Press Conference

Video and transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

It’s been a unique couple of weeks with a lot of downtime with the international date where we had a few days off after the difficult Open Cup final and difficult result in Toronto, so it’s been a while.

The guys have worked incredibly hard in training, credit to them. There’s competition to be in the 18 these last two games. We’ll take the approach that these last two games we’ll evaluate players looking toward 2016, with us having been eliminated [from the playoffs].

We have a very good New York Red Bulls team that presents a big challenge for us, one that’s competing for the Supporters Shield. A huge rival, we have a little opportunity to maybe put a dent in their Supports Shield hopes, so we’ll take the game obviously very seriously, it’s a great test for us against the top team in the East. And, obviously, Orlando at home, finishing the season the right way for our fans is important. But, again, every training session we’re evaluating guys, every game we’re evaluating guys , and learning a lot about 2016 and the guys that’ll be back with the Philadelphia Union.

How much is the possibility of playing spoiler to NYRB’s Supporters Shield hopes something you discuss with the team or is it already in the team’s mindset?

I think usually when you say Red Bull, the guys are going to be naturally motivated. It is a little unique in that we’ve been eliminated. Obviously, a tough environment to go to Red Bull Arena, they’re a team that’s playing as well as anybody. Credit to Jesse, Jesse Marsch, he’s done a great job; one of my closest friends as a player in the league and now still very close with. I think I submitted it yesterday, he’s my nomination for coach of the year.

So, again, a team that’s accomplished a lot, they’re looking to finish strong and obviously would love to win that Supporters Shield, and we have the opportunity to play a role in maybe possibly spoiling that. We’ll see how tonight goes with Toronto with them. We’ll look to come in fresh on Sunday, obviously very well rested, and we’ll put a lineup on the field to get three points. Again, it’s a rivalry game so everybody will be up for it. It’ll still be a good game and a great chance as professionals to test yourself against the top team in the league.

In regards to players playing for spots, are there guys who, with only two games remaining, can change your mind?

Yeah, I mean, there’s still a right way to finish the year. So, when I say we’re evaluating everything, it’s not just the games, it’s the week in training, you know? Who are the guys at the bottom of the roster who continue to push the starters? Who are the guys that maybe we move on from? When we talk about piecing together a roster, every spot is very, very valuable. It’s so important — I think we’ve learned that this year with different injuries and things — you have to have a very deep roster. It’s something we’ll have to address in the offseason. We do still feel we have a lot of key pieces, a lot of solid parts to be a playoff team but, again, just have to strengthen little areas. No, it’s not just those two games, obviously, that we’re looking at but they are still the conclusion of the season; when it isn’t as easy to get motivated, who are the guys who are still sticking with it and fight?

What can Fernando Aristeguieta and Steven Vitoria do to improve the likelihood they’ll be back next season?

Again, they’ve had some really high highs and some difficult times too with injuries and different things, so, again, they’re two guys that I still like a lot. Again, the games are important for everybody, it’s not just a certain two guys that we’re looking for but, yeah, there will be decisions that need to be made on any player that’s here on a loan, and those discussions will happen after the year. The season is more about the team and I think the offseason, after the Orlando game, that’s when it starts becoming about individuals, and we’ll have those discussions and talks and make the appropriate moves that make the team better.

How do the four Union players who are on loan elsewhere — Austin Berry, Danny Cruz, Leo Fernandes, and Zac MacMath — figure into your thinking over these last two games?

It’s a factor. People forget about a Leo Fernandes, who’s one of the top scorers in the NASL. He’s done a very good job. We thought it was important for him to get 34 games where he is just playing every night, and he’s stepped up. The feedback we get from the Cosmos, and the games we watch with the Cosmos, they’re very high on Leo, he’s done very well, he’s scoring goals. He’s always had that knack, but we made that decision as one that was what was best for him. He might not have got as many minutes; he certainly would not have got as many minutes with us, so we made that choice and I think it’s been a big step in his development.

Danny Cruz has done well, he’s had some injuries, though his team has had some success. Again, we monitor all these games and see how guys are doing, and they’re still as much a part of the team as anybody. But, yeah, again, they’re an addition to the end of the year decisions that I talk about. Danny was here as recently as the other day doing some rehab so, still close contact with a lot of the guys. It’s an important offseason.

Will Andre Blake be back as starter when he returns from national team duty?

Yeah, he’ll be back in [from South Korea] tomorrow. A tough result against South Korea. He had some good saves in the game, one that maybe he’d probably tell you he could do a little better on but, again, that’s a great experience for him, that’s a very good team. Internationals are, even though they’re friendlies, they’re high pressure games. So, again, he’s had a good run of games here, he’s shown he can be the guy who makes the big save to keep you in the game, to win you the game, so we’re very high on him right now. Again, I don’t want to announce anything but the hope is that he is in the mix to be the guy going forward to solve our goalkeeping.

Brian Sylvestre hasn’t been training, has he been injured?  

Yeah, he had a knee procedure done, so he’s kind of rehabbing. A kid who played through it for a little while with the knee issue but we decided it was the time of the year to get it cleaned up and move forward and start the rehab process, so he’s aggressively doing that right now. Again, a guy who we’re still very high on, has a real bright future in the game. He’s still very young, a great presence in the goal so, tough break for him but injuries are an unfortunate part of the game — we’ve had a few knee injuries with the goalkeepers.

On Andre Blake’s impressive mental makeup dealing with injuries this season

Yeah, incredible. To have the injury in preseason and to recover from it and start to look sharp again, and then go down when he had an opportunity to maybe take the starting position over when we made the move to part ways with Rais — emotionally, that’s hard. The off the field mentality that he’s shown is very impressive. He’s a humble, laid back kid, and he’s always had the mindset — and I’ve always told him — when you get your chance, grab it and run with it. And he’s done a very good job for us. To get thrown into an Open Cup final, that’s a high pressure game. To do the qualifying games that he’s done for Jamaica, those are high pressure games for a guy who’s still a young, developing goalkeeper. But he’s really shown, and turned a lot of heads in the league. The New England game’s obviously the one that stands out, but a lot of the subtle saves he made in the Open Cup final in big spots were impressive. And, again, people in the league have taken notice; a lot of the players are talking to me, coaches are talking to me and are high on Andre, as well. And we’re obviously thrilled for him because, yes, it’s taken a while for the No. 1 pick to get to show himself, and be his true self. Hopefully, all that’s in the past and we’re moving forward and he can run with it.

Where does Maurice Edu stand in his rehabilitation from the groin injury? Is he done for the season?

We haven’t made a final decision. We’ve had some discussions with Mo, he’s just kind of actively continued to recover and rehab and try to do the best to get the groin issue right. There will be a decision that will be made in the very near future on what’s best for him. We’re always having ongoing internal discussions — doctors, Mo, myself — so, we’ll have a decision and we’ll do what’s best to get him healthy. Obviously, keeping in mind that, yes, we are eliminated.

On James McFadden

He’s done well. In training you can tell he has quality, he’s played at the highest level. He’s a guy who’s been good in training, he provides an intensity level that is good for some of our younger guys to see. No decision has been made, we’ll probably take until the end of the week and discuss it but, yeah, he’s done very well.

Anything else on the injury front?

The only one to mention is Jimmy McLaughlin unfortunately had a little bit of an emergency surgery. He’s fine, I don’t want to send panic, but it was not something we anticipated it was…appendix was involved. So that’s it on the injury front. Jimmy’s — I texted with him the other day — he’s doing ok, he’s just recovering. But, yeah, that was one that just kind of came from out of nowhere over our couple of days that we had off last week. Got that news and he’s on his way to recovering but likely shut down for the rest of the year.

On Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana, who are finishing up the second year of their contracts, and signing them to long-term deals

I think they’re both, obviously, very good players, important parts to our team, guys that have had some really high highs, and two guys that would rather us make the playoffs then not have good seasons. That is the unfortunate part, we haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. So, again, two guys that we’re very high on. Chaco with the assists has been excellent this year. Vincent has had a good year too; he had a couple of injuries here and there, had what I thought…the passes that he made in the final come to mind as very good through balls that we’d like to see even more of from him. But, he’s a quality player. They have options [in their contracts], a club option, so we’ll make the smart decision, obviously, on those. I’m not going to reveal anything in terms of moving forward until after the game but, again, two guys that are an important part to the team, to the core of the group, and two guys that are gutted, just like I am, that we have played in a big game, in the final, two years in a row and came up a little short. Didn’t make the playoffs either, so, again, they’re hungry, they want to do more, and they both do want to be with the Union, so that’s also an important piece.

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