Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Opening statement

Obviously, it feels like a while since we’ve been on the field. I think we’ve done a good job of keeping our guys going. We set up a little inter-squad game, blue versus white. We put the jerseys on and got after it a bit in the stadium, which was good in kind of a bye-week, if you will.

Happy with how the guys have worked. They’re itching to get back on the field and play against a some MLS competition. Obviously, the Galaxy coming in; they’re in great form right now — the stars — dangerous team, a team we respect a great deal but we can’t fear. We’re going to need our fans to come out and support us on Wednesday night.

As a pro, you want to test yourself against the best and they right now have a very good thing going. They’ve been champions of our league several times in the recent years. We think we have a good team, as well, and we want to see where we stand up this Wednesday night.

With it being a midweek game after a Sunday game, who do you think the Galaxy will bring?

They’re bringing everybody.

You’re sure?

Yep.

Why do you think so? In the past they might not bring their full compliment.

I can’t get into Bruce’s head, but I’m 99.99 percent sure every big name will be here. We’re prepared for that.

Is that something you have to put aside when you’re preparing the guys?

Yeah, I mean, listen, you want to test yourself against the best. They’ve been in great form. I don’t think it’s a situation where they’re going to rest guys, I think they’re going to play their best; that’s how we’ve prepared all week. Again, they have a really strong roster. Everyone wants to talk about Keane, dos Santos, Gerrard, and Zardes because they score all of the goals but guys like Boateng and Lletget are very dangerous. So, they’re deep all over the field. Again, it is difficult [traveling] cross country, that is one maybe disadvantage that they have, but we’re preparing that all of those guys are going to be here and their best players will be on the field. It’ll be a tough matchup for us.

Is there a disrespect issue when teams don’t bring their full compliment?

No, I don’t think there’s…I think you see that with a lot of teams that make the East to West Coast midweek game. Sometimes you’ll see maybe not their full group of resources coming across but I would just add they don’t play after this Wednesday night and I think they’re in good form right now, I think Bruce is going to want to keep that going, and that’s what we expect.

On what Bruce Arena has done to get the Galaxy in good form

Yeah, I mean, he’s the best coach that the US has had, right? So, he knows what he’s doing through the wars. He has a way of motivating stars, he has a way of motivating underrated players or under-appreciated players so, he pushes the right buttons. His way of doing it is getting his best eleven on the field, regardless of people that want to talk about formation and style, and different things like that: he gets his best guys on the field and he motivates them to play. And, again, you’ve seen a variety of different lineups when you look at what starts with the opening whistle and what it kind of morphs in to. They have guys that will run and go all over the place and are a handful to deal with so we’re going to have to be on our game. Obviously, they’re confident right now, they’re scoring a ton of goals. It starts with us trying to keep a zero at home, that’s the key, because if you get into an end-to-end track meet with them you’re going to lose, that’s the bottom line on that. So, we’ll have to be organized; obviously, we want to keep possession at home and push in the right way, but they have a way of when they break, they break quickly, and they have guys that finish plays. So, you don’t want to get end-to-end with them.

Does LA have a certain mystique?

For sure, I think they do. LA and probably DC are probably the two biggest clubs in terms of history in our league and lifting trophies. Obviously, Beckham added a big element when he came here, the star power. At the same time, they’re a team that has had the big names, they’ve won — that always is something that gets recognition, and they’re kind of the gold standard of the league — in recent years, for sure — the Patriots, if you will, of MLS, and they have a way of winning.

On what the team has been working on to prepare for the game

I think you’re always looking to improve. We don’t have all the answers quite yet, we’re eight games in. We had a good week-and-a-half of training where we worked on a lot of situational things: how we play up a goal; how we play if we go down a goal — if we tweak the formation and put maybe some more offensive minded guys in in order to chase the game. Situational things we worked on [like] if we’re down a man, how we deal with that. If we do go up a man, how we deal with those situations. So, a lot of work was done on the training field. The guys responded well to the week. I think again, though, they’re itching to get back out there and kick somebody else, for lack of a better way of putting it. They’re ready to go. I think that they…We do have young guys on our team right now, but I think that they want to challenge themselves against the best and it seems like each and every week we go through the forwards that they’re going to be dealing with and it’s not an easy list, everybody has star forwards in the league right now, and the Galaxy’s no different.

On attacking the right way, do you think the team has done a good job of that this year of preventing games from getting stretched?

Yeah. Outside of the Dallas game, [that] was the only one we gave up multiple goals, so we’ve done a good job, our goals against has been strong, towards the top of the league. We’re on average right now of a goal per game which, if you’re giving up one goal you’re going to be in every game, so that’s something that we’ve taken pride in and we’re working hard at. You don’t want to have these games where all of the sudden you’re given up a four, you’re giving up a three. You’re starting to see those in the league and the one team that does that to teams is LA, they put up big numbers on guys. Their goal differential right now is head and shoulders above the rest of the league; I believe they’re plus 12, so they’re running away with that category. You don’t want to find yourself in an up-and-down game because they don’t need four of five chances like a lot of other teams in the league, they take one chance and they get their goal.

On who will start at left back 

We have good competition, tough choices to make, for sure. I though Ray did a really good job against San Jose. Ray can obviously…more comfortable on the righthand side, as well. We’ll look at the matchups. Fabi obviously provides…he’s played there on the left side a bunch this year and done well. He brings an element of getting forward and keeping possession, he does a good job in that regard. So, we’ll have some tough choices there. We have some choices in center midfield, we have some choices on the wing, at center back, as well. These are all good issues to have. There’s open competition, everyone’s competing, and even the guys that maybe aren’t selected this week, they know that their name could be called upon for the following game. Our schedule gets busy right now and the depth is very important. We have six games in the next 22 days so everybody on the roster will be called upon to step up.

On Ken Tribbett’s injury status  

He’s good, he’ll be available for selection for Wednesday. He’s done well in training.

Why do you think these Galaxy games seem to fall on weekdays?

The scheduling…I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that. Would you like to play the Galaxy in July in Philadelphia when kids are off school and families can kind of plan around it? Sure, that would be better. We don’t get a lot of say in the exact dates, when West Coast teams come in. Obviously, everybody gets excited by Gerrard, Keane, those big names coming to our stadium, and you want them to be here. I think they’re going to be, and I think it’s an important match for us early in the season, everybody should come out Wednesday night. But, in terms of the scheduling I can’t really speak to that because I don’t know, I don’t have the answer as to why they get put on a Wednesday.

Anything else on the injury front? 

No, fairly healthy. Everybody was out there today except Mo. Anderson had a dislocated shoulder in the Steel game that he suffered, is a little tentative with contact right now but, other than that, we’re completely healthy.

Is there a sense of wanting to show the Galaxy how much the team has improved, given the 5-1 loss to them last season?

Yeah, we want to challenge ourselves against the best teams, and, right now, they’re playing better than anyone in our league, Colorado aside, they’re playing well also. Attacking wise, the Galaxy is a tough matchup, so we want to see just how much we have raised the bar. I think we’ve raised it a lot, I think the players believe that, too. The 90 minutes is your test, that’s when you get to show the strides that we’ve made. So, yeah, everybody’s anxiously awaiting the game, it’ll be a big match. Again, a team that we respect a great deal that’s coming and playing as well as anybody, so we’ll need to be up to the test, and we’ll have our home crowd behind us cheering us on and pushing us through the tough moments because, against them, there’s going to be tough moments in the game, that is a certainty.

On the Galaxy midfield

Jeff Larentowicz, it’s a small sample size, this was his first game back 90 minutes. He looked good, he does what Jeff does: break up plays and kind of sit and hold. With Boateng and Lletget, they’ll come inside defensively, so there is space open in the wide areas. Their front three are kind of, at least against New England, are free to kind of do their own thing, more of an attack-minded group in Zardes, Gio dos Santos, and Keane. So, you can have them even in the moments where you do have them, you think, pinned back — you know, 35 yards from our goal and you’re knocking the ball  — one turnover, they break very quickly and they get the ball to those three guys, and they all can make plays. So, you have to be cautious, you have to be good with the ball, you can’t get lulled to sleep when you have the ball, you almost have to be — and I’ve reminded our back four of this —  always expect what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen right now. If there’s a turnover, am I in a good spot to put out a fire? So, reiterating a lot of those messages. But they have great personnel, and I think a lot guys that fly under the radar for them are having good seasons, too.

What areas of the field are you hoping to break down with the Galaxy?

Hoping [laughs]? Again, it’s going to take us being sharp in the run of play. Obviously, on set pieces it’s a good opportunity for us, we have some big guys who attack the ball well, we’ve done well on set pieces, we’ve really improved that part of our game this year. That’s a good advantage you can have that can change a game quickly. I think we’re good in transition, as well, I think we go from defending to attack pretty quickly and really commit numbers; we’ve done a good job of getting three runners in the box, we’ll need to continue that just because they do attack with a lot of guys, and runs from deep spots in midfield can give any team problems, so that’s something that we’ll continue to try to push. But as far as a weakness, they don’t have a lot of weaknesses right now, they’re playing well.

On Tranquillo Barnetta and Chris Pontius connecting on set pieces

BJ Callahan has done a good job taking ownership of that and running with it. It’s two things: obviously, the service needs to be good, and Tranquillo has provided that in recent weeks; and the commitment of guys running hard in the box. Chris is brave, he gets on the end of things, happy with that. CJ runs hard in the box, Marquez and Ken Tribbett when he’s back, also attack the ball well. So, it’s a lot of different things. It’s working on it after training  so the timing is right; you obviously look at a lot of film and see the weaknesses of other teams, what areas of the field they maybe neglect: some teams zone, some teams are man-to-man, some take away the near post, some have a guy on both posts on corner kicks so, a whole bunch of variables go into it and, to be honest, it’s just time and effort on the training field because you can talk about it and show it on paper but you have to execute it in practice before you’re going to be able to get the timing exactly right in the games. It’s the hardest thing to do right, get plays right on set pieces and score goals.

Was Barnetta as good last season on set pieces?

Yeah, I think he’s had it in him and, again, part of it is getting used to your teammates, too. I think he has more games under his belt and, again, just putting the ball in the right spot and having our guys really be committed to go and attack it is a big part of the improvement this year.

On dealing with the unpredictability of Giovani dos Santos

Yeah, he’s a handful. He’s been a difficult player for our national team to deal with and now in our league he’s on fire. He’s scoring goals in every game and he doesn’t score the average tap-in, he scores the exceptional goal. He has an ability on the full sprint to kind of chip the goalkeeper, he can hit a ball from distance; you’ve seen the volley he scored against New England. Just has good technique, has a knack too for being quiet for 15-20 minutes, maybe not being on the ball a lot, but then scoring a goal, just because he’s that special, when he gets on the ball around the box, he’s lethal. And, again, when players of his quality are confident and in good form, it adds that even more difficult dimension to things, so we’ll need multiple guys around him. He’s also fast, and deceptive, and, obviously, makes good decisions on the final pass, too. He’s a handful, but we’ll have to be up to the task.

Wednesday’s game will probably attract fans that may not have come out to a Union game before. What kind of performance do you need to make them fans? 

I think if we play the way we have. There’s still a bit of a misconception on our league as a whole in terms of, you know, “England does it the best,” or “Mexico does it the best.” I think we’re a growing league and if they see the product live and we put on a good performance I think that you can turn heads and steal fans. I think, more and more now, it has happened, whether you’re walking around a neighborhood in South Philly and you run into a Mexican fan who says, “Yeah, you guys are actually pretty good.” You say, “Yeah, we are, we have a good league, we have a strong league.” So, I think you can steal fans away in that regard by good performances. Is there still going to be a certain kind of Eurosnob that just thinks they do it better? That’s fine, we admit we’re not quite on the level yet but, at the same time, we’re a league that’s improving, we have good players. All you have to do is turn and ask the guys who have come over here what they think of the league, the Beckhams, the Gerrards, they’ve done it at the highest level but they still have a respect for the players in this league and the work that’s put in. Is it perfect yet? No, but it is growing and I think when fans see it live, and they see the stars coming here for a reason — some of them in their prime — it can only help the game and benefit, and get them back out to Talen Energy Stadium.

I’d just add those Eurosnobs are the same people that are the old football meathead friends I still have that say soccer’s still not going to come to this country. It’s here, so you have to change tour views, sometimes [laughs].

3 Comments

  1. It can be done. Time to rise above expectations!

  2. This whole talk about eros-nobs is insulting and passé. There are other reasons for points of contention with the MLS league beyond just thinking the brand of game is better abroad… This is a multifaceted issue… I repeat this IS a multifaceted issue .
    .
    .
    On the one hand the coach calls these people euros-nobs then on the other hand recognizes the other leagues are indeed better. Here’s an idea… play well first, win and when your team goes a man up…win the damn game… in other words… control what you can control.
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    There, that’s what I think about the eurosnob, old football meatheads (mind you in a league built by football meatheads which is its OWN irony altogether) comment.
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    I expect a higher level of thinking from you Jim Curtin…
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    To the media members I may have pissed off yesterday on Twitter… it’s not going away. This is too important.

  3. Lucky Striker says:

    oh, you’re “that guy”.

    Always enjoy a good Curtin call-out in any event.

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