Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Opening statement

Obviously, reflecting back on Montreal, the whole group — technical staff, players — disappointed to drop the two points but, at the same time, the players are in a very good spot right now, very confident, and they know that they had a good performance. The tape reiterates that. The number of chances we create in the second half — six clear cut opportunities, a missed PK call — happy from that regard. But, again, in the big moment, on a restart, we came up a little bit short.

You look across the league, ends of games can get crazy. This weekend’s probably a good example — the Red Bull, the Kansas City, you look to the Premier League and crazy endings to games. The teams that can sort those situations out and solve problems quickly are the ones that get points in the big spots. We work hard to be good on restarts, offensively and defensively. We need to get it fixed. And, again, it’s not so much the initial restart that does us problems, it’s kind of the secondary part. So, in this instance, it’s a short ball that’s clipped back. In DC it was one we clear it good but then maybe on the secondary portion of things lose track of a guy at the back post.

So, had good discussions and watched a lot of tape on it. Again, five games left, three difficult road games and two at home to end the season. We’re in a good spot right now, and the players have a real belief. I think the fans would agree, the smart fans would agree, it’s a very fun team to watch, one that gets after it, attacks the right way. Now, can we just fine tune the end of games down the stretch here and get wins.

So you view the stretch of three road games as a kind of symbolic challenge before the end of the season? 

Yeah, of course. I think when you look at the schedule when it comes out, you see that block of three games and go, “That’s a tough stretch right there.” You want to set yourself up in a good spot, which I think we have. Could there be a couple more points on the board for us? Absolutely, but everybody could probably say that at this point of the year. I like where we’re at. We look at the three games and you go it’s important when it’s a block of three road games that you get a good punch on the first one. The first one is critical, you know? It sets up where Portland is in Costa Rica tonight. What kind of lineup Caleb [Porter] fields? That’s not for me to decide but we’ll obviously have an eye on it. They have a big travel from Costa Rica to play a game at Portland in the afternoon on what they would deem a hot temperature day; we got an email about that, that it’s a “hot temperature,” I think it’s 83 [laughs]. So, different climate.

We’re going to go after the three points just like we normally would, try to have the same approach home and away, and again, I think it is critical to start the road trip and get confidence, and get a point or three out of the first game because that kind of sets the tone for the next two. The next two are in-conference so that adds a little different element but I think it’s important to go into a tough place [and get points]. The champs, the defending champs, the atmosphere’s great there, that’s one thing that can be said [and] because the atmosphere is good it gives a little more bite maybe to the away team because you have to be on your game.

Inaudible question 

It can be. You think of in Seattle or in Portland where, shoot, if you’re not on right from the start it can be over quick. And once that crowd gets behind them and gets going, it’s loud, it’s intimidating. It’s the kind of game, and the kind of atmosphere, players want to play in so, I think it’s fair to say Portland’s is in that category of a crowd and an atmosphere that brings out the best in players. Hopefully, we’ll be up to it — not hopefully, I know we’ll be up to it — and we look forward to it.

On this being the second game in a row where the Union is facing a team coming off of a midweek game

Yeah, they’re a good team. Again, they’re fighting for points just like we are, just like everybody kind of at this point of the year. In some ways, the preparation is very similar to Montreal, if you think of a [Ignacio] Piatti versus a [Diego] Valeri, a [Didier] Drogba versus a [Fanendo] Adi: Similar skillsets, similar dangers that they present to teams where they can break you down by themselves, so we’ll have to be organized and compact as a team, tough to play through. In a lot of ways, a lot of the same things that we did against Montreal we need to bring to the Portland game, and we just need to have that killer instinct to end the game when we get the opportunity to get a second goal.

Is Brian Carroll close to returning? 

Yeah, an important player to be getting back at an important time of the year. Brian has had a quiet great season for this club. Again, probably a guy going into the year we were counting on for cover for emergency situations and he’s far exceeded the amount that we thought we use him, and then his performances have excellent. So, to get him back now — he’s looked sharp in training, I think it’s time where we would say we’re comfortable throwing him in as a starter. Warren is coming off a great game, so we have a difficult situation, and difficult decision to make. Warren does have some knee tendonitis kind of situation that he’s been dealing with. Got a little bit of a knock in the [Montreal] game, so we’ll have to make a decision in that regard that gives us the best opportunity to get the win. But, either way, I know that both guys are up for it and have had really strong seasons for us. Can’t say it enough: That position when Mo went down was a question mark, and I think Warren and BC have done a great job in giving us confidence in both guys. BC will play a role in this game, for sure.

Any difficulties presented by Portland’s turf surface?

We talked about it with the medical staff with the transition grass to turf, training on grass, going to turf, coming back to grass, again, is tricky, especially with plantar fasciitis, so we’ll have to be smart about it. Ilsinho does have pain when he opens up and runs in big spaces. So, for instance, in the game where now it’s instead of an eight-a-side where the runs are maybe the runs are shorter and less, when he opens up and runs, you know, those 70-yard runs he goes on with the ball that you guys saw on the weekend, he does feel it, and he has pain, and that’s a concern. But, at the same time, we’ve been warned by the medical staff it’s simply at a point where it’s what they can tolerate, and different guys can tolerate different things. And they are confident that they’ll be able to go on the weekend.

Is there a degree of caution going into the game and looking ahead in terms of player selection? 

No caution. No, if they were in our conference, if they were not, it means nothing at this point: Every point matters and we’re going to fight like such. We’re not resting guys, we’re not preparing for Toronto or anything like that, it is full tilt to go after all three points in our last five games, every time. Again, I think this year is unique in that previous years we had the Open Cup in there as well, where you’re managing and you’re trying to prepare. Our sole focus since we were eliminated by New England has been on getting into the playoffs, and that’s it. A single mindset: get into the playoffs. From there, anything can happen. Like Kevin said, it’s been five years. It’s too long and we need to get in. Again, we’re not taking it lightly because it’s a Western Conference team. There’s no such thing as a throwaway, every point matters at this point and we’ll treat it as such.

Similar to the Seattle game earlier in the season, the team is leaving a day earlier than might be usual to travel Portland. Did you see a difference in doing so in the Seattle game?

Those kinds of things, I trust our sports science and sports performance department. I’d be lying if I said it’s a hundred percent I have the right way to do it. I think every coach has experimented at different times. You look, I think New York City goes out sometimes three days in advance to some of the West Coast places so everybody has a different way to approach it. It’s not for me to say which is right but I do agree with you: Before the red card in Seattle we had a good performance going. I think it’s import to get there, get a couple of training sessions in in that environment, the one that you’re going to be playing in, in the city where you’re getting used to the time difference is big. It’s not so much in Chicago where it’s one hour difference, it’s not as big as when it goes to three. Those little things really factor in, and they’re not little, they’re big. So, again, no one way to do it but we’ve experimented and had some varying degrees of success. Also, with the recovery too, people think it’s just flying out there early. It’s also do you get them on a redeye and get back as quickly as possible to get them into their own bed to sleep? Is it better to sleep there, regen there, and then jump on the plane? A lot of variables that we’ve experimented with. Sometimes it’s worked out, sometimes it hasn’t, similar to the end of the game this week against Montreal.

Is it important in terms of getting used to the turf, too?

Yeah, important. Their turf actually is the one in the league that plays most like grass. And, again, you’re probably going to follow up and say, “Why?” I don’t have the reason [laughs]. It’s a longer turf, it has a similar bounce to a grass field, which you don’t find a lot of times on astroturf. The one in, for example, New England: just laid new turf — I think it’s for football in that it’s very rubber and the ball doesn’t bounce like a soccer ball bounces on grass. Whereas, in Portland, I think it’s as close as a real natural surface as you can get. So, it’s not as big as an adjustment, it’s not the old school turf that you see where it’s like the old Vet, where it’s cement, or anything like that. It’s a good surface; it’s still not grass. Obviously, ideally, it’s grass.

The one good thing about Portland too, there’s not football lines so, that’s huge too. I couldn’t believe turning on the games this past weekend, I thought those were in the past but they still exist. It’s disappointing.

What would you like to see out of your attackers, particularly Chris Pontius on the left, Fabian Herbers on the right, and CJ Sapong up top.?

I think goals [laughs]. How’s that? The three of them are dangerous. Chris has been excellent all year. Fabian, I think this last game, had four really good looks and that doesn’t even count the one that CJ should play him when they have almost a two on one and CJ pulls up from about 23 yards. Joked in film session about that. I asked CJ, “Did you see him here?” And he kind of paused and then I basically said, “You saw him, I knew you saw him,” and he said, “Yeah, I did.” We had a good laugh about it but that’s what you want from your goalscorers, you want them to be aggressive in those moments, but make the right decision more times than not. So, I think the play there was to slip Fabian. again, I’d be more concerned with the three of them if we weren’t getting chances. I think if you look at CJ even, against Kansas City could have had two or three tap ins, it’s literally a matter of inches. I think the goals will come.

I think Fabian, if you go to him, again, chances created is high, but this is his first time doing it, his first season as a pro, so, again, with these experiences, as the time goes by, hopefully it’s in the playoffs or a big goal down the stretch, he gets that. But, also, looking even further down the road, what this means for Fabian is I think he’s going to learn a ton and next year these are all goals that he gets. The half turn that he has on the eight yard line, maybe he could slip that to Alejandro, all these decisions, you don’t get to grow as a player until you’re in the moment, and I think he’s been in really good spots for us. He’s done a great job on the defensive side and has created a lot of opportunities. He drew a PK for us [against Montreal that wasn’t called]: PRO confirmed that, it was a PK. Again, you move on, mistakes are made from the players, mistakes are made from the referees.

That front three is a good front three. I trust all of them and I know that they have goals in them; Chris has produced a ton. Need to get them as many opportunities as possible, and we have to be clinical when we get them.

On Maurice Edu’s last game with Bethlehem Steel 

The plan was 60 [minutes], max 75. Mo talked his way into 90, and he showed well. I think it was an important step for him to get into his mind that he could go through a 90 minute exercise. In a good spot, trained good today, trained well over the past few days. We’ll have a discussion later today as to what’s best: Is it best for him to travel with the team to Portland as the 18th or 19th guy and be with us for the training, or is it more valuable to get minutes with Bethlehem again. Again, it’s been a long layoff. It’s not a guy who’s been out for eight weeks, or even three months, it’s been a much more significant time, so we need to be smart. As much as I get excited and I see the steps each day improving, we have to do what’s best for the player and what’s best for the team. But, yeah, I’m getting antsy [laughs], and want him to be a part of our 18 as quickly as possible.

On the value of Edu joining the team on a road trip

That’s part of the thinking too, it does way into the decision that we’ll make. To get him back traveling with the team, with the group, acclimated to that maybe even as the 19th guy — I don’t know yet, but [these] are all things we’re weighing right now. Because, again, to get on the plane with the group when you haven’t done it in so long, it’s still part of the process of getting him back, you know? There’s on the field stuff, there’s technical, there’s tactical, there’s also the mental side of things, of just being with the guys and being in the team meals, and being in the team meetings on the road. It’s a big part of it, as well. So, we’ll do what’s best for Mo and the club to get points but, yeah, happy where he’s progressed. And that was a big jump, to go from 32 minutes to 90 was a big jump, but his body handled it well, responded well, which is really positive.

Having scored only one goal from the run of play since May, would CJ Sapong benefit from sitting out a game?

Listen, CJ I would be more concerned if he wasn’t getting chances and looks. I think he’s had quality looks, they just haven’t gone in for him right now. And strikers go through moments like this, even the best ones. [Sebastian] Giovinco went through a spell this year where it was a dip where he didn’t score a goal for a few games. We have to get him service, we know that. I think there is discussions too, and I had a good talk with him and Fabian today, as well: There can be moments in the game so it’s not so clear and predictable for center backs, that they maybe have some interchange, maybe more interchange so CJ’s not always the one who has two center backs draped off his shoulders and getting beat up pretty good like he did against Montreal. He gets fouled a lot, doesn’t get a lot of calls. part of it’s the way he plays, the style he plays, it’s physical so maybe he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. But, he’s a guy that we believe can get goals. We need to get him service, and he needs to be sharp in front of goal. And he will be. I know with strikers, with all strikers, it just takes one to get themselves going again, and we know that that one’s coming. Guy works hard, as hard as anybody. I know our fans are behind him, they believe in him, as well, and, again, it’s just a matter of one ball going in and he’ll get back on a run.

On Warren Creavalle

Warren has done a great job. He’s a guy who loves winning his one-v-one battles. So, whether it’s taking the task of shutting down a [Federico] Higuain, dealing with a Benny Feilhaber, he embraces that role. There’s not a lot of players that do get more of a smile on their face from playing defense. I like those kind of guys. He has an engine; there’s moments in the game where I feel like he looks exhausted and gassed, and then he’ll find that second wind and he’ll go on an 80-yard run and put out another fire for us and make a big play. His passing has been very good this year. He get’s out of tight spots. He can always be a little sharper, for sure, passing the ball, it’s something we work with every day. But, he’s done a good job quietly in starting our attack. Again, a strong season for him, but we want a strong finish too from every player. We’re happy with where we are but we want to end in the right way. And, again, it’s a fine line in this league, and you see it, between having what’s called a good season, to an average season, to a great season. We want to be great, we want to be a team that our fans can be proud of. I think they’ve seen a group that has instilled a belief and can win anywhere, and can beat any team. But they want to se us now do it, and do it through the playoffs.

Thoughts on the new Expansion Draft rules

Yeah, I mean, as a coach, you hate the Expansion Draft, it’s a tough mechanism to deal with, it’s a unique one to our league. You know, I think every team works so hard to try and build something and form an identity and a way of playing, and we’re in that category, we think we’ve assembled some pretty good pieces now, and some pretty good depth at spots. And now, it’s very possible that a couple could get plucked from you. Not a couple, only one now this year, so I guess that’s one positive that their only drafting five guys [per expansion team]. The rules change, you have to be on your toes in this league for sure. There’s different mechanisms where guys come into the league, it’s something we’ll have to deal with. You already start to think about protecting eleven guys and how hard that can be, and challenging, and the discussion’s always ongoing. And I’m sure they’ll change between now and that protection time. But, yeah, it’s a tough mechanism because, again, every team works so hard to build depth and build a culture, and then you lose pieces that are potentially guys who start for you could be gone, which is hard. Difficult.

21 Comments

  1. Spoke to Jim in the parking lot this morning and he mentioned that he was pretty sure Portland took their full team to Costa Rica. So hopefully they’ll play their starters and the Union can benefit on Saturday.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    I’m Jim Curtin and this is the proper hand position for birthing a calf.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      By the way…. I love that he said Giovinco went through a spell for a few games where he didn’t score.
      .
      It makes me smile sigh and snarf all at once.

      • I think he knows our striker isn’t scoring enough. But he’s not going to throw him under the bus in public. It’s the Andy Reid press conference tactic. And it works. This team has always been together since Jim has been coach and I don’t think that’s stated enough.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Agree.

      • What makes me laugh is that he’s comparing a striker who can’t score at all to a midfielder who even while having a brief period of not scoring – scores in this league as though it is a pick up.
        .
        has zero to do with throwing a player under the bus…. its apples and oranges.

      • He’s talking his player up. End of story. And Giovinco is no midfielder.

      • …. he’s not a striker either.

  3. I am not the most knowledgable, but I truly don’t understand why JC won’t even consider resting CJ for a game or a half. He’s right, Sapong gets fouled a lot, and hit a lot without fouls, and works his ass off. Number one, maybe he’s just a little exhausted from that. Number two, hustle alone is no reason to be a guaranteed starter. Let him clear his head, also give us a look at what’s happens if he were to go down or get carded.
    .
    On another note, it’s a joke if Edu doesn’t play, plain and simple

    • He said Carroll could probably go 90 this week. For me, that means we get a reprieve on needing Mo for this game. We can still do what’s best for him and the team as a whole. That said, weighing the need to get him MLS minutes versus the very real need to be getting points and having no earthly clue how he blends with our current first team is a dilemma I’m struggling to come up with a solid solution for.

      • Plus it’s on turf so I could see them not going with Edu this week just to be safe. Especially if Carroll is back (i know the turf won’t be good for him either).
        .
        As to Sapong, I think he felt like he didn’t have an option. Herbers is starting already without a real threat to overtake him, until Ilsinho is back full, and he clearly doesn’t think that Davies can go long enough to start. It is what it is at this point unfortunately.

      • curtin has already said that the turf in portland will not be a determining factor on whether or not edu will play this weekend

      • Slide Edu in as 8 with carroll at 6 and bedoya over to 11.
        Or if Carroll is not ready for full 90, put Edu in at 6, leave bedoya at 8.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Don’t forget defense. With Jim Curtin, never forget the defensive side of the ball.

  4. Loved the shot he took at the football lines problem. We’ve endured enough crap like this. The league should start forcing road heavy schedules at the end of the year on teams that commit this atrocity against my eyeballs.

    • Yes, I agree with this 100%. In a league where the schedule very rarely makes a lot of sense, this would definitely be a sensible thing to do. Maybe it would give a small advantage to teams trying to make a playoff push that don’t share a stadium with the NFL, but so be it

  5. Don’t fly Mo to Portland, come on. He can meet the team in NY on Oct. 1st. Until then he can continue upping his fitness and rehabbing.

  6. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Very interesting to learn the Edu 94 in Charleston was a gentle mutiny by the captain against the plan.
    .
    Tells you something about the competitive desire and sense of responsibility of the player, which some have questioned in their understandable frustration.
    .
    Tells that at bottom the technical staff trusts its veterans to “know their bodies” as the head coach usually phrases it.
    .
    It tells you that Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart trust Brendan Burke’s judgment.
    .
    And, that Derrick Jones covered his defensive spot till Edu managed to recover, while that was undoubtedly a coached responsibility and a “must-obey” on-field directive from the first team’s captain, it was done well and ungrudgingly, which tells you something about Edu’s status in the locker room. Jones is part of that locker room now.

  7. No word on Blake?

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