Press Conference

Transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Alright, first to quickly touch on the Red Bull game, I thought we had a lot of strong performances from our guys. Was happy with the entire group, was really committed in both boxes, defensively and offensively. A lot of blocks, last second slide tackles defensively, and then attacking-wise, we were able to put together a couple plays, actually had a couple chances to get a third goal as well to kill off the game. But to the guys’ credit, they stuck with it and kept back to back clean sheets. With is now something I’m proud of. We preach defense a lot and we’ve given up too many goals this year. So the goal is to put a third consecutive clean sheet together in DC. And that, obviously, gets you at least a point. And I think it’s a place we can go and push for three. They have a tough week, they’re at Portland tonight, so I encouraged our guys to watch that game. We’ll see what kind of team they field on the long flight out there. Roster sizes don’t allow, you’re not going to be able to play two completely separate teams. So they’ll have some tired legs in what looks to be about a 90 degree day in DC. So we’ll focus on them now, we’ll put New York behind us. We watched the video of it today and, again, happy with the performance. It’s two wins in a row, it’s something we need to build on and put consistent games and results together to get back in this thing.

In the second half of that game, it looked like the counterattacking was working. Was that a halftime emphasis?

As the second half wore on, I think we got stronger. I think Chaco’s had that in the past two games, where it’s almost like a boxer where it’s a feeling out process, slow in the early rounds and kind of get stronger as the game goes on where he kind of finds space. I think fitness-wise, he showed really well at the end of the game. I think Vincent as well. I think you can see now our guys are a fit group. And if you look at this second half and the DC second half, we were able to defend well and get a goal late. That’s a sign of the guys have put in in training. It’s a credit to them. And that counterattack, yeah, that looked like us. That was the old us last year when we were going good. Obviously, it’s been a struggle getting it going this year, but we’ve done it now for two games in a row and the goal is to do it a third and a fourth and a fifth. It’s kind of the dog days of summer now where you have to have your stuff together to pick up points. The games come at us fast now, I believe it’s four out of five in June are here. There’s Open Cup games sprinkled in there, a game in Reading. It’s a busy, hectic time, but I think we’re in a good confidence about us. A good run of form and it’s almost good to get the Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday because your guys want to get back out on the field again. So it’s good that that’s coming up.

When you look at the counter, what was lacking before?

It’s nothing new. The final ball is a little better. The pass Fabi makes is a pass that invites CJ to go and get it, as opposed to, I think a lot of times this year, we’ve gotten in good wide positions but the cross is off or the run is just a little bit off. We’ve worked a lot on – whether it’s three versus twos or four versus threes – we work a lot on that. Guys have done a better job. It can still improve drastically, we’re by no means a finished product. But we’re starting to show glimpses of last year when things were going well. And that’s a credit to our experienced guys have come in and given us a real boost. Young guys have been called upon too, in tough spots. Think about Richie Marquez, to go on the road at Red Bull Arena and put in the performance he did against a top goalscorer in our league I thought was very good. I thought Ethan made a lot of big plays for us, Sheanon did a great job. And Fabi had, like I’ve mentioned before, the best game of his career in a Union uniform. They get a little accolades, that’s nice. Fabi gets recognized for Team of the Week, and Sylvestre does as well, that’s positive. But at the same time, in this league you can’t get too high or too low. And that’s a simple message but it’s a true one. Because it’s a league of streaks and teams get hot, teams get cold. Hopefully we got a lot of our cold streaks out of our system early and we can get back on track.

Thoughts on the FIFA scandal?

When I woke up I saw the breaking news; stuff on Twitter and different things. And I had seen the previous New York Times article and the work some of the reporters have done recently and put it in the spotlight. Unfortunately, our commissioner has made it clear not to discuss that topic at this time. It’s a process that they’re going through and it’s not really my place, I don’t really know the legality on things. I’m not able to comment on that.

With the Women’s World Cup and the Gold Cup coming up, does the FIFA scandal serve as a distraction?

It’s obviously an exciting time. I actually did a training clinic last night out here with about sixty young girls and that’s all they were talking about, the Women’s World Cup. I have two daughters that are into soccer. Unfortunately, my job doesn’t allow me to go on break to go to Vancouver to watch some of those games with my daughter, but we have a busy schedule ahead. It is an exciting time for the game, it does steal a bit of the spotlight from them, and the good things that are going on at the international level and in our league as well. So anytime the word scandal comes up, obviously it fills this room a little bit more (laughs), but I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but it’s negative publicity.

What can you say about CJ Sapong?

We used him a little earlier than I’d hoped; Conor had a little quad issue. CJ came on and gave us a ton of energy, a ton of life. You looked into his eye before he went in and he looked… possessed, like he had something to prove. I’m very happy for him. He’s been through some things now. I think he knows it’s made him a better person, first. You hope it makes him a better player and he learns from it. If that’s a sign of things to come, to do that on a short week and to maintain it for 40 minutes. Like I said, when Red Bull came off the field, as I shook his hand, Ouimette had a bloodied nose, there was one guy limping, one guy came off. So he’s a physical presence up there, he gives you a ton of energy. He was possessed on the night. Obviously happy to get a goal for him, but at the same time, the dirty work he did off the ball was what I was most happy with. Holding the ball up and being a man in there was impressive.

Were you in communication while he was away?

Yeah, you want to let the league go through its process. We exchanged text messages. Asked him how he was doing, that sort of thing. He seemed to be in good spirits, it sounded like he was able to work out out there, they had a soccer person to keep his fitness going. But it sounded like his days were busy, they were filled with things that gave him a new perspective on some things about, not only the game, but being a man and growing up. And a lot of different ideas. He kind of embraced the process and I think learned a lot from it. And I think he’ll be better for it. If that 35-40 minutes he gave us against Red Bull were a sign of things to come, we’re in a good spot.

What did you think of Jesse Marsch’s “survival mode” comments?

It’s funny, I was sitting on my couch and all of a sudden my phone started going with text messages, going off. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What could this possibly be?’ Is it something related to Brian Sylvestre, is something going on? It was a couple guys, former teammates of mine and coaches in the league that kind of said, ‘Did you see the article?’ I read it once, then I read it again. My first reaction was that I’m surprised he’s still thinking about Philadelphia. I thought he’d be on to playing Seattle away this week, which’ll be a tough task. Think back to the week prior and I thought I had a lot of positive things to say about his team, a lot of positive things to say about him, and it was disappointing to read. I thought it was a little disrespectful to myself and to the team, most importantly. He spent some time with the media, maybe he’s in a different frame of mind with the spin, or whatever it might be. I won’t ever speak negatively about another team. I like to give praise and I do think they’re a very good group, they’re a very good team, they’re a very well-coached team. Their assistant coaches are friends and great teammates and former coaches of mine in Chris Armas and Dennis Hamlett. I respect what they’re about. I thought the comment was out of line for sure, especially the one toward the end of the article. You know, it is what it is. We move on and we’re on to DC. Is there a little more spice to the rivalry? Probably. But it’s on to the next game for us.

Peter Vermes made similar comments last year when the Union went out there with a bad record. Can you sustain that kind of absorbing pressure thing, or do you have to change it up to go forward?

I think you have to find a balance. You can’t just sit and absorb pressure. There’s times when you concede possession when you’re on the road, for sure. It can’t be all the time. There have to be moments when we’re still good on the ball. And if you go back and watch the tape, there are still good moments in the second half when we were pretty sharp on the ball. You’re right, there can’t be this bunker-in mentality. And I don’t think that’s what we’re about just yet. It’s still a work in progress. We’re not done. We still haven’t had all of our guys quite out on the field at the same time the way I’d like them to for a consistent time. But the guys who played against Red Bull, a bit of a pieced together line at the time and some attacking guys gave us some really good options. So I was happy with that part. But you’re right, it’s not going to be… you can’t jus wait until your back is against the wall to put good performances together. It has to be the kind of a thing where we go on a run and put together, you know, four and five good games together. And right now, I’m honest with my team and where we stand. I’ll tell you guys when I don’t think we play well and I’ll give credit when we do to our guys. I think we’ve played well in two games. We have a lot to work on still, it’s still – I don’t want to say it’s early because it’s starting to move on quickly – but we have to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’re in.

What’s been the common thread between the two shutouts?

The mentality in training that they’ve had. There’s been moments this year when we could’ve bailed out and took the easy way out and pointed the finger more. But they’ve stuck together. And again, Mo’s done a good job keeping the guys together in the locker room. I’ll do my best to continue to keep them going as the coach. But the work they’ve put in in training is starting to pay off on the field, so I’m a bit believer in if you put the work in in the 4-5 days of training, the games become the easier part, the fun part, and the part where you just need to execute. For two weeks in a row, we’ve done that. And now we have to do it for a lot more weeks.

Given that Brian Sylvestre is returning to Carolina RailHawks for tonight’s US open Cup game against Charlotte Independence, what’s it going to be like for the rest of the week and in DC?

Sylvestre has done well. He’s done very well. He’s come into a tough situation where, he was familiar with our guys, but it’s still his first MLS games for the guy. Three games, two clean sheets for him. So it’s a unique one where we’re happy with where he’s at. It’s difficult, [the Carolina Railhawks] goalkeeper gets a concussion last night or yesterday and now they’re scrambling. Technically, he still is their player so they have a right to call him back. So he’ll give a performance there, just kind of treat it like a midweek game. So he’ll stay sharp, hopefully, game sharp, and then we’ll get him back for the weekend.

Sylvestre is Cup-tied for the US Open Cup. Does that change your timeline for bringing in someone else?

We’re exploring that right now, because he will be Cup tied. Barring a crazy circumstance where the game gets canceled due to weather or something like that – which wouldn’t be the worst, and actually wouldn’t be that surprising either – he will be a player for the Railhawks when it comes to the US Open Cup. I’m confident in Johnny [McCarthy] to do the job in the Open Cup and go on a run for us like we did last year. But obviously, you do need someone to sit on your bench in that regard. And we’re starting to explore that option.

Is this earlier than you would have targeted to bring a new guy in?

We’re always looking to… solve the solution. Like I said, Brian’s done a really good job. So we’ll explore what that means between us and Carolina, about maybe down the road a purchase, we’ll see how that goes. Right now – I hate the cliche – but we’re one game at a time. It’s a situation where Brian has given us two good games, and I’m very happy with him in there. And he gives us some size on crosses and has done a really good job.

Where’s Fernando Aristeguieta at now that he’s returned from his call-up to the Venezuela national team?

He’s disappointed. We exchanged some texts during the process. The camp that he was in, Marguerite Island, it sounds like it was very fitness-heavy and difficult. If you look at Venezuela’s roster, they have some heavy hitters at his position. He said they had five forwards in there. On one day, they brought a couple in from the heavy hitters that are playing in Russia. They have some top strikers. He always knew it was going to be difficult. I think he pushed and made the decision a tough one, but he said he came up a little short and now he’s motivated to come back and help us. The good news is that he’s fully healthy. For the first time, there’s no cast. There’s no quad issue. He’s fit as he’s ever been, as I’ve ever seen him, I should say. Coming off a tough camp with Venezuela. And he’s pretty seamlessly back into the group. The guys like him a lot. Anybody who works as hard as he does gets the guys’ respect and appreciation. Excited to get him back and have a full week of training with the group is a positive.

How difficult has it been with Aristeguieta not being available to practice much?

It’s hard. He hasn’t trained a lot at all. Different things. National team, injuries, moving to a new country. A lot of little variables have come up where he’s missed a lot of training sessions. There hasn’t been a lot of cohesion in that regard. But he is a guy that I believe in. I know he can be a double-digit goalscorer in our league and I’m anxious to get a run of games now and have him put the ball in the net, which is what he wants to do for us.

What’s up with Steven Vitoria?

He’s actually rehabbing at YSC with Bill Knowles, who does a great job rehabbing players. A bit longer-term than we thought, so we sent him there and he’s progressing well. Don’t know exact timeline yet, I don’t want to put weeks on it. But it’s not in the immediate future that he’ll be back with us.

How’s Conor Casey and how is Ray Gaddis?

Ray looked good today in training. It’s still tender, I think. I think it still hurts him a little bit. I had a good talk with him yesterday about where it’s at. I don’t want it to be a thing where he’s going to be re-injuring it over and over again, because ankles are tricky in that regard. The guys that played in the last game did a good job. But Ray is a very important part of our team, obviously.

Conor’s quad, unfortunately there’s a little tear in there. It looks like it’ll be possibly a week to two weeks. Difficult for him because he got some momentum going. Credit him with getting us out of our slump and getting a little momentum for us. He came into a tough game where he hadn’t started yet, and he really gave us some valuable minutes in the past two games. I told him he goes on the shelf undefeated, so it’s a good thing.

Updates on Ethan White, Lahoud, or Andre Blake?

Ethan played our last game with a lot of fluid in his knee. It kind of ballooned up on him in training the day before we left. I was really nervous because that’s not a spot we’re deep at right now, we have a lot of injuries. To his credit, he played, he played hurt for me, they did a scan and I think it’s OK. They kind of got some of the fluid out of there this morning. We’ll see for the weekend, we’ll see where he’s at, whether it’s as a starter or a reserve. He still did a great job in the last game and battled.

With Michael and Andre, it’s still a few weeks.

With Brian Carroll playing so well these past two games, will he stay in there?

Without giving Ben too much of an advantage, I’m very happy with Brian. Similar with Conor, he’s given us some excellent games, two excellent games. He gives us a calming presence there. He knows to stay home when Vincent and Chaco start to do their thing. It makes everyone’s role a little simpler because you know Brian will be there to protect the back four. His passing has been very good. It’s not a coincidence. He’s been sharp in training every day leading into this. So, very happy with his performances. And he’s done a really good job for us.

Can you say anything about Eidur Gudjohnsen being here?

First and foremost, he’s an amazing player. A guy that I loved watching as I was playing. He’s actually older than me, which sounds bad. He’s a very talented guy. He’s here strictly to train, for training purposes. To prepare for Euros with Iceland. It was good talking with him, picking his brain about different clubs and experiences that he’s had. First and foremost, the best advantage is for our young players to see a guy like that up close. To see how much of a soccer brain he has, where he sees things two or three steps ahead. Where we’re so frantic sometimes, and full of youth and energy and running and hustle. He’s very calm on the ball. An exceptional player. It was good to have him in training. He brings a level of class that is… a different level, so it was fun to watch. And he’ll be with us until, I believe, next Tuesday. So it’s pretty good stint of training sessions. It just worked out, geographically, and through different agents that reached out. He was possibly going to go to DC, but with them in Portland it didn’t fit in. We welcome him with open arms because it’s a great thing for our young players to learn from.


  1. Not gonna lie, I feel a sense of relief for the manager… Wether it is his relief I feel or my own for him, I am uncertain…
    either way, winning always helps… “win one more boys and that’s called a streak” – Lou Brown.

  2. No one likes us, we don’t care.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Rationally, when the general boss did not supervise closely enough so that a subordinate leader had to be fired, and then his successor was fired after one full season and two halves, the general boss needs to exhibit enough patience with the third subordinate leader so that he avoids being thought capriciously trigger happy. The general boss is a recruiter with responsibility to fill all kinds of positions throuout the organization. The general boss needs to be someone for whom others want to work. Rationally, th third subordinate leader should get quite a bit of slack.
    In the past, however, evidence of rationality has not be prominent.

  4. Jesse Marsch, not very graceful, mate. Work on that.

    • No kidding. I share Curtin’s surpise at how salty he was. Sure the Union didn’t play very well in the early going, but I thought they were clearly the better team for most if not all of the second half. I think Marsch should be more concerned about his team’s lack of effort on defense and getting harried off the ball in midfield than the fact that the U’s “no game plan” worked.

  5. I’m happy that we got 2 consecutive wins against to of the top teams in the East. They Union need to enjoy the moment and so should we. However, I am personally sick and tired of this team being “that team.” So much of the crap with the organization has to do with the ownership/CEO. I’m all for giving 2nd chances and time to get it right, this is Philly after all. That’s another thing I am sick of being “that city” and accepting it like it’s some freaking right of passage. Sakiewicz and Sugarman aren’t capable of getting it right nor to I think they want to! Yes our teams are struggling however, as I remind the hypocrites in NY, at least we live and die with our 1 team per sport. We don’t need 2-3 teams to jump back and forth to in order to feel relevant. They try to justify it by saying it’s all NY. I say that’s sad because THAT is all NY and it’s nothing to be proud of and they will never get it!

    Sell this franchise to a competent and financially competitive owner!!


  6. Don’t like the opening statement at all. Way too much bulletin board material for the opponent. Jim essentially saying that DC is going to be too tired to play this game…why even bring that up, especially in a revenge situation for the home team? Little more common sense from the coach in these situations goes a long way. Can’t remember the game, but this happened a couple weeks ago too.

    • The Little Fish says:

      ……Or Jim Curtain is planting the seeds in the DC player’s heads about being fatigued. They know he knows how physically AND mentally taxing three mls games in one week is. I don’t really have a problem with his statement.

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