Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Looking back at the DC game, obviously, it was very disappointing. I thought we started the game, obviously, very well — you know, got up two goals. Needed to do a better job of maintaining some possession and tiring out a DC team. I thought we made them work hard in the beginning of the game, and then we kind of didn’t do a good job keeping possession. We had a chance or two to get a third goal; I remember Seba had a good look and, obviously, CJ hit the crossbar — that would have made it 3-2. So, some difficult moments. Again, we have to learn from it, look at some of the positives from the game: the good start, the mentality to get a couple of goals early on the road. But then, we also have to be critical of ourselves and not being able to have a killer instinct and kill off that game, and close off when DC’s putting balls in the box in dangerous spots, attacking them. So, a lot of basic defending on crosses that our whole team could do better on.

You know, an example of the game highs and lows would be Zach’s performance. I thought he was excellent in the very beginning of the game picking balls off, stepping front, making a play that actually led to our first goal. And the, on two of the goals he could do a little better in wide spots not letting his man beat him on the dribble 1v1. So, in a young player’s development, that’s a big learning point against a team that’s the top in the East. We’ve proven we can go toe-to-toe with them, but came up a little bit short in this one, and disappointing to let the points slip through our fingers, and not doing a good job killing off the game.

Having said that, we learn from it. We had an emotional victory where we had an incredible mentality in New York in the middle of the week, and we wanted to follow that up with another good, tough road game. We came up a little short.

‘Come back to our home field now against a Red Bull team that’s going to have some revenge on their mind. It’ll be a tough performance, they’re a very, very good team, very well coached, very organized, and have a top midfield in the league. So, we’ll have our hands full with them coming in here this week.

On Vincent Nogueira’s injury

Obviously, going into even the DC game,we were hoping he would be in there to hold with BC, I think they’ve done a great job together. Obviously, losing Vincent for that game…We talked before the game, he couldn’t — didn’t feel confident to start, he thought maybe 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the game to maybe close it out or, at that stage it was 2-2 when he was up to go in. Took three minutes for the ball to go out of bounds, CJ hits the crossbar while he’s up, and they come down and score. So, that’s the way our luck has run this year.

To lose Vincent is a big loss to us. He was in the form that we saw last year when he was kind of flying. Fitness was good and, again, it was just play where he swung at a ball and he felt his quad go. Pretty clear — some people might not have picked it up — the last ten minutes of the game he literally couldn’t run, he just had to stand up top. That certainly wasn’t by choice with us, or tactics or anything like that, he just wasn’t able to push off and run. So, it was kind of a very harmful injury in that game, and also sets us back now because he was in such good form.

So, difficult news. But, again, no time to feel sorry because it’s going to be a good New York team that come in and we’ll have to have someone step up in his spot.

Is Zach Pfeffer likely to fill in for Nogueira?

Yeah, Zach’s up for selection in that spot. Like I said, I think he had some really good moments in the DC game, but he had some letdowns defensively. When you talk about Kljestan, Felipe, and Dax in there, that’s a tall task. Zach’s an option for it and we’ll see — we’re thin in that spot right now, it’s no secret. BC has played excellent for us, we’ve leaned on him a lot, and he’s done very well. But, who we partner with BC in there is still to be determined. Zach’s obviously been away from training [with the MLS Homegrown team] so the next couple of days we’ll have a decision to make.

Timetable for Nogueira’s injury

It’s a quad injury. There’s a little tear in there so we’ll have to be smart. I’m hoping that it’s three to four weeks, hopefully. Maybe it’ll be tight, if we’re fortunate enough to get to the Open Cup final, possibly, maybe for that one. Obviously, a devastating injury to a top player on our team. [The semifinals are at PPL Park on Aug. 12. The final will be played Sept. 29 or 30.]

Does Nogueira’s injury change anything in terms of transfer targets?

The injury does not, I think we would still act on the…we have an idea who we’re going to act on moving forward, so it doesn’t change anything specific to that. Doe it, obviously, up the urgency of getting guys in and getting it done a little quicker? Yeah, possibly. But, at the same time it’s not going to change in terms of if we were a no for guy that we’re now all the sudden going to be a yes.

On Tranquillo Bernetta [his signing was announced less than three hours after Curtin’s press conference]

Tranquillo had a very positive time here. He’s going back to make a decision in Switzerland. I’m confident in how things went with him, how he fit in with the group, how he trained with the group. He was very receptive to the ideas that Chris and I put forward for the plan for the future moving forward. So, again, all positive and, you know, the ball’s in his court now and we’ll see what happens from there.

What was your message to the team this week after the loss to DC?

Before the game started, before it kicked off, we talked about the only people that believe in this group right now are in this locker room. We did a very difficult thing in New York and had a great mentality for the whole 120 minutes. We talked about trying to replicate that and…It’s not for a lack of effort with our guys. I mean, they put everything into it, they empty their tank — tired legs, injuries, all the things that come into it. When we get up 2-0 and, like I said, have a couple of looks and can be a little sharper with the ball to make DC work because, you know, even talking with Benny [Olsen], he knows his team didn’t start the game well, and we actually wore them out a little but. Going down 2-0, they put a ton into the game to get back into it, they were as fatigued as well at that stage. When it’s 2-2 now and can go either way, you can see the fine line, and that’s what I said to our guys: “Listen, it’s a very fine line in this league.” CJ gets in one-on-one with the goalkeeper — Mo slips him in, makes a great play —  and he elevates the ball over the goalkeeper. It looks like we go up 3-2 — instead it hits the crossbar, they literally come right down after and score.

So, it’s a fine line. We’re close. But, it’s no coincidence we’re not good enough right now, that’s the message to the guys. There’s a reason why DC wins all these one-goal games, and we come up a little but short on all these one-goal games. And it’s mentality. A little bit of it is possession in the game. You talk with all the guys after, they know the mistakes that were made, they’re clear on that. They work their tails off, they work their butts off for the team, but we’re just coming up a little bit short.

Anything else on the injury front?

Andrew — with the concussion protocol, it’s always very serious right now –he has a little…He was symptom free, now it’s come back a little bit, he had a little bit of, he called it, being a little foggy. So, we’ll see how that one goes. He’ll be close, but we’ll asses that tomorrow, the doctors are in tomorrow, so we’ll see.

Richie had a very positive response to cutting for the first time. Sometimes, you know, those ankles feel good when you’re running straight forward and then you get in practice and you’re having to chase down a guy and have to cut quickly and change direction, and it’s a little different. But he responded good to things on the side but, again, it’s always different live action. But, he’s progressing very positively.

From there…I’m trying to think…Other than that, I’d say guys are… Michael Lahoud has been participating now in the technical part and the possession part of practice. We’re being smart with him, but he could be available to play ten, fifteen minutes on the weekend, just as cover defensively, which would be an important asset to have when you’re talking about closing games out.

What do you expect in the way of carryover from the win at Red Bull Arena when hosting NYRB on Saturday?

Jesse Marsch, their coach, is a competitor, he’s not going to be happy after that. You know, we share texts, and he kind of mentions we have a little bit of their number right now, but, to be honest, if you look at the games they’ve had the better of the play, and we’ve gotten the result. So, that’ll be the situation again, it’ll be a game where now we know they have a good team, we know they’re organized, they’re well coached. There’ll be a sense of us being the home team, you know, we’ll try to play the game on our terms. But, it’ll be a situation where we have to do anything for three points. I don’t care if we win 1-0 off of an own-goal, I don’t care if we score off a corner kick, I don’t care if it’s off of a free kick, I don’t care if it’s the most beautiful goal in the world: We have to get a win at home, and that’s our mindset and our mentality. We have 12 games left, six at home, six away, and you guys are all smart enough to realize we have to win at a minimum six — at a minimum. That’ll be something we’ve never done as a club, to win that many games in this short of a spell. So, it’s a tough task but it’s a task that’s reasonable; we’ll have to get on a run again. Same hole we dug ourselves in last year.

Does the Sheanon Williams trade put more pressure on the fullbacks?

I don’t think there’s any more pressure on them. Obviously — I talked about it last week — we took a bit of a risk in terms of guys are coming back and getting healthy now that can maybe fill a hole at those spots but, no, the guys that are out there will be called upon to perform well. I still think Fabinho’s in very good form, Ray had a tough game, by his own admission. But, at the same time, he’ll bounce back, I know what Ray will give me. You know, there’s a reason he was on the league Best XI at the midseason. Again, some people dismiss those lists, but he is acknowledged as a top defender in the league, he was selected at right back on that list in the midseason awards. [It was actually a midseason Best XI not from the league but from MLSsoccer.com “Armchair Analyst” columnist Matthew Doyle.] Again, he’s a guy we have all the confidence in the world in, those two can do the job. But, yeah, we are thin at that spot, for sure.

On Brian Sylvestre. Is his short-term loan close to expiring?

Yeah, Brian, it’s kind of the same, we keep prolonging the loan. There’ll be probably discussions, continuing discussions, about a purchase. We’ll see how that goes, how the year ends up, and we’ll make a decision at the end of the season.

Will you be able to extend temporary loans throughout the season?

Yeah. It’s a good relationship that we have with his club and I’m confident that will be the way it kind of continues through the end of the year.

Thoughts on the Valdes contract termination

I think if you look back to last year when we were in a similar situation [to where the team is] at right now, we needed some defenders. Carlos was our property, we worked something out to get him back in the short term.  It didn’t work out in terms of the push. Carlos gave us a couple of good games, I would say, namely in the Open Cup final, I think he had a strong performance. But, moved back to South America and, again, it’s a situation where we’ve moved on. We wish Carlos the best in the future. He’s a player that, when he was here, served the club well, and we’ll now move on from that situation. Like you said, it is in the past, but it was one where we saw a window to bring him in to help us down the stretch last year. Didn’t work out and now we’ve moved on from it.

On Steven Vitoria

Steven’s a guy who had a tough injury early on in the year. He’s worked his way back. Currently, I play the guys that perform in training. He’s had some better days in the near future in training, but the team tends to pick itself through the week on the work on the field, and he currently sits behind Ethan. So, again, he’s working and striving to get back in that starting lineup. He’ll keep pushing for that. I expect him to do that and win that spot back eventually.

11 Comments

  1. I swear sometimes the pictures you choose from the JC transcript interview are planted…. Okay… I will bite….here goes….We are this close to playing 3 in the back. Or maybe we were this close to getting a large popcorn when the team went to see Minions.

  2. It would be nice if the Union organization would let the fans in on whats so positive about the teams future plans that convinced Tranquillo Bernetta to go all in with the Union. Also I think JC is too attached to the word obviously.

  3. Dr. Union says:

    Same old. Same old. Just the comments that this team is not good enough. Well Jim if their not good enough then maybe you should change your tactics/ organization of the team.
    Oh and did anyone see Nick Sak’s BS on metro as he starts to throw more and more people under the bus and anoints himself as good hearted great CEO help everyone. God I hate this guy. I think its time for another coffin to come out this time bigger and in the stadium.
    http://www.metro.us/philadelphia/metro-exclusive-qa-union-ceo-nick-sakiewicz-responds-to-sons-of-ben-other-criticisms/zsJogC—AXMVjDrSTZ0M/

    • Thanks for sharing that. Clearly an emailed/written interview. Lots of well thought out and careful answers. Maybe Nick is learning how to keep himself out of trouble!

  4. “Steven’s a guy who had a tough injury early on in the year. He’s worked his way back. Currently, I play the guys that perform in training. He’s had some better days in the near future in training, but the team tends to pick itself through the week on the work on the field, and he currently sits behind Ethan.”

    This is where you see that glaring lack of a scouting department. You bring in a guy on loan from Europe who can’t beat Ethan White to make the starting XI.

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