Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening Statement

Coming off of a little bit of a rest period. Happy with how we went into it with the good result against DC United. If you look bigger picture, the last ten games we’re 6-3-1, so happy with the group in that regard. Should be confident going into a Portland game that we know will be difficult, they’re a team that is good form right now, a team that is well coached, organized, doesn’t concede a ton of goals, and also confident right now. We do have the advantage of them having to come cross country and play in our stadium, so we know we’ll have a great crowd as always, cheering us on, and we’ll look to get three points. It’s an important game because of the fact we go on the road, if you look ahead, for two difficult Eastern Conference rivals in Toronto and DC.

So, important to get a victory against a Western Conference team, one of the few remaining games against the West, which is a very strong conference this year. Obviously, it’ll be a difficult game but we will put a team on the field that will fight for all three points.

On the benefits of having last weekend off

You can see a freshness. Some guys there’s an eagerness to get back on the field and just play. Guys that are coming back from injury have a little bit of more life. You know, when you’re out, too, and the team goes on a good run, there’s a little bit more of a sense of urgency, say, to show that you’re still a guy that should be called upon as a starter.

So, good healthy competition at all spots, something any coach wants, and you want those difficult decisions on the weekend when you’re selecting your starting group. So, happy in that regard, though they did get to step away, come back a little fresh and rejuvenated. Different guys got away, it’s been well documented: Chaco gets married, a couple of guys took a little bit of time with family across the country, wherever they might have to go, and come back fresh. Good to recharge the battery, a little over the midway point.

Update on Michael Lahoud’s injury after he limped off the field during Tuesday’s training session

Yeah, we did another MRI. Mild setback, but it is a setback, something I’m frustrated with, Mike’s frustrated with, our medical staff is frustrated with, because he did all his rehab, he took every precaution. It was a non-contact thing, it wasn’t that it was too difficult of a training session, he got thrown in too early, or anything like that. He just kind of awkwardly reached for a ball, no one was around him, and he felt it go again. So, disappointing, but injuries are a part of the game, every team has them, and we have to have our mentality that, whoever is called upon now to play — because it won’t be Mike — steps up.

Do you have a timeline for his return?

We don’t right now, he’s getting a second opinion. I guess if there is a positive it was [that] it was not anything significant, a big tear or anything like that. It is the same area, the same spot, so, frustrating.

Is there a possibility of playing CJ Sapong on the wing so Fernando Aristeguieta can be central?

Yeah, that’s always possible. I mean, Fernando’s still just coming back so, again, I think to throw him out there, I think you’re already going into the game knowing you’re going to burn a sub because I don’t think he’s 90 minutes fit yet. And then the way CJ’s been playing up top…You know, it’s a possibility that you see CJ out wide but he’s been doing a good job up top for us as a target. We’ll make that decision, though, as the week continues to progress. It’ll be a tough one for me but one that I’m happy to have, to chose from two good options there, and also Conor’s pushing and getting back healthy, as well. So, again, a good stable of attacking guys.

On Sebastien Le Toux injury status

Seba’s been fully training the past few days, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s back…fitness wise, he’s gotten through every training session without any issues and he feels strong. We’ll be smart but, at the same time, if he tells me he can go, I trust my players, and I trust a veteran player like him who will bring energy, especially on our home field. Again, it’s good to have these decisions to make. You look across to who we’re playing in Portland and, you know, it almost seems they have five or six guys too that they kind of rotate through. So, they have a ton of attacking options, and for us to now have everyone getting back healthy is a good thing.

On Steven Vitoria’s injury status

Steven also is fully training, he’s really made good strides. Had a tough injury, rehabbed it hard. It’s hard for any professional to sit and watch from the sidelines because you want to help, you want to be out there. He’s just like any pro in that regard. But, when the moment’s right, we’ll assess it and, you know, it’s a spot that he has to work hard to get back because guys have stepped in and done a good job in the last ten games. So, we’ll have some good healthy competition.

What can you tell us about the player trialing with the team, Santiago Dittborn [a 22-year-old Chilean left meidfielder]?

He’s a player that came across that we had an interest in. Obviously, a guy who has a very good left foot. Young player still, so not…There’ll be some minor improvements to the roster, and there’ll be some bigger ones that we’ll look at. I’m confident in the guys that we currently have but I’m not naive to the fact that we constantly need to upgrade our roster, just like any team in our league you’re always looking to upgrade. There’ll be younger guys that are signed and there’ll be some bigger guys that we’re looking at, as well. And he would fall into the category of a good young player that was willing to come here on trial. Has impressed over the past few days; you know, it’s three days so its still early but he’s been impressive: His ability to make a final pass, he can strike a ball with his left foot and score you a goal. Again, young player, though, and it’s only three days, so I won’t get ahead of myself but he’s done very well in the short time that he’s been here.

On priorities in the transfer window

Listen, we have priorities everywhere, all over the field. There’s always room to improve. To say that we just need piece, I’d be lying, you know? The league table doesn’t lie over the course of the games — we know that we need to get better. I’m happy with a lot of the guys and how they’ve performed but, if we’re not doing our homework and looking to upgrade and improve all over the field, then we’re not keeping up with the rest of the league. So, again, we have work to do, we have big decisions to make over this transfer period. A lot of wheels are already in motion, obviously, but there’s no one spot that we’re only targeting. So, again, it’s upgrades across the board and, again, there still is a good core of guys that are playing well right now too, so we have to mindful of that.

How long will he be trialing?

He’s in for the rest of the week, we’ll make a decision after that. Like I said, a lot of things have to fall into place — there’s always money involved, there’s always other offers from other teams, there’s always how does he fit int our team, does he displace somebody? He is a foreign player too, so I would like for our foreign players to be guys that come in and are pushing to be starters, if they’re not starting as it is, because foreign spots are valuable, and you see that in out league. So, again, good player, good young player, and we’ll have a decision to make. In his first three days he’s been good but we’ll get a couple more looks at him and put our heads together and make a decision.

Is he a free agent?

Currently, yeah, he’s here on trial. So, yeah, he’s…we’re able to sign him with the appropriate offer.

Are the full backs an example of the competition you’ve talked about?

It’s the perfect example. When you see —  if you’re a competitor and a pro and you see a guy that plays your spot, or a similar spot to you, elevate his game it makes everyone pick their game up. Competition is a great motivator. Fear is a great motivator, fear of losing a position brings out the best in guys. And listen, in this league you need to be two-deep at every spot because the 34 games, it’s a grind. We’re not there yet, we’re not two-deep at every spot. I would say that one of our deepest spots in the recent ten games has been the outside back spot. Whether it’s Ray, whether it’s Sheanon, whether it’s Fabi, I trust all three of those guys to go out on the field. They know the league well now, they know how to shut down other teams’ attackers, and they’ve been doing it recently. And, the rotation has worked well with them, they’ve all embraced it. But they all do know that, at the end of the day, I can only pick two of them. So, competition brings out the best in guys and, right now, they have a real healthy, healthy one going on between all three of them.

What’s the process for re-integrating Steven Vitoria?

With me, everybody earns it on the training field, that’s where you earn your spot. The hardest work during the week you’ve put out there. I know you guys can’t be there every day and see every battle and individual one that goes on so sometimes there’s questions about the selections on the weekend but it’s earned during the week. The work that they put in in the games — the XI tends to pick itself during the week of training, I’m a firm believer in that. The effort that guys are putting in day in and day out these past three days back at work, they’ve worked their tails off and there is a confidence, and a buzz and, you know, guys pushing to show they want more minutes. Fred is pushing hard, everybody — I could go through each guy and give you guys a little snapshot of each one. The competition is good and, obviously, winning builds confidence, and we’ve put together some good results.

Anything on the US Open Cup?

Yeah, well, it’s been frustrating. I think it’s most unfair, if I’m being honest, it’s most unfair to the Philadelphia Union fans and the New York Red Bulls fans that don’t know when the game is going to be, the time, the day. I’ve been on all correspondence with it. There’s some good healthy conversations, there’s some that aren’t productive. I think a lot of people are frustrated by it. We knew in February that the Open Cup dates were the 21st and the 22nd; we planned our schedule accordingly. Obviously, in a perfect world, for the athletes, the best day to play this game is Wednesday on the 22nd but, in terms of travel and then other games sandwiched on the weekends, that’s not possible because they [New York Red Bulls] scheduled the Chelsea game then. So, you look to other dates. The 21st, is it perfect? No, they have I believe it’s Fiorentina-PSG play that evening at Red Bull Arena. We’re more than willing to host the game here, we’d love to. Again, certain decisions are not in my hands.

The one thing that needs to be said: The Philadelphia Union respects the Open Cup competition. There’s two trophies you can lift in this country, and that’s one of them. It’s a prestigious tournament and one that I’ve played in and participated in a great deal. Right now I just think it’s difficult for the fans, who have lives they have to plan, and they’d like to know and come and support the team. They just need a time and a place and they’ll show up. But, there are other things going on in every ones’ life and it’s difficult. It’s been a frustrating process but wherever the game is, whenever it is, our group will be ready to go.

Is there a chance they might move it?

I’ve heard everything. I’ve heard many different changes over the past weeks. So, when we have a final answer…I’m hoping it’s going to be soon, hopefully in the next few hours; I’ve heard the next few hours quite a bit — but hopefully we get a date. Again, for the Red Bulls fans and Union fans to know a time and place to come out and support will be good, and it will be a great game because they’re a good team. I think we have a good team as well, and it’s a rival.

Editor’s note: Four hours after the end of the press conference, New York Red Bulls and US Soccer announced the US Open Cup quarterfinal match had been scheduled for Tuesday, July 21 at Red Bull Arena at 4 pm. The Fiorentina-Paris Saint-German game, part of the International Champions Cup series, kicks off at RBA that evening at 8:30 pm.


  1. “The Philadelphia Union respects the Open Cup competition”…not so thinly veiled dig at the Energy Drinks and rightfully so. And this was before they announced the 4pm kickoff! What a joke, MLS should at least fine them for this nonsense. What good is being at home for the red bulls if only 500 people are going to show up because it’s at 4 on a goddamn Tuesday?

    • John Ling says:

      My daughter and I were thinking of going, but that’s just impossible for us to get to. And I thought 7pm weeekday games were bad. Sheesh.
      Has there been any word about whether the Union attempted to appeal Sapong’s red?

      • Andy Muenz says:

        My wife and I are taking a half day at work that day to take advantage of the $10 tickets including bus ride from PPL Park that the Union is offering STH.

  2. when I heard about the 4:00 start time all I could think of was that classic Lee Elia rant about Cubs fans “don’t any of these people have f*ing jobs” MLS teams keep making it hard to them seriously.

  3. I think I’m a little tired of hearing my man Jim say — “I have tough decisions to make” and “competition is good”….

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