Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Obviously, a poor performance versus Red Bull. We talked all week about wanting to test ourselves against the Supporters Shield contender, seeing where we stood up. Obviously, flukey start to the game and we were never able to recover. ‘Wish at that moment maybe somebody on the field, you know, the guys could’ve grabbed ahold of it and said, “yeah, we gave up a goal in seven seconds, but there’s still a ton of time left.” That didn’t happen, we dug a deep hole.

That game will be in the past now, we’ll look forward to Orlando, a team that’s coming in looking to finish their season the right way. We’ll do the same in front of our home fans and try to send them home with a win. They’ve been great for us all year, they deserve that, and our guys, we’ll put a team on the field that can deliver that.

What does it mean playing one last game this season? 

Anytime you get a chance for 90 minutes, guys are evaluated. They’re competitors, they want to win, they want to send the fans home happy. At PPL Park it’ll be a celebration for them because they were behind us in a difficult year in what was a lot of highs, a lot of lows. They stood by us and we would like to end on a positive note and give them a win.

On getting past the loss to NYRB

The strange thing is they actually had a great week of training going into it, they worked hard, I thought we were prepared. I think I might have cursed it in the pregame meal saying we’ve been a team towards the top in terms of starting well and being strong in the first 15 minutes. Maybe I jinxed it, but, it was disappointing because they do work hard, they fight hard, they leave everything out there; but that one was not us, I thought that first half in particular was not us. The response in the second half was good but at that point the game was won and Red Bull took a little bit off the gas, the foot off the gas. So, it’s behind us. You learn from it, you don’t ever want it to happen again, especially to a rival, and now we’ll look toward Orlando.

On facing a Orlando team that needs to win and score a lot of goals to have a chance of making the playoffs.  

On our home field, we’d like to play the game on our own terms. There’s only so much they can do — I believe they need 8 goals. You don’t know how they’re going to approach it, to be honest. Do they play with a one-man backline? I don’t know. But Adrian’s a coach who has his team in a good spot right now. They wish the season probably had about three or four more weeks because they’re a team that’s playing very well. Obviously, they have some very dangerous big names in Kaka but they have some young players that have really had good seasons for them — Higuita comes to mind, the holding midfielder, a very good player, covers a ton of ground, very young. So, again, they have a strong group. Cyle Larin’s obviously having a heck of a year. They’re a team that’s in very good form, it’ll be a tough test for us. I thought we did a good job at their place in a hostile environment of limiting their chances so we’ll have to do that same thing here and, hopefully, if we play the game on our terms then the score doesn’t factor in, they can throw numbers forward but, hopefully, if we’re composed and defend well we’ll be able to hit them on the counter if they are throwing numbers forward recklessly trying to push for the goals.

Was there a concern about the lack of leadership on the field against NYRB without people like Maurice Edu and Brian Carroll playing? 

A guy like Tranquillo, he’s a great leader. He’s done it at the highest level so, again, he’s a guy I gave the captain’s band to. He’s a winner, a proven winner, he’s a guy in the locker room that the guys really respect a lot and look to. We had enough leadership on the field. Obviously, do you miss Mo? Sure, he’s one of our top players; BC’s been our captain for a long time — yeah, you miss talented players, for sure. But, at the same time, for whatever reason, on the weekend, it wasn’t a true reflection of us. Yes, we’ve been beat this year, we’ve lost games, but we’ve done it in ways where we’ve fought hard. That first half was not a good example of that.

On Andrew Wenger at fullback, is that a viable option going forward?

The initial thinking there is to give him a position where, and give him a look, where he has a little more time and space on the ball. For whatever reason — obviously because of our poor start and getting behind in goals — we didn’t get to see it how we wanted to, we wanted to see him getting balls passed to out of the back and getting a head of steam and running at guys. That almost never happened in the game because Red Bull, to their credit, put us under the gun and pressed us. It didn’t happen in New England a lot either because of the tight field so, again, we haven’t really had a good true look at it. Again, it’s one position — I still Andrew as an attack-minded guy even if he is playing at a fullback spot, I still see him as a guy who can get forward and create problems. I just had a good talk with him, he knows it’s been a tough year, but all players go through these highs and lows of seasons in the course of their career. So, again, we’re hoping that he’s a guy who can bounce back and come back stronger next year.

How do you evaluate the rookie class of draftees now that the season is nearly over?

First and foremost, we didn’t have a first round pick so, again, CJ Sapong has filled in that role, that needs to be said. We didn’t pick until late in the second round, we did the best with what we had. If you look at the guys’ performances, obviously, Raymond Lee is not with us anymore; still a guy we’ll monitor maybe for a Union II spot when that roster comes in. Catic and Bird are guys who need games, they need a full season under their belt of 30 games in the way that a Richie Marquez got 30 games [at Harrisburg City Islanders in 2014]. So that’s what they need at this point in their career. They didn’t get it this year. It feels a bit like they missed some time almost, just because we haven’t been able to get them a consistent run of games, different injuries and things have come up with them, as well. Still two guys I think have a lot of upside but, at the same time, weren’t able to crack in with the first team on a consistent basis. But, they weren’t picked in the top portion of the draft, too. So, again, you factor in the year CJ’s had, and I think you go back and look at the names of the guys that were selected after we selected, there’s not a ton there. The statistics show now that the players from the draft, it’s shrinking, it is, there’s a lot more emphasis on homegrown and academy players coming through, and there’s an emphasis on foreign players, so it’s just a shift in the overall percentage, I think it’s down pretty significantly in the past. I just saw a someone wrote an article on that, too.

On academy players, and Rochester Rhinos left back Onua Thomas Obasi, training with the team

We thought it was a good week to get in and reward some of our under 18 players who are having strong seasons right now so we had some academy kids in, a good number of them — four or five, five actually — out there running around playing. Did a good job. The message with young players is they’re always young and anxious, and eager and nervous, but we talked to them and told them they’re here for a reason and they’re guys we believe in and not to look at it as something that, “Five or six years down the road I’ll be playing for the Union.” They should look at it as they want to be there now, you know, they belong. And you’ll realize quickly, once training starts, yes, it’s faster, you have to think a little quicker, the guys are bigger, they’re stronger, but you can fit in, you can get comfortable quickly. They look like young players: they had some good moments, and they had some tough moments, but [I’m] happy for them to get reps in this environment. That’s something will continue to happen at our club, good, young academy players getting a shot.

And then Obasi, a player who’s had a great season for Rochester, played against us, a guy we monitored all year, a guy we’re high on, put in the 30 games that I talked about in the USL Pro, and we evaluate him now and see if he’s ready to take that next step at a key position, a left back position that’s a tough one for clubs all MLS and the world to find. Unique skill set, he’s taller than me – 6ft 4in, 6ft 5in — and has very good feet and is composed on the ball, good passer. Great first day but, again, one day. So, again, he’ll have to put together a good week and then we’ll make an assessment there. But, impressive.

[Video of Obasi with Rochester in 2014Central Connecticut State University in 2012, and playing for Great Britain in the 2010 World University Futsal Championships.]

Update on James McFadden’s trial with the team 

We’ll sit down at the end of the year after Orlando and we’ll make some evaluation on that. He did a great job when he was in, did everything he could. I think he was fit, he played at his highest level possible, so, showed very well for himself. ‘Had a good talk with him at the end and told him kind of where we’re at in terms of our roster; obviously, there’s no flexibility now to sign anyone. But, he did a good job in his short time here, everything he could, and we’ll have a discussion after the Orlando game with him about what makes sense moving forward.

Any injury update since last week?

No, everybody’s healthy, I believe. Obviously, Jimmy still will be out with recovering [from appendix operation] so he’ll be done for the year, essentially. Sylvestre, Mo [will remain out] — other than that we are fairly healthy, so it’s good going into the last game.

Anything new on the sporting director search? Anything that affects your day-to-day outlook?

Jay’s made no mistake about it, they’re actively pursuing a sporting director. That’s something that we’ll keep internal. They’re going to continue to interview candidates and I’m very confident that they’ll select the right one and they’ll bring in someone here that can change the culture, change things quickly because we’re not where we want to be. We do have a lot of positives, a lot of good things going on off the field in terms of the USL II coming, the brand new training facility, the new fields out there — there’s a lot of forward momentum and positive things happening. That will be ultimate one that, when it’s decided, I think will be very positive for the club. It’s an ongoing search, one that I won’t get into in any detail, but things are positive right now.

What was your approach in talking to the team at the half during the loss to NYRB on Sunday?

It was difficult, it was probably our toughest halftime talk. I’d say I started calm and it escalated from there. Not happy because, again, a big rival game against a team where, yes, our season is over but, at the same time, we talked all week about testing ourselves. Our guys were on board with that. They’re disappointed with the way they performed, they know it. You go through the entire group and there weren’t a lot of strong performances. Richie Marquez, I think, had a good game when you really go back and watch the tape but, aside form that, it was a tough day. And, again, I said it all year and I’ll remain consistent with it, we are a team that everybody has to be on on the day for us to even have a chance in our league, and we had too many guys who weren’t on. We made changes at halftime; it’s obvious that I singled out Vitoria and Chaco but I could’ve singled out five other guys, as well, and I said that to them, to the group. So, they understand it, they’re disappointed, that was not a good representation of us. But, yeah, the halftime was not an upbeat and cheerful one at anytime. I’ve never been in a situation where it’s down 4-0.

On having another chance to finish right with the last game of the season at home on Sunday

At home it’s always a little easier because you have the fans behind you but, at the same time, I’ll just keep saying that was a true indication of our group, our team. The one thing that they’ve never done is quit. I don’t think they did in that game, either. That was a strange — I mean, to give up a goal in seven seconds, you could line up a hundred thousand times and that would not happen. It’s a very disappointing way to start the game and from there you’re behind and you’re chasing a good team. Full credit to Red Bull, Jesse has them playing very well, he’s the coach of the year for me. He has some players on his team that are having exceptional years. They have a lot of experience, a good mix of young players, as well. They took it to us in that half so, yeah, we’re not happy about that, that was a bad performance all around.

Do you expect Brian Carroll, Conor Casey, and Fred to remain with the team for next year?

Each case will be evaluated differently. They’re all guys that were on one-year deals with options, so we’ll have some decisions to make. They’ve contributed a lot to me off the field, you know, behind the scenes, keeping the locker room going in some tough times so, for that, they still were very valuable. Each guy will be evaluated, though, and each case is a little bit different; I think each guy’s at a little different stage of their career and their life. So, again, we’ll sit down with each guy, guys I respect a ton, and we’ll make the appropriate decision.

Aside from that, though, I will say it’s critical, every roster spot is very important, I think we’ve learned that a lot this year. We knew it going into the year but when you do have injuries or call ups, or different things, you do have to have a full squad. So, we will evaluate every roster spot, and we do know we need to strengthen the bottom part of it, and we’ll do that in the offseason and fight to get back into the playoffs where the club belongs.

Could they remain as player coaches or work with the Union USL team?

Yeah, it’s something we’ve discussed. Those guys, it’s no secret age wise, they are getting up there in age. They’ve been active pursuing their licences as coaches, and preparing for that next phase of their career. I think all three guys — again, I don’t want to speak for them — but they do have an interest to coach down the road so, yeah, that is a possibility for one or more, the idea of a player coach and keeping them in the organization because they’re guys that have done it at the highest level, and guys I respect a great deal. So we’ll, again, have to evaluate each situation differently.

18 Comments

  1. Of the three aging vets, Carroll’s the only one I can see possibly returning on the active roster. Fred barely saw the 18 this year, and Casey doesn’t seem to have enough left in the tank, or stay healthy enough to use up a roster spot on a team that sorely needs more quality depth. Great stuff if he and Fred stay in the organization in some other capacity, but BC is the only one that should be considered as roster depth.

    • Agreed. Carroll still a bench option with the first team. Fred to assistant coach or player/coach for the USL team. Not sure if I believe that Casey is ready to hang them up yet, but I would not offer a first team position at this point, if he wants to keep playing I would offer a USL roster spot and ask him to mentor the young guys on the team.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Actually Jim, it was 5 seconds.
    .
    On our own kickoff.

  3. It’s annoying to hear the same line of BS over and over again. “That game wasn’t indicative…blah blah blah.” This is a perennially bottom feeding last place team in a weak conference. So I would say that it is pretty damned indicative of this coach team and organization. There is no strategy you can have when this team can’t string together passes, defend or score. Too many of the so called starters are too slow and too piss poor with the ball at their feet. How much longer are we going to listen to and be plagued with this load of crap. In my opinion if I am a Sporting Director I am going to house clean starting with the coach. But this is the Union where mediocrity is the philosophy an a way of life.

    • One of my predominate issues with this team (and there are many) is we seem unable or refuse to address the GLARING lack of speed and quickness.
      .
      Jim Curtin – slow twitch… (regarding adjustments)
      The Striker – slow-twitch.
      The Calm – slow-twitch.
      Chaco Maidana – slow-twitch.
      CJ Sapong – slow-twitch.
      Conor Casey – slow-twitch.
      Steven Vitoria – slow-twitch.

      —–
      Then we have the list of players that are not slow- twitch per se but not fast-twitch either…
      .
      Richie Marquez
      Seba Le toux
      Andrew Wenger
      Ray Gaddis
      ____
      The only agile speed/quickness this team has is Zack Pfeffer, Erik Ayuk, Vincent Noguiera, Michael Lahoud and obviously Andre Blake.
      .
      but non of these field players are explosive or open field burners… this is a big problem…
      .
      .
      This team simply has to get faster. This is no small thing. I’ve seen it first hand… we are easily one of the slowest teams in the league.
      .
      The way to combat slow feet is fast thinking and game plan…. which goes without saying we are clearly in the bottom there as well as evidenced by our sterling record.

      • Yes you are correct. However speed with basic skill would be a luxury. If the ball is passed to a fast player is that player going to be able to make the play? Is the pass even going to be made with any competence? The players that are on this team are told that the are MLS quality when they are clearly not.There is no quality depth. They can’t roll numbers. The coaching is inadequate. Poster boy Ray Gaddis is a depth player at best. He is by no means a quality starter. Same for Fabinho. Wenger is a nervous breakdown…etc etc etc. This is the tip of the iceberg. The players are also mentally weak and at times cowardly when faced with adversity. This is a reflection of the mental weakness of the coach. My fear is that they will bring in a Sporting Director who is a weak company tool who won’t fight to make this team better. If I’m wrong I’ll be the first to say so. I don’t trust this ownership and it goes beyond just firing Sakiewicz.

      • Personnel-wise, this team has languished for 3 years. The only real quality on this team is Mo Edu, Nogs, Barnetta, Richie, CJ, and Blake. Seba is kind of a unique case, but at this point, you need to have a lot of technical quality around him since that’s his main weakness. He’s also getting up in age. Chaco is kind of a dog at times too and is lacking athleticism needed at this level. And guys like Gaddis, Fabihno, Wenger, Creavalle, Nando, Casey, Carroll…they’re all fringe players. Gaddis is fine as a starter if you’re strong around him. But we aren’t, and so he’s the defacto point of strength. Not good enough. Creavalle, Vitoria, and Fred shouldn’t be on a roster. Ayuk and Pfeffer aren’t seasoned enough to count on yet, consistently.
        *
        Irrespective of the manager, this team has no chance over the course of a 34 game season because they lack the necessary talent and depth. Priority #1…a Sporting Director. Evaluate, build a strategy, implement said strategy. Whether that takes 3 months, 6 months, a whole season, whatever…get it done and let’s see the trend start to point upwards.

      • it is a histrionic overstatement to call the players and coach of this team mentally weak cowards

      • Histrionic? Where have they finished for the majority of their existence? How many times have they coughed up leads and Curtin the tool, been exposed by his miscues as a coach. Mentally weak and at times cowardly sums it up. Histrionic overstatement? To you maybe. I think the history of the club as a perennial basement dweller bares it out.

      • has this team been a chronically mismanaged failure? yes. are some of the players not up to the level of being a starter for a professional team? yes. is curtin an inexperienced coach that made mistakes? yes.
        no one here can claim to know any of them well enough to call them mentally weak cowards. especially the coward thing; i’m not sure where anyone would get off calling them cowards. where does that even come from?

      • Kyle I respect your opinion. You don’t have to respect mine or how I say it. It’s how I feel about the way this team consistently performs on the pitch. It’s not and indictment of them of who they are as individuals or their lives outside of soccer. However on the pitch they are mentally weak play scared when the pressure is on. Hence their record.

  4. Very surprised none of the journalists asked about Tannenwald’s report of Vitoria leaving the locker room at the end of the game. Seemed like an obvious question to bring up…

  5. With being on the verge of possibly the worst record in club history, I’ve convinced myself this morning that the fact that Sakiewicz is OUT overcomes that and makes this one of the most successful seasons in club history.
    .
    Call me crazy … but we can only go up from here and there was no way that was happening with Sakiewicz. Kudos to Sugarman for taking a right first step.
    .
    C’mon Earnie Stewart, I beg you to join our club.

    • I’m with you on the cup is 10 percent full more than it’s 90 percent empty. This appears to be the bottom (please let it be the bottom!), and a new sporting director + no Sak should equal better things.

    • I’m more or less with you here. When Sak got here, I knew all the doubts about him, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, hey, he did bring pro-soccer to Philly, something I waited most of my life for.
      .
      But it because increasingly clear that all of his naysayers over the years were right (off topic, but I’m starting to feel exactly the same way about Jurgen). I don’t mind doing poorly, but I want to do poorly with hope. The Union are my main team, but I’m also (still) a Sixers fan, and I can still support their horribleness because at least I can see what they’re trying to do. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least there’s a plan.
      .
      With Sak running the team, I felt there was no hope. The only person who could fix the problem WAS the problem. Since I thought he couldn’t be fired, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Now that he’s gone, I don’t know if the new SD will work out, but I do know that I can at least have hope again.

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