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Notes from Curtin’s presser and other Union news, more

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union

Jim Curtin’s first pre-game press conference of the 2016 MLS season took place on Wednesday (full transcript here at PSP). Some highlights:

  • Curtin provided more detail on the injuries that are likely to mean Maurice Edu (stress reaction) and Tranquillo Barnetta (knee tendonitis) will not be available for the season opener.
  • Curtin said Edu’s current injury is not related to the surgery he had for a sports hernia: “Aggressively approached his rehab — maybe, in hindsight, too aggressively.” (You will recall the roundup on Feb. 9 that said Edu was among those players who participated informal but intense small side games in California over the offseason.) Edu is using a walking boot to help with the current injury.
  • Curtin said the team can give Barnetta (and Edu) the time needed to be fully fit: ‘maybe as recently as last season we’d be almost forcing him back, maybe too prematurely, but we do feel we have more depth this year, and it’s a credit to the rest of the guys in the team we don’t feel the need to rush guys forward.”
  • Curtin said the team is “better” and “further ahead” than it was at this time last year.
  • Curtin acknowledged missing Edu and Barnetta is difficult but players have been stepping up: “Yes, missing a couple of key guys could hurt us but, at the same time, I believe in the group. We’re not scared.”
  • Curtin said perhaps two spots are still being contested for the team’s starting XI on Sunday.
  • Curtin praised the University of Pennsylvania backed English language program the team’s foreign language speakers are participating in: “Fabinho is talking to the back line, telling them when to step and drop, and we’re kind of laughing on the sidelines because as recently as two years ago he thought the words position and possession meant the same thing for a season.”
  • Asked if the Union are interested in Herculez Gomez now that he’s been waived by Toronto, Curtin said, “We always have internal discussions about everyone: Is it a fit, does it make sense? Age, position. What does the team need, where are we at? Do we want to bring a guy in that’s just there to be a third at a spot where he makes X amount of dollars? You have to weigh in a ton of variables. But, yeah, interesting names have come across. We are happy currently with where we’re at but always looking to improve our roster.” So that’s a no.
  • Curtin spoke about the tough opening to the team’s schedule: “Important to get a better start than last year, though, that needs to be said.”
  • Curtin probably isn’t a fan of vuvuzelas.

More on the press conference at Philly Voice, Philly Soccer News, and SBI.

At Union Tally, Matthew De George has a proposed roster in view of the injuries to Edu and Barnetta.

At the Inquirer, Marc Narducci on the Union’s revamped roster.

At CSN Philly, Dave Zeitlin on the Union’s improved depth. In the article, Jim Curtin says of Ilsinho getting ejected from last week’s preseason game against NYRB, “I don’t think anything Ilsinho did was malicious. I have no problem with that. He’s a competitor. He said in the Ukraine that not one of those is a foul. I’ll always have my players’ backs. There was some heated stuff going on in the sideline, but most of that was just me sticking up for Ilsinho and it showed our team is together.”

The PDL website notes Reading United alum and local lad Keegan Rosenberry could start on Sunday. Jim Curtin says of the rookie right back, “I’m really happy. He’s playing in tough preseason games, and I think he’s shown that he more than belongs. He’s not just a guy who’s happy to be here, he’s really contributing a lot. He’s a very intelligent player. I think his athleticism is maybe underestimated by people. He jumps really well, and he’s smart. He has a very high soccer IQ, so he makes the right decision a lot. I’m very happy with him right now.”

Philly Sports Network on why Edu being unavailable for Sunday’s opener isn’t the end of the world.

Prost Amerika talks to CJ Sapong, who is very clear about his goal for 2016: “I want to make the playoffs.” Sapong, who said he enjoys playing at left wing and at forward, had this message for Union fans: “Keep having faith, your positivity is what carries us through the tough times.”

Delco Times and Philly Voice talk to Matt Jones. The Englishman’s fluency in Portuguese after his time playing for Santa Clara, União Madeira, Tondela, and Belenenses has given him honorary membership in the Union’s Brazilian club.

Apparently, when Anderson was playing for Mallorca, then head coach Joaquin Caparros used a porn video in his pregame talk before a match against Athletic Bilbao. Anderson explained to ESPN Brazil,

In the team talk ahead of the game Caparros showed us a video with images from a porn film. We were shocked, we didn’t understand anything of what we were watching…The coach wanted to raise our spirit, but we didn’t get his idea. He told us that our tension in the game had to be the same as the porn actor.

Mallorca lost the game and was later relegated.

Power rankings! The Union come in at No. 18 in MLSsoccer.com’s first power rankings of 2016: “Lots of variables with this team, which is to be expected in the midst of a rebuilding project. The biggest one is probably at attacking midfield, since it’s still not clear who’ll shoulder the bulk of the chance creation burden.”

World Soccer Talk’s preview of the 2016 Union includes extensive quotes from PSP’s Dan Walsh.

At ESPN, Jason Davis says the biggest question facing the Union is if the team can rebound under Earnie Stewart: “Philadelphia fans, for the first time in quite a while, have reason to hope for a brighter future. But it’s a lot to ask of the club and new sporting director Earnie Stewart to make the brighter future happen in 2016. Stewart’s influence on the club will take time to appear on the field, where Jim Curtin has his work cut out for him.”

At US National Soccer Players, Jason Davis says Stewart’s “arrival is the best selling point the organization has,” calling his hire “probably the best thing the Union could have done for the long-term future of the club. It just isn’t a move easy to market to a wounded fan base.” Davis explains,

The Union will look different in 2016, but it won’t be easy convincing those fans still sticking around that “different” necessarily means “better” barring a great start. The Union have to show it on the field before anyone is going to buy regime change as a change in the team’s competitive fortunes.

Wait, so the Union isn’t winning the MLS Cup this season?

At Brotherly Game, Jared Young looks at goals scored, and goals allowed, to get a sense of what it will take for the Union to reach the playoffs.

At MLSsoccer.com, the Union are included in this video look at Eastern Conference underdogs. Also at the league website, a team guide.

At Howler Magazine, a look at gender equality in MLS supporters culture includes comments from Sons of Ben president Ami Rivera.

Union Academy defender Matthew Real has been called up for the US U-18 MNT training camp in Argentina.

FourFourTwo likes the new Union home jersey.

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders begin preseason play this evening when the face Penn State at State College.

Jamaica Observer reports midfielder Paul ‘Kiki’ Wilson has signed a two-year deal with Harrisburg.

MLS

Player moves:

And then there were none. Seattle and Salt Lake were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night, Seattle losing 3-1 on the road to Club America (5-3 on aggregate), Salt Lake drawing 1-1 at home with Tigres to go out 3-1 on aggregate. DC and the Galaxy were knocked out of the tournament on Tuesday. If CONCACAF wants MLS fans to take the tournament seriously, the confederation really needs to rethink a format that schedules knockout round games during the MLS offseason.

At Philly.com, Jonathan Tannenwald reports coaches will be mic’d for nationally broadcast MLS games this season.

The St, Paul City Council has approved $18.4 million in funds for infrastructure improvements needed to accompany the construction of Minnesota United’s new stadium. Reports at Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, KSTP, and KARE.

US

The USWNT faces England tonight in Tampa in the start of play in the SheBelieves Cup (7:30 pm, FS1). Yahoo Sports on what the tournament, which also includes Germany and France, might reveal about the US team.

ESPNW on Morgan Brian and Lindsey Horan.

The US U-23 WNT defeated Slovenia’s senior WNT 3-0 to open play in the Istria Cup in Croatia.

The USMNT moves up two spots to No. 30 in the latest FIFA rankings. Mexico remains at No. 22.

No official word yet from US Soccer, but it looks like the USMNT could be hosting Bolivia in Kansas City on May 28 or May 29 just before the start of the Copa Centenario.

The New York Times reports USWNT legend Brandi Chastain will donate her brain for CTE research.

Elsewhere

Reuters reports Brayan Jimenez, the former president of Guatemala’s soccer federation, “pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that he participated in bribery schemes at the heart of a corruption investigation into world soccer’s governing body, FIFA.”

From Reuters: “Tokyo Sexwale’s bid to become FIFA president was doomed as soon as his own confederation refused to back him, South African Football Association head Danny Jordaan said of his compatriot’s failed attempt to lead soccer’s governing body.”

From the AP: “A highly anticipated independent report to be released on Friday could throw light into corruption allegations against Germany’s 2006 World Cup organisers and the fate of a dubious payment to FIFA.”

At ESPN, Mark Rodden on security preparations in France ahead of Euro 2016 in June.

From the AP: “A Greek Cup semifinal match between PAOK and defending champion Olympiakos has been called off in the final minute after home fans threw flares and clashed with riot police on the pitch…Violence broke out after PAOK was denied a late penalty. Police fired tear gas to disperse fans on the pitch.”

40 Comments

  1. Robbie Keane what say you now? Santos took you out back and pistol wiped your team and left you for dead… Good grief… poor. or was it pathetic… or BOTH…ah, right- preseason… altitude.
    .
    Or how Club America was just totally content playing to a 0-0 draw then an own gol by Seattle late in first half which could possible alter the dynamics a bit…nah….elicited a floorboard push of the accelerator for two *ucking sublime gols that any of Mexico’s most prized muralists were likely slack jawed over… I was…
    .
    … CA…upped the tempo- Seattle couldn’t handle the speed and pressure America was capable of putting them under -then added another tally for safety then went right back into the lackadaisical sanguine pace from which the game began… What say you, Fanboys?
    .
    I know…the apologists will say preseason preseason altitude altitude.. excuse excuse squared.
    .
    Sure keep blaming the preseason for our CCL knock out stage thumping but let’s not change the schedule or really address the issues of which some are obvious and others far far more culturally ingrained…much easier to blame than accept responsibility… hell even the blow hard Lalas recognized the excuses have to stop… so it must be true, right?
    .
    Let’s end this talk of MLS being even remotely comparable to the mexican first division… its all nonsense… until next season when we can ponder it again… the get thumped again.
    .
    Congratulation to Real for at least making it look close… I guess… but was it?
    .
    Oh my.. at least San Antonio is going to get a USL team in order to better stand a chance of getting a MLS team someday… that’s a good thing… right?
    .
    Hey at least Stevie G says MLS is better than he thought.

    • (nothing) but flowers….

    • While I agree that MLS < LigaMX and we should stop making excuses, I don't think anything is going to change until the is massive loud outcry from fans about it. The games are broadcast on FS2 or Univision aka no one except rabid soccer fans will watch/care about it channels(Or in my case be stuck with Comcast and no local soccer bars so I'm just screwed). The truth is "we" don't care, so MLS clubs don't care, so US Soccer doesn't care, so CONCACAF doesn't care. So nothing changes. My feeling is CCL<US CUP<Supporters Shield<MLS CUP where really CCL should be at the top.

      While MLS has issues, and NASL has a storied past, in reality, if not actually name, USL is division 2 and NASL really must step up their game if they want to retain their hold on div 2 status.

      • I appreciate the thoughts.
        .
        Cultural issue for sure.
        .
        I just get a kick out of MLS thinking its going to be some great league someday soon… no way. The quality isn’t good enough. The pay grade is yet no where near good enough. The youth structure is still a mess. The entitlement of franchises holds it back. But hey… at least we have Stevie G and Pirlo.
        .
        thats is why I hammer this over and over… MLS is delusional.
        .

      • The league is still growing, of course there will be issues. Until they land at the preferred humber and expansion is put on hold for awhile, the league will continue to ebb and flow. Once each team is securely in their own stadium, with an academy (well run or not is irrelevant now as long as they have one; improvement later) and the quality of pay has risen because the player pool is deeper with in-their-prime players, the league will be what it is now. But with only a few adjustments it could absolutely be a top-10 league if they continue to keep their eye on that goal.

      • Agreed that MLS isn’t at the level of Liga Mx yet. However, at this point, I feel it isn’t a matter of “if” but rather “when” MLS passes Liga Mx. Enjoy these wins now Mexican clubs because the times they are a changin’

      • How are they changing? .
        .
        a few MLS teams and some USL teams? Some youth academies?
        .
        Do you all really think the space between the major leagues and MLS is closing?
        .
        Do you think the other leagues in the world aren’t improving too?
        .
        …is MLS the only league on an improvement continuum?
        .
        Friends there are people who actually think we have grown enough to be on par with Liga Mx and we just got crushed by the four best teams in CONCACAF.
        .
        Crushed.

      • +1
        ‘ I can remember the days when a US/Mexico game was a joke. Then all of a sudden, USA was better than Mexico for a long stretch. This time period included my favorite win in US history….2-0 when it mattered MOST….2nd round of the WORLD CUP! Still love that win….It’s just a matter of time when MLS is equal to Liga Mx. Then pass it. Maybe 5 years, maybe longer, but inevitable in my opinion. In the meantime beat our teams when they are in season, not pre.

    • the mexican teams were clearly better than the mls teams but you can’t call holding this stage of the tournament during this league’s preseason and ‘excuse.’ it isn’t an excuse- it is legitimately one of the reasons that mls teams have such a hard time getting past this stage in the tournament. i don’t think it is crazy for some people to think it makes sense to delay the knock out stages by a couple weeks. presumably concacaf would be interested in structuring the tournament in such a way that doesn’t give teams from any particular league an unnecessary advantage

      • Mickey Goldmill says:

        I would love if the knockout stage was delayed … the results would not change.
        .
        The four best Mexican teams year in and year out will still be miles better than the four best MLS teams…
        .
        It won’t matte and I’d love to switch the start of the games to display it beyond arguing… that way we can stop making the excuse and maybe really begin to decide if the CCL matters as a litmus test for our leagues improvement.

      • i don’t disagree with anything you just said, i just wanted to drive home that it doesn’t make sense to have the tournament scheduled the way it is.

      • old soccer coach says:

        Concacaf is interested in profit, fairness has little or nothing to do with it. Concacaf Champions League and the Gold Cup are their income sources.
        .
        they probably like complaints about the unfairness and threats to reschedule as it will up what they can take from those with interest in maintaining the staus quo.

      • when they see a spike in revenues from even one MLS team going forward, CONCACAF may change their minds about scheduling but who knows … it is not really a relevant competition and most US fans still don’t get the meaning of cup competitions.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Is there any more frustrating thing that a soccer fan has to do than try to explain all of these cup competition to non-soccer fans here in the US? There’s nothing to compare it to anywhere across the US sports landscape.

      • There isn’t, but how much fun would an Open Cup style tournament would be in baseball?

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Adam Silver was toying with doing an in-season tournament right around the NBA All-Star break, but nothing ever came of it.

  2. When I heard the story about the guy with the vuvuzelas, my first thought was we need one of those guys.

  3. pragmatist says:

    “Yes, missing a couple of key guys could hurt us but, at the same time, I believe in the group. We’re not scared.”
    .
    Sometimes that can come off as bluster, but I believe Jim on this one. I think that these guys truly believe they are in better shape than in any point in the club’s history. They are better positioned to withstand injuries. I’m not suggesting they make room on the not-yet-purchased trophy case, or anything, but there is a sense of calm around this team that has been missing since its inception.
    .
    I am looking forward to the games getting started. This will be a very interesting experiment to watch. We’re a year away from the “contender” category (even that may be optimistic), but there is a firm belief in a positive direction.

    • Last year, and certainly in other year’s past, it would’ve scared the crap out of me to be missing 2 players of that caliber. This year, however – Jim Curtin’s decisions aside – I feel the team can survive without them for the short term because we not only have actual depth but quality players who can fill in at spots where they are comfortable. They could certainly prove me wrong, but I don’t feel panic because those are missing – yet.

  4. So assuming Edu and Barnetta are both out, here’s what I think the lineup will be on Sunday.
    .
    Blake; Fabinho, Anderson*, Marquez, Rosenberry; Carroll, Noguiera; Pontius, Ilsinho, Alberg; Sapong
    .
    * This is the one spot I’m not sure of. I think an argument can be made for any combination of Anderson, Marquez, and Tribbett (I think Yaro goes to BSFC).
    .
    Bench: Jones, Gaddis, Tribbett, Crevale, Le Toux, Herbers, Fernandes.
    .
    I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Pontius on the bench instead of Le Toux or Fernandes, but I expect he’ll start.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      I don’t see Rosenbury starting this game. The kid has so much potential and upside, brings skill and visions and attack to the RB position. However, I still think Ray is better at defending in 1v1 situations. So, due to the opponent, the location, the sick wingers that D has and the fact that this is Rosenbury’s first game, I think Ray starts. Doesn’t want to kill the kid’s confidence in the first game of his career. If Ray blows it, then that allows Rosenbury to come in and start the next week with less pressure.

      • pragmatist says:

        I agree, except for one point: Ray’s lack of match fitness. He was hurt all preseason, and KR got the lion’s share of minutes. He can play 90.
        .
        Ray should be able to handle it, too, but Curtin and Co. know that KR can go the full game.

    • old soccer coach says:

      If it were going to be Marquez why did he play so little in the last few preseason games? There has been no mention of injury, nor questions about one. he had a role in two opposition goals, one in each of the first two games in FL, Jax & Chi before Valentines Day. The only hint that he may be knicked is that he got no time on Saturday the 27th against either Montreal in the morning or Toronto in the afternoon, the morning omission surprised me.

      • Fair rebuttal. Like I said, I think an argument can be made for Anderson-Tribbett being the combo. Especially given what Tribbett accomplished in the pre-season.
        .
        Dan’s thoughts on Rosenberry vs Gaddis are hard to refute as well. Although in that instance, I do think it’s easier for Curtin to make the move to Rosenberry given Gaddis’s nagging injury during the pre-season.
        .
        This is really nothing more than my hunch.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        John, you and Prag bring up good points about Ray’s lack of match fitness, I didn’t consider that… regardless, I think we shock the world and earn a point on the road this week!

  5. The Realist Brian says:

    Interesting coaching point from Anderson. Hard to play soccer with erections (I had to edit that from “hard to play with erections- no it isn’t).
    .
    As for Champions League, why can’t MLS change to win it? Changing the dates doesn’t mean we beat the Mexican clubs. They spend more, and they are better…sorry. General level of MLS is improving, but we lack depth.
    .
    Oh, and how did the new wunderkid Morris do? Nada… People need to relax about him, and he has ZERO left foot. That is a defenders dream for a one footed attacker. Hopefully coaches force him to his left.
    .
    Bring back home and away, because the Supporters Shield doesn’t matter until it does, and that team with the easiest schedule gets a Champions League spot? What the what?
    .
    Final piece, the Union have not done enough to improve and get us to buy season tickets. If they aren’t going to spend to win, I will not buy tickets. Only way to change is to not buy this product they are selling.

    • Home and away can’t happen. The country is too large and the league is too big (42 games in 2017, at least 44 in 2018). Supporters shield existed long before a balanced schedule. Since the winners of each conference get a CL spot, it may reduce the importance of the SS, but still rewards winning the difficult league anyway. Besides, the best performance from an MLS team in CCL recently finished dead last the prior season.

    • Morris is a one dimensional player… I will say this…he is fast and we all know soccer is fascinated with speed.
      .

  6. Lucky Striker says:

    so this must be the meandering muse column. Ok………

    I demand that Goodell form a champions league between the US, Mexico and Canada. The Canucks already play a bastardized version of the game up north, and the Mexicans have attended enough Cowboys exhibitions to get the general idea. Agreed ? great.

    We can have their local champs line it up against the Pats, Broncos, Panthers & Cardinals. I expect to see competitive results within a decade. Go !………

    It is what it is. You can’t fix it……….

    Turning to local matters:

    Real curious to see how Jimbo works the makeshift 18 in the road opener. I’m thinking he’s too risk averse to play non-vet newcomers off the bat- so if Ray is OK he’ll likely get the nod. Battle between T-ribbitt & Mr. Anderson for sure.

    BC is always his default option, and I wait with baited breath to see how he handles Alberg/ Pontiac / Le-2. Only two can start-unless the IL one and Leo haven’t yet “earn”ed his trust for whatever various reason (experience / fitness ).

    • I still think Curtin’s risk-aversion was due to having Sak looking over his shoulder. I guess we’ll find out Sunday.

    • Slow news day generally….. and no argument from me regarding your sardonic point about NFL and Futbol competition… I’m just calling out the blunder of such fellatious 🙂 thinking, (sorry Anderson couldn’t resist)… If we don’t draw attention to the many pundits both locally and nationally claiming we are on Liga Mx level people will actually – possibly think we are which is ridiculous. Yes Rome wasn’t built in a day… neither was MLS. Much Much work to be done. Club America, as an example, toyed with Seattle just like they toyed with Montreal in the final last year.
      .
      Commentary seems to exist in a vacuum in this country… especially on the media front which allows people/pundits and players to say this ‘Yit and not be called to task for it unless you are a member of the fringe voice in the wilderness on Twitter screaming, “this can’t be.”
      .
      btw… ‘Yit is a distant cousin of Jawn and since Jawn has seen national prominence thanks to that bombshell in Creed… maybe ‘Yit can too.

  7. Zizouisgod says:

    In your country, this is yellow card…in Ukraine, not even foul.

    Can’t wait to use that line.

    • pragmatist says:

      Makes you wonder what Ilsinho was mumbling in Portuguese as the refs were calling the fouls. I’m guessing the translation was NSFW.

  8. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that would result from not understanding the difference between position and possession.
    Not all of it is necessarily bad, mind you.

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