Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Strong week for the Philadelphia Union, we answered questions. I thought we showed a lot of resilience in two comeback ties. For long stretches of the matches, I thought we carried the play, were able to dictate the tempo. Need to back it up now on Friday night with a good performance at home in a packed house against a strong DC United team, a team that’s coming off of one of their best performances, against Red Bull, a good, organized team that competes and fights, and represents their coach. So, we’ll have our hands full to get three points here on Friday.

On the DC rivalry 

I think all the East Coast teams, there’s a little something special in the rivalry. Are they the No. 1 rival? I don’t know, that’s for you guys to decide. I think there’s still time that needs to happen with the organization, I think there needs to be playoff games, I think playoff games are what really dictate rivalries. Our only one is against Houston and we only play them once a year so there’s not a lot there brewing.

Over time, I think DC and New York have been the two that we compete with and are maybe the bigger ones but, at the same time, every Eastern Conference team is a rivalry game. So, we have to get three points, it’s going to be challenging, it’s the hardest thing to do in our league. So, we’ll need to be on our game.

On Chris Pontius facing his former team

I talked with him about it today. Chris has had a great season, he’s been excellent for us offensively and defensively. We believe in Chris.

It’s actually harder to go into RFK Stadium and walk towards a different locker room, I think that’s the hard one where it will really hit Chris. Yes, he wears a different jersey now; I just told him today to do exactly what he’s been doing: don’t try to do too much, don’t try to do too little, just be Chris Pontius and that will take care of itself. You know, he just wants to win — at the end of the day it’s about getting three points. I hope he plays a big role in that with a goal or an assist but if he continues to do the same things that he’s done, that’s all I can ask from him as a coach. He’s been excellent for us, our staff has been so impressed with how he carries himself. He’s a winner and hopefully it carries over on Friday night.

Update on Ilsinho’s injury status

Yeah, he was doing exercises today with us. Again, I guy I keep stressing to you guys I can’t wait until he gets kind of unleashed on the rest of the league and can put back-to-back weeks and games together. I thought he started to get a good rhythm, a good level of fitness. Lost that with a couple little…you know, they’re not even major injuries, just little strains. But, such a talent, we’re anxious to get him back involved. It’ll be close for selection this weekend. We do know we have in the next 13 days 4 games so we’ll have to be smart about how we handle it but, he is an important piece. If we’re going to be a successful team and make a real push at things, we need him a hundred percent healthy and kicking on all cylinders.

On the Union’s young backline

Yeah, it is a young backline; it’s a young goalkeeper, too. They’ve done a great job. You look at the statistics [and] we’ve played the most rookies in the league, the minutes that they’ve accumulated is significant. They’ve all done a good job. I think they’ve learned on the fly a little bit [but] I think you get confidence, though, when you play against top players and you realize you belong. So, now they’ve kind of grown into their roles, they’ve done a good job keeping zeroes and limiting teams to only a goal a game, which is something we’ve set as a team goal. Yes, our young defenders have done a great job, Fabian’s done a great job as well in coming into big games and contributed in a major way. So, our young players are doing great — we have a real willingness to play young players. For me, I’ve said it to you guys before, there’s no young or old in soccer there’s only good and bad, and they’re good players — and doing a great job for us.

On Roland Alberg’s minutes

It’s a combination. Roland’s been doing excellent in training, he’s been very good. He’s making my decisions every weekend tough to not put him out there. Again, it’s a team thing where we have to get a little more stable, a little stronger, as a group defensively — and in attack — to where we can more attack-minded guys on the field. And Roland is an attack-minded player, he wants to get forward, he wants to make assists and make goals — and he’s going to contribute. I think with every new player that comes into the team there’s still that adjustment period. Tranquillo went through it last year, you know? So, again, it doesn’t just click instantly with the group. He’s done well with his minutes, he’s pushing for more. A little bit of it was unlucky in the situation with the red card was difficult; ‘Quillo’s elevated his game a bit; we have players all competing and playing well — and we have a lot of good midfielders to choose from —  so, good problems for me to have. He’s doing everything in training, he’s pushing the fitness end of things and, again, we have a busy schedule coming up and he’s going to be called upon — and I know he’ll step up and do great with his minutes.

On adjusting the rotation system to get Alberg more minutes

Again, it’ll be week to week, we’ll adjust some things. In certain instances we have a bit of a rotation going on with BC, with Creavalle, with Nogueira, for an example. Nogueira happens to be playing at a real high level also so, again, it’s challenging to make too many tweaks or changes and maybe overthink things. We’ve done a decent job keeping fresh legs out there; able to get Fabinho a little bit of a — against Montreal — rest. Ray steps up in and does an incredible job and has a great game. Warren has an excellent game for BC. And, again, I’m confident in throwing all those guys out in big games, in big spots, and them stepping up. It’s something that we’re going to need to sustain during the course of 34 games because you need everyone on your roster, and I would say that Roland falls right into that category of how we tweak and rotate things.

On DC United

They’re a pretty strict 4-4-2, I would say. They get eight guys committed behind the ball, and they give a little bit of freedom to the front two. I think [Álvaro] Saborío’s found some real success occupying both center backs, and that allows [Luciano] Acosta, who’s very clever, to drift underneath and be the guy that has a little bit of a freer role. He can make a pass, he can pick you apart if you’re not clever, he’s very good on the dribble, runs with the ball well. And then their wide guys have been in really good form. Patrick Nyarko is a handful, he can kind of create a lot. I think [Lamar] Neagle’s contributed a lot, an experienced guy from Seattle. So, they have a good attacking group. I think [Nick] DeLeon’s done a good job in the center of midfield. So, they have a strong team. They, again, represent their coach, who is a competitor, knows the league so well. They fight for everything, and they have a good team that’s playing well right now, so we’ll have our hands full.

On DC struggling at the start of the season 

You look around the whole league and it’s a league of runs and three-game spurts here and there. Look at New York City, who had a slow start, and now they’re right at the top. So, again, it’s still early on in this thing. You look up and you see 30 percent of the year is gone but the big games are still to come. You have to sustain it through June, July, August when it’s a little bit of the dog days and there’s a different feel to the games and it can be a grind, but you have to get points in those key windows. I think it’s early in the season still but it’s a big game and, again, this league, and our conference especially, is a game of, a conference of runs: two and three games getting results, two, three wins here and there can really separate you. That’s something we’re fighting for right now. We don’t want to go back to being a .500 team, and this is a game where we really have to take advantage and try to jump on DC early and really protect our home field to get that little bit of separation from the danger of mediocrity, which is a .500 record. We don’t want that.

On the timeline of Andre Blake joining Jamaica for the Copa America

We’re working with Jamaica now, nothing is concrete. So, we have good, open dialog with them right now as to what’s best for Andre, and then when that release date will come. Again, such an important part to our team, such an important piece for Jamaica and their Copa America run, so we’ll be respectful of playing for your national team, [which] obviously is a huge honor. Andre has been very important for us, he’s staying sharp, and it’s a matter of communication, open dialog with Jamaica, and doing what’s best for both parties to keep Andre playing at the level that he’s playing at.

He’ll be available this weekend, do you have an idea of when he’ll be gone?

Yeah, we have a good idea of when that’ll be, but it’ll be game-by-game. Andre will be here against DC and we’ll need to get three points in that one.

On similar paths of Richie Marquez and DC United’s Steven Birnbaum

For sure, I think that’s a fair comparison. Richie flew under the radar a bit more, Division III soccer player. I think Richie’s, again, another example for young kids that you don’t know in your development when it’s going to click, and when you’re going to get your opportunity. He took his opportunity and has run with it. He was a high school football player so, again, he has that kind of mentality, that killer instinct.Kind of the nicest compliment I could give Richie in our individual meetings with myself and Earnie, I said to him — and I didn’t know how he, hopefully took it positive, but maybe it’s the Philadelphian in me — I said, “Richie, you’re the kind of kid that if I’m going down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood, I want Richie Marquez behind me because you know what you’re going to get, he’ll die for you, he’ll fight for you, he’ll do anything for you.” And I would do the same for him. So, again, that’s the kind of guy you want to go to battle with. I think that he has a really high ceiling. I think, again, he’s gotten so much better with the ball, it’s incredible to see the growth, to see him now hit 40 and 50 yard diagonal balls. A position I am high on, a position I know a little bit about, and he’s done a great job learning quickly, dealing with some of the top defenders. His physical tools are exceptional, and he’s really improving — and it’s great to watch. But, I do think he has that kind of quality to really push and go to the next level. I’m happy to see how he gets better and better each game. And what a good kid.

That was the quickest ever. Thank you.



  2. philpill says:

    Blake probably misses OCSC & Rapids away games. How will JC sleep without the warm blanket?

    • I’m hoping he just misses the Columbus game. Depends on when camp starts and whether we can negotiate to have him show up a little late.

  3. Dr. Union says:

    all i can say is there should be no battle for the number 2 spot matt jones is and should be the person in net when blake is gone.

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