Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased. Press conference co-transcribed by Ed Farnsworth and Adam Cann.

Opening Statement

Just to briefly go back to the Vancouver game, to reiterate, I thought we had a good opening 30 minutes. From that point we let ourselves down with a couple of silly mistakes, kind of self-inflicted wounds from our own attacking half, kind of having the ball in our own attacking half and playing balls backwards that turned into chances for Vancouver. And if you give a really talented team like Vancouver a two-goal cushion, it’s always going to be a tough day, especially in their building. They’re a very good team, they’re very well coached, tough team to break down.

So, I thought on the day we weren’t sharp enough. Ousted makes a big save against Wenger. Andrew had a good look from close in, could probably do a little better with it. But, that’s just the way things are going right now — difficult.

We watched the tape and, again, try to take some positives from the game. Possession wise, we were a little sharper with the ball. Still not good enough and have to get back on track with a tough DC team coming into our building.

So, it’s been a real tough time, obviously. I’ve never been a part of something this difficult in the losing part of things; I guess maybe at Villanova when I was playing there but professionally, this is the first time I’ve gone through a tough time like this. And the only way to get it right and fix it is through the hard work you put in in training and then the 90 minutes that you get on the weekend to execute and get out of a hole.

First, do you think Ethan White was fouled on the second goal, and second, do you think the Richie Marquez red card was the correct call by the official?

Number one, usually in those moments the center back gets the benefit of the doubt because it’s going to lead to a breakaway. So, if there’s ever any contact, usually, the referee blows the whistle there, and no one on Vancouver would have complained in that spot — maybe the forward complains. When you slow it down to the, you know, you have the benefit of the stop-and-go with the rewind, he does a good job to put his foot in front of Ethan before there’s contact there. Like I said, usually you get the benefit of the doubt on that and the way it’s going for us right now, we’re not going to get any breaks in that regard.

On to the red card, I don’t believe it’s a red card on Marquez. It’s an aggressive foul. There’s not a lot of contact. The big thing they like to say now is his studs were showing. My rebuttal to that is always, and I brought this up in the PRO meeting at the beginning of the year, how can a player slide, physically slide and make a tackle or any challenge – and I’m not talking about the Marquez one in particular — and not have his studs show? It kind of irks me when you hear, and that’s what was written in the report:”His studs were showing.” It’s physically impossible to leave your feet in soccer and not have your studs show. So, again, I think that’s a gray area. I don’t think it’s red card, I think it was a little harsh. I have some people that are on the disciplinary committee and they warned not to challenge it because PRO agrees that it was a red card. So, to challenge it would be futile, so we’re not going to do that. At this time we’re going to prepare with the thought that, unfortunately, Richie is not going to be part of the group. He’ll be suspended, obviously, and serve that suspension. It’s a tough one because he’s put together two good games and had some confidence as a young player in a game where it wasn’t our team’s best. I thought he still did a decent job putting out fires until the unfortunate decision that went against him. You know, the refs have a split second to make a decision — it’s tough. But I thought that one was a harsh one but, again, that’s the way it’s going.

What’s the plan for the backline without Marquez being available? 

Obviously, Mo’s comfortable as a center back, he’s had some good games for us there this year. Him and Ethan like playing with each other. Steven is coming back from injury; he’s getting an MRI right now because he is still having some pain behind his knee. So, we’ll hopefully get to…we’ve had scans on it already and initially there was a groin issue, and now there’s a hamstring, and now he’s got a little bit of pain behind his knee. So, trying to get to the bottom of that. He’s still hopeful for the weekend — obviously, that would be a good thing to have. But, we’ll have to prepare for the worse case, which would be being a little bit thin in the back.

Any thought of moving Sheanon Williams to center back?

He’s done it before, he’s comfortable doing it. It’s not his preferred spot but, at the same time, I think it’s a spot he could come in and do a job as a center back; winning his battles in the air, and being a guy that can pass out of the back, are two of his strengths. It’s a possibility.

How much does Vincent Nogueira’s ability to start play into the center back decision?

Yeah, that’s a factor, as well. Vincent’s coming back, he got a good 30 minutes of work in Vancouver, the ankle responded very well to that. Had a day off and then looked very good, I thought, in training today, which is a positive step. I think he’ll obviously be a big part of our plans going into DC. He’s a key player for us and one we’re excited to get back.

How will it be without Fernando Aristeguieta now that he’s been called up by Venezuela?

Difficult. For those who don’t know, Fernando got called in with Venezuela. I just texted with him, sounds like their camp has been difficult in terms of physical nature of the camp and how it’s almost like another preseason for him, a lot of running and fitness that he’s going through. He said it’s a very good group so we’ll see. Obviously, you want him to have a chance to represent his country, that’s the ultimate goal for him right now. But, at the same time you want him back here and getting in that rhythm that we talk about of training with the group for full weeks and getting used to things here. He’s a very, very talented player, he’s dangerous in the box, but there’s been moments where, because he’s been battling different injuries and stuff, it hasn’t been maybe as fluid as you’d like with some of his teammates. And, again, it seems like we’re starting to get guys back, and you want them all out on the field together, but for one reason or another this year it’s been very disjointed in that regard. After the good preseason I thought we had, after the Colorado game, you can start to see how for whatever different reasons that come up — whether it’s international call-ups, injuries, trouble on or off the field — we haven’t had the same group out there too often.

What’s the timeframe on Aristeguieta returning?

They’ll have to pick the roster by the 23rd [of May] was when he was told when he’ll the idea of the 30-man, or, excuse me, not the 30 man, their cutdown to the number they’re going to put it at — I don’t want to speak for their coach in terms of how many alternates he needs or that kind of thing. We’ll know within the next eight to ten days if there’s a situation where — we voiced this with Fernando before he left, and he wants to be here with Philadelphia, obviously, too — if he gets the feeling or he has a discussion with the coach that it’s probably an unlikely scenario where he makes the team he’ll get back as soon as possible.

Do you have a timeframe on when the Zach Pfeffer-Gedion Zelalem selection decision for the US U-20 World Cup team will be resolved?

Zach will be with us against DC, that’s a hundred percent cleared with Tab [Ramos], it’s been communicated, which is very good because, obviously, thin in the midfield, and Zach’s been playing, he’s been having a good season. Can he do more? Absolutely, in the games, and I’m going to keep challenging him; he’s a young player, I’m going to keep pushing him. But the decision with Zelalem, I think they’ve moved it back a couple of days, I think we’ll know within the next two days whether Zach is physically going, or Gedion if they can get the paperwork done. [US Soccer said last week that the deadline for submitting final 23-player rosters for the U-20 World Cup tournament is Friday, May 15.]

Was there a specific reason Rais Mbolhi was brought back?

The initial plan in that one was the move was going to be for the summer. That was the plan, and that, we thought, had been communicated. Unfortunately, that changed. He was at training and I had a further discussion with him that he wouldn’t be in the plans and that we’d look to move in the summer. He agreed to that, he said he just wanted to continue to train. I just said that it would be at a separate time from the team. So, that’s what we have set up now, and all of it’s geared to a move in the summer, in July.

So, you were not planning to play him?


Why was he called back then?

He wasn’t called.

[After the press conference, Kevin Kinkead tweeted that, according to a Union spokesperson, “there was a ‘miscommunication’ between Rais and his agent, and that’s why he came back last week.”]

What’s the status of John McCarthy? What’s plan with Brian Sylvestre?

John has a concussion so he has to go through the protocol that goes along with that. I think that he’ll be…it’ll be close for the weekend. Without training fully the week, you might use him as a backup, that way we wouldn’t have to have the pool goalkeeper involved. We’re currently trying to work something out with extending the Brian Sylvestre loan, that’s kind of something that we’re looking to do. I thought Brian actually had a good game [against Vancouver], despite the scoreline. It was one of the few bright spots in the game. So,again, we’ll have a couple of things to juggle, and there’s different rules in the league that we have to deal with, as well, and find the best solution to getting two goalkeepers in.

Any update from Jay Sugarman or Nick Sakiewicz about the search for a sporting director or general manager? 

I know it’s something that I think the club would like to do, obviously. So, again, I’m sure they’ll have some discussions on that and they’ll do what’s best for the club moving forward.

Has Andre Blake had his surgery yet?

Yes. Yeah, he did. Same exact surgery as the last time, it’s going to be a similar recovery. It wasn’t as minor as they had hoped, when they go in they kind of get a clearer picture, so, it looks like six weeks. And then, obviously, like we’ve talked about before, it’s not just six weeks hit and he’s all the sudden perfect and himself again because you have all of the down time of not seeing live action and he’ll have to get his legs under him again. But, again, it’s a devastating one for him, it’s tough for the team, but something that, hopefully, he can grow from and understand that, even if it doesn’t seem like it, things do happen for a reason; I’m a big believer in that. Hopefully, he’ll bounce back and be better than ever.

Are there any issues extending the Sylvestre loan?

There’s always a way to get a deal done with the club. We’re still in the early process of seeing where John’s at concussion-wise and what that’s going to look like and the timeline there. Obviously, we know Andre won’t be available. There’s certain hardship you have to claim to the league and what kind of relief and leniency they’ll give you in that regard.

Brian is a good option for us, I think he’s a very good young goalkeeper. Can do a job, obviously gives you size and a presence in there. Kicks well. Fits in with our group, that’s the biggest thing for me. He’s a guy that’s very familiar with our group, so when he walked in to Vancouver, he knew everybody. Knew guys’ strengths and weaknesses. It was pretty seamless.

Are you surprised to see DC playing as well as they are?

No, Benny’s a really good young coach. He’s a great motivator, gets a lot out of his guys. I’ve had a lot of discussions with him in the past, dating back to when I was the interim coach. He’s seen a lot in this league as a player, then as a coach.

They had the tough season where they only had three victories. So I can pick his brain and learn a lot from him and the things that he did during that time that were good and the things that were bad. And how you can learn from it. And again, I think we have a similar mindset about the game. But he has them playing very well. They’re a dangerous team. Chris Rolfe is a player, an old teammate of mine, that I think when he’s playing well and as confident as he is now, I think he’s as dangerous attacking as anyone in the league. Espindola is coming back from the suspension now, with a knock, a bit of an injury. A very dangerous forward. He gives them a real dynamic up front that’s a lot to handle. And the guy’s that he’s getting a lot out of now, DeLeon and Pontius, are a real force when they get going.

And they have sprinkled in the quiet veterans. He’s done it with a lot of good Americans who have won in the league. The Bobby Boswells, the Davy Arnauds, and then the goalkeeper too. That rock in the back that’s doing really well for him. They’re a team that, if you look at the way they’ve been built, they’re not a team that spends the $10 million or $5 million on a player. So he’s done it a really impressive way. Ben’s a guy that I looked up to as a player, watching his old Delco teams when Chris and I were younger than him. And now as a coach he’s doing a great job too. Credit to them. It’s going to be a tough game.

 Any other keepers you have in right now? 

Right now just academy keepers. And then the one is Logan Keys who’s just helping us out.

What’s John’s fitness level? 

Not much. When you have the head injury they pretty much shut you down to the extreme of not being in a room like this where there’s a lot of bright lights and things like that, so minimal. Today’s the first day he was allowed to warm up with the team. Again, they follow a pretty strict protocol. It’s a day-by-day one where you take baby steps. He’ll be reevaluated midweek, Thursday, and then going into the game Sunday it’ll be… we’ll probably know Saturday his status.

Would you possibly have to apply for a pool goalie?

Yeah, that’s a possibility. We would have to maybe do that.

Can you point to any problem areas in the defense and how to fix them?

Yeah, I think as a team we’ve been poor defensively. It’s something I’m not happy with. With myself, with the team. A lot we can work on. Defending starts with the forwards, it goes to the midfield, the back four, and then the goalkeeper. It’s a team issue.

Early on, we gave up too many goals on restarts. We’ve kind of fixed that a bit, and now, if you go back and really break down all the goals, which is way too many, they’re individual mistakes. I think we have bodies behind the ball in most cases. We have numbers in the box in most cases, it’s just a matter of… we go to the Vancouver game. Ethan has a free header and 9 times out of 10 he would head that forward. For whatever reason, he thinks Richie is open behind him and he heads it backwards and it leads to the scramble and the eventual breakaway.

Chaco plays the ball backwards, and we’re in possession in their half of the field, can he just play forward and get us out of a spot where he didn’t even have any pressure on him. Instead he plays back to a center back who wasn’t even expecting it, and it’s just an individual… it’s a blunder, to be honest. A lot of the mistakes have just been self-inflicted, silly, and something we have to fix. And we’re going to work a lot in training to try and fix it and correct it. A lot of back four work but also midfield work and how we want to press with our front line.

Any positives?

We’re trying to find positives. It’s always difficult when you’re losing. Winning can sometimes mask a lot of deficiencies too. There are teams that go on runs of wins that it tends to mask things. Right now, everything is going wrong for us. That’s not a secret. So you’re under the microscope a lot more. That’s myself and the players. Positives that I’ve looked at are some of our young players’ performances. Right now we’re the fourth youngest team, I believe, in the league, and then if you go to some of the lineups we’re fielding and some of the guys that are playing the minutes, you look to Zach Pfeffer’s performance, as a 20 year old kid. Ayuk has done well for an 18 year old kid to get the experience he is, Richie Marquez has now stepped up. But at the same time, we’re not getting results. So they don’t get the credit they deserve because you don’t see the three points coming up. So that’s something that I’ve tried to stay positive with, and watch young guys, in particular, grow, if you’re trying to grab a positive out of what’s been a very difficult year.

Court documents show CJ has a continuance until June. Where is he at?

It’s not really  in our hands right now. He’s taking tests out there, then they’ll let us know a timeline. We haven’t gotten a specific date of when he’ll be back. It’s kind of in their hands; not really up to the Union in that regard. It’s a league and the company that they work with out there.

Is this roster the team you’re going to go with until at least July?

Til July, yes. There’ll be some changes. We know we need to improve. We know we need to get better in certain spots, like any team right now, I’d say. You’re always looking to upgrade. You can always move on free agents. In-league trades are now frozen, so that’s one thing that won’t change. That deadline passed without a lot of significant movement. There’s always discussions going on with us and different teams. It’s usually the teams that are struggling that are in the discussion. This is no different. So I think things went back and forth but nothing any came that was something we wanted to act on. So again, I still believe we have quality. We have to get everyone healthy and on the field at the same time. And we do have to upgrade and improve some spots in the summer. And that will happen.


  1. amusiccale says:

    If they were serious about winning in the future, the FO would start upgrading well before July by bringing on a GM and hiring the additional coaching and scouting staff they need. If it means paying for it on the roster and under the salary cap, it likely won’t matter for this season anyway. We’re already starting to hear about them giving younger players a chance (Pfeffer, Ayuk, Marquez, McCarthy).

  2. “there was a ‘miscommunication’ between Rais and his agent, and that’s why he came back last week.”
    Somebody is lying. I don’t know who but someone is completely full of shit.

  3. I’m Jim Curtin and I just want to wish Stevie Wonder a Happy 65th Birthday today….. oh… and this job still sucks.

  4. John Ling says:

    I have some people that are on the disciplinary committee and they warned not to challenge it because PRO agrees that it was a red card. So, to challenge it would be futile, so we’re not going to do that.
    Maybe it’s just because I’m a sour-ass son-of-a-bitch. But, if that were me I’d be more inclined to challenge, and then make a big stink about it – fine be damned.
    I know it’s something that I think the club would like to do, obviously. So, again, I’m sure they’ll have some discussions on that and they’ll do what’s best for the club moving forward.
    Translation: Do you really think Jay is gonna spend any money to hire somebody, or that Nick is gonna give up his power?

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It’s not a question of the fine as much as there are a limited number of challenges. What if they challenge this, lose, and then have one in a few weeks that they would win but they used their challenge already?

  5. Atomic Spartan says:

    Time to recognize that in-game, JC does not help the lads. There is no energy or sense of urgency in his demeanor, just that sour thousand mile stare. Telling it like it is in pressers isn’t coaching. His team folds like a bad beach chair at the first sign of adversity (GA). Now, maybe he’s saddled with personalities he just can’t motivate, but the fact is he seems incapable of instilling either the tactical awareness or the intestinal fortitude his players need to fight on. He needs to be the one indomitable positive force on this team, and I just do not see it.

  6. On the Orlando broadcast last night they announced Zelalem was cleared to play for the US . . . So it looks like we’ll have Zack all summer. good news for us . . . Not so good news for Pfeffer.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It’s probably not so bad for Pfeffer. Last man on the roster usually doesn’t get much playing time. At least he should get that with the U.

      • yeah, staying with the team is the bigger opportunity. if he went he wouldn’t have seen many minutes but here he can show that he can be a difference maker on a struggling team. or rather he can try to show that

  7. from next weeks presser.
    Any positives coach?
    ummm…not really. Though I really thought the brown bags on the fans heads this week really sent a message to the club.

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