Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference


Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just to touch on Chicago, I thought we had an aggressive approach on the road. I think it showed that the team has improved a great deal; three out of the first four games on the road. Disappointed we didn’t get points in Chicago but, at the same time, to come through 2-2 against some difficult competition…With four out of our next five in this building, it’s something we’ll need to take care of and get back to getting shutouts in this building; it starts with defense first with me, like it always does. And, again, even in Chicago, there were some good moments of creating chances, hitting the post. I think, more times than not, you’ll come away, if that’s your mentality on the road, with points. So, some good things to build on.

Orlando coming in, who’s a strong team, coming off of a big 4-1 win — Kaka, flying — so, again, a difficult task on Friday night but one that I think we’ll be up for.

How does the Warren Creavalle red card change your thinking ahead of Friday’s game?

Warren has been playing well for us; obviously, we have a couple of decisions to make. Vincent’s a guy who’s in good form now in training and has looked sharp so we’ll have to weigh our options. Tranquillo also coming back, you start to have a good stable of guys to choose from. Obviously, we’d like to keep a similar formation as the one that we’ve had so it won’t be anything too drastic but, tough decisions for me to make. I have a good idea; don’t want to reveal too much, though.

Orlando coming off of a big win, is that something you need to mitigate with your players?

They’re a tremendous attacking team, for sure. They really get forward aggressively, their outside backs come high. Obviously, they’ll be missing a player in Brek Shea, who had a good performance, with the suspension now, so it changes them a little bit. But, still, they’re a team that no matter who is on the field they’ll be aggressive in their attack. Hopefully, we can try to use that against them a little bit and attack the spaces that they’ve kind of vacated when they fly forward. But, a strong team, a lot of pieces that I like. The midfield pairing of Cerin and Higuita is one of the most underrated midfields in the league — young, dynamic, aggressive, very good players. Obviously, Kaka I don’t have to talk about, everybody’s pretty aware of how special he is, in his first game he was pretty dominant. We’ve watched a lot tape on Orlando and it’ll be a tough task but, hopefully, we’ll be ready to go.

What makes Cyle Larin so successful? 

If you go through all the boxes of a good striker, No. 9 forward, he checks every one: He’s big, he’s fast, he’s athletic, he holds the ball well, he can pass. He did have a bit of a hamstring tweak in the first half of the match [against Portland] so, obviously, they’ll have a decision to make with the quick turnaround. Maybe it’s a game he doesn’t play in but we’ll have to prepare for him if he is in the lineup. Great goalscorer; young, as well, so, again, has a ton of room to improve. But, yeah, he’s a guy we’ll have to do well with if he is in the lineup. Obviously, Kaka looks for him when he gets on the ball, so pressure to the ball will be key. It always starts with that for us; home or away we want to be a team that puts good pressure on the ball, doesn’t make it easy for teams to pick their head up and pick you apart because the talent level in our league is such that if there’s not pressure to the ball, I don’t care how good your defenders are, you’re going to get picked apart. So, it starts with the pressure to the ball with us.

What did you see in Tranquillo’s return to play?

Obviously, a difficult situation to come into when we’re down a man and in need of a goal so not quite the formation and the area of the field that we’d like to get him on. But I thought he came in and contributed a lot into our attack. He’s a guy who always likes to play forward, he’s aggressive. After he plays a pass he’s moving to get it back. So, happy with him. I still think he has some room to improve on the fitness but he’s been working really hard on that after training each and every day and is a big part of this thing moving forward. We’re anxious to get him back in fully with the group.

Does it help for him to have gotten that first game out of the way in Chicago?

Of course. Again, the conditions in Chicago were the worst I’ve actually been a part of. It’s funny, when you watch the video of the game it looks like a nice spring day, to be honest, and you don’t really realize how horrendous it was. It was 40 to 50 mile per hour wind, and then the snow would come, and the cloud cover, so, it was a unique game, changed by the red card, obviously. I think we were in decent control of the game, being on the road. Red card happens, Tranquilo and Seba come in and give us a little bit of a boost and still created chances even though we were down a man, But, yeah, it’s good for him to get his first minutes under his belt, for sure. But, at the end of the day, we’re going to be at our best when he’s on the field for the full 90.

Conditions aren;t supposed to be great for Friday’s game. Does it help that you experienced poor conditions last weekend in Chicago?

I would say we’re well equipped for the wind, that’s for sure. Between Dallas, Chicago, the weather in Philly here, it’s been pretty windy and cold. For once, it kind of matches up. A team like New England coming here, they’re used to just as terrible weather. It could be a factor. Orlando is playing in 80 degrees everyday; 30 degrees could feel a little uncomfortable for them, for sure, so the conditions could be in our favor. We are used to it, it’s where we train everyday, and it looks like the early forecast is one where it’s going to be a cold Friday night here in Philly, which, in this instance, I’m ok with.

On Orlando improving after their first season and what’s making them tick right now

They have good players, first and foremost. I think Adrian [Heath] did a good job in an expansion year. It’s always difficult in the first year for a club to deal with all the little nuances of our league, it’s a unique league. They did a great job keeping their core group together; often times you’ll see with expansion teams a lot of drastic changes and getting a whole new roster in if it doesn’t go well. But, they have some good young players, good attacking pieces, good defenders. They’re well coached, they’re organized. You sprinkle in Kaka and that’s a good recipe. So, they’ve done a good job. Again, their staff I respect a great deal; a good team and we’ll have our hands full. A bit of a short week for both teams, a little shorter for them having played Sunday. To play on a Friday night when the whole league is watching is an opportunity for us to show that we are different, we are much improved, we’re deeper and, in our building especially, we are going to be a new team.

On the importance of most of the next few games being at home and establishing Talen Energy Stadium as a fortress 

It’s critical; to win your home games is what determines good teams from the bad teams. You have to win at home. You look across any sport, whether it’s the Spurs, or Golden State, the things that they do on their home floor: they don’t lose. Any good team has a real feel — sure, you might not win every game at home, like San Antonio’s shooting for — but, you know there’s a feeling of what our team’s going to look like here, teams don’t like to come here — and we’re trying to establish that. It’s not a flick a switch and it happens kind of thing. We’re working very hard, covering a lot on the training field each and every day to know every situation that can come up on a home game if you’re down a goal, if you’re up a goal; how we want to kill off games is something we need to work on and improve. We had a good start with New England but, again, that’s one game and it’s something we need to build on and put back-to-back-to-back results here at home together before there’s belief from our fans, from the league– and that’s something that happens over time.

On Ilsinho adapting to MLS

I think every foreign player that comes over is a unique case, for sure. In his, it was one where things happened in the Ukraine that were maybe difficult family wise and he wanted a new challenge. Came into the preseason where we weren’t expecting a ton, to be honest, and then once we saw him train he really…he catches the eye. He has an ability one versus one to beat guys off the dribble, which is a unique skillset that he has.

I think you have to talk about Ilsinho as a person, too. While there is, yes, a language barrier with him and me, I think we had a good relationship right off the bat, one that — obviously, I respect the big clubs that he’s played at — as a person, the idea of him bringing his family here, two young children, a wife that he wanted a safety net for, nice schools, good house, all those things that we thought we could provide, so, a little bit on the field and off the field. He’s a very good, humble person. He puts his arm around the young guys, he’s a leader. Not many guys you’ll meet in this game have played in bigtime Champions League games so, for our young players to be around him, to ask questions, “What’s it like?” — it goes a long way. He’s been aggressive with the University of Pennsylvania English classes that he takes with them and he’s getting more comfortable with the language. I think he understands everything he’s [just] a little nervous to speak. But, he’s really improving and talking more, communicating more. So, very happy with where he’s at.

Again, he’s a special player, one that I don’t think the fans, and even the rest of the league, has seen what we see everyday in training. It comes out in glimpses in the game but we need to do an even better job getting him on the ball more and more because he is so special.

On the crazy move he pulled off in Chicago and what that does for the team and the players

The danger is, what I don’t want our guys to get into the mindset of giving him the ball and just watching because, sometimes, that can happen, you know? Guys will roll him the ball and say”good luck,” and he’ll get himself out of a tight space. They have to realize when they do give him the ball, chances are he’s going to beat the first man and get a cross in, or a shot, so for them to be ready at all times, and expect the unexpected with him because he sees the game differently. I can’t teach what he does and what he has, that’s in the Brazilian blood, I guess you’d say. But, yeah, he does that on a consistent basis; sometimes guys pull off these plays in games and it’s a one-off thing but he does it at a clip where a coach will never second guess it. We encourage all of our wide players to be brave when the get one-versus-one outside and try and create a numbers up situation, and he’s very good at that, And I hope that continues. But, yeah, some of the things he has are unique and special. Difficult hitting the bar this week. Was tough, he’s itching for that first goal. It’s coming soon.

With Brek Shea suspended, and Cyle Larin (hamstring) and Tommy Redding (head injury) questionable at this point, where else do you see Orlando’s attack coming from?

They’re like every MLS team now, you have to have depth. It seems every week — whether it’s international duty, suspensions, red cards, little injuries that come up, whatever it might be — teams need to have depth. And Orlando would be one of those teams. Kevin Molino out wide is a handful, a guy coming off of a torn ACL who started the year last year very, very well and was unlucky not to get a lot of goals; super dangerous, scored a penalty kick this weekend. [Adrian] Winter out wide. So, they have weapons. Yes, they’re missing maybe three key guys but, at the same time, they have a lot of depth, and they have a couple of special players that can pull off an individual play on their on. So, we’re not going to take our foot off of the gas just because they’re missing a couple of starters, that’s for sure.

Obligatory Villanova questions: What’s your reaction to the championship win and does it show how Philadelphia can get behind a team that wins, even if it isn’t one of the big four?

For sure. First of all, an incredible game. One of the…everyone is always quick to say “the best ever,” but that’s just today’s generation. But, incredible basketball game. Had runs and even, right before halftime when Carolina had the chance to go up I think [by] 9 and Villanova gets a big play, a big steal, and goes down and scores and I think cut it to 5 — those little plays that maybe people forget about in championship games are so magnified. I thought Jay Wright did a great job, his gameplan was unreal. I was nervous, you know: Philly mentality, you know, once the 10-point lead slipped away, you get a little nervous. The kid hits the crazy 3 — double pump [chuckles] — and Jay drew up a great play. His team is a great group of young players that had a belief, and had a confidence. Championships are forever and they get that one, and they’ll have it, forever. So, special moment.

I did send a text — I jumped on the bandwagon [laughs] — I sent a text. He had previously texted me last year during our Open Cup run and some of the maybe tough games that we had. So, a guy I respect a great deal and he’s built something special at Villanova and, having gone there, obviously, that’s my team. At the same time, great championship.

And, yeah, Philadelphia fans love a winner, that’s for sure, and that’s something we are striving to get to with the Philadelphia Union.

Reaction on how the end of the Villanova game played out with the two final shots

At first I thought it was deep. I was shocked that they let them bring the ball up so easy. But, again, I’m glad Roy Williams decided that way, and it was a big shot, a deep 3, and by Jay’s reaction he seemed to know it was going to go down.

As coaches in a fraternity, if you will, you always look at how people handle press conferences, how they handle the big moments, how they handle when it’s hard, and you kind of study it. He’s [Wright] is pretty cool under fire, for sure, and his reaction was a special one. He’s respectful, also, of the North Carolina kids, you can tell. He carries himself like a true professional. Great coach, obviously; we’ll see what happens with his future but he’s a guy who’s built a heck of a program at Villanova.

Thoughts on, and recollections of, the first MLS game being played 20 years ago today

Twenty years ago, gosh, I was 16, probably playing a lot of basketball and soccer with my friends in high school and getting in trouble and throwing rocks at cars [laughs]. I don’t know, I don’t know what I was doing at 16, that was a long time ago.

But, yeah, I remember those moments [of] first searching for MLS games on TV, and hearing about the league and it was getting going. Soccer just wasn’t on TV. You maybe got on channel, public access channel 48 when you had to switch it to UHF or whatever, they’d have like an Italian league game on — maybe — on the fuzzy channel, and that was it. So, when MLS came, and they aired maybe one game per week on ESPN — and they had the crazy shootout and all the different things — I remember searching for it, staying up late when there was games on. You know, it was something that I wanted to obviously, be a part of. It became a real thing, that there was a pro league. While it was maybe aesthetically not quite what it is today — in terms of the big football stadiums, and playing in the Cotton Bowl, and Soldier Field, and all the buildings that looked empty — going through the learning process there, and growing as a league, it’s been amazing to watch. To be honest, it’s grown up a lot quicker than I thought it would. Again, I’m from an American football family you would say, so, a lot naysayers even in my own family in terms of would soccer make it. But now, it’s no longer a question of it it makes it in this country, it’s here, and it’s going to continue to grow, continue to be on TV more and more. The fact that you can watch three games in a row now on a casual Saturday is awesome for kids, awesome for me as a coach, it makes things very convenient. It’s a game that I love and any little way, we are all responsible for trying to grow it because it isn’t the NFL, or the NBA, just yet in this country. But there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular games in the world and it continues to grow.

But, yeah, 20 years ago, when Wynalda scores that goal it’s, gosh, it seems like forever ago, obviously, but I think the game has come a long way and the league has really grown.

Do you have the sense that today’s young players, who have grown up with MLS and the expectation that there is this pro league to play in after college, appreciate how far things have come?

The short answer there is no, there’s no way they appreciate it or even maybe know any of the history. The amount of guys that are scattered around the league on different staffs — and maybe it’s because they’re a little bigger now and maybe have a few more pounds on them — but when I’ll point to them to some of our rookies and say, “That guy was an amazing player for not only our US National Team but one of the all-time leading scorers in MLS history,” they go, “Who?’

Again, I’d say that that’s just an age gap, maybe it’s me getting older but, at the same time, I don’t think that there’s the understanding that this used to be a league of ten teams that Phil Anschutz saved — literally on a lifeline when the two teams from Florida folded — and there were only 18-man rosters and only 180 players in the league. To see what it’s grown to now — 20 strong teams and almost around 600-plus players — it’s something that you try to instill in young guys, to have an appreciation of the history and all those pioneers that went through the empty stadiums and kind of laid the groundwork for what it’s become. They’re important, important to be remembered.

Now I’m starting to sound like that old guy on NFL Films that you see: “In our day,we wore cardboard shoulder pads,” or whatever. I’m not that old but, at the same time, I do think there needs to be more of a respect and a thank you to a lot of the guys who started this league all the way back in 20 years ago now.

On the importance of Friday’s game being nationally televised

I think that touches on John’s question a second ago. All the players know now when everybody’s watching, when the league is watching. NFL has their Monday night, we have a Friday night situation where there’s one game, so, yeah, all eyes are on it. It’s good for the city, it’s good for our fans and, naturally, as a player you get a little more excited. Again, it makes it a little more special; obviously, you want to win everytime you go out on the field but, knowing that the rest of the league will be watching and preparing for their game the following day usually, it’s a good opportunity to make a statement early on in the season. So, yeah, it’s a little extra special.

11 Comments

  1. Loved the segment on Ilsinho. Well stated, Jim.

  2. hobosocks says:

    Do we think Carroll starts this week? My gut leans toward yes, since Jim talked about not changing the formation.
    .
    Nothing against Carroll, truly, but I can’t help but feel that if all are healthy and we start with one of Nog, Barnetta, or Alberg on the bench, then we’ve got to be doing something wrong somewhere.

    • Best guess:
      .
      CJ
      Pontius Barnetta Ilsinho
      Nogueria Carroll
      Fabinho Marquez Tribbet Rosenberry
      Blake
      .
      Bench: Jones, Anderson, Gaddis, Alberg, Fernandes, Le Toux, Herbers

      • Is there any talk of Nogs slotting in the No6 role? I’d like to see him there for his vision to connect the back four and the attack. I’m not sure how mobile/defensive he would be. If he could manage, that would relase Edu to be box-to-box or in the meantine allow Alberg to be on the field.
        .
        I just want to see the best XI available. Not sure how much of a stretch Nogs would be as a single pivot.
        .
        From a purely selfish part of me i want to shift CJ out wide for a game and give Herbers a run out up top. With that you’d have Barnetta, Nogs and Ilsinho all central. oh boy

      • I think Nogs could be a #6 if the Union were able to control possession better (say 60-40) but would be wary of him defensively otherwise. Less so if Edu or Creavelle was playing the box-to-box role since they are solid defensively and can cover the ground in front of Nogs but I don’t think Alberg has shown that he could play that type of role yet.
        .
        I think Herbers and CJ would make a complimentary partnership in a two striker set-up. Not sure how to fit all the best midfielder player in then though. Could be a solid option if down a goal and pushing for an equalizer.

  3. They have to realize when they do give him the ball, chances are he’s going to beat the first man and get a cross in, or a shot, so for them to be ready at all times, and expect the unexpected with him because he sees the game differently. I can’t teach what he does and what he has, that’s in the Brazilian blood, I guess you’d say.
    .
    .
    This speaks miles and miles….. yes, he’s going to beat the first man- yes this tis the standard everywhere else, yes you should not stand there agape and in wonderment, yes you should be moving for him.
    .
    phew- this type of questioning about a ‘crazy’ move (for real?) what’s crazy about an elastico? and these type of answers remind me of travel 12 year old soccer.

  4. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    2014 FIFA World Cup Semifinal
    Belo Horizonte, Brazil

    Germany 7:1 Brazil

    • I remember Khedira bombing down the center of the field on the dribble in the first 5 minutes of the game with no Thiago Silva for Brazil and thinking Germany has NO respect for Brazil today.
      .
      The result played out as such.

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        I actually have the utmost of respect for Brazil, the football powerhouse, but just could not resist.

        Es tut mir sehr leid …

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I have the utmost respect for Brazil as well but on that day Germany did not as they knew they were far superior.
        .
        Missing Silva Neymar just too much.

      • der Fussballzuschauer says:

        Germans almost always have reason to feel confident but absolutely no one saw the Schuetzenfest (marksmen’s festival) coming.

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