Press Conference

Transcript: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just to touch on the Columbus game, a lot of the guys and the staff had a bad taste in their mouth from the Dallas game. I thought we were kind of fearless, we were aggressive, we were able to press a very strong Columbus team in their building. Yeah, there were moments where they got through us, but the commitment to recover was something that we worked on during the week and the guys really executed well and got a deserved goal right before the half, which is always a big momentum swing. Second half, I thought still pushed the game the right way. You look up in the 85th minute and we were still pressing them off goal kicks. So, making it uncomfortable for what I feel is the best possession team in our league in Columbus. Credit to the guys for their performances. You could go through the list. Warren Creavalle in a tough spot, in a very difficult situation where he finds out literally in the pregame meal that he’s going to be starting; I thought he put in an excellent shift for us, defensively and offensively. You could go through a bunch of the guys; I thought all of the defenders were very solid. We were smart in how we pushed forward. Obviously, Chris gets us the goals and does a good job in that regard, but it was a real team effort and that’s what it takes going on the road in this league.

Again, it needs to be said, it doesn’t mean anything unless we bounce back and come into our house now in front of our fans and have the same effort that we showed on the road, do it in our own building. We’ve made a real effort, a big emphasis on really protecting this house and getting three points this Sunday is very important to the group.

Injury update

Tranquillo trained full today. He’s looked sharper and sharper — obviously, the fitness isn’t there, so he’s not able to sustain it, but you can tell he’s coming along. You start to out there and between him, Ilsinho, Alberg, all the different guys that are comfortable on the ball, you can start to see some real interchange there and good things starting to develop. I think the environment in training is good, the guys are pushing each other in the right way; me picking the 18 has become very difficult. The eleven is even more difficult, which is a good headache for a coach to have.

Vincent, again, when the injury happened the day before we left for Columbus it seemed very minor. Unfortunately, he slept on it and it kind of felt a little different in the morning. Went through some testing and some treatment and we decided rather than have him go and maybe have to checkout maybe 20 minutes into it and burn a sub, we decided the best option was to go with Warren, who had been sharp in preseason and in training, and it worked out well. Vincent will be kind of day-to-day. Hopeful that maybe even this afternoon in our second session he’ll be a part of that.

Tranquillo, obviously, is progressing nicely, we’re happy with how he’s playing on the field, but it will be more of a fitness issue what he can bring. But, he’s working on that a little bit after training each day, so getting closer, which is good, because he’s a very key piece to our team.

On why the team has under-performed at home the past few years 

I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things. Again, I can’t speak for the time before I was the coach, but there’s just been a lack of consistency here, I think that’s something that’s felt. There’s been games where we’ve gotten leads, early leads especially, and not hung on; maybe a lack of discipline, improvements that can be made from the technical side from the coaching staff to the players closing out games. I think that’s a critical thing. In this building we have to have a confidence, we have to have a lack of fear to not expect the worse to happen, you know? We have a great fan base that is behind us always from the start of the game and we need to feed off of that energy and be a little more aggressive when we do take a league and we are playing on the front foot to not be satisfied with one goal. I think getting the second goal has been an Achilles heel or problem for this team over its history. Having that killer instinct to get the second goal and kill off a game is something we’ll work to this year. A lot of new faces that maybe aren’t used to the past; the past is gone, this is a new year for us, that needs to be our mindset moving forward. We have a lot of new players, we have a lot of new faces that the past doesn’t mean anything to.

So, again, we learn from different things that happened last year but it’s a fresh start this Sunday and we have a real opportunity with a good New England team coming in to get three points and show that this year is different.

On New England

You watch a lot of the tape on them and it’s, you know, Jay does a great job. They have a bunch of midfielders and forwards that can all score goals. It’s difficult: Fagundez, Rowe, Charlie Davies in good form — he has a little hamstring, we’ll see how that is — Juan Agudelo can come off the bench for them, so they are very deep. Again, they have midfielders that contribute with goals, which is a tough thing to find in our league. They have a lot of interchange. A lot of the data and the film that you watch, they don’t play with a ton of width; obviously, they’re outside backs give them their width, but they’re wingers have a tendency to come inside. It’s something we’ve worked on, how we want to deal with that. They create little 2v1s and 3v2s. Lee Nguyen having the freedom to kind of drift right to left, a very dangerous player, capable of also scoring a goal and setting up goals. So, that’s a dynamic front five that you have to deal with. It’s not one-person job, it’s everybody being bought in and helping the guy next to you, and obviously, winning your 1v1 battle but also looking to help and communicate with the guy next to you. But they’re a great attacking team, it’ll be a tough test. Their last game was 0-0 against DC but they created a ton, a lot of attempts at goal, just a day where it didn’t fall for them. So, we expect a very strong team, and it’ll take everybody being on the same page for us to get a result.

On Andre Blake

Andre’s been great for us, he’s made the big saves for us. Obviously, those ones stand out, but a lot of the little things — coming out for crosses and being brave, and just making that clean save, catching the ball, letting us breathe, and getting our outside backs out, he’s improved greatly with his feet. I think starting our attack is important from our goalkeeper, and he’s done a good job with that. Just to touch on some of the little things; everyone sees the diving saves, and those are obviously critical — he’s special in that regard and can win you a game on his own, which is great to have in a goalkeeper. But I think the minor things he’s doing, again, coming out to get a cross on a corner kick in a crazy, dangerous situation gives a lot of trust in your center backs and makes their jobs a lot easier knowing that they have the confidence in the guy that’s behind them. So, he’s done very well through the first two games but, again, it’s two games so we’ll want him to continue to push. Again, a goalkeeper that has the ability to be in the discussion for the upper echelon of goalkeepers. Very happy with how he’s played. Very good in training, has been a real professional and I’m really happy with his growth and development.

Blake set the franchise record for saves on the road against New England last season. Is that something he’s thinking about? 

That was a special game. Again, you talk about a goalkeeper that can get you points on his own, it’s a good feeling to know when we’re not at our best he can bail us out in moments. He’ll do that during this year. We don’t want that to be at home, we want to play the game on our terms, we don’t want him to have a busy day. That’s kind of the goal, but it is a nice safety blanket to know that he’s back there. He’s done it against New England, which is good. In his mind that’s probably fresh but, also, you rewind to that game and we gave up far too many chances, I’m think about maybe 10 to 15 real clear-cut opportunities. That’s something we want to limit. You know, Dre, save the one’s you’re supposed to save, and that’ll be kind of the message going into the game. But we hope he has a quiet night.

On being more demonstrative on the sidelines over the first two games of the season

Yeah, I guess that’s a fair assessment. I actually…crossed my mind, too, in the game. You know, I’m usually a guy who maybe sits and observes and tries to stay calm. I think I still remain calm on the sidelines but, yeah, I think it’s fair to point out that I have been up a little bit more. Part of it’s maybe I’m close to some of the younger guys who are out there and trying to give little things. It’s difficult to communicate in the game but you prepare them your best, you hope they’re ready. I thought against Columbus we were and the guys put in a good performance. But, yeah, I guess no real reason other than just — I don’t know, maybe it’s just gone that way, maybe something’s happened early on that I wanted to jump up and give a little advice.

Is it about communication so everyone is on the same page?  

I thinks so, yeah, I thinks so, I think it’s a little bit of that, too. Communicating is big. We have new faces on the field, new relationships, and you’re trying to help in any way you can. At times it can feel helpless as a coach because it’s tough to communicate and get messages out there quickly but, yeah, it’s probably part of it is, again, the new faces and just wanting to have them perform well.

On Richie Marquez

Richie had a very strong game. Kei Kamara is as tough an assignment as there is in our league, great player, great forward. He did a good job of limiting Kei’s touches. If you look at the data, Kei was on the ball very little, for him. Again, he’s a guy that they get on the ball a lot. Finlay, as well, Richie played a role in helping Fabinho with Finlay, too. Little things like that, just limiting top players’ time on the ball, Richie did a good job. He’ll always win his physical battles, the majority of them, in the air, on the ground. I got into him pretty good in the film about an hour ago with all the guys in the room just because, again, at 2-0, we could have four or five things to prevent the corner kick from happening. But, then it does happen and the message –again, unfortunately it was Richie who was covering Kei in the moment — but, unacceptable for the best header of the ball on the field to get a free header at that time. Yes, part of that was Richie, part of that is somebody else that needs to help him and, in that regard, it was CJ should have maybe helped a little bit as Richie got screened. But, as good as Richie played, still the message is — and it’s the life of a center back — it takes one moment of sleeping and they can punish you, good forwards will. But the message to the team is the best guy on the field can’t get on the ball with his head at that moment. If Wil Trapp comes up late, or one of the little outside backs comes up late, and we just don’t have the numbers to deal with it for a moment and they score, I can live with it. But for Kei Kamara to get a free header and cause five minutes of scrambling? It was unacceptable and something we’ll fix. It gets back to what I talked about closing games out. Again, it would have been a real shame to have lost the game or drawn the game, it would have felt like a loss at that moment. So, we’re happy with the performance but there’s still always little things that we can improve, and Richie falls into that category. Played a good game, but there’s always…I’m getting greedy now so I want more.

On the marking on that play 

Man-to-man, yeah, man-to-man. We talked [and] I kind of set him up to ask what happened on the play, and he said, “I got picked.” For me, that’s “so, what?” Guys get picked; deal with it, fight through it, that’s Kei Kamara. And the message was can’t give Keai Kamara a free header in the 86th minute. Yes, CJ could’ve helped him and it could have solved it quicker, but if you look at the tape he jumps free. And that’s unacceptable at that moment. Again, that’s the life of a center back: You play played a great 89 minutes then he had one little lapse, and that’s the crappy part of the position, I guess.

On the importance of gaining momentum and confidence

Momentum and confidence in this league is huge. You’ve seen now anybody can beat anybody. Confidence is everything in our game. I think for the guys to put together now another good performance…I think we’ve played now three good halves of soccer, if you go back to the second half of Dallas, the two halves against Columbus. Now we have to do it at home. Again, I’ve set the goal of at a minimum 10 wins in this building. Historically, look at the club, our highest win total is 12, so people might think I’m crazy in that regard, but I think if we get to 10 in this building, you win some on the road, you draw a few, you’ll be in the playoffs, in terms of a blueprint for it. But, yes, it is critical to put back-to-backs together, that’s what good teams do. We have not been a good team in the past and we’re trying to change that this year. I think we are a different team. I think our culture is changing, and I think our environment is certainly changed in terms of this is the first week we’ve been in our new building, the training field — all the little things that have gone along, it is different, it has a different feel to it. But unless you back it up in the 90 minutes it’s just talk. So, again,we know with the game against New England coming up on Sunday, a week to think about it, too; if you look forward we don’t play again ’til at Chicago so there’s that two weeks. You don’t want to be going into an early bye with regret and second-guessing different things. So, we will play brave at home. Fearless home and away is the goal, and that’s how we’re going to approach this Sunday. And you’re right, there has to be a consistency to what we do, and it starts by putting back-to-back games together, good performances.

On Blake being called up by Jamaica after Sunday’s game

He will play against Chicago, barring an injury. So, yeah, just to get [rid of] any doubt or fear in anybodies mind, Andre won’t miss any MLS games in this stint with Jamaica, which is good. Again, we talk about consistency of a team, of lineups, of having him behind us, yeah, we need him in the game. Obviously, he has international duty, it’s an honor to play for your country. But, the Philadelphia Union won’t miss him in this instance.

On the just-opened new training facility

I think with any workplace, the environment you’re in everyday is critical to success and failure. You know, this building is on par with any I’ve seen in Europe, and better than a lot. It’s state of the art. It maintained the kind of, you know…They maintained the old structure to the building too so there’s a lot of, you know, parts to it that represent the city and the blue collar nature of it. They preserved it really well, the architects did a great job, it’s a beautiful building. But, you talk about a professional environment, a place to come in and work and put the time in the weight room, in the film room, it’s all state of the art. The recovery aspects of it are top of the line, the locker room is beautiful, the offices are great, so it’s all there for us now.

Again, the one thing too that I would add in terms of game day, as it relates to game day, when you locker out of this beautiful stadium everyday, human nature is you get comfortable here. It feels the same, Tuesday feels like Saturday, game day, whereas now, you know, for the first time we’ll be putting the work in over in that building, on the [training] field also, but when we walk into the stadium for a Saturday or Sunday game, it feels different, something triggers in your head. I can think back to, you know, times in Chicago when I played, it was different when you walked into Soldier Field, if felt different. We trained at Lake Forrest [so] game days had a different feel to them. Maybe that was lacking in the past here. I can’t emphasize that enough: To a player’s mindset, it is different. People say that’s just a little thing but I think it’s a big one. And, again, the environment that’s created over there by the building, I’m very grateful to Mr. Sugarman for getting that done. It is a special place, a place that we will treat — I’ve had a big speech about it — looking exactly how it looked at the opening to forever, we’ll hold each other accountable. Yes, It’s a special place, we have to keep it that way, keep it clean, all the little things, and hold each other accountable in that regard. So, I can’t say enough about it, everybody’s excited, everybody has a smile on their face, and it makes coming to work even that much more special. They get to play a game for a living and now they get to do it in a great new facility. It’s a big step forward for the club; everybody is speaking about Union 2.0 and that’s a big part of it, as well.

On Roland Alberg

He’s been the past two days very sharp in training. He gives you a guy who can make a final pass, can score a goal from midfield. I though he’s done very well when he’s come into games in difficult situations for us and created things. I thought the ball he plays Seba with the opportunity to go up 3-0 against Columbus was very good. He’s getting used to his teammates, his teammates are getting used to him, starting to understand you can give him the ball in tight spaces and he’s very clever and strong about maintaining possession. I’m very happy with how he’s acclimating to his teammates and getting used to things so, yeah, he’s really pushing to break into the lineup. Again, it’s not always an instant process because guys are playing well also on the team, but he’s making a real case to push into the starting group. His talent speaks for itself. He’s getting more fit so, happy with how he’s progressing and you start to think of him, Ilsinho, and Tranquillo all on the field at the same time and get excited as a coach.

What part of the field do you want him?

He’ll be on the field [laughs]. On the field, all three of them. I think, again, they’re all smart and thee can be interchange during the game, so for me to say one spot…I know you’re trying to pin him down to one position but I’m not going to do that because he’s talented and it’s unfair to the other guys too, that, what we’re thinking about. They can play, all three can play different spots, and all three want to win, and all three understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we’ll find ways to get them all on the field at the same time when they’re all healthy and fully fit.

On Sebastien Le Toux coming off the bench versus starting

We always have discussions during the week. Seba has done a great job coming in as a sub defensively and offensively, so he’s contributed, he’s created a lot of chances in the short amount of time. He does a great job, he’s a great pro. He’s a guy who can get you a goal, can set up a goal, so very happy with him. We have, like I said, competition at each spot, which is healthy and, again, pushing to be in that starting lineup. Everybody wants to be in that starting XI, which is natural and good. He’s disappointed that he’s not there. He’s shown it in training that he wants to be, and he’s really been a good pro about it. But, again, when he’s called upon he contributes and, to be honest, in our first two games [he] probably had our best two scoring chances so, very dangerous. Happy with Seba and I know he wants to be in the starting lineup, and he’ll continue to push for that. We’ll have a tough decision to make on Sunday.

On Keegan Rosenberry playing his first home game

First home game will be exciting. You’ll have a lot of friends and family, you have to do a good job of sorting all your tickets and all the requests out early so your head is clear and you’re just focused on the game. That can be challenging for a young player bit I’d say he’s wise beyond his years. I’d say he’s an intelligent, kid first and foremost — Georgetown education and finishing school pretty quickly — he’s a smart kid. I think it translates on the field, he has really a high soccer IQ. You know, little things: When to catch teams off guard with his throw in, when to clear a ball versus when to try to play out the back, being brave stepping into difficult situations to Higuain in a game for a young kid on the road in Columbus late — those are things that were impressive for me. We knew when we drafted him that he would have a really strong pro career. Is it starting a little earlier than we anticipated? Probably. But, sometimes with injuries, guys step up and he’s done a good job stepping in, doing a very good job, an honest player who brings a lot of intangibles and, again, the high soccer IQ is what I come back to for him, he’s an intelligent player who makes good decisions with and without the ball. So, very happy with him, excited for him with the possibility of starting his first game in PPL Park.

Villanova prediction?

They got a tough…we’ll see. Round Two scares me a little bit but we’ll see how it plays out, I wish them the best. Coach Wright does a heck of a job with his group. I’d say this year’s a little more wide open than it’s been in the past, anybody can beat anybody. I like Villanova’s chances, especially when the threes are going in. Difficult matchups will be if they run into like an Oregon down the road where they’re just long and athletic, that’s challenging for anybody. So, we’ll see how it goes. Exciting time of the year for college hoops. I haven’t been as big of a follower as I’ve been in the past, been busy with another job [laughs].


  1. Besides Tranquillo getting healthy, these are the words that I found most encouraging:
    (1) On the past: “We have a lot of new players, we have a lot of new faces that the past doesn’t mean anything to.”
    (2) On Alberg: “He’ll be on the field.” [laughs] “On the field, all three of them.” [refering to Tranquillo, Ilshino and Alberg]

    • He was understandably reluctant to say where he would place Alberg. I don’t see any of those three playing DMid and Pontius seems to have the left side locked down.
      If you were Curtain, where would you start him? Would you start him up top instead of CJ? Would you change the formation?

      • 4-1-3-2?
        Back four
        This would be a heck of an attacking lineup of they developed some chemistry.

      • In that formation, Pontius would likely play higher then Alberg.

      • Agreed, at times in Columbus he was positioned at times like a second striker more than a left winger. I think his goals came from that positioning.

      • Nogs – Alberg – Barnetta in the middle with either Alberg or Barnetta (probably the latter) in front of the other two. Neither of the deeper players would be an out and out defensive mid, but would have to coordinate while pressing and switch between 8 and 6 in possession. I think it could work, and Ilsinho can then play on the wing (hopefully with improved fitness).

      • Right side of the midfield or central midfield and move Ilshino to the right.
        Leo has not done enough this first 2 games to stay in the starting lineup in my opinion.
        Edit: I’m speaking of Alberg’s position for the home opener and assuming that Barnetta will not be fit enough to start.
        Putting all 3 on the field means either dropping Pontius or moving him to striker and dropping Sapong. Could also be thinking about Alberg next to Nogs since Edu is out longer term.

      • I have a hunch Le Toux will start on Sunday. Between Curtin’s comments and Leo’s play. I also suspect we won’t see Noguiera. If you assume both Barnetta and Ilsinho can’t go 90 yet, I would also assume only one of them would start. So, with those thoughts in mind, I suspect Sunday will look like:
        Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Tribbett, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Alberg; Pontius, Barnetta, Le Toux; Sapong.
        Ilsinho will come in for Barnetta if we’re chasing a goal, otherwise Carroll will come in and push Alberg higher up field.
        For Chicago after the mini-break, assuming he’s healthy the lineup would see Noguiera replace Creavalle. And assuming one of Barnetta/Ilsinho can go 90 by then, you’ll see Ilsinho replace Le Toux.

      • Old Soccer,Coach says:

        I like everything John predicts save Barnetta starting and Ilsinho subbing for him. I would expect Ilsinho to start and Barnetta to come on in the 70th minute or thereabouts.
        It is also possible that Nogueira would come on for Alberg about the 65th minute.

      • Yep, I think there’s a good case to go either direction. Ilsinho has the advantage of having played the first two games. Barnetta brings a bit more of a physical game, which could be of benefit on the home field.
        Nog for Alberg is a good call, too, as long as they’re sure the chance for re-injury is minimal. With the mini-break – next game isn’t until April 2nd – they could opt to go the conservative route here to ensure he heals completely. They have the depth this year – thankfully! – to not need to rush Nogueira back from something like this.

      • I’ll go with John Ling’s lineup with OSC’s switch with Ilsinho starting, Barnetta subbing. And a second switch in B.C. over Creavalle. I’d rather see Creavalle start. I just feel Jim will start B.C..

      • Carroll starting wouldn’t surprise me at all. I went with Creavalle partly out of hope, but also because of the amount of praise Curtin has sent his way this week. (Similar to my hunch about Le Toux starting.) It’s just an attempt to read the tea leaves, but I admit personal bias could affect the patterns I see at the bottom of the cup…

      • I think you could absolutely be right with your reading. Jim does tend to leave little hints in his comments. He has gotten better at hiding them as he’s gone along (yay growth!). Despite the praise for Creavalle, for me, I didn’t see a hint about him starting. But, looking at the leaves, when he talked about Rosenberry, he mentioned his possible starting at home. For me this was the red light indicator. From this I drew the conclusion that Ray might get his first start. The caveat being how Jim feels they both do in practice, and that’s why I didn’t change my lineup there, from yours.

  2. I miss my old handle… you were right All4U.
    …man isn’t it always a keener read after a win… the “again’s and the yeah’s and the you know’s” so much are softer on the soul’s ear.
    You know what I’d like…I’d like that killer jacket Jim’s been sporting everywhere. Union Black. Crisp. Sharp…. Damn sweet jacket. Where can I get one of them?
    One more thing…. I am yet to fully understand how and why press conferences are unable to pick up the questions being asked… this happens for our Union- it happens especially during Eagles press conferences which generally I could give a yit about.
    Someone help me to understand how I can hear the ping of a dead solid struck putt across the crispy afternoon scorched 18th at Bay Hill, but I can’t here Kevin Kinkhead or Paul Domowitch ask a question… how the Poa Annua crunches when Spieth squats to eye up a slippery 10 footer but I can’t hear the rudiments of a simple question down the river? It is my master… this Ouroboros.

    • Welcome back.

    • Microphone placement.

      • Old Soccer,Coach says:

        And the convention in golf that the crowd becomes dead silent as the club moves to address the ball. Without that a microphone next to the green picks up crowd noise rather than ball strike.

      • simple it seems…. my guess is not enough people complain therefore they have no idea it is an issue… for me at least.

      • Fixing it really isn’t too difficult. They would just need to place microphones around the room. We have a large conference room here where I work – holds 250 or so. There are microphones dropped from the ceiling every so many feet. It’s quite easy to have a conference call in that room, and remote participants can hear what’s going on. During any “presentation” or such that’s going on, the crowd mics can be muted so you don’t pick up the sounds of somebody coughing etc.
        A room of that size? Probably 4-6 mics spaced evenly around the room. They probably don’t even need to go the extra step of muting / un-muting the “room” mics while Curtin is speaking.

    • Even I have to be right once out of a hundred. Glad your back (in this form).
      I love the jacket too and was wondering the same thing. I noticed some of the other coaches wearing their team’s versions. I wonder if they are just specifically for the teams and not available for retail sale.
      As for the phone calls, if I turn up youtube sound and my headset all the way I can hear the questions. You just have to be quick on the draw to lower it before Jim speaks and my ears get blown out.

      • Nice, thank you for the info. I do like the jacket, but not at that price. A plastic wind-breaker for $149? Uh, no thank you.

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