critical moments I always talk about, when the balls bounce in the box – whether it be on restarts, making the diving play, things have not gone well for us. A little bit of bad luck, to be sure, but at the same time I believe you create your own luck with the effort that you’re putting out. And we’ve given up too many soft goals as a group. Restarts, soft goals  — have been a re-occuring theme with the team. If you’re keeping clean sheets you’re not going to lose games, so that’s where we have to start. We have to get that part right and then from there we can start to put results together.

What about Steven Vitoria’s status?

He didn’t participate today. He has a little bit of a tight groin. We’ll see how it progresses, but we’re hopeful that he’ll be available.

How do you evaluate the Lahoud-Carroll pairing against TFC? Will they start?

It’s possible. We get Zach (Pfeffer) back at home. Unlike last game, I’d like to play a little more offensively in midfield. We’ll see how it goes, we haven’t made a final decision on that yet. Brian played through a pretty serious hamstring and calf injury in the Columbus game, to the point where we had no one else that could play, having to move Mo [Edu] into midfield and changing your whole back line again.

I think Brian is a possibility for the weekend, but he did play through a pretty serious hamstring injury, so it’s a bit of an issue there. And again, Zach coming back, he had some life today in the exercise with Harrisburg. Chaco’s starting to find the ball, get on the ball more, so there’s some positives in that regard. And I think Lahoud, despite our team results, I think individually has been very good. He’s playing as well as he has in his career. And I’ve seen him from a rookie to now, and he’s playing at a really high level. I like where he’s at right now.

What would it take for Zach Pfeffer to move to the No. 8 role?

Everyone looks better when everybody’s performing at a high level. Again, when I talk about my group, we all need to, at least, at a minimum, be good for us to even have a chance in games. We can’t afford to have four or five guys have poor performances. But when everybody is just good — not great, just be good, what we see every day in training — in the game, we have a chance against anybody.

Zach is a guy who is still working on the defensive side of the ball. So the eight role is a little bit different for him. But he gives you an option in midfield where he can make a final pass and score you a goal.

And if you look at our league, the teams that are kind of flying right now — the Columbuses, the New Englands — they get goals from midfielders. They’re hard to find, and Zach has that ability. he’s shown it now in the U-20s. Got pretty glowing reviews from there, so things are positive in that regard for him, and things are also positive with us. He’s a guy that gives you a possibility to get a goal from midfield and, yeah, he can play the eight spot, he can play the ten spot, he can even play in a wide position. So he’s a soccer player. Good passer of the ball, comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, and hopefully can improve our possession. Everybody on our team needs to be better on the ball.

Possession-wise, we’ve been a disaster this year in terms of keeping possession, staying calm, moving that extra two yards on the field that creates an angle to play out of a tight spot. And then confidence. Confidence goes a long way in possession. When you have confident players, they want the ball in tight spots. And right now we’d rather shy away from moving the extra yard or two to keep possession.

On the confidence issue, is the defense having to deal with a guy like Jozy Altidore coming in there?

Yeah. Listen, as a pro athlete you want to play against the best. And for me, right now, Michael Bradley is one of the best players in the league and Jozy is as well. And Giovinco as well. So you want to hold yourself to see how you hold up against the best players. And nothing cures confidence like victory against good competition. And that is something where Toronto had a tough run of games, they kind of picked themselves off the mat with a performance against Orlando. We’ll look to do the same. We’re in a similar spot where we’ve had a tough run of games and we’ve got a good opponent coming in. If you get a good result against them, it proves you can shut down play against the best players in the league. So that goes a long way toward confidence. The only way you do it is to go through the 90 minutes and come out on top. That’s the only way to build confidence. You can talk about seeing a sports psychologist, you can talk about being great doing extra work after training, you can do extra weights, you can eat better, you can do all these things. But until the 90 minutes go by and you come out the end of it and know you put in a good performance, nothing cures it.

Looking ahead at the schedule, do you see this as a must-win?

It’s too early for must-wins. We need good performances at this stage. We need to be able to look up and look at each other in the locker room after 90 minutes and say, ‘We’re getting better.’ Last game we couldn’t do that. Last game we couldn’t look at each other. We were disgusted with how we performed. And that’s not the way this team is capable of playing. It starts with a good performance. It starts from there. I think to label it a must-win: It’s too early. There’s too much of the season left. Yes, we’re aware that it’s creeping up on a third of the way through, but it’s too early for must-wins.


  1. That opening statement really worries me. The team snubbed the traveling fans in Columbus? That makes me wonder if some of the malaise on the team is related to fan reaction. I’ve suspected a few of the players (Wenger, Mbolhi, maybe le Toux) kind of suffer from ‘rabbit ears’; fan criticism really seems to affect their play. Could there be a wider issue with the team?

    • el pachyderm says:

      Nah it’s because of the virus the club has- the virus that is causing an encephalopathy of the collective brain.
      skewer skewer skewer skewer skewer skewer …. until they get it RIGHT.

    • The Chopper says:

      One of the reasons I respect Danny Cruz is that despite the fsct that he often was hammered by a large portion of the fan base at games, on message boards, in social media etc. he never let us see it get to him. I am sure it hurt, but he went out shift after shift and gave us his best.

      No doubt M’Bolhi is an emotionally fragile creature. i doubt he was warned that he would not be welcomed as a Workd Cuo hero and would face a fan base saying “why are you here? We don’t need you or want you.” It clearly messed up his head from day one.

      It is easy for a coach to tell his players to ignore social media and not read the comments sections under articles, but they are human and probably do. It makes it that much harder to put the last performance behind you.

      • While that may be true they are professional athletes and decided this is what they wanted to do for a living. Everyone gets criticized at their jobs it is how you respond that shows whether or not you can grow and improve. If you are to fragile to be told you are not up to standards then you should not be in that profession.

      • If I got criticized on the level that most professional athletes get criticized I would have gone full on Eric Catona by now.

      • el pachyderm says:

        yo magic reference. hassan-chop!

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I’m literally scared to watch this game Saturday. I will be there, and I am worried that it will be over in 30 minutes.
      To even draw this game, will feel like a 3-0 win. WSSM.

    • In this day and age, with yelp and everything else, Everyone gets criticized harshly for job performance. If they’re that fragile then I’m very worried about them. I’d also like to say in true “philly tough”, too fucking bad!

      • Getting pissed off when large anonymous hoards of internet warriors gives you shit doesn’t make you fragile.
        The tendency of Union fans to latch onto certain players once they have decided they “suck” no matter what their current form or failing to see the value of player on the Union squad unless they are Lionel Messi must be maddening. I have criticized players, management ect. But the expectation that someone should surrender their basic humanity just because they play a sport is insane.
        Unless they players are Cylons then kill them with fire!

      • While I tend to agree with NM here, I hear what your saying though. Are they human and does it probably piss them off, of course. Should they also have the discipline to know they are professional athletes and its part of the turf, absolutely. Lastly, there are people who have to give up their basic human dignity all the time at their jobs…….most working stiffs, like myself, do. So, while I sympathize that athletes shouldn’t have to, neither should anyone. But we don’t live in that world, and if we all have too……I certainly don’t think athletes are above it. Hell, we live in a world where people voluntarily do it to be on tv or the next viral sensation…….

    • James Lockerbie says:

      And the Unionites were told if you nothing nice to say do not speak, And a GREAT SILENCE SPREAD ACROSS THE LAND. The silence not be lifted until a yet unknown leader with the title of G.M made is Journey complete at PPL Park.

  2. Thanks Adam. I just listened to it and I think if I had to type it all out while repeatedly listening too Curtin’s monotone delivery I’d probably be at a bar by now

  3. el pachyderm says:

    “They run a lot, the data shows they run a ton.”
    Uh Jim….. could all the running be because they are so woefully out of position or cause they spend the ENTIRE game chasing the ball – are spread way too thin and have poor positioning with 2nd and 3rd defenders. Or could it be both?
    The first defender contains. The 2nd and 3rd cut off the passing lanes- wait for a mistake. This is the MLS- the mistake almost always happens.

  4. Clearly seems that not only do the players have no passion, but neither does the coaching staff. The whole organization is just like eh… whatever (so for those of us who care why should we). Pretty tired of hearing that players are playing like crap and no one on the staff cares. To say things like Lahoud is playing at his top level, is a joke. Yeah he is playing better then he has in the past, but the guy should not even see an MLS field if the Union are taking things seriously and want to be competitive. Ok, so he is one of the only options, but there is always room to improve you don’t say hey that’s the best to do he is great when clearly he is not equal to any other MLS CDM. And everyone on this team needs to improve, otherwise the Union would be coasting at the top of the league with no one even in sight of catching us. Which will never happen with this club.

    On another note anyone read this post: Ultimately all it says is our coaching staff has no idea how to read and analyze data. Hey, they could pay me half of what some of these fools are making and I will analyze their data for them (its not like taking 2000 data points and determining results is hard thing to do). This team is so far behind the times and has no clue where they are going. And as I said in my other posts its just sad.

    • el pachyderm says:

      I read it and while I appreciate analytics- what exactly did all the analysis tell you about the sun arc?
      Grease. Guts. Common sense. The old traits in how to perform at a top level.
      Need more grease. Certainly need more guts. And the common sense is obvious.

      • I agree, but there is a lot they could get from the data. However much of it is already obvious from watching the play. So developing analytics seems to pose two problems for them one they don’t know how to analyze it and two they spend so much time looking at what they don’t understand that they don’t address the simple things. While I don’t have their data I would say it likely shows poor positioning, disorganization, and a lack of movement on offense, but we already knew that.

  5. el pachyderm says:

    We keep trotting out McCarthy. Nothing against the young man but really….
    ….. Oh the punitive irony….. in having had Zac McMath. having Andre Blake. having had Rais M’Bohli and now we have a young young young keeper trying to make sense of this cluster fuck.
    skewer skewer skewer skewer skewer skewer.

  6. OneManWolfpack says:

    So after this blowout… what’s next? What a mess this whole thing is…

  7. Kind of sad to read this nonsense, particularly about the defense putting out fires? what is that all about. Maybe he is turning into Casey Stengel and the Union are really the old Mets?

  8. Jim, if you wanted to play counter-ball and get the 1-0 results……your back 4 have to be capable of absorbing pressure…….aka…….be able to put out a lot of fires………that’s the whole point. Yes it’s about defending as 11………..but your back 4 need to be reliable to bail you out. With the style you chose…….what did you think they would be doing? That doesn’t make sense to me. Clubs that press do so to be on the front foot….in the oppositions half….why go 100 yds when we can go 30 yds? That’s the mindset. I don’t know why pressing is in the discussion when being a club that looks to win ugly with 1-0 results. Why not meet them at midfield and keep it tight? Tactics seems askew to me……..

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      “With the style you chose…” WHAT STYLE WOULD THAT BE?!?! There is no style… no tactics… no V.P.P. as the elephant says.
      I know I didn’t offer much… I’m in a ranting, yelling kind of mood today. Sorry

      • It’s cool bro………..your wound tight around the axle today. I know I am not the source of your frustrations. Your ranting goes into exactly what I’m saying……….if we were playing proper counter ball……you could tell. If we were playing high press, possessive and offensive minded ball……you could tell. We seem to have a hodgepodge of the two and that’s generally how you get so spread out…..why, as Jim stated….they do a lot of “bad” running, why it looks like they don’t have a tactical plan out there, as you state. That’s just my opinion on it, particularly after what he said in the presser.

    • boy, you sound as tactically astute as Curtin

  9. el pachyderm says:

    So I can’t wait til tomorrow. Did anyone watch the Montreal Club -America game? Holy Shit. Club America sucked the life out of that stadium like an event horizon.

    At first it seemed unfair to me- the Mexicans playing on turf, cause they were clearly thrown off by the speed of the game, but once they got their angles down – – – GOODNIGHT – Sleeper hold.
    I kept envisioning the referee lifting the 1980’s WWF wrestler’s arm to watch it fall limply. Once. Twice. Again. Four… that’s it- ring the bell…. Ding Ding Ding.
    The CAM Osvaldo Martinez was boss and well….. there simply are not enough superlatives for Dario Benedetto.

    • I’m not sure if Club America makes me feel a little bit better about the BIMBO label on Union kit or not….

      But yeah, they just turned it on in the second half. Put that game out of reach in a moment.

    • first +1 for the event horizon analogy
      Benedetto scored 3 goals that no Union striker in their history . . . with the possible exception of Carlos Ruiz . . . could ever score.
      It was nice watching proper counter attacking football and real honest to goodness passing for the 1st 45 minutes from Montreal.

  10. “They run a lot, the data shows they run a ton.” — They HAVE TO RUN because there is no Tactical Plan! This team is coached to play with NO CONFIDENCE, to just give away possession cheaply, and bunker back and then try a long ball. This is an absolute BULLSHIT way to play the game.

    Jim Curtin says “I am a defensive kind of guy.” Well if you are as “Defensive Minded” as you say, Wouldn’t you want to play with TONS of Possession!!!! Not letting the other team have any possession means they have very limited chances on frame. I am not saying we expect to see the 2008 Barcelona or even the likes of the Gunners as of late, but any one with any sense can see that if you limit the oppositions possession and time on the ball, you will have a better chance of winning games.

    However, if I saw this team become an attractive possession & passing team that fought for wins competitively, Lost games but are continuously showing they actually belong in this league….it would be amazing! Though sadly this is not a reality we will witness until this Club finds a legitimate coach. A coach who can take theses players: Nogs, Chaco, Fernando, Pfeffer, Vitoria, and Edu and build a true possession/passing team that has true grit and belief that the system/philosophy they play in will get them positive results week in and week out.

    Right now the only belief this team has, is that they will enter PPL park this Saturday (already behind the eight ball) and get absolutely dismantled and out coached.

    Saturday’s score will be 4-1 to Toronto. We will score from a set piece and will be lit up. Jozy will get a hat-trick, and Bradley with have 1 goal and 4 assists.

    …..So it is Written, So it Shall Be Known!


  11. It is NOT too early for must win games. In fact, if this team doesn’t halt it’s current free fall, it will soon be too late for must win games.

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