Press Conference

Transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

I think that the brief little break came at a good time for us. Played a bunch of games in a short period of time. Obviously, we were on a pretty good run of form up until the New York game, the result that didn’t go our way. I thought in the game we created enough chances to at least take a point, if not three from the game. Little bit unlucky. New York, to their credit, took their chances, and we didn’t. The amount of crosses we got, the runs in the box, the final ball, like I talked about, were off a little bit. It’s something we worked on this past week as we kind of recharge our batteries and look ahead to a busy, tough schedule: Open Cup, that we’ll take very seriously with Rochester coming in, a very good team, a team that hasn’t lost a game yet, coming in tomorrow, and then in league, obviously the Galaxy, a top team in the league, Seattle, a top team, and Montreal, a team that’s playing pretty well also. So, a tough stretch of games coming up, a good challenge for us. A lot of them are at home, which is a good thing; we have to do a good job on our home field.

Update on the goalie situation

For tomorrow, John McCarthy will be our starter, Andre will back him up. Andre looks sharp in training, came back a little quicker than we thought, which is good, a positive. So, happy with the two of them. Obviously, Brian’s cup-tied, so he won’t be able to play with us. That’s pretty much where that stands right now.

Lineup thoughts ahead of Tuesday’s Open Cup game

It’s a good team coming in in Rochester, you know? I’ve watched a bunch of tape on them. They don’t concede a lot of goals, they’ve only given up  four goals, they’ve scored 16 — 8-0-4, so they haven’t been beat this year. So, we’re going to have to be on our game, can’t take them lightly. It’ll be a well coached, organized team, and they have a couple of weapons. Fortunately, the Dos Santos kid, the striker, is suspended from the Harrisburg the game, he’s a guy that gets a lot of goals for them. I don’t think they’ll high press us in our building, but maybe they do. It’ll be something we’ll be ready for if they do, but I expect them to sit back a little bit, give us possession, and make us really have to break them down. Which’ll be a difficult task because they have some big bodies there, they have guys that are, you know, MLS one and two years, and maybe they get 30 games in the USL PRO — it’s guys with a chip on their shoulder so they have a good group right now, a lot of familiar names when you go through their roster. They’ve got a bunch of guys that are playing with edge right now and are winning, so it’ll be a tough task.

In terms of how we look at our squad, we’re going to have to field a team that’s up to the task and, without going into my lineup, it’s going to be a group that will go out and compete, and a group that sets us up knowing that we do have a busy stretch. So, there could be some younger guys that see minutes.

How do you balance league and cup play?

Every team treats it differently. I’m a guy who, I guess it was kind of ingrained in me from my time in Chicago, that there’s only two trophies that you can win in this country, and this is one of them. So, we’re going to take it serious. You see a lot of teams that will throw out…we’ll call them second teams. I don’t think there are any MLS teams that are deep enough to field two teams quite yet with the salary restrictions and stuff, so we’re going to field a strong team,we’re going to field as strong a team as we can and look to get a result. And yeah, there is a balancing act but we had the fortunate situations — well, they’re not fortunate — but there were a lot of injuries this year that gave guys minutes maybe before they were ready for them and they rose to the occasion, some of them, and have done really well. So, we’re comfortable playing, going a little deeper into our bench. A lot’s been made about our depth, or lack of depth, and I don’t fully agree with it, I think we’ve had some injuries, especially at the striker position that instantly makes us obviously thin. When Fernando is hurt, Conor’s hurt, Antoine’s hurt, that’s three forwards that have been out, and their forwards that can play as a high guy or a wide position. So, you do get thin a little bit quick when you lose three guys at one spot.

This seems to be the best shape the team has been in injury wise for a while

It is, yeah, with the exception of Conor’s out and Lahoud will be out, he had a setback that wasn’t raining related, he was doing something on the side and, unfortunately, I was hoping to have him back to play in this game and to contribute in this game, but he had a minor setback on his own, again, not in training, off to the side. Disappointed with that. Not happy about it because that would give us some real cover in the central midfield. So, disappointing that Mike had a setback.

For the most part, though, we have the most healthy bodies we’ve had; going into a tough stretch, we’re going to need everyone.

Some of the early Open Cup games last year weren’t exactly a walk in the park, Are the players that were here last year letting the others know that?

For sure, I’ve been warning them as much as possible all week. Early round games are in a lot of ways the toughest because if you run into a Cosmos, a Rochester, this is a chance for them to knock off the higher league. They want to impress and say that they belong in MLS as a team, as an individual. So, that part’s challenging, getting the guys motivated. The key is playing at a tempo and a speed that they’re not maybe used to. When MLS games get ramped up, it is faster, it is a stronger league. But, on any given day, a team can come in here and give you a tough time. Last year you saw it with Harrisburg and then with the Cosmos; those were our two toughest games, because they’re both good teams, they can still play, the guys get paid to play. So, they’re professionals, as well. It’s challenging to get our guys to be ready for it. You see it so often though, these games become tricky and MLS teams are going to lose in this round — that’s a fact, someone’s going to go down  — and it happens every year, and you have to do your best to prevent it.

The advantage is that we have a home game, we don’t have to travel, which is good. We have a big nice field that we can play on, so we have to take care of business: It’s up to us to execute on the field and put together a good performance on a Tuesday night.

Does it help to have someone like John McCarthy playing, a player who was with Rochester last season?

Yeah, for sure. He helps in the scouting, he helps in all the little things. He’s a guy who’s been on both sides, you know, he can speak to how good of a team this Rochester group is. There weren’t as strong last year but this year they’ve come in and have really kind of separated themselves from a lot of the other teams in the league and are doing really well. Again, we’re not going to have a letdown, or we’re not going to be caught off guard or or underestimate them in any way. John has played both sides; he wants to get a win now for Philadelphia.

Wilson Palacios has been training with the team. What’s his status with the club?

Wilson’s been in with us for about a week now. He’s done well. He is a guy whose career speaks for itself at the international level in the World Cup, with Tottenham, with Stoke, so a guy that’s played at big clubs. We had in him for the week to take a look at him. He’ll still be here through Wednesday and we’ll have to make a decision after that. But, he’s been good.

Is Palacios able to be signed at this point?

Yeah, we’re always looking to upgrade our roster and have competition in every spot, so it’s just like any normal team right now, the window’s about to open in July and there’ll be some player movement, not only from our team but from a lot of teams in MLS.

Is Palacios out of contract?

I can’t speak for him, he’s not our player.

On Rochester’s stingy defense

They have a big back four; I mean their left back is 6’5″, Van De Casteele’s my size, he’s a 6’4″ guy. Their center backs aren’t as big but their still good in the air. So, again, it’s not going to be a game where we’re just dumping balls into the box and expecting us to get on the end of head balls, it’s going to take getting to the endline, balls cut back on the ground, the timing of a run — the things we did not do against New York City, to be honest. We did all the hard work in getting to that great, dangerous spot and then the final ball was lacking. It has to be a great ball. We worked on getting low crosses on the ground because they do have some big bodies in there, and they win their battles in the air. Again, they’re a well coached, organized team, so it’s going to take something special to break them down — and it’s only happened four times this year against them, they’ve only given up four goals. It’s an impressive number.

You said they’re a better team this year but last year they were able to beat a MLS team. That’s not lost on you?

No, for sure. In a lot of ways, these cup runs are different than your regular season form, the two don’t always go hand in hand. you look at DC going on their rub and winning it. Rochester’s the only team not in MLS to have won this trophy. You see it all over the world, sometimes cup runs are not related to form of a team in their regular season. So, everyone is dangerous, you know? There’s still going to be some PDL team will beat a USL PRO team that’s still left. There’s going to be lots of little upsets, there’ll be games that go into overtime, and penalty kicks, and drama. That’s what makes this competition great. Anyone can enter it; obviously MLS teams get some byes but, at the same time, if a team gets on a run there’s always these little March Madness type Cinderella stories that come up, which make the FA Cup so special, which makes the US Open Cup so special.

I do wish, I do agree with the comment Sigi had, it would be nice to have it be a little more random because you look ahead and we’re probably going to play New York City or the Cosmos. There is that East Coast plays East Coast every year, it’s always New England, DC we’re going to see, New York. It would be cool to get sent out west to play a USL PRO team out there just for — again, scheduling comes up, I understand all that but it would be nice to see a little different matchups each year because it’s kind of strict and rigid as far as West and East Coast, you run into the same teams over and over.

Kind of like Duke having to North Carolina every year?

Exactly. Well, that’s another whole other topic.

The team came so close to winning the final last year. What’s the mentality of the players like, are they looking forward to playing in the Open Cup?

For sure, you can see there’s a bounce in the guys’ step, there’s a little — I brought up the term “unfinished business.” We went deep in this thing, as deep as you can go, and were as close as you can get to lifting a trophy. When that game finished on our home field, I made sure the guys stayed out there the entire time and kind of took it all in while Seattle got their medals. A, because it’s the right thing to do out of respect for the champion but also B, because that;s what should drive you in pro sports, that feeling of coming so close and not getting there, and feeling sick to your stomach, it should motivate you and push you on to bigger and brighter things. All the good teams, teams that eventually go on to win things, go through these tough moments, and that was as tough and as low a moment as we could go through. I think it hurt us in our form in-league down the stretch because it was such a letdown, and it was tough to keep everyone going. But, I can’t say how much each guy learned from that, playing in a big game like that, with a great crowd like that, against a great opponent — it’s a great teaching point for a lot of guys and I think to be so close and just come short and letting our fans down, they do feel a little ownership to get it right this time. And, again, you go on a five-game run, you have to win five games. So, at this stage it’s going to be up to us to that, to get back and try to finish things off this time. It was close.

What’s Fernando Aristeguieta’s status?

His ankle’s still not quite right. He’s had some scans and tests and all that shows up negative but when he strikes the ball he still has some pain. So, it’s been a struggle injury-wise with Fernando. You guys know I love him as a player, how hard he works, but it’s just been tough getting consistent weeks where he’s healthy and training. But, again, a guy who will play through anything but has just been a little unlucky with injuries that he’s taken.

Steven Vitoria?

Steven has been good. He got first minutes with the Reading game — different level, obviously, than in MLS in speed of play, but a good exercise for him. He’s started to look good in training, getting his legs back, so positive in that regard. It also gives us some depth and cover at the center back spot, which is good.

So, is Aristeguieta likely for Tuesday’s game?

It doesn’t sound like it. I was actually optimistic he was going to be able to play against New York City up right until game time. He did a pregame and kind of, he failed that, it didn’t go so hot, so he knew right away he couldn’t do it when he tried to push off and really cut. It changed, obviously, our subbing in the New York game, to have him of for 15, 20 minutes would have been a nice thing, but it wasn’t mean’t to be.

Brian Carroll has been playing really well. Is it sustainable for him to continue to start the rest of the year?

It’s a good question. Brian has had a rejuvenation, there’s no question about it. He was sharp in training leading up to getting the minutes that he got, so he really earned them. He’s a lead by example, quiet guy, but when he;s out on the field he’s done his talking with his feet this year, he’s been excellent, and he’s put together a really good run of games. He’s got a little bit of a sore groin so, again, the age is a factor, it catches up with him, so we have to be really smart in how we manage him tomorrow, how we manage him knowing LA’s coming and the importance of having a holding guy in there against a good LA team. So, managing the minutes, not getting overzealous and just throwing him out there game after game where he has the possibility, like any player, of breaking down. Again, knows his body well, always fit, but his play has been exceptional and he’s given us kind of an anchor there, and I think his play gives Vincent a little more freedom, and it gives Chaco…it makes them both look better also, so it’s good with what the three of them have going right now. We do have a tough decision tomorrow to manage it the right way with the thought of getting a result against Rochester and doing everything possible.


  1. Yeah, Carroll has a groin problem because you played him 3 games 90 minutes in 8 days which was unnecessary.

    • who do you think should have played in his spot?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Many people thought Edu might have taken 1 of 3 games in the midfield with White getting a spot start at CB.

      • do you think that also? i have a hard time feeling confident in white’s ability to avoid a really bad mistake

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Squad rotation is critical. I can’t say too much since I proposed Carroll being in the lineup in the Player Ratings, but the lack of rotation really hurts. The Union now have 4 games in about 13 days and those backup guys will need to see the field, simply out of necessity.
        So, in summary, it was a ton to ask of Carroll at his age with the lack of PT he had before that. Union history is littered with overused players who burned out down the stretch and Curtin will have to do a much better job of balancing his team throughout the hot summer months. In hindsight, I probably would have given Carroll a night off.

      • Dr. Union says:

        Personally i would’ve rotated Pfeffer in for the one game against NYCFC as he should’ve been able to handle the worst team in the league. Plus adds possession against them. And vs columbus I would’ve taken Carroll out after goal three and throw in a veteran like Fred since he at least know what needs to be done to close out a 3-0 game. Yes both different style of players then Carroll but serviceable for those games at those times.

      • Dr. Union says:

        Personally i would’ve rotated Pfeffer in for the one game against NYCFC as he should’ve been able to handle the worst team in the league. Plus adds possession against them. And vs columbus I would’ve taken Carroll out after goal three and throw in a veteran like Fred since he at least know what needs to be done to close out a 3-0 game. Yes both different style of players then Carroll but serviceable for those games at those times.

      • Every Union coach has had the same mentality: win today. Nowak Hackworth Curtin it’s the one thing they all did and do the same way. They want to win the next game. They don’t want to give up on potential points. They want their favorite players starting every match. Curtin is different for making his subs too late or not at all. But they have all approached squad rotation with the same attitude: not gonna do it.

  2. Dr. Union says:

    But squad rotation is a key to soccer in every league it is needed. If you are a coach it is something you need to learn and he should’ve learned in in the interim stage or before otherwise he should not have been hired. It is only hurting his own team and players with injuries.

  3. Until this organization can get out from under having to be Cheap, overly thrifty, penny pinching, robbing Peter to pay Paul…etc; every injury,unforeseen issue, and call up will affect this team more than most. There is no quality depth, coaching, front office and ownership to help with on field player decisions when roster adjustments are required. Obviously this team can put together an “OK” starting 11, but it’s after that things get sketchy and this weak organization is exposed.

    Sell this franchise to a competent and financially competitive ownership!


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