Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s pre-US Open Cup semifinal press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Just to touch briefly on Orlando, I thought the team had a good road mentality, went into a pretty hostile environment against a good Orlando side and were able to keep a clean sheet. I thought in the last 10 to 15 minutes we had a couple plays where if we get one right we could’ve got all three points. Obviously, it was a game where we needed all three points, so disappointed in that regard. You think of the chance Seba had in the first half where Tranquillo slips him in: Could he maybe slide it across to CJ for a tap-in? Instead, he shoots and it goes off the post. Little plays we aren’t getting right in front of goal has been the difference, that’s why we are where we are in the table right now.

But, we have a good opportunity in front of us to get to a final game. If we take care of business at home, if Kansas City takes care of business at home in their game, we get the opportunity to host a final in this building, something that, about one year ago, we set the goal to get back to, and now we have the chance to do that tomorrow with a victory over a Chicago team that is having a tough season also, but also has some dangerous guys, and some options on their team.

Chicago has played all their Open Cup games at home. Will playing at PPL be a factor?

Yeah, I mean, obviously, having home field advantage is huge, it’s difficult to go on the road in this league whether it’s in the Open Cup, regular season. You even see the great teams like LA this year struggle on the road, I think they just got their first win. So, it’s a hard thing in pro sports to go on the road, a lot of challenges that come up with it. So, yeah, obviously, knowing that they’ve struggled this year on the road, it plays into our hands a bit to have this game and the following game against them [on Sunday in league play] in a kind of a unique setup, to have the opportunity to feed off the crowd, feed off the energy in the building, and take care of business in our own home stadium.

What have you talked to the team about in terms of, with Chicago having a similar kind of season, the mentality they need to have.

Yeah, we’re both at the bottom of the table. You know, the table kind of gets thrown out in the Open Cup now because, just like us, they know the scenario: if they win then they host, as well, so there’ll be that little bit of urgency. I know Chicago’s a club that always has taken the Open Cup seriously, I’m familiar with it, I played there. I know they’re going to come in and they have some dangerous weapons on their team. Accam had a little hamstring injury against Portland, I expect him to play though. I think he’s a guy who is as dangerous as anyone in the league right now in terms of speed and breaking down a defense. Obviously, Harry Shipp is a handful. They have some fluidity in midfield with Maloney and him drifting all over the place, they can make plays. And, again, a team that — you know it’s 90 minutes, well, possibly 120, to decide who gets to play in a final. So, again, the records get thrown out of the window and both teams will look to salvage something from a difficult season.

What can you take from the first meeting of the season with Chicago, it was so long ago?

Yeah, it’s changed a lot. Yeah, I mean it was a while ago, it was a windy day in Chicago. It was kind of an ugly — very ugly — game, I don’t think either team played particularly well, but I think both teams are at different stages now. Neither are really thriving in league but, at the same time, the personnel if you look at the starting lineups of both [teams] are significantly different so you can’t take much from that game. You know, we’re group that has a little bit of a positive feel to it coming off of not giving up a goal. So, again, it’s a small victory against Orlando but it’s one that we’re happy with. Again, I keep stressing we are a team that everyone has to have a good game, we can’t afford to have anyone not be on pace and have a drop off, and have a bad performance. Everyone must play at least good. Again: Don’t need to be great, just everyone play a good game. And that’s kind of one way we are a true team, you know? There can’t be  — we don’t have the one superstar that’s going to bail you out when things aren’t going well. So, everybody understands that, everybody will understand their role tomorrow against Chicago, and hopefully we execute and are able to take care of business.

Is this something that’s evolved as the season’s gone on?

I think we’ve known it we just haven’t always executed, and guys have had — we’ve taken one step forward and then we’ll take two steps back, and that’s kind of been the way it’s gone this year for us.

Again, we’re not happy where we are. I’ve made comments when I’m asked questions about the playoffs and I know we’re not where we are. And I think sometimes when the headlines get written, particularly on the MLS website, it acts like I guaranteed that we’re going to make the playoffs. That’s not the case, alright, we have to take it one game at a time. We have ten games left, five at home, five a way, and a cup run in the middle of it. So, we recognize that it has not been a good season, the guys in the locker room recognize it hasn’t been a good season, but we’re in it together, we have to stick together and fight. And I still believe in the group, I believe that there’s quality. They still play their butts off for me. They fight for the whole 90 minutes and, again, it’s a team — we are capable of winning a trophy. We have a chance now to put two good games together to lift the club’s first trophy, and it’s one of the hardest things to do in our game.

Is there any added emotion for you playing against the team you won two Open Cup championships with?  

It’s not about me, in terms of the old team, that doesn’t matter. What I do want is our guys to have the feeling of winning a trophy. That is something I can’t teach, I can’t coach it. Once you have it, though, the group of guys, it’s permanent, it’s forever. And the guys that I’ve won with, we are all close because of it. So, it’s something you share with somebody and I want our guys to feel that. Yes, it’s been hard, it’s been a hard year for us. But, to have this kind of bond, and the way we’ve pushed in the Open Cup, if we can get the ultimate goal, which is winning the trophy, aside from the financial rewards and going on to CONCACAF Champions League — which are huge — but to have a young group of guys win together and know what that feels like is probably the most valuable thing that we could have right now in what been, like I said, a tough season.

The players have talked about how important winning the Open Cup is. Is that something you’ve imparted on them?

Yeah, I mean, the feeling after Seattle when we gave them our best punch, came up a little short, we just came up a little short on the day to a very good team, making them stand out there and watch Seattle collect their medals on our home field, while I decided — obviously, it’s the classy thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, I don’t think some guys wanted to — I think you have to watch that, and you have to remember it because you don’t ever want to feel that way again. And I think our group got that, and I think that that’s part of the reason we’ve gone through some adversity in this Open Cup and we’ve been strong. Again, they know they’re one game away from being right back where we were a year ago, and that was the goal. A lot of teams enter this competition; from the bar league teams to the MLS teams, everybody has a shot at it. Again, there’s two trophies you can lift, and it’s an important one to them. I think there is a feeling of coming up a little short last year and wanting to get back, so they’re excited.

Injury report

Mo trained today, he’s been working really hard to get back, and looked good in training today. I think he’ll — obviously, see how he feels, talk with him, now he’s getting some treatment, but it looks positive for him. Vincent looked very sharp on the field. I don’t think the quad is quite ready, but I’ll talk with him as well, maybe he can be a reserve, we’ll see the role that he plays tomorrow. But, again, two of our better players — two of our best players, to be honest — and two guys that we obviously missed in Orlando, but I think will play a role in some way, shape, or form in this game, so it’s good.

Andrew still has the concussion, he won’t be in, he won’t be participating. It’s taking longer than we had hoped. So, that’s where those three guys are.

If Maurice Edu can’t play, are you comfortable with Richie Marquez and Steven Vitoria partnering for Wednesday’s game?

Yeah, I think they had a good performance against Orlando, I thought they did a very good job limiting Orlando’s chances. It was a team effort, obviously, but Orlando had the one shot in the first half from outside the box; that was the only one we gave up. It was Cyle Larin’s, a pretty easy save for John to make. So, happy with how they did. At the same time, it’s be Steven’s second 90 minutes; that’s be a little concerning after a long time off, but I think he’d be up for it, so we’re prepared to go that route if Mo can’t go. And, again, happy for Steven to get back in the lineup and give us a strong performance. He’ll be ready if he’s called upon, for sure, he’s a professional so he’ll be ready to go.

There is the element, the factor — the speed factor is a real one. Accam is, maybe outside of Castillo, him and Castillo are the two fastest guys in the league. Jason Johnson is a very, very fast striker. So, the Mo decision maybe makes a little sense. Richie can run a little bit too.

On Warren Creavalle

Warren’s been in a whirlwind of a week. To come into the group and get thrown in in the 75th minute — took a little bit of a risk to do that because that’s not easy — I don’t think he quite knew everyone’s name yet, to be honest. Went into a big spot against Kaka so (laughs), again, I didn’t really make it easy on him. But, at the same time, Mike Lahoud gave us a great 75 and that was — he was done, he was tired — so we trusted Warren to go in there and do the job. He’s a professional, he’s been through those games, he’s been through the battles with Houston and with Toronto previously, and I thought he came in a did a really good job. Listen, nothing flashy, he didn’t score a goal and an assist, but he went in and was a guy who closed out the game defensively like you should and, you know, led to some of our chances on the break that we thought we could have maybe stole the game at the end there. But he did a — in what people don’t realize is a very difficult atmosphere in games to go into  — 30,00 people. it’s fast, and he’s on a new team — can’t say enough about the job he did in 15 minutes. I know it sounds like it’s easy but it’s not.

Where do you see Creavalle’s eventual role will be?

Right now he obviously provides cover for Ray and Fabi if there is an injury back there — and provides very good cover, he’s experienced in playing on either side. His preferred spot would probably be central midfield in the role that he came in to the game in the 15 minutes. So, to have a guy that can do both — you know, I want him to push for a starting spot, I don’t want guys to come in here and just think they’re just depth/cover guys. So, that’s his role right now: Push for a starting spot, whether it’s central midfield or outside back. Competition is good, competition is healthy, and Warren really brings a guy that will push the starters.

How will you work around the restriction on the number of international players in Open Cup games?

With the Open Cup, obviously,  there’s only five international spots you can use. We’ll have to weigh that, obviously. We’ve been pushing, and people have been working incredibly hard, to get Fabinho and Vincent their Green Cards. It’s been a process that’s been positive, and some negative. It’s been frustrating, they’ve been trying to get it done for a little while now. That would obviously clear things up and make it a lot easier. But, yes, everybody can add up the numbers international guys we currently have contributing and recognize that there’s going to be some tough decisions to be made. If Mo can’t go, obviously, that would favor Steven being in the lineup and someone else would be the odd man out. So, you want to use one of your international spots on a reserve center back or would you rather use it on reserve attacking guy? These are decisions — Conor Casey’s suspension weighs in —  there’s a lot of moving parts right now. There’s still hope of a Green Card before tomorrow, believe it or not, for a guy or two, so it’ll be down to the wire. It’s not ideal but it’s the rules of the Open Cup, and it’s something we have to manage and deal with. You know, we had a similar situation when we were in Dallas last time where we had to drop Fabinho last second. It does affect things. Obviously, you look at other teams to and you see how it affected them during the course of the competition. So, everyone plays by the same rules, they are there. Do you wish you could get the Green Cards to go through and have the full selection your guys? Yes. But, it’ll be down to the wire tomorrow, and a lot of discussions are still ongoing between us and the players, between us and the people that try and push those things through.

What did you see against Orlando that may come into play against Chicago?

We had for the first time two guys that you would consider defense-first central midfielders in Carroll and Lahoud; obviously, knowing that you’re playing against Kaka you have to think defense-first in some ways and try to neutralize him. I thought they did a good job. Obviously, Vincent when he’s healthy gives you a little more attack-minded style and can start our attack and start our transitions quicker, can pass forward, and sees the whole field. So obviously, you miss him, he’s a great player, I wish we had him available for selection but I think Mike and BC did a good job defensively protecting the center backs and limiting Orlando’s chances. At home, we have a decision to make; you know, you have to factor in the the fact that it could go 120 minutes. I thought Chaco, and Barnetta, and Seba had some decent interchange between the three of them. Where is the best spot to start each one because, in the run of play, they do change anyway? We’ll look at the matchups with Chicago but we have a pretty good idea how we want to go with that. We’re very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each guy: Chaco in the middle is strong, defensively covering ground isn’t his forte, it’s not his strong suit; he’ll do the running but does fatigue a little bit. So. we’ve looked at all that and what makes sense for this matchup, and we’ll go with the lineup accordingly.

What have you learned from winning the Open Cup twice with Chicago that you’ve used as a coach now?

I think I would just say the overall approach. The groups that we had there, it’s no coincidence that all the guys that were on those teams now coach in the league. I mean, I think I could reel off a lot of names, from Jesse Marsch, to Chris Armas, to CJ Brown, to Zach Thornton, to Ante Razof, Dennis [not sure], Tommy [not sure], you could keep going and going. I’m going to feel bad now for the guys I forgot, but the whole group is now involved in the game, and the whole group took the competition very seriously. It’s something you want, again, your players to experience, you want them to be kind of students of the game and recognize the history of the trophy, the importance of the trophy, the meaning it would have to your city like it did in Chicago. Everybody here in this town is hungry for a trophy, whatever sport it’s in, you know? That’s what the city wants, they want winners, and we [are] two games away from it, and I think that our players, and the things that I learned in Chicago that I pass on would just be, again, there is no better feeling than lifting a trophy with a group of guys, there’s nothing better. That’s why you play the game, that’s why you play the sport, to say that you were the best for that year.

Listen, we know our season has not been the best. I understand that, I’m a realist, [and I’m] not happy with where it’s at, the way it’s gone this year. But, we do have this competition to salvage it. And I think if you go back and look, if we are able to get to the final and win it, it’s been a heck of a run for our group, and one that — you, know, you talk about adversity of red cards and different things that we’ve battle through, penalty kick shootouts — it’s been a fight and, again, I’m already proud of our group for what we’ve done, but to be able to lift a trophy would be special. That’s how you grow up as players, and you go from a good player to a great player. Some go from young to experienced in those moments when you win, when you win something together. It’s the best way to learn.


  1. Two wins and a Cup would be the salve the chaffed ass this fanbase needs from getting it kicked all season from being a laughingstock of overall managerial ineptitude and poor play….I don’t give a good God damn how or who……… just win.
    This Open Cup is dire in creating a positive mentality/belief/hopefulness in what has otherwise been a frustrated and diseased team history.
    Maybe I’m a bit harsh – Maybe I’m dead solid center cut… makes no difference…just Win.
    Win. Make. Make. BE your Future!

    Ty Webb….
    ….otherwise known as the elephant in the room

  2. I liked Curtin’s honesty in press conferences when he first took the job but I really wish he would reign it in a little bit when answering the questions about player selection.
    Sure as a fan I want to know who will and will not play but at the same time, if I know that information then you can bet the other team knows that too.
    From the presser I am guessing we will see:
    Starting: McCarthy, Gaddis, Marquez, Edu, Fabinho, Carroll, Lahoud, Maidana, Barnetta, Le Toux, Sapong
    Bench: Blake, White, Pfeffer, Creavalle, McLaughlin/Hoppenot, Ayuk, Aristeguieta
    So your 5 internationals will be Fabinho, Maidana, Barnetta, Ayuk, and Aristeguieta.
    The only way that changes is if Fabinho or Noguiera gets a green card and then Noguiera could see the bench in place of McLaughlin/Hoppenot but Curtin sounded very iffy if he was ready to return or not so likely with the international restriction he will not drop Ayuk or Aristeguieta for a not fully fit Nogs.

    • i’d be surprised to see barnetta start. this is a guy who hasn’t played in a couple months who just came off of playing this weekend. probably not a good idea to start him in a game that might go 120 minutes

      • Especially when the rust is so obvious.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        He won’t go 90. He might go 75 as he went 55 on Saturday. That is roughly similar to the increas s used in the preseason games, if my memory is any good.

    • I think you’re being a little presumptuous here. Ayuk has started every Open Cup game I believe…I would expect to see him again tonight. Barnetta is a “maybe”. I think Chaco goes back to the middle, and either LeToux or Barnetta is on the left side. At first, I thought it was either Ayuk or LeToux on the right, but now I think that Ayuk will start. Chaco played outside vs Orlando because Orlando plays through the middle with Kaka. Without Mo, Jim probably felt that Barnetta gave him a little more resistance in the offensive midfield than Chaco. But with a more traditional, wider attack and Mo back as a central defender, expect Chaco to slide back to the middle. My guess is that you might see LeToux start and if he or Ayuk is ineffective, Barnetta will sub one of them out.

      • Sure, I could see Ayuk starting and Barnetta coming off the bench.
        But Curtin’s quote of “I thought Chaco, and Barnetta, and Seba had some decent interchange between the three of them. Where is the best spot to start each one because, in the run of play, they do change anyway? We’ll look at the matchups with Chicago but we have a pretty good idea how we want to go with that.” makes it sound like he is thinking about changing their positions (swap Maidana and Barnetta?), not sitting one to start.
        My point is that if after his press conference if I could guess say 16-17 or the 18 and even just 9-10 of the starting 11 then maybe he should consider keeping some things a little more vague.
        It’s the little extra to the answers he throws in sometimes like the “I don’t think the quad is quite ready…” comment about Nogs. Just leave it as something like “he will be close” or “he was limited but looked good” or something.

      • Fair enough. Yep, that’s an area Jim has to improve upon. A little too honest with the public. Don’t need Andy Reid or Belichick, but something in between would be nice.

    • I think there might be some gamesmanship about Edu and Nogs. It wouldn’t surprise me if they started.

    • So not to toot my own horn or anything but…
      17 of the 18 named for the game and 11 for 11 in the starting lineup.
      Curtin, lock it down more in your pressers when answering questions involving player selection.

  3. I really don’t want Jimbo to hold back our roster tonight in regard to the contest this weekend. I’d rather get blown out with a reserve squad then than see a less than A1 squad in the Open Cup this evening. Such a shame about Noggy. I’d really like to see he and Barnetta going full throttle towards the end of the season when the former is healthy and the latter is rust-free. Getting back to tonight; I’m more confident than I thought I would be. As Jim said in the conference, good vibes coming home from Orlando having not let in a goal (or three) should boost up whoever our back four is tonight. I’d actually like to see Nando get the start with Sapong coming in later as a super-sub. As for anything else, I got nothing to say. If we win tonight I’ll be happy but terribly scared of the final. If we host another final and lose I’ll die a little inside. If we lose tonight it’s just one step closer to next season. Another season. This team…

    • i agree, there should almost be no thought to Sunday with regards to roster choice.

    • Jim is not even thinking about Sunday. He’ll go full throttle tonight. If he ends up having to start a team that includes Fred, McLaughlin, Hoppenot, Lee, and Ethan on Sunday…so be it. Tonight means everything, Sunday means very, very little.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Remember when Red Bulls did that vs Chelsea, the reserve squad beat Chlsea 4-2 I think it was, came back on them late wasn’t it?

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