Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

First off, I’d like to congratulate Bethlehem Steel on a strong opening game performance on the road in a tough environment. Seven first-team guys got the opportunity to go there, got a great 90 minutes for a lot of them. It shows the depth of our team, shows the quality that we have. Brendan Burke and his staff have done a great job, it needs to be said.

The past two weeks have been difficult because we’re itching to play again. The guys have put in a ton of work; a lot of intensity in training, two sessions a day, guys itching to get back out and get some live action against a good team in Chicago.

On the loaning of first team players to Bethlehem Steel — will the number of players that were with the team for the Montreal game be typical?

Our guys will get valuable minutes there each and every week. In an instance where now maybe we have to go to Chicago and it’s a very quick turnaround and possibility of delayed flights and that type of thing, you can have an instance where maybe it doesn’t make sense for a guy to get back at 2:30 in the morning, quick turnaround, drive out to Bethlehem — you have to do what’s best, it’ll be an individual, case-by-case basis, but it’ll be a situation where top players and starters are coming off of injury [and] we can get them minutes; young players, obviously, can get a good experience there. It’ll be week-to-week, though, deciding for each individual player what is the best action for them.

But, again, can’t stress enough: great resource for us to have and, again, it shows that we have a lot of depth. It’s difficult to make our 18 and it’s becoming very difficult to our starting XI, which is a good.

On Warren Creavalle

We brought Warren in, if you go back to last year, [for] some cover because of his versatility centrally and out wide. From there, good meeting going into the offseason about what we felt his best spot was, what he felt his best spot was, and that was as a central midfielder. Put in a ton of work in the preseason. Again, wasn’t chosen in Week One but he’s a guy who has a quiet demeanor and goes about his business and brings it every day in training, and is an example, actually, for the rest of our guys — especially our young guys —  to know you never know when your number’s going to be called and, when it is, grab ahold of it and don’t let go of it.

It needs to be said, too, [that] not too long ago he was in a very good midfield in Houston starting for a very good team with Ricardo Clark in there in a Dom Kinnear-coached team — and Dom doesn’t ever have players on the field that can’t play. So, this isn’t a revelation, we know it was in Warren. A little time in Toronto that maybe didn’t go as he had hoped but we’re very happy with how he’s performed. He’s not just doing it in the games — which is obviously what you guys see; day in and day out in training he has been confident and playing at a very high level.

On the importance of Fabian Herbers getting playing time — and a goal — with Bethlehem 

Fabian is one of our top players in around the goal, whether the final pass, the weight of his crosses is always just right, he’s clinical finishing — so, to get that goal, for him, is a big moment, his first goal as a professional. Of course, he would have rather it come at the tailend of the New England game when he gets the good 1v1 with Shuttleworth and score that one, but he’s very happy. I think it’s good for confidence; anytime a young player gets on the board it’s good. Still really impressed with the work that he does defensively in running, and covering ground, and being that first line of attack. I thought he did a good job of that in Montreal, as we watched that game. And a guy who isn’t rattled, to be fair, because I put him in some difficult moments, you know? On the road in [Dallas] is his debut; to close out a game in Columbus. He’s in there [and] not phased by the big spotlight. And then to get in the end of the New England game, as well.

He’s making the most of his time; I think he’s created a chance in every game he’s been in in very minimal minutes. So, high quality player, I can’t say enough about his progress through the preseason, and now he’s carrying over into the regular season.

Are there restrictions on who can play for Bethlehem Steel? Is it an open pipeline?

For us, yes, we can send…anyone of our players can go down. Obviously, there’s international restrictions but we have that very well managed and it’s something that’s monitored day in and day out. Conversely, it’s not as fluid for, say, if we have three injuries at center back to bring Mickey Daly up to us, for example. It’s not as fluid, we would have to have cap space, the roster space, you’d have to juggle things like that…Anyone of our guys can go down there and play minutes.

So, it’s a possibility. It’s a great resource, again, if you think of guys coming off of injury, guys coming off of international duty that may be…or missed time — whatever it might be, there’s a million different scenarios we could talk through. But, it’s a great opportunity to get 90 minutes in a very good league [with] a very good standard of play and, again, we have a very good staff there that we have, obviously, the same ideas and style, and the way that we want to play.

Update on injury status of Vincent Nogueira and Tranquillo Barnetta

Vincent has been getting through training fine. I think he has a little discomfort, I would call it. He’ll have a MRI today, later today, maybe for peace of mind more than anything else just to say that it’s behind him.

Tranquillo had a little tweak to the knee right before we went away on the weekend so he missed a session or two. But, he’s back training fully, not restricted in anyway as a neutral. So, available for selection this weekend, which is, again, a great problem for me to have.

Is Nogueira available for selection?

Yes.

Is it still the ankle with Nogueira?

Yeah, it’s just a little discomfort in the ankle. Maybe not fully himself yet, but I think every player at this stage already has little nicks here and there. But, I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to restrict him.

What’s your take on the rebuild underway in Chicago?

First and foremost, the coach there is one we’re familiar with here at the Union.I wasn’t here when he played here, but a guy I respected a great deal as a player and now as a coach. He’s done a great job restructuring the roster. It’s one I’m a little maybe sensitive to because I played there for so long. I do pull for Nelson and Pauno there — except when we play them [laughs].

So, they’ve had a lot of changes, and they’re working towards…they’re in the middle of a process of — I wouldn’t call it a rebuild because in our league you can…anybody can beat anybody on any given weekend. So, they’ve had changes, but they’ve…You know, you the watch tape of their last three games, they play, that’s the one thing that is clear. They have a good passing team. In the preseason, they beat us pretty good, to put it nicely. So, they’re dangerous, they’re well coached, they’re well organized. Again, a strong staff, and one that is going to be a tough task, to go on the road and get three points there.

But, yeah, a lot of change. We have a lot of change, as well, so, hopefully, our guys are up for the task. Anytime you go on the road it’s very difficult in this league. It’s the hardest thing to do is, first and foremost, is win and get three points in this league, let alone a tough place to go like Chicago, where I saw, unfortunately, the forecast is 50 mile per hour winds, which is difficult. But, we’ll be ready.

On the threats Chicago possesses

They have a really dangerous attack. You think of Accam is probably the fastest player — maybe Castillo — in the league. Speed wise, he gives them a real threat to stretch the field — if he’s available. He’s coming off of a little bit if a knee injury but we’re preparing like he’s going to play. Igboananike maybe doesn’t get the credit that he deserves; a dangerous player, good attacker. Gilberto has quality in front of goal. They do have a mix of some youth on the backline. So do we. So, again, in that regard they have talent, good young talent there, and we have good young talent in our backline, as well. It’ll be a bit of a cat and mouse, and whoever takes their chances in both boxes offensively and defensively will be the team that comes out with the result.

But, again, yeah, they have some good young players, draft picks, that are playing in the back for them, as do we. Yeah, it should be a good match, I’m looking forward to it.

Any significance in facing Paunovic, the first former Union player to now be a MLS head coach? 

Again, I think the biggest compliment you can get is I respect him a great deal as a player when he was a player and now as a coach. I respect the way he goes about his business, the work he puts in. One of my closest friends in soccer is his assistant, Logan Pause, and he speaks incredibly highly of him, as well.

It’s not between me and Paunovic, though, it’s about the teams, his 18 guys versus my 18 guys. We’ll prepare our teams as best we can, and we expect a good game on Saturday with two good teams going at it.

Is Andre Blake still expected to start on Saturday?

Yeah. Andre is…A difficult result last night when you look at the scoreline, the 3-0 to Costa Rica. Again, a very, very difficult place to go and play but, if you watch the tape, if you watch the game, he kept them in it, to be honest, he made a lot of big saves. I thought he did well in the first match in Jamaica, I thought Jamaica actually deserved a result in that one. But, this is CONCACAF, we don’t have to go very far to realize the craziness of it and how things can change quickly with teams, the US being a prime example of that. Everybody was Panic City and then after last night it seems like we’re just a win now away from moving on. So, it can get very high, very low, and Andre’s done a good job of going about his business, doing his job performing for us, and no coincidence he’s up for Player of the Month.

Can Warren Creavalle be as effective in the No. 6 role as he’s been in the No. 8 role?

I think so. I think he is…Again, his skillset is winning balls and connecting. He has the fast twitch muscles to get out of really tight spaces and make good decisions on the ball. I think he likes the freedom, I think the 8 has a little more freedom to run and press, just because there’s always one extra guy behind you, so you can take a little more risk. So, you know, we’ll weigh that. BC has been playing very well in training and in the games. Again, every time another year goes by you forget how…I think he’s getting smarter and seeing things earlier — Brian Carroll, that is — and does a good job of dictating and telling Warren where to go. But, yeah, Warren is capable, we’ve trained him in the 6 role a bunch, so, more than comfortable to do that. But, we’ll make a decision as to what’s best for the weekend, though.

On opening the season with three games against teams that made the playoffs last year and now having a stretch of games against teams that did not.

I think it shows how quickly things change in a year in our league, there is a lot of parity. Right now, if you look out there, you think back to last year and the dominant teams maybe aren’t, or are having some difficult times, and some of the teams that struggled a great deal last year are in good form. For the most part, teams have played four or three games, it’s not a true sample size yet. I think once you get to about twelve, that’s when you’re recognizing who maybe has a little bit more quality.

So, yeah, I’m guilty of that: you look at the schedule as soon as it comes out and you go, “Oh my gosh, Dallas, Columbus, New England, that’s a real gauntlet.” Yeah, would have said and probably signed up for being 2 and 1  prior to going into that. But then you play in the games and you start to feel a confidence from our staff, from our players that, hey, we’re a good team, too. And that’s growing now, for sure, it’s growing in training each day. It doesn’t guarantee when you go out on the weekend that you’re going to win, but I think we’re becoming a team that has a clear identity and, win, lose, or draw, our fans will at least know we’ll roll up our sleeves and not be scared to go to battle with anybody.

More on Chicago 

If you look at all three games they’ve played, different little tweaks here and there to their formation: sometimes it looks like a back three, sometimes it looks like a back five. They have athletic, mobile players out wide, which allows them to change quickly in transition from offense to defense, and defense to offense. So, that’s something we’ve worked on all week. Again, a good passing team. Some young defenders playing well. And, again, speed, which is dangerous, so it always scares a backline a little bit when you have a guy who can just flat out run and get in behind.

So, again, a good team, a team we respect a great deal, and one that we’re going to have to bring our best to get a result.

What do you see out of Brandon Vincent with them?

Good player. Not my player, so I won’t talk too much about him, but a guy we liked a great deal. He’s done a good job for them. A rookie, similar to our guys: they’ll have some highs, they’ll have some learning situations. So, a good young player who has a great future and wish him nothing but the best.

On Christian Pulisic and his connections to the Union before signing with Borrussia Dortmund. There was talk a few years back of him joining the Union Academy.

Yeah, I mean, Christian played for Union in the Generation adidas Cup. So, when I was there as a U-18 coach he played for our younger group. Yeah, very familiar with him, very familiar with his father. Good guy, former professional player himself, a very good indoor player. So, yeah, know the family well. Yeah, right up the road, not too far away. So, it’s a guy…Our academy was not fully up and running at that stage. If you remember, we were getting things going and we were at a stage where we were club neutral and we would call the guys in for the major competitions to play against MLS teams, and Christian was a part of that group. But, yeah, a guy who trained with us a great deal and is off to a heck of a career. Obviously, Dortmund is as high a level as it goes, so I don’t have to speak to that. And for him to get his debut last night on the national team put a smile on my face, too. It’s good to see.

This was before Tommy Wilson came in and the launch of the current academy?

Yeah, exactly. This was…Geez, I’m bad with dates…two thousand, I want to say, eleven? He was around in training sessions when he was playing for PA Classics with us. Yeah. Great player, though.

Any concerns about the traveling Andre Blake has had to do on national team duty with Jamaica?

Yeah, it’s a factor, it’s a variable. When you’re a professional you have to manage, you have to deal with it, getting your rest, getting your recovery, your sleep, taking care of your body the right way. It’s different with goalkeepers because it’s mental. 90 minutes to a goalkeeper maybe isn’t your heart rate’s up, and you’re exhausted physically, it’s more of the mental strain. They’re a unique breed, goalkeepers, so I can’t speak too much for what goes through their heads, but it’s a different position, one that he knows himself, he knows his body well, and today’s professional athletes, I’ll just say, have every opportunity to recover quickly these days in terms of charter flights, and that kind of thing. So, he’ll be ready to go. Again, he’s young enough that it’s fine for him to turnaround from Tuesday and play again on the weekend.

On Bethlehem’s inaugural season home opener on Sunday

It’s exciting. First and foremost, you only get one true home opener in your history so you have to make it count. I think it’s a very important game; I know the fans will come out and support the group. Union first team players aside, it’s a very talented roster, some exciting young players that will wear the Union jersey in the near future. Very talented team, very well coached group and, again, the opportunity to play in a home opener is a unique one and you have to make it count and leave a mark. So, a ton of history in Bethlehem in soccer with Bethlehem Steel and the US Open Cups that they’ve won so it’s a really cool event. It’ll be a big one, and one that I look forward to and, again the players are ready to go because at home it’s always a little bit different.

Obligatory Villanova basketball question  

I think they’re going to win. I think they’ll beat Oklahoma. Carolina will be a tough matchup — I think Carolina’ going to win, obviously, too. But, no, Jay Wright’s done a heck of a job. They have a great team, they have a team that part of the city is behind we’ll say [laughs], to put it nicely. I get this, of course Temple and St. Joe’s  — I don’t ever understand when people do the old “Oh, the whole city should get behind them.” It’s like, “No they shouldn’t.” They are two separate teams, they are two separate universities. Duke fans aren’t cheering aren’t cheering for North Carolina now, you know what I mean? I think it’s even closer than that. So, again, I have no ill will toward anyone that doesn’t support Villanova that goes to Temple or St. Joe’s, that’s fine by me.

But, no, the work that Jay Wright’s done, the team that they have, they shoot the three well, they have a big presence now, and they’ve been playing good defense. We’ll see how it goes. I wish them the best of luck, though.

16 Comments

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    With all due respect…
    .
    …the ‘obligatory’ Villanova question is offered as fodder and fun I guess after opening a really good window into Pulisic and the national team but do not happen to ask an MLS head coach to comment on the US Guatemala game or more importantly the US Columbia game. Why do ‘you’ not persist with pertinent lines of questioning.
    .
    This is a part of the problem. Sure Jim Curtin is a Philly guy but I don’t give an owl fart what he thinks about Villanova. I’d like to know if he watched the 23s get smoked and what that says about the failings of our youth development and if he is as deluded as all the rest and wether he has the balls to offer an honest opinion. If he reads the commentary like from Deadspin about why the national team still sucks even after expectedly routing Guatemala.
    .
    I’m not out of line. I’m expecting our media, our media doing it for free and most certainly our media who call this a career to ask hard questions in an effort to create necessary conversation to advance this game.
    .
    I’ve brought this type of thing up before…. am I the uncle nobody likes?
    .
    Must be… or just the elephant in the room.

    • I don’t get it either. This is supposed to be an update on the Philadelphia Union and their training. They play soccer. I wear a Villanova sweatshirt sometimes because it was my grandfather’s and I like the way it looks. When people talk to me about basketball when I’m wearing it I can understand where they’re coming from. But this? This doesn’t make sense. Jim went to Villanova, sure, but he did not play basketball, he did not coach basketball, and I’m sure he has little connection to their program. I am not mad for March, I am not a basketball fan. This is not what I’m here for.
      .
      Pach, if you’re the angry uncle, I’ll be the brainwashed nephew.

    • pragmatist says:

      Because it’s friendly banter. These guys are human, not automatons. People, including coaches, players, and fans have interests outside of soccer and sometimes find the topics entertaining.
      .
      It was a 20-second aside. It’s not preventing them from preparing to play. If you don’t care about it, don’t read it.

      • My greater point has been missed…ask him about Villanova…. but not before exploring the window that has been opened deeper with the Pulisic line of questioning… as it pertains to our National teams particularly the U23s getting smoked.
        .
        It’s not about Villanova per se but more important questions… I imagine there are X number of questions or X amount of time granted to media and in light of the 23s failing to qualify for the olympics for an almost unprecedented 2nd time in a row it is perfectly acceptable for me to want to know what the MLS coach thinks this says about the development of our 20-22 year old players.
        .
        You bet.

      • old soccer coach says:

        I agree with your greater underlying point, that in these press conferences those asking questions do not probe deeply for greater depth, detail, and nuance.
        .
        My own desire is to have those doing the asking focus on the Union, the Steel, and perhaps when appropriate the Academy. Those are the areas of Jim Curtin’s professional expertise and professional responsibility. I am not going to ask the greatest neurosurgeon in the world his opinions about a 12 billion year-old supernova in a galaxy far, far away, just as I am not going to ask the paleoastrophysicist my chances of recovery from nerve damage.
        .
        And we civilians need to remember that some of the reporters have other kinds of access besides publicly in press conferences, and that they are in direct competition with each other for scoops. They have to maintain their professional secrecy from each other as they ask their questions, I would think. Probably, those of us who are not reporters don’t think that way. I know I don’t. PSP is not individual competitive reporting trying to sell newspapers, it is a collective search for wisdom. When somebody finds a nugget he or she posts it for the edification of the rest. As a collective, we each help everybody else understand better. At least that’s the way I tend to approach it.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I asked each writer the same question on their respective webpages where an article was written. I recognize your point but your comparisons are about unrelated topics… whereas an MLS coach is for sure related to the youth his league is part of developing.

    • i would also like for discussions about the failings of our national team from top to bottom but I don’t think its weird that he was asked about march madness. it is one of a handful of really big sporting events that take place every year

    • I would love to hear his true thoughts on the national status…but in reality, all we’d get is a canned, doesn’t say anything answer.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The presser had already gone on for about 30 minutes which is significantly longer than most of these. Curtin had already covered many relevant topics. It was asked as he was getting up from his table.
      .
      Personally, I don’t think Curtin should be overly concerned with the USMNT or the development of the U-23’s, U-20’s, etc. except as how it pertains to the Union (for example, players in the Union academy or Blake playing with Jamaica). I’d rather see him focusing on the day to day operations of his team and let Stewart and Albright worry about outside distractions like this.
      .
      In the long run, it’s probably better for Curtin to spend his downtime watching college hoops and relaxing than trying to analyze soccer teams besides the Union and their upcoming opponents.

      • Honestly I would find it very interesting to hear his thoughts on the U23, Youth Development and all that jazz. I wonder if he is a MLS 1.0 head behind the scenes or if he can be considered someone who looks towards the future of US Soccer more than just playing bunker ball.

        But probably more a topic for a podcast interview or something.

      • Have to agree to disagree on this one, AM.

      • i’d rather hear stewart talk about it than curtin

  2. old soccer coach says:

    Yes, I am being a bulldog holding onto how the relationship with BSFC is going to work. Bow Wow Wow.
    .
    He seems quite clear that players in need of injury rehab minutes will play “down”, on a case by case basis.
    .

  3. Holy Editing Batman! The video/action actually started when I clicked play instead of running a wait screen card for 40 min!

    Union 2.0 IS for real!

  4. UNION – UNION – UNION… I say they put out the Fire quite easily with a dominant 3-1 win, yeah there’s my neck out for all to chop, but with the line up expected, I see big results coming our way… UNION – UNION – UNION !!!

  5. Still need better audio though…

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