Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

First and foremost, extremely proud of our guys for the performance [against Orlando]. I thought that Orlando was a good team. It was a tough task, but I think you saw from minute 1, getting the goal early and CJ pressuring their goalkeeper early, all the way up to minute 90, we put in a full effort for all 90 minutes. So, very proud of my guys in that regard.

When we looked at the schedule in the beginning of the year — four out of our first six on the road in very difficult places to play — so, happy with how we’ve gotten through the first five games.

Obviously, Seattle comes up now, as tough a place to go in the league that there is; 50,000 people, you can’t communicate on the field. It’ll be a difficult task, we’ll have to be on the same page. Obviously, the standings don’t tell the true picture, they still have a bunch of winners and champions on their team, so it’ll be a tough task. We’ll have to be on top of our game to get all three points.

Ilsinho’s status

He’s getting better, the hamstring is coming along. We’re optimistic that he’ll be at least available for selection this week. But, at the same time, we need to be smart: the travel, the turf — what’s best for him, what’s best for our group? He’s one of our most talented guys so we have to monitor it, be smart. But, again, we’re itching to get him back because he was getting going, getting into a little bit of a rhythm. So, any time you have a little bit of a setback with a hamstring, it’s difficult.

He, for what it’s worth, trained with the guys in the pre-game warmups of the Maryland game yesterday in the stadium, which was positive, just as a neutral. He doesn’t have any pain in that, it’s the longer runs when he opens up his legs, he still feels it a little bit so it’s not a hundred percent yet.

So, we’ll have to make a decision. It’ll be a tough one but we’re, at a minimum, going to travel with 19 guys out to Seattle knowing that we’re going to train twice there, just in the case of an emergency and there’s another injury.

On the environment in Seattle

It’s difficult as a coach, it’s a helpless feeling on the sidelines over there because any message you try to get out is overruled by their crowd; 45-50,000, whatever it is, it’s incredibly loud. You really have to have your game plan fully intact, and the guys have to work more off of physical cues. So, you know, if a guy’s stepping, how do you move off of him? There’s not a lot of room for verbal cues there just because it’s deafeningly loud. Especially early, managing the first 15 minutes is critical to try to take the crowd out of it a bit because, once it gets going, and if they get an early goal, it’s as tough a place as there is to play. They’re used to the turf, it’s a little bit new for us – a lot of challenging things that go into it. You can’t really prepare young players to do it, you have to go through it. So, again, it’ll be a tough challenge for some of our younger guys, but one that hopefully will be a big step in their development, and you’ll call upon your senior players to get them through the tough moments on the field. But, communication is almost impossible verbally at the stadium.

If Ilsinho can’t play, what are your options? Seba starting? Getting CJ Sapong and Fabian on the field at the same time? 

Yeah, I think you nailed a few of them. Fabian’s come into game in big spots, and he’s done a very good job for us. As a first year player, he plays wise beyond his years. CJ has played out wide before; it’s an option. I think Seba gave us a good performance in his first start, he always feeds well off of the home crowd and does well, has opportunities to score goals. He’s experienced, he’s played in Seattle several times as a player, on their team and now against them.

So, I have a tough decision to make but I was happy with Seba’s performance in the game. With Ilsinho being day-to-day you lean towards Seba at this moment but, we’ll see how it goes, we still have some things up in the air.

On Andre Blake

He’s been special, there’s no doubt about it. We’re very happy with his performance — not only in this game, making the big save at the end for us to preserve all three points. Again, I’ve said, it’s a two-point save at the very end there, it’s an incredible save that he makes. So, we’re happy with that part of things. Oka Nikolov has done an incredible job with him, with all our goalkeepers to be honest. We’ll still work to push Andre — he’s young, he’s still getting better each game — but it does make you feel confident that there’s a guy back there that can save what he’s supposed to save and makes the big saves too to win you a game, and win you points.

So, happy with him. I’ll still get on him for his kicking, he could’ve been better against Orlando with his kicking. There’s always a little room for growth but he’s a confident guy, he has got a good, level head on his shoulders, and I think the sky’s the limit for him.

On Fabian Herbers coming inside and CJ Sapong moving outside late against Orlando

Fabian’s great. We just had individual player meetings, and Earnie and I have gone through it sitting with each one individually, a couple a day. We went through Fabian’s and he dropped hint, he said, “I can play wide too, coach.” So, again, he just wants to be on the field. He’s a good soccer player, he could play wide left, he could play wide right. I like his movement as the No. 9. It’s a little different type of player, a little different look than CJ gives. CJ’s a big strong guy who will fight for everything and hold balls. Fabian does it in a different way where he draws fouls and has a way of moving his body that manipulates defenders. Both have a tremendous skillset, both are good attacking options and — as you guys can see, I’ve talked about it a lot — I’m very high on both of them. Again, with CJ, always I’m hesitant to take him out of any game because he’s so valuable defensively on set pieces, and he’s a guy whose fitness level and workrate are second to none. So, good problems to have for a manager, tough choices to make but, again, two very good players that I’m high on.

Vincent Nogueira, Brian Carroll, and Warren Creavalle are all available for Saturday’s game. What’s the thought process on your selections to start?

Warren comes off of playing some very good games. Had, obviously, the unfortunate red card versus Chicago, which is difficult. He’s learned from it, he’s been hard on himself about it, but his play in training has been excellent. So, it’s, again, good problems to have. Is there a rotation, is there a, with the distance, the travel, the turf, is it a game where you’re smart with BC, who’s put in a heck of a great five games. We actually have options to juggle things and rest. I’m not a guy, as you guys know, that likes…I like consistency of lineups, I think it’s important. But, If you’ve learned something in your first year as a head coach, to use all 34 guys is critical — excuse me, 34, I wish  — 28 guys is critical, and to have that rotation is important. It might not seem like it now but as you get into August and September, the minutes start to wear. Is it an option where it’s Warren and Vince? IS it BC and Warren? Whatever team we play against we have to choose what matchup is best, what makes the most sense for our group. To get three points on the day is obviously priority No. 1, but you do have to have an eye on managing your guys in a smart way. As you guys have seen, there’s tons of injuries throughout the league right now, so depth of squad is critical, and I’m happy that we have a deep team.

On PRO announcing Tranquillo Barnetta’s goal should have been disallowed for offside

First and foremost, PRO coming out with a statement on it, that’s not a Philadelphia Union issue, that’s a PRO issue, that’s just them saying the referee messed up. And, I would agree, I think he made a mistake.

It is up to us to have…the tactic’s fine. The tactic is legal and fine as long as the wall does get back in line with the other wall, which they did on the first time; we checked with the linesmen, he said it was good. We were a little sluggish and maybe a step behind and that led to them being in an offside position. They didn’t call offside so it wasn’t; they don’t, fortunately for us in this regard, they don’t go back [and remove goals].

Pro has a tough job to do. Referees have a difficult job to do. They’ve got big issues with what’s a yellow card, what’s a red card so, these are issues they have to deal with. What’s stoppage time? Even in this game I think they fouled it up and we benefitted from it. They only had three minutes of stoppage time. We counted it and Andre Blake was down for four by himself. We were on the short end of it in Chicago where they did two minutes, and I don’t know where they came up with that. They said they’d correct it and then this week we were the beneficiary of the three minutes [when] it probably should’ve been six to seven.

So, again, they have a lot going on. It’s difficult, it’s a hard job to do. But, yeah, they came out with a comment; that’s not a Union issue, that’s a PRO issue. Tough.

Will you still use the second wall?

Yeah, we will, we will for sure. Because it works, and it’s a distraction, and, again, it’s not breaking the rules, it’s within the rules if we execute it the right way. There’s a lot of variations you can do off of it now, and we can add things, and tweak things, and make it work. But, yeah, I’d agree, they were offside in that by the letter of the law just because we didn’t execute though, not because of the rules.

On Brian Carroll reaching 350 appearances in league play if he plays against Seattle on Saturday

It’s incredible. Brian’s a…if you wanted, first and foremost, to say this is how I want my son to be, that’s Brian Carroll. As a player — I played against him, had a lot of battles against him — unbelievable player. It’s amazing for me right now to see in these first five games just how good he’s been. He may not run as much as he used to  [but] he still runs a heck of a lot, and he’s playing as good as he ever has, right now, because he’s smarter. He’s been through so many battles, he knows every team, he knows every player in the league, he’s a student of the game, he’s a winner, he’s incredible for our young guys, he’s great in our locker room — I think I just gave 62 compliments but you can’t speak high enough of Brian Carroll and what he means, obviously, to our organization, but what he’s meant to the league. DC, Columbus, everywhere he goes, the way he carries himself, the biggest compliment you can give is that’s how you’d want your son to grow up, and I mean that. He’s going to kill me for saying that but, at the same time, it’s true.

I’m really happy, his first five games have been incredible. Obviously, going into the year we thought Mo would be the one getting the bulk of the minutes in there as the 6 but, again, everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face. We changed, and Brian has stepped in there and done a great job for us.

What makes Carroll what he is and why he’s been able to have such longevity

If you can break it down, the amount of ball recoveries that he has, the amount of balls he connects from the backline to the forwards, is very high. Again, ability to break up plays; intelligent plays when everybody else is in a panic mode a hundred miles an hour, he’s so level headed and just makes good decisions. His soccer IQ I would put up against anyone in MLS right now, I’d say it’s as high. It comes with the experience: 350 games. He was a smart player, though, in his early years, too, so the addition of going through 350 of these battles, it’s something you can’t replicate. I can’t give it to Keegan or Josh Yaro right away, you have to go through the battles to do it, and he has been a guy that it’s no coincidence everywhere he’s gone he’s won. And now it’s good to see it with our group — we’ve been close a couple of times with final games, but I hope this year is one where we can get him in the playoffs and he can really show that he’s a winner in Philly, as well. I think it’s important.

On the backline helping Carroll to simplify what it is that he does 

I think that’s a fair point, it’s a good observation. The ability of him to just come in between the two center backs and just kind of be the quarterback back there and the way we’ve played this has been good. It does simplify his role a bit. We’ve talked to him about being the guy who does just sit; don’t feel like you have to run out a ton and put out a hundred fires, just protect the two center backs. Again, consistency of lineup helps, and we’ve had two center backs that have been in there together, and it’s been good. Brian has been a constant and, again, he’s playing at a very high level right now for a guy who at 34 years old looks like he’s 24. It’s good.

Injury update

We got through Maryland ok. Ken had a little bit of an ankle roll, so we’ll see how that goes. He was out today but, at the same time, I think he’ll be ok for the weekend. But, yeah, relatively healthy.

Thoughts on why Seattle’s offense isn’t clicking right now

Obviously, Obafemi Martins was a big piece of what they were about. Dangerous player, as dangerous as there is in our league. Special. So, they’ve had some change, they’ve brought in some younger players. You can’t just snap your fingers and it all the sudden just clicks. They have incredibly talented players. Clint Dempsey is, obviously, as good as anybody in our league in terms of getting the big goal when his team needs them, coming up with the big play. Sigi’s a coach I respect a great deal, an incredible coach. Again, it’s early on. The table, you look at it, yeah, Seattle’s towards the bottom, but I’ve warned my guys they have champions on their team, they have winners on their team, so, it’s going to be a very difficult task. In some ways, it makes it even more challenging to go there because they need a win. Again, a team I respect a great deal. Anybody can beat anybody in our league so it’s going to be a tough day. We’ll have to be playing at our best to have a shot.

But, yeah, I wouldn’t read too much into the early standings, the power rankings, and all that stuff. You see…I don’t want to ramble but you see Columbus is the 20th team. If anybody’s watched the games, Columbus is a darn good team. So, don’t get caught up too much with that.

I thought there’d be a follow up on Tranquillo not winning the Goal of the Week.

Thoughts on Barnetta not winning Goal of the Week

(Laughs) Actually, no. It’s not the first time the internet’s got something completely wrong. I mean, it’s embarrassing, I guess. You know, anyone who knows the game knows that Tranquillo’s goal was a special one, the time of the game. I’ve seen…Wondo’s a great player [but] I’ve seen Wondo score that goal a hundred times already in his career.

So, again, it’s  a little strange that he didn’t win it. I think Bingham got save of the week, too, so maybe there’s something to someone sitting in Seattle, maybe in Silicon Valley, that found a way to get the votes in, or whatever it might be, and beat the system, I don’t know. But, we’re not too concerned with winning internet polls, we’re concerned with getting better as a team, and getting wins. It’s silly, to be honest; internet got that one wrong, I guess.

On Jordan Morris

It’s unfair to say he’s not ready. A lot of hype comes along, whether it’s from shoe companies, the national team success, all the different things that go into it. It’s challenging for any young player. At different points in their development there’s going to be different things that are said about them — good and bad — and how they respond to that is the most critical. So, you learn from…whether it’s Freddy Adu, whoever, insert anyone they choose to anoint the next big thing, it’s not an easy process for a young player. Jordan Morris is a very good player with a great skillset. I think you have to be patient with these type of things, you don’t just walk into a pro league and all of the sudden just dominate. It doesn’t happen too often. So, again, exceptional player who has an incredible future, a lot of talent, and a guy who I think is going to have a great career. If I think back, when I see the way he moves, and his stature and his build, it reminds me a lot of Chad Barrett, who I played with a while ago at a young age when Chad was young. So, again, the potential is all there, and he’ll be fine.

On Clint Dempsey

Clint is the best goalscorer in our country. So, again, he does a lot of the unpredictable, you have to expect the unexpected with Clint. He’s going to find the ball, he’s going to find a way to get on the ball. There’s different tricks and flicks that he has that are tough to stop. He’s not a guy that you use one player to contain, you have to be bought in as a team to try to contain him. Again, special talent; he has the knack for scoring the big goal when his team needs him the most, whether it’s Seattle, whether it’s the US National Team. As tough a guy as there is to stop, as tough a guy as there is to defend in our league, so we’ll need everybody bought in and do a good job of not allowing him to be the one that beats us. If one of their outside backs scores on a corner kick, maybe you tip your cap. But you don’t want Clint to be the one that beats you so it’s a real focus for 90 minutes with him. An exceptional player, an exceptional career. Still has a ton to bring to Seattle and the national team, so we’ll have to be on our game to contain him.

On Tranquillo Barnetta’s progress to full match fitness

I think he came into [the Orlando game] — not just that he scored the goal — and he contributed a good deal in the 30 minutes. Again, game fitness is always the hardest thing to get. We were able to push him for 60 yesterday against Maryland, so he did raise the level in that regard. Was he tired? Absolutely. Is that a replication of a MLS game? It’s not. So, the demands are tough. He’s coming along well; the knee is not giving him issues, so we’re happy in that regard. Mindful of the turf and the travel, and we have to be smart. But, he’s going to contribute in the game one way or the other, it’s not a hundred percent yet whether it will be as a starter or off the bench.

The good thing about our group right now is we haven’t had our best lineup on the field yet, and I believe that. So, everyone is contributing, everyone is playing a role, but we still have room to improve, and we’re at our best when he’s on the field, for sure.

The team played Kaka last week, and will play Clint Dempsey this week. How much of a test is it for the younger players to face two world class attackers back to back?

Yeah, it’s a good way to grow up quickly. There’s no better way than getting thrown into fire, that’s when you learn the best as a young defender, to play against the best, to deal with guys that are special. Kaka was a great experience for our two center backs, giving a different look at a guy who will come deep to get the ball, similar to Clint. Again, Clint has a way of drawing fouls and just being really smart around the box, and has a knack for anything that bounces around in the box he tends to get on the end of. So, we have to be really focused, really dialed in. I can give them little tips and different things; I actually have played against both of them, believe it or not. So, you can give advice, but, until you’re out there playing against those guys you don’t know what you’re in for. It’s hard, and it takes full focus, and there’s going to be days when they get the best of you; you have to learn from those days, and you live to fight another day. The life of a defender is not a great one in terms of getting the credit. You can do your job for 89 minutes but if you fall asleep for one you’re punished. That’s got to be their mindset, to get the full 90 minutes right because Kaka will punish you, and Clint Dempsey will punish you. They’ve punished a lot of people in the past.


  1. Lucky Striker says:

    Curtin may prefer a permanent XI week to week, but I expect a lot of changes for this game due to turf and injuries. Sigi and his Sea Monsters are just sitting there waiting……counting on the “free 3” Philly usually provides when the Sounders are at home.

    Creavalle should be back in. Would not shock me to see Gaddis get a run at LB if healthy.

    Given the injury status of 2 members of the attacking triad….would I be crazy to anticipate the versatility of Pontius filling the void at CAM, and elevating Alves to a 1-off deputization at LAM ?

    It’s starting Herbers that makes me draw the line though. Curtin abandoning his favored formation? Bridge too far for me. Believed when seen……..

    • I was glad to hear him say he recognizes the need to rotate the lineups. I’ve been critical of him there in the past. Of course, in the past you could say he didn’t have any talent to rotate with. I think he’s done a pretty good job so far this year of juggling playing time and fitness issues, so I believe him when he says he’ll use the full team. Don’t know who should rotate in, but between travel and the turf this will be a good week for it.

  2. i’m equally as dumbfounded as curtin about how wondo beat barnetta. it is so goddamn dumb that they changed the goal of the week voting to allow people to vote multiple times. all it means is that a handful of bored fans with nothing better to do can swing the vote. at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter but if they are going to have it at all this is a poor way to run it

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