Postgame video and quote sheet: Union 3-0 DC

Photo and video: Daniel Studio

Note: Jim Curtin’s postgame press conference and postgame remarks from Andre Blake, Chris Pontius, CJ Sapong, and Keegan Rosenberry transcribed by PSP. All other quotes provided. Questions have been paraphrased.

Jim Curtin’s postgame press conference

Opening statement

I think the group picked a good time for our best performance of the year. It’s a very good DC United team, Benny has them playing well — organized, tough to breakdown — and our guys did a good job on the night, creating chances.

It was nice to have a full week of training and, again, you guys don’t get to see these guys train each and every day and I know that we lose a last-second game in Houston and some doubt might creep in from you guys and maybe even the fans. But if you see the work these guys do each and every day, there was no doubt in my mind that they would respond. We haven’t been beat in consecutive games so, when we lose, Open Cup included, we bounce back and put on a good performance, and that’s a sign of a good team, a team that, again, when Earnie and I talk, we know that we can still be better. So that’s the positive. A lot of good performances, I won’t single out any individual but that was a team performance. We talked about eleven guys sacrificing for each other, because that’s what these division games take, against a DC United, a tough team, a very good team. And, again, it took each and every guy doing their job and helping the guy next to him. That’s what we have for 90 minutes tonight, so I was proud.

On importance of this game

Yeah, I mean, you can call it a six point game, or whatever the catch new buzz word is, someone will come up with a new one at some point, but it’s a good DC team that we beat. And, again, obviously in conference, you want to win games. I can’t stress enough this building, being good in this building. If you include the Open Cup, I believe it’s 10-1-2 so, again, there’s a belief in the guys, there is a belief in the fans, that we’re going to win here, and that is just powerful, it’s really powerful, and it’s something that’s growing. So, yeah, big game for sure. Of course, now the next biggest game is Red Bulls. No disrespect to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, but the next biggest game is Red Bulls.

On Ilsinho’s performance

Excellent performance from him. Again, I thought – if you talk about our two wide guys, Pontius and Ilsinho – I thought their best games in Union shirts, which is important. You can see when Ilsinho gets a head of steam running at a defender, the word is traveling in the league that he’s a guy that can beat you one-v-one and make it kind of look like you’re on an And 1 basketball mixtape kind of thing, where your ankles get broken. So, he’s a handful. Again, great for him to get on the score sheet, which is good, but the defensive running that he’s starting to do, the fitness is coming. Just by, when we get him isolated with the ball, you can see defenders drop and that creates space for the next guy. So, we have multiple players that teams have to worry about, you know? Again, good performance from him. We see it in training every day and it’s only going to get better.

On establishing home field advantage tonight

We lost to Vancouver, a good team from the West. We weren’t happy with it. We didn’t play bad. So, again, I don’t know, if people think that we were in a really bad spot and the wheels were falling off this thing, it wasn’t the case. You don’t have Sapong, you don’t have Herbers, you don’t have Le Toux, you lose a Noguiera…You can still look at every game and watch the tape, we were in every game. This team doesn’t get beat bad. So, yeah, we lost to Vancouver at home, but, again, I’ll take 10-1-2, I’d sign up for that any day of the week at home. We’re good here and we were good against Vancouver. So, I still think there’s a lot of season left and we’re going to get better. Other teams are going to improve in the window, as well. But, I like my group of guys and I’ll put them up against anybody in the league.

On Andre Blake and Keegan Rosenberry being voted into the Fan XI for the All-Star game

It’s excellent. It’s great for the club because the Union badge will be on display against Arsenal. That’s a special thing. So, I think Keegan [Rosenberry] and Andre [Blake] getting rewarded is a product of a good team, though. We talk about it all of the time: If the team plays well and the team has success, individuals will start to get recognition. Could Barnetta be in there? You could go through the list of names. If CJ [Sapong] doesn’t get hurt, does he get in? So, again, really happy for them. It’s a credit to Earnie [Stewart] being aggressive at the draft. You can rewind to that because the young guys that have contributed and come in and done a great job for us, that was an aggressive day at the table. You could probably write a book of the variables and scenarios that came up on the day but, we stayed calm and got the three guys we wanted and now one is an All-Star, so that’s a good reward.

Happy for the kid, happy for Andre. Not happy that it’s in San Jose, so they have a cross country flight on a midweek, but we’ll deal with that when it gets here and they’ll enjoy the experience. It’s a great experience. I told them to ask a lot of questions when they’re around [Sebastian] Giovinco and Robbie Keane and [David] Villa and all the guys there. So, pick their brains and don’t be shy to ask questions. But, it’s great for the club.

On success on the training field carry into games

It’s huge. We train hard, though. We train twice a day, we train hard, the work they put in the weight room; our staff, our performance staff, our technical staff does a heck of a job. These guys are on individual plans so if it’s an afternoon session they’re working on, you know, a hundred clearances with your left foot, or a hundred crosses with your left foot. So, again, getting better and minimizing mistakes — and you’re starting to see a team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes; it takes good goals to beat us and we’re getting back to that now.

I don’t think it’s coincidence; they’ve worked from preseason on, we’ve set a good tone as a club and they’ve responded well. Again, good foundation has been laid, we have good young players, we have good experienced veterans that are contributing, as well, and we have a one-system approach from our academy to Bethlehem Steel to the Philadelphia Union first-team. So, things are positive right now, we’re happy with what we’ve done but we know we can even go to another level.

On Roland Alberg over the dead balls instead of Barnetta, and allowing the players to decide who takes PK’s

Yeah, to be honest, on the second…I’ll answer the first part: You know, Roland is a guy who has a great free kick, he serves a great free kick; so does Tranquillo [Barnetta]. So, again, you look at the tape, does D.C. get a little comfortable when they’ve seen Quillo hit them once now? So, it was just a little variation to it. I still think they both serve a great ball, it’s good to have an option; we’ll probably mix it up now, you know, and try to keep teams off guard.

Yeah, putting him [Alberg] on the ball in corners in free kicks was dangerous tonight. When C.J. (Sapong) headed that with the back of his head, I don’t know how he got that down but, anyway, good service and we work really hard on our restarts so we’re improving there.

The second part with the PK’s, again, that’s up to the players. I will never be a coach that delegates before the game who the shooter is because who’s to say that if Ilsinho or Roland gets drilled on the play and then his leg’s going to fall off, he has to shoot, you know? It’s dangerous. In terms of switching, I did, as soon as they called the second one, I was like, “Oh, is Roland going to step up and take this?” I would’ve been fine with it if he did, he’s smart about how he waits for the goalkeeper so, you can ask them what the discussion was, but they’ve a good way of communicating with each other even though the language is a little… [chuckles] different.

On using the same game plan for Crystal Palace and RBNY

Red Bulls are certainly a priority over Crystal palace, no question, but we still want to treat that game the right way. We have good, young players and, again, you can treat it like a training session and push the tempo and have it be, whether it’s a half for some guys or 60 minutes for some guys, try maybe something new, a new idea, a new way of, maybe, we can get at Red Bull if we see something. So, it’s a great exercise to have during the preseason, they’ve made a heck of a lot of good signings in the offseason so we’ll be, obviously, respectful of them but, at the same time, we want to put on a good show for our fans and have a good performance. You learn a lot from those games, you know, you can see how guys respond. We’ll probably be in a little better shape than they are so that’s something we can use to our advantage. It’ll be good for some guys that maybe don’t get a lot of minutes you guys don’t get to see, to get rewarded. We’ll treat it the right way and, again, Sunday against Red Bull obviously sets up as a huge game.

On practicing penalty kicks

Yeah, I mean, we’ll hit them occasionally; for example, if a 7 v 7 is tied at the end to win it so there’s a little pressure on them, we’ll put them through PK’s, so we work on it. Again, man, you can take them a thousand times but nothing is quite like when 20,000 people are staring at you and you’re in that moment so, practice is good on PK’s, but I’m still a big believer…That’s my new favorite one on the commentators when they go, “Oh, I could see it on his face that he was going to miss.” Ok, sure you did, that’s great. Again, until you’ve been there, until you’ve gone to those moments, they’re not easy. You try to replicate it, you can work on it, practice it, but nothing kind of replicates it quite like doing in an Open Cup final, or in a different situation.

On CJ Sapong’s effect on the game

Just ask the other center backs in the league. He is the No. 1 guy they hate playing against, for sure, just because he is a handful. You saw tonight: holding balls up, blocking passes, getting in passing lanes, just being an overall pain in the butt to play against. It’s a great thing to have him back; his presence on the field, for him to go 70 plus minutes shows that he’s worked on his fitness. He was excited, really happy to be back, and I told him people remember how you start and how you finish. And in the middle now he has had a little set back with an injury, an ankle injury, but he has to finish this season strong if he wants to be remembered and talked about, and he knows that. You could see some energy tonight, a bounce in his step. Unfortunate he didn’t get a goal tonight but, at the same time, he worked his tail off and it was a great CJ Sapong performance. But the best guys to answer your question are center backs in MLS because enough of them have told me they don’t like playing against CJ, and that’s the ultimate compliment, the respect of your peers.

On Ilsinho finally scoring his first MLS goals

Huge, great for confidence. I prefer the second goal that he scored; the PK’s great, but to score on the run of play on the knockdown, he hit that pretty well. It takes a special effort to beat Bill Hamid, I think you saw that on the night, he made five or six saves that make you scratch your head. Great goalkeeper, two great goalkeepers on the field tonight. But for Ilsinho to get the PK? Good. But, most happy with how he was in the run of play — dangerous — and then to get rewarded with a great strike, you could see that it meant a lot to him, he’s confident now And, again, the league will be on watch when they go against Ilsinho, it’s not an easy thing to defend.

Postgame comments from Andre Blake, Chris Pontius, CJ sapong, and Keegan Rosenberry

Andre Blake

On importance of saves he made tonight and the feeling of being on the All-Star Team

Those saves were a big save for me, very important to get the shutout today and to get three points. Could not have done it the other 10 guys and the guys that came into the game so, shout out to the entire team.

Making the All-Star Team is definitely a great achievement for me but, more importantly, it’s not just to make the All-Star Team for me, it’s about going there and performing. So, I’ll stay quiet for now, and I’ll keep working on it, and hopefully I can go to the game and be successful.

On bouncing back with a win at home

It felt great. The last game here against Vancouver didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, and we knew that could not really define us and we just stuck to the task. We had a full week to prepare and we haven’t had that in a while. We just got back to doing the simple things and we were successful tonight.

Is it emotional coming into a game eafter being announced as an All-Star selection?

No, I try to block it out. I knew it was going to be announced at that time so I just try to know that the most important thing is the game tonight against D.C. and to get three points, and everything else just comes after.

On getting the shutout

It’s great. I haven’t had one in a while and it feels really great. I’m a guy that, if we win and I don’t get the shutout, I’m OK with that. But getting the shutout tonight and getting three points is great.

On form dip after Copa America

Well, I went through a tough patch, I can admit that. There were a few things that I had to go back and try to figure out what was the problem. And I wouldn’t say it was form, it was just a little thing that needed to be adjusted and the good thing is that I figured it out pretty quickly and I adjusted it.

What was the little thing that needed to be adjusted?

I’d rather not say that.

On how much help it was to have Sapong back

Yeah, definitely when CJ is in the game it helps us a lot, we have a big guy up front who can hold the ball, for us to get the guys up top. I think having him back today was great and it helped a lot in us being able to jeep the ball and applying our style of play.

Chris Pontius

On tonight’s win

We put in a pretty professional performance tonight. We were much better at closing out the game.- Granted, they were a man down, but I liked the way we approached the game.

On the importance of Ilsinho’s goals

Huge. Huge. He’s worked hard all year. He’s put himself in good spots. He’s created a lot of goals for us and now it’s nice to see him get one himself — get two.

On the emphasis in the attack

You know, it’s an emphasis every game, getting wide guys in good spots and getting in behind their backs. I think the main thing we take away from tonight is the shutout, that’s something that we have kind of gotten away from. We’ve put up a lot of goals this year, but we need to get back to the shutouts. That’s what wins you some good games so, it was good to get the shutout tonight.

On drawing the penalty

I think Tranquillo played me the ball. I just tried to take — I think it was [Nick] DeLeon trailing me, so I just tried to take another touch beat him there, and I can get going one-on-one with [Kofi] Opare. I caught him wrong footed. It was a foul in the box so, at that point, you’re just trying to put defenders in bad situations and get them back on their heels, and I was able to do that.

For the second time tin two weeks you’ve earned a penalty but allowed someone else to take it. Will you take the next one?

I think those guys are doing pretty well on taking penalties right now so I’m going to keep letting them take them.

CJ Sapong

On his first start since the beginning of June

It was amazing. I’m happy to be back on the pitch, working to get to a hundred percent.

On his knockdown that led to the third goal

Just trying to keep it in play. It’s a play that we’ve worked on a lot and Ilsinho was in the right spot and finished it.

On trying to out-physical his defenders

Yeah, always. I think I could have been a lot sharper with my passes. I think I still have a little bit more skip in my step to be achieved, but, yeah, that’s always good. I just want to provide an impact and make it harder for the opposing defense.

On his matchup against Kofi Opare

Like I said, I was just trying to get back to my natural ways of trying to go at the defense and try to impose myself on the game.

On the challenges of playing physical after coming back from an injury

At first, it’s just believing in yourself and not thinking about whatever ailment you have. So, I think being on the field, I was able to kind of shut that out and push it to the limit, and it held up well. All I can do is keep getting it better and keep getting fitter.

Curtin mentioned he told you people remember how you start and finish a season that people remember. When did he tell you that?

I don’t remember but he did say it and, yeah, I definitely agree with that.

Keegan Rosenberry

On getting the shutout

I think it was important, you know, just the confidence for Andre and the back line, and just the team in general, because at the minimum, you’re getting one point if you have a shutout. So, that’s good for us, and hopefully we continue that and get a little streak here.

DC United postgame quotes

Ben Olsen

On tough opening

You think? I mean the second one was soft. From what I’m hearing, but that’s how not goes. It was more than that, we were just late to show up to this match, I mean in every aspect. They had more, more everything in that first half, and then the game is over. We give up a set piece, then 3-0. They’re a good team, C.J. (Sapong) manhandled us, and you don’t show up for an entire game, take the half off, and you don’t bring courage and you don’t bring all the little things to a game, and you’re going to need it – simple. It wasn’t personnel, it wasn’t formations, it was good old-fashioned pass and move, a little bit of will, a little bit of courage, a little bit of anger. None of the stuff you are going to say.

On making changes

I did. But I just answered your question.

On Steven Birnbaum

Steve is good. Steve was pretty good.

On distractions for Steven Birnbaum

Steven was good tonight. Steve is able to handle this, he is a professional. There’s a lot of noise around him, but he’s able to handle it. He did it tonight.

On Kamara‘s first MLS start

No, I mean you can always judge when he’s in. I thought he could have been more threatening, I thought he could have been a hell of a lot more balls. I thought he could have been better just like a whole bunch of guys in the first half.

On why his guys didn’t have it tonight

I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ll think about it, but I don’t have that answer right now. There’s a whole bunch of, look it’s a long season, and this isn’t the end of the world. It’s a loss away at Philly, who’s a very a good team. In particular when CJ (Sapong) comes back and they place with this type of energy. At home, it’s a tough place to go. They’re good, I think Jimmy (Jim Curtin) is a very good coach. I’m happy that his organization is doing well. Again, if you don’t show up for a large portion of the game, they’re a different team now and they’ll punish you.

Kofi Opare

On the overall game

Yeah, we came out a little flat. We didn’t deal with their attacking threats as efficiently as we needed to and coughed up a couple chances, couple goals. We have to be better all-around on the field.

On the Union’s attack

Yeah, they are definitely a difficult bunch to handle. Like you said the guys that you just mentioned, they are tricky, quick, strong and caused those problems tonight. They are one of the best front lines in the league and we didn’t show up today, and it hurt us.

Steve Birnbaum

On the overall performance

Let’s be honest, there were two penalty kicks, and that can’t happen. But we didn’t have the composure we needed on the ball tonight. We lost it in bad spots; also defensively giving up three goals in a game that’s poor, and we need to be better on that end.

On the two penalties

Questionable. I’m not sure; I need to go look at it again. You know, it’s tough, everyone is busting their butt, trying to work, but it’s tough, and then the third set piece coming out of the second half. We need to tighten that stuff up, can’t help it.

On Union’s quick second half goal

It’s tough. We thought if we could get a goal early in the second half, we’d be in the game and obviously they came out with the penalty spot goals, and then they got one off a set piece. We have to tighten that up.

On being able to play again

Yeah, it’s good being back and get another full 90 in. My last game was here against Philly. Still pretty pissed off that we have lost both of those so I’m not happy now, but I was happy at the beginning of the game to play.


  1. I love how salty Olsen was.

  2. “I mean the second one was soft.”
    That’s what she said.
    Just kidding, Ben. The second one WAS soft. That’s why it wasn’t called. The third one was a penalty.

  3. Is there any chance we could get the audio of these videos as a podcast? I would love listening to these interviews while at work.

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