Daily news roundups

Notes from Curtin’s presser, Garber says no pro/rel, more news

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

In his weekly press conference (full transcript here at PSP), Jim Curtin said the team may have to utilize the more defensively conservative, sit back and play for the counter approach it uses on the road at home.

I think on the road we’ve had more of a sit back approach; maybe that suits us a little better right now with the personnel that we have ’cause it allows for some room to counterattack, some space to counterattack into. When we high press that space is not really there. And also we might not physically have horses to high press and maintain it for 90 minutes. So, we can do it bursts in games but we haven’t been able to really maintain it, especially at home. There have been some good performances at home but we need that consistency to put back-to-back games together.

Curtin also said the high press may backfire against Columbus Crew on Saturday.

With Columbus, they’re a team that baits you into high pressing and then can kind of expose you if you’re a step late — if one guy’s a step late there’s sort of a domino effect. That’s not something we want to get into with them because you’ve seen this year when teams press Columbus they pick them apart. When teams have sat back against them they’ve had some losses, as recently as Dallas on their home field [last weekend]. We’ve looked at that, we obviously look at the tape, and the best way to approach Columbus, even though it’s on our home field, might be to have the mindset of making them really break us down, as opposed to flying out at them and playing into their strengths.

Curtin also discussed:

  • John McCarthy may have the edge on starting over Andre Blake, who is set to rejoin the team today after his national team duty with Jamaica, on Saturday because of “the advantage of being here during this week.”
  • He is targeting the game against Houston on Sept. 20 for Maurice Edu playing his first full game ahead of the Open Cup final. It is unclear if he could see minutes before then.
  • Getting consistent minutes together has been a big part of the success Steven Vitoria and Richie Marquez have had at center back in recent games (the Union have gone 2-1-2 over the last five games with them partnered in the back).
  • Zach Pfeffer is training with the team after recovering from a groin injury. Brian Carroll is also training as his unavailability for the San Jose game was related to personal reasons.

At MLSsoccer.com, Dave Zeitlin talks to Steven Vitoria about his recent stretch of five starts. Vitoria says, “It’s been great, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t felt this good all year.”

At Delco Times, Matthew De George considers Curtin’s comments about the team’s struggle to make PPL Park a fortress:

[P]erhaps the most compelling reason why the Union have stumbled so often and so grandly at home is the lack of an identity. When push comes to shove in nail-biting home contests, many teams — Curtin specifically cited New York Red Bulls and the sustained chemistry of its front six — simply fall back on a well-polished core philosophy…

In the same position, though, there’s no one strategy that the Union can point to as reliably effective. That’s why you often see the team at a loss in the attacking half, searching not so much for a goal but a credible threat for one. It’s most pronounced at home, where they’ve been shut out three times this season, when the onus is on the Union to generate the game’s creativity.

Massive Report relates Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter believes Saturday’s game will be similar “to last year’s crazy win in Philadelphia…as it’s a similar part of the year and both teams are fighting for the playoffs,” adding, “He said they expect the Union to have to play more and be aggressive, which could open them up.”

Columbus Crew defender Gaston Sauro will miss Saturday’s game after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s loss to FC Dallas.

The latest article in the ongoing US Open Cup series at the Sporting Kansas City website notes the contrasting schedules of KC and the Union leading up to the final on Sept. 30.

At the Union website, seven things “you need answered” about the US Open Cup. If you’ve just crawled out from under a rock, that is.

Philly Sports Nation considers the performance Fernando Aristeguieta and Steven Vitoria, and their future with the Union.

In ProSoccerTalk’s latest power rankings, the Union come in at No. 13. So there’s that.

Have you voted for your choice for the Union’s USL team name? At Brotherly Game, Eugene Rupinski writes it is “unconscionable” the USL team could be named Bethlehem Steel FC.

The Philadelphia Union Foundation is holding a winter clothing drive at upcoming home games. You can drop of gloves, hats, scarves, jackets, and such at collection points at Toyota Plaza on Sept. 12 and 20, and also at the Sons of Ben tailgate on Sept. 20

On Union head athletic trainer Paul Rushing and his tattoos.




In Western Conference play on Wednesday night, first place Vancouver (48 points) defeated ninth place Colorado (33 points), 2-0. Sixth place Portland (41 points) hosted fifth place Kansas City (41 points) to a 0-0 draw.

Remarks from MLS commissioner Don Garber at the Soccerex conference in Manchester continue to generate headlines (you can listen to his remarks here). Asked if MLS needs promotion/relegation to be a “real league,” Garber replied,

A real league in whose eyes? We are a real league now, with real business, our games live on TV and live around the world. The question is will it be the Premier League? I don’t have the answer to that.

We play in a country where the major leagues are really successful. There is no promotion and relegation in hockey and basketball and they work really well. It is not happening in MLS any time soon.

As to concerns that new FIFA leadership may try to force the league to adopt pro/rel and play through the winter, Garber said,

We are certainly hopeful that they will continue to allow us to do what we have done pretty effectively — which is grow the game in our country in a way which has probably exceeded most people’s expectations…We are new to this. We don’t have 100 years of professional soccer history. We are trying to do that in a way that ensures that we are around for a long period of time.

Of course, as PSP readers know, professional soccer leagues in the US date back to 1894, and there were almost certainly professional teams before then. But most of the 121 years of professional soccer since 1894 in the US has been semiprofessional or regional in nature, or, as in the case of the original NASL, ended in spectacular failure. Whatever you think of MLS and/or Garber, the 20 years of MLS play represent the most successful and sustained growth of professional league soccer that is truly national in nature the US has ever seen.

More on Garber’s remarks at Soccer AmericaThe Guardian, AFP,

Garber also spoke to Sky Sports about the league’s growth and his belief that it will be a destination of choice for international players by 2022. “I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League. If we continue to do things right and stay to our plan.”

SI reports Didier Drogba will make $3.5 million of the course of his 18 month contract with Montreal Impact.


Shots fired! Mexico is rather brilliantly trolling the US ahead of the Confederations Cup playoff:

At SI, Brian Straus writes that, regardless of the loss to Brazil, the US has the foundation to defeat Mexico in the Confederations Cup playoff game. ASN breaks down the loss to Brazil and says “the way the Americans did so was disappointing, avoidable, and predictable.” The Guardian has lessons learned from the friendlies against Peru and Brazil.

With the Australian WNT, in the midst of contract negotiations, refusing to travel to play the upcoming friendlies against the USWNT in Detroit (Sept. 17) and Birmingham (Sept. 20), US Soccer is working to find replacement opponents, most likely from CONCACAF. Officials in Birmingham are confident an opponent will be found.


It’s official: “Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan is back in the race to be elected FIFA president having declared his candidacy on Wednesday four months after losing May’s vote to Sepp Blatter.”

PA Sport reports, “Domenico Scala, the official overseeing FIFA’s presidential election, has confirmed that all candidates will need to pass integrity checks before they can stand.”

Reuters reports, “Twenty-eight days is not enough time to play the 2022 World Cup, the world players’ union FIFPro said on Wednesday.”


  1. Whats more American than Pro/Rel? Sink or swim. You either fight to stay in the top flight…or fall behind. Its ironic that the rest of the world have “Americanized their sports”….and we go the opposite direction. As long as their is no Pro/Rel…….owners don’t have to do squat, especially if they are in a “soccer area”, where people will come anyway…just because they have a club too……..sounds familiar.

    • The current model is the American system. Those that own continue to own, too big to fail, and so on.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      This is Garber’s biggest issue… one that he can never come out and say… he works for the owners – he is the commissioner. He can never come out and say to the people he works for, “oh all that investing you have done, could now blow up in your face.” The problem is fundamental. We have set things up entirely wrong with MLS, and until that is undone… pro/rel never happens. Zero incentive from owners to be the best… just to make money.

  2. Pro/rel is so utterly antithetical to American sports culture — not to mention American sports business culture — that it will never, ever work. I can’t even believe that people keep talking about this here. Never gonna happen. Nor, frankly, do we need it.

    • please explain how? Not coming at you….I just want to understand why you think pro/rel is not culturally relevant here in the States. Capitalism, survival of the fittest, pick yourself up by your boot straps………..aren’t these values a must in a pro/rel dogfight? I just think you can’t have lazy owners in pro/rel, they need to keep improving the club…or they go down and loose money thats associated with the top flight. ( attendance, tv, etc.) To each their own Scottso…just curious thats all.

      • Yeah, okay, ideologically, there’s a certain consonance between pro/rel and American self-reliance, etc., but ideology doesn’t drive the business side of sports, only the fan/passion side.

        I started writing a long explanation of the business reasons why pro/rel doesn’t make sense in the US, but deleted it as it rambled. Suffice it to say that it is too risky financially, and that it may never be a worthwhile business proposition.

        And yes, this allows for lazy owners, but if the Union were relegated, they would probably just fold. I think the idea you have is that Philly is a rich soccer area, and so new owners would pop up and buy in Philly, but it’s not as easy as all that. At least now fan pressure and national embarrassment can spur the team into action. At least there’s a team to complain about.

      • we’re also the country that uses drafts and salary caps. the worst teams get to pick the best players and teams aren’t allowed to just spend gobs of money and stack their rosters without some hurdles. i think americans like the idea that even the worst teams can come back and improve and we like for our leagues to encourage it.

      • Yup as well as the MLS allocation order rules…hmmm, wait a minute.

      • Culturally relevant to the U.S? Name another sport in the U.S. that has pro/rel.
        I’ll wait.
        While the idea of the Phillies being relegated to AAA status is appealing, or the Sixers, for that matter…no matter how bad these teams are they aren’t sent anywhere.

      • Just proper football Rob………not talking about other sports

      • I understand, but it is not culturally relevant to the U.S.
        It is an element of the EPL that I can enjoy from afar. Without worrying that my season tickets next year are for a USL team, not MLS.
        England has the tradition, structure, and a governing body that we don’t have in the U.S. For a pro/rel system to work.

      • Those are all great American values; however they are anathema to those Americans with the kind of coin that can buy professional sports franchises. Those folks want the guaranteed ROI that comes with owning a franchise; not the risk of owning an independent company with lots of direct competition. They might tell us “sink or swim is the American way”, but they own all the rafts.

      • Than we shouldn’t call any team in the MLS a club than………because by definition, like you said……they are franchises…….not clubs.

    • The only argument that matters in the pro/rel discussion is money. Convince a current owner that being relegated is somehow good for their business, and it could happen. Until then, it would require MLS buying out the owner’s interest. If the league actually is losing $100M per year, then this will not happen for a very long time.

    • I think the way MLS does it’s business today, is more akin the the New American ideal. Haves and have nots. The idea that working hard to get ahead, was lost well before the last century ended. Too many times I’ve seen a hard working employee being over-used, under-appreciated, and passed over for promotion, for another less devoted employee who just bitched more. This is not the country we were told it was. Hasn’t been for a long time. This country is about greed. Pure and simple. Capitalism is this country’s religion. Try and deny it all you want. But it’s true. Pro/rel will never happen unless our ideals and morays change. I’m not holding my breath.

      • I hear ya dude, but remember….even with pro/rel, there are the haves and have nots. Barca and RM in Spain….they are juggernauts that rake in mad $$$$$$$$$….no ones catching them. Even in the EPL….City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man U, and Liverpool…..whos catching them ( sorry Spurs !!! Haha..Gooner til I die!)? There is an established pecking order as well. There will always be have and have nots no matter what system is in place. Even in the MLS there is becoming a tier of untouchable clubs….LA and Seattle, and then one day….you can see the writing on the wall….Orlando and NYCFC. That will happen regardless of the system. At least across the pond……if my club is one of the have nots……I still have an outside chance some Russian oligarch or Shiek from Abu Dabi will come in and buy the club for some reason and splash the cash!

      • Point taken. I cannot deny what you have said.

  3. Glad to see that Curtin is cognizant of the turf in New England. He should seriously consider resting as many open cup starters as possible that game and save their knees.

  4. Slow clap, Mexico, slow clap. Well played.

  5. Don’t you mean Dronez?

  6. I never understood the attraction of pro/rel. It’s a race between the suckiest teams in a league to see which teams are the most suckiest, so they can bring in a team in from a suckier league which will almost certainly suck when they get into the better league.
    I don’t care for sucky
    No thanks says this American.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      While I agree with you on a certain level about the suckiness factor… Pro/Rel spurns owners to spend money and get better. Right now, there isn’t much of an incentive for say… OUR OWNERSHIP… to spend money and acquire/develop players to make us better. The stadium is filled (mostly) because of the hunger for soccer in our area. Sug and Sak have no real incentive other than to make money… regardless of the play on the field. The USL team is a start, and the fact that they (apparently) were willing to spend a million on Bedoya is a plus… but long term, always having a safety net, means you can never truly fail. That fear can be a hell of a motivator.
      Also, other teams in other “divisions” have nothing to strive for. They can only cap out at a certain point, and never reach another level… unless of course MLS accepts them into their ranks. That is a negative for long term development as well.

      • Pro/rel only spurns owners to spend when they are fighting to stay up, once they fall to the lower level they cut. I think the whole pro/rel debate is useless at this point because it makes not sense for the mls at this stage. Years from now a real debate about the pros and cons of pro/rel can be had but for now mls needs the stability it currently enjoys.

      • I can’t believe I’m going to somewhat defend Sak and Sugarman here, but…
        Keep in mind, that (at least according to Yahoo! Sports) the only reason Bedoya isn’t making north of $1 million for the Union right now is because Nantes backed out of the deal.
        In the larger picture, I’m not so sure it’s a fair argument to say the Union don’t spend money. I think the more accurate argument is they don’t spend wisely — Freddy Adu, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, Carlos Valdes last summer, etc. As fans, we obviously want them to spend more, and we’d be very happy if they could throw good money after bad as a way to fix mistakes. But that’s a different argument.

  7. Correct me if I’m wrong but wouldnt promotion and relegation spur the development of the individual player and secondarily than strengthen our national team?
    I certainly don’t think we are ready for it yet… but as I’ve written there is prestige with being in the premier league even if you are a perennial 14th place team. You are one of the best 20 teams… I see in 50 years this country being so saturated with amazingly gifted players that we are going to need more than just MLS.
    This is why another league needs to gain legitimacy over time and than force MLS’ hand.

    • Well, if in fifty years we are saturated with that level of talent, such that we need more than one league to support it, we can talk. But it’s just no the case right now. The league is only 20 years old as it is.

  8. i’m wanting MLS to be a well-oiled machine before they address pro/rel. it is far from that. there are many things the are doing right (expansion, broadcast) and many that hinder dare i say legitimacy. e.g. the playoff structure (or lack there of), playing through international dates, unbalanced schedules (5 games in-hand — WTF?!).

    • That’s part of my point…….legitimacy. Between the refs and league structure……..it’s a joke to the rest of the world. Except for your 34+ aging superstars who can earn their 401k in just 18 months…….laughing all the way to the bank.

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