Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just finished up a good day of training, had a very good film session with the guys, talked through a lot of the moments in the New York City FC game. Obviously, not our best start. Showed a lot of character coming back, had chances at the end. It was a game where we all looked in the mirror and we weren’t our best on the day. Having said that, we now look forward to, including the Open Cup, five out of the next six here in this building, where we’ve been pretty good this year. It starts Wednesday; a quick turnaround is good, after a performance that you’re not happy with, to get back out on the field. We have a Chicago team coming in that doesn’t concede a lot of goals, so we’ll need to be sharp in both boxes and get three points here at home.

On CJ Sapong’s injury status

I thought CJ looked good today, was able to cut, push off. Had a pretty good sweat going when I saw him so, happy with how he’s progressed. If you look back now, it’s right on that three week mark — June 1st [when he got the ankle injury] — so, I think that’s a good piece to be back in the mix. Whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday is still to be determined, but progressing well.

On Josh Yaro’s injury status

Josh was sharp today. He, obviously, has a brace on, you can see a little…his arm didn’t all the sudden grow in definition but, he has a brace on. It’s a situation where he’s going to just play. Again the clearance from the doctors today, this morning at 8 am he had it checked out. He is a hundred percent in on training now and will feature in Wednesday’s and Saturday’s games, as well.

On Warren Creavalle training off to the side today

Warren started the day, had a little discomfort in his abdomen/groin area. Just precautionary. He came out about halfway through today so I don’t think it’s anything major but some minutes maybe adding up over the past few weeks.

On Roland Alberg seeing more minutes

I think he’s given us a real lift. I thought the second 45 [against NYCFC], he came in in and really left a mark on the game — not just because he scored but also his ability to hold the ball up was good. He’s a guy that is comfortable on the ball, he makes good decisions in possession, can strike a ball from distance — obviously, with the free kick, you saw that in the Open Cup– has that in his arsenal, as well. So, a good player and, again, we’re getting all of those guys going physically now, and you want to be able to sustain the way we want to play for the full 90 minutes, and he’s really worked very hard on his fitness, he’s work harder on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s rewarded us in games now, in the Open Cup and followed it up with a good performance against New York City FC.

On similarities between the first half against NYCFC and the first half against Dallas in the season opener

Yeah, I think…Listen, I said it to the guys: It’s the first time in ten games we’ve been beat, so it feels bad right now, you know, it’s an unfamiliar feeling and we need to get that out of our systems quickly. I think, yeah, it’s fair to say that there was a little hesitancy that maybe you saw in Week 1 in Dallas. It was a bad half of soccer that we played. Credit to New York City, they put us under the gun, and they have $20 million in the starting lineup: If you give them chances. they are going to punish you. That”s what they are, they have quality, they have class, and they did that. David Villa was the best player on the field on the day. I said it to the guys again, too, you can talk about the one o’clock start time, the first time it was 85+ degrees — it was hot — playing on a baseball field, all those things; that’s BS, we’re not going to make excuses, we didn’t perform on the day, and we’re not happy with it. We have Wednesday to rectify things.

What has been the key to your team’s success at home so far this season?

Good players [laughs]. Good players. I think our fans are excellent, obviously, they were excellent on the road in New York this past weekend. They’re the reason we play, they’re the reason that we’ve had success on our home field, they’re the reason it’s difficult for teams as games get late and it gets louder — they will our guys on and they also make the other team uncomfortable, we’ll just say. So, again, I think it’s a credit to the players, it’s a credit to fans for making this place a tough environment. There’s a belief here that we will get points every time we step on the field and, again, defensively, as a team, I still think it always starts with zeroes: We haven’t conceded a lot of goals in this building, and that’s something that we need to keep going.

Again, Chicago is at the bottom of the table but they’re still a dangerous team. There’s no team in this league, if you’re not ready to take care of business, that won’t make you look silly so, the margins are very tight, the table is very tight, East and West, right now. So, you’re starting to see a stretch of games now where we need to take care of business, and it’s good that we have four out of the next five MLS games, and also the Open Cup game, here at home where we’re comfortable.

Fabian Herbers and CJ Sapong are different kinds of strikers. How do you see Herbers up top?

Yeah, they are different, I think that is true. Fabian, he is good in the air, like, he does time things well, and he jumps different than CJ maybe does. CJ likes to have the contact, he likes to feel a center back up his back. Fabian likes to play in their blind spots. So, when you see Fabian jump for headers — for example, the one he gets on Sjöberg — he comes from the side where they don’t see you. That’s difficult to deal with as a [defender]. I would say they’re…I like both their skillsets, you know? I won’t say one way is better than the other, but CJ, certainly his game is about contact, feeling another player, kicking him, having him get kicked, and fighting, whereas Fabian’s more of a movement into the defender’s blind spots and movement into space. He looks to combine more, maybe, with the ball at his feet. Whereas CJ kind of holds it lets us move up, Fabian’s looking for little one-twos and combinations. So, both are good; I think it’s a good change of pace.

I like the idea of getting them both back and getting them going now that Fabian’s gotten a taste as a starter — I think it’s important. Fabian has a high fitness level, his tank is good, but For MLS games, it is harder, you know? He’s played 90 minutes for the Steel a bunch, and that’s been really helpful. But, now to go 90 minutes against New York City, it got to about 80 and he started to cramp a bit. So, again, there is an adjustment period; a young player, the tempo is fast. But, I was happy with the chances he created against New York, especially in the second half. He makes good decisions around the goal; we need to get him service and get him looks. But, his goals will mostly come from his movement in the box, whereas CJ’s more that brute force kind of get on the end of a cross, or a ball bounce to him, and him just finish. So, different kind of forwards.

Is there a worry, given that he’s recovering from an ankle injury, about CJ coming back too soon?

Yeah, there’s always concern about the timing of the injury. I trust my medical staff a great deal. CJ’s a..I’d put him in the category of a quick healer. He’s a…Athletically, he’s a specimen, you know? He takes care of his body, he is able to recover quickly. So, we’re happy with how he’s progressed. He’s itching to go. Obviously, with a striker, you need that sharpness and looks in front of goal. He was in a pretty good way, and pretty confident, so you do need time and reps in training before you just, you know, throw him back out there as a starter. But, he’s getting close, and he’s a guy who’s, obviously, a huge part of this team’s success.

What does the team’s depth look like behind Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle in the No. 6 and No. 8 roles?

It’s thin right now, obviously, with the untimely loss of Vincent [Nogueira] who, again, I wanted to say a lot of nice things about in the last press conference. The timing was the timing, and that was unfortunate. So, again, I guess I have a brief moment here: Thank you to Vincent. I’ll make it short: The best compliment I can give a player is the best game Vincent Nogueira played was against Seattle in the US Open Cup final when he was the best player on the field. I think that is as good a compliment as I can give a guy, the biggest moment, and the fans that were here that night…Obviously, it was a loss so you don’t get too happy, but the performance that he put in there was amazing, was special, and that’s one that I think all the fans will remember. So, a thank you to Vincent. He’s going to be moving on; a difficult situation but one we have to adjust [to] quickly.

In that position, to answer your question, we have options. Tranquillo is comfortable, like he did in the second half [against NYCFC], playing from a deeper spot, especially when teams are on us like they will at home. He can play in that 8 role where he…he plays it different, for sure, than Vincent. He’s more offensive minded so he wants to play and then move forward and get it back, whereas Vince is more of a connector, side to side. Obviously, Warren and BC, the job they’ve done speaks for itself. We looked in the preseason at Leo Fernandes in there, a big, strong guy who’s comfortable holding the ball. Different skillset than a Vincent, but a guy who is an option in there. We can make it work, we will make it work, and we will also actively pursue players in that position.

Is it looking like a 4-2-3-1 going forward? Might the shape change a little bit?

We’re not going to completely change what’s gotten us here, we’re not going to all the sudden play 3-5-2 or anything like that to just tweak for one spot. You know, listen, different players have different skillsets, and what they bring to our group, we’ll put them in the right position, in the right spot on the field. Again, it’s up to players to move and adjust to their role. Vincent plays it differently than Warren, who plays it differently than Tranquillo so, again, it’s going to be…it’s not going to look the exact same. The roles and responsibilities of the players will define them to each guy in their spot. So, you won’t see a drastic formational change at all.

On how missing Sapong and Nogueira affected the team’s timing and rhythm against NYCFC

Yeah, listen, they’re two good players, they’re two really good players, when you talk about Sapong and Nogueira, and they weren’t with us. So, again, there’s going to be an adjustment. IS it the reason we lost? I don’t believe so, we lost because we started slow and we allowed New York City to press us and dictate things. Again, we still have a deep roster. We have good players on the roster, and to speculate whether that’s the reason we lost, I don’t know. Again, we were down 3-0, too, so, again, the second half, the shape of it looks different, you know?That is one area, when we’re down 3-0, we’re not going to sit in a 4-2-3-1 with the two guys more defensive minded. So, that kind of caused that change. Did they do well with it? Yes, they did. I thought Ilsinho came in and impacted things, as well. So, good options to have. But, is it going to look the exact same? It can’t when there’s different players on the field.

On Chris Pontius only having 12 touches against NYCFC

We talked about it today. I think early in the year he was coming inside a bunch and it got to the point where it was almost too much. Now, he’s almost staying wide too much. So, it’s a drastic switch and I spoke with Chris about it today and he feels the same exact way. He has to find the game a little bit; we have to do a good job, obviously, finding the ball to his feet and letting him go at defenders. But, we talked today about when ‘Quillo gets on the ball, sometimes it’s OK if you haven’t touched it in a while — you say 12 touches; again, just by watching the game he wasn’t involved a ton — just come inside, even if it’s to get a little square ball off off ‘Quillo and give it right back to him, it just makes that outside back think a little more: “Chris isn’t always going to be on my outside shoulder. Chris isn’t always going to be on my inside shoulder.” So, giving him the freedom now — and we talked about it today, and he did it a lot in the exercise we were going through — coming inside just to get on the ball, combine, create a numbers advantage, and have that outside back think, “Shoot, I better go with Pontius,” and then when he does that, that opens up space for Fabi or Ray on the outside back to get through. So, mixing it up is the easiest way to put it, not being stagnant. And, again, I think he’s the one who actually brought it up to me, in the beginning of the year he was coming inside too much, and now he’s probably staying wide too much, and it becomes predictable. But, when he’s on the ball, obviously, he’s a playmaker, right? So, we need to do a better job getting him on the ball as much as possible, in and around the box preferably because that’s when he gets his goals.

On Chicago

The game in Chicago in a tsunami blizzard gets thrown out, it’s a frustrating game for us, we were disappointed with the result, obviously, we actually played pretty well. But, a unique game. I think both teams are a lot different now.

They don’t concede a lot, they don’t give up a lot of goals, and when you have [David] Accam up top there’s always that threat of them just clearing one ball long and him getting on the end of it. He’s an incredibly dangerous player, very fast, so we’ll need to be focused on him. [Kennedy] Igboananike, too, is a guy who’s hurt us in the past, can run, is a handful, has scored a bunch of their goals. So, those two guys will be our key in terms of their attack. Aside from that, they’re fairly organized and don’t give up a lot of chances so, when you do break through, you have to take advantage and you got to be really wary of the counterattack.

Who steps up for Gilberto for them? 

I don’t care [laughs]. That’s up to them, I don’t want to speak for their coach. But, we’ll have to be prepared for whoever’s in there in his absence. Again, that’s for them to decide. I know that there’s some speculation about what’s going on with him but that’s not up to me.

On the differences when Ray Gaddis plays at left back versus Fabinho

I think Ray’s more your one-v-one, shutdown defender. Fabi, obviously, being left footed, can get forward a little bit more. It’s not too much by coincidence that Fabi tends to play on the left in the home games when we have more of the ball so, read into that what you will. They both have good skillsets, both guys that I trust a great deal, and we’ve had three guys at the outside back spot that have rotated in these past few weeks and done a really good job for us. Again, happy with where they’re all at and during this stretch of games where we go Wednesday-Saturday, and Wednesday-Saturday again, we’re going to need all of them.

Do you set up the midfield behind Herbers differently than you would behind Sapong?

Listen, CJ’s defending is unique, he’s long, he blocks a lot of passes, he likes to tackle. Fabian I actually thought, and we talked about it, in the New York City game he ran too much defensively. So, he was running 60 yards to get out to the one sideline, and then running back; I think he can do it a little smarter [and] we talked through some of those points today. Just making it predictable, keeping things on one side, that’s something that CJ does well. Again, Fabian’s a first-year player who making an MLS starting debut, and he did a very good job for us, but the defensive side is something that he’s going to continue to work on. And, again, I actually believe he ran so much that he, you know, you tire yourself out a bit. So, he can do it in a smarter way, and his job up there is to just occupy both center backs, and make it predictable for the guys that are behind him. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but there’s certain moments where he ran 60 yards, and then he ran 80 yards back to the other side. As a group on the day, we were late, and there was only one guy sprinting at a time when you watch the film. Their first goal is a perfect example of that, where now the outside back gets free and gets a full run 60 yards from our goal. So, yeah, talking with him, working with him on the defensive side is something we’re actively doing because we know offensively, if he gets chances and looks, he’s going to score.



  1. With all due respect….feel like we lost an opportunity to press the manager on how he is going to maintain possession when the guy most responsible for maintaing possession is no longer here.
    Guys just moved on… I mean is he really just going to trundle C+C Music Factory out every game with Le2 and Pontius every game…. is there anything resembling a creative solution here? This team will be UNWATCHABLE… which means stick first place in the ear.
    WHO is going to quarterback the offense….to bring in a sport I can’t stand.
    If The Calm is comfortable dropping deep in the 8 role who is going to be the 10 when he does that with NOBODY capable of technique and incisiveness— come on. come on. come on.

    • Yup. Really hoping for an applicable acquisition – no Union or BS player can fill the shoes.
      edit: and I feel like the press rarely press managers like they do abroad. Seize the opportunity, offend the man ffs.

      • No use pressing Curtin about outside acquisitions. That is Earnie’s job, not Curtin’s.

      • this is true. also, the window is closed so we can’t get anyone for a couple weeks anyway

      • I didn’t mean pressing him about acquisitions. I was speaking in generalities. Philly/American press is fairly gentle.

      • Valery Kharlamov says:

        Philly Media is “fairly gentile”? – Bunch of Propaganda Artists & Kiss Asses afraid to lose their precious “access” is far more like it, from my personal experience.

  2. Lucky Striker says:

    I think it’s as he implied. If Barnetta drops back, Ilsinho or Alberg had better be ready to go at CAM.

    Leo can possibly improvise a hold up, bench role in the short term.

    Edu could come back, or he could change the formation-but he said he won’t…..which is no surprise given it’s him.

    What else is there?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      No one will maintain possession by circling the ball while shielding it with his body and distributing outside channel to outside channel directly.
      The first option to try, now, Coach mentioned gently and indirectly as Lucky Striker says is Barnetta, with Alberg moving to attacking center mid against a big powerful athletic #6, and Ilsinho when he physical threat is less.
      I would suspect Carroll may yield time to Creavalle as on an in-form day Creavalle has greater potential to distribute the ball into the attack with creativity.
      The longer term solution within the team is Maurice Edu. #8 is what he has wanted to do. His primary dimension will tend to be vertical judging by past performance. But I would suggest giving the coaching staff a chance. Who helped Fabinho improve? Who helped Ray Gaddis improve? Who helped CJ Sapong improve? Each deserves tremendous credit for themselves for their efforts, but they did have help. Yes, this staff has had failures, too. But acknowledge the potential that Edu’s play might improve. No longer does Mo have to walk on water to save this franchise. There is help.

  3. The change really has to be Barnetta in the #8 role with Alberg in front of him. It stinks that Vince is gone, but this team has better midfield talent than Carroll and Creavalle.

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