Press Conference

Transcript and video: Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Note: Questions have been paraphrased

Opening statement

Just to reflect back, unacceptable performance from us after a 35-day layoff in front of our home fans. We let ourselves down, we let the fans down. Two losses in a row now is difficult, it feels bad.

We had a good meeting with the group, talked a lot about accountability. I spoke a little, because the staff takes accountability first, but everybody does have to look in the mirror. A lot of the players spoke up and, to their credit, took blame as well, which is a good sign, it show that we are a group that’s together in this thing.

Again now, as you look forward to the end of the season, we think nine months back when Earnie took this thing over and joined us, our goal was to win an MLS Cup. We’ve all but guaranteed ourselves a spot in the playoffs and an opportunity to do that. We do recognize that our fans should be disappointed with how we’ve concluded the season but we need them now more than ever going into a two-game stretch.

In the meeting, I talked about us being guaranteed of two more games — all but guaranteed of two more games. So, we know one will be against Red Bull, a rival, a top team in the Eastern Conference. And the other, it’s clear now that our opponent will be either New York City FC, Toronto, or DC United. Those are the three possibilities. And, because of how we’ve performed down the road, we’ve done it to ourselves, we’ll be on the road for that game.

Is it an impossible task for us to go on the road and win a soccer game? It is not, and this thing can turn around quickly. It starts with a good performance against Red Bull, and then a little momentum going into a playoff game.

What did the players talk about in that meeting?

To be honest, it’s one of the first times it’s happened, where guys put their hand up and look in the mirror, which is important. I think that that shows good leadership, it shows we are a team that’s in this thing together. It’s kind of commonplace for the coach to take blame, you know, and put his hand up, because I am ultimately in charge of the lineup and what goes out there. But, for whatever reason, on the day it just wasn’t us, it didn’t feel like us. And to have guys recognize that, and the players recognize that as well was important. We’ll look to build on it. I think meetings can be good but still, at the end of the day, the talking has to be done on the field and I think we’ll see a good response against Red Bull.

How much is on the players to do some soul searching themselves to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it?

They’re smart, they know. As a player you know when it’s been a good performance. And it’s been us, the way the Union has played this season, and when it was not. I think against Orlando, for a variety of different reasons, it wasn’t. Statistically in possession, we had a lot of the ball, and we came out on top in a lot of categories, but just to the naked eye, to watch the game again, we didn’t have our best day. A little bit off and, also, we made mistakes on the goals and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot in a big spot, we came up a little short. It’s the past though. Again, that’s the one thing we did stress at the end of the meeting: It is over, we have to look forward. We have to look forward to the challenge that Red Bull will present, which is actually the perfect team to play in terms of a tuneup to get up to speed [with] the tempo of a playoff game, which’ll be good for our guys, we’ll use that to get guys prepared. It’ll be a quick turnaround for the game after that.

Any thought of resting players because of the quick turnaround?

There’s discussions; the guys that are banged up. You have to do what’s best, obviously, to get out of the funk that we’re in, right, and find someone in the group to spark the group. Maybe it’s a new face, a change or a tweak. We won’t change our formation, we won’t change the style that we play, but maybe there’s a new body that comes out on the field and gives us a little bit of a lift. We’ll take a look at that and then, moving forward, it is a quick turnaround, we’ll play either Wednesday or Thursday, it’s still to be determined. I’m sure it’ll be the TV matchups, and a lot of that will determine the time of the game. But, yeah, to go now — the whole league plays Sunday and to turn it around in two days with the season on the line is a quick one, and knowing we’re going on the road, there’s some challenges there. We want to do what’s best to get a little spark now in this Red Bull game and then also be able to evaluate guys and put the best lineup on the field on Wednesday or Thursday.

How much of looking for a spark is from going a while without a win, knowing that the team is going to playoffs regardless?

The timing of this whole thing is strange, it’s a unique feeling, you know, because it’s unfortunate that our players didn’t get the feeling of coming off of our home field and getting the applause they deserved for the season. We understand why we didn’t because we had a bad performance but, at the same time, it’s a strange one in that there’s no real celebration. It’s going to be a quick turnaround against Red Bull…We just want a good performance and I think that for confidence that would go a long way to get a result against the top team in the East, and I think that that can build a little bit of momentum moving forward. And, again, it’s a challenging game for us, and it’ll be at a high tempo, and it will be a playoff atmosphere, you know? With Red Bull already securing their bye, I envision them playing their full-strength lineup because they don’t want to rest guys for two weeks, then you could have some rust. So, we expect their best, and it usually brings the best out of our guys, this game is always a high intensity one. It’s important to say in the season series with Red Bull, our biggest rival, we’re 1-1-1 right now, this is kind of the swing game. So, we want to finish the season the right way for our fans, and we want to come out with some confidence after the game.

On how the backline can better defend against through balls

We have to do a good job of stepping and dropping together. Again, having our guys on the same page — when to step in the midfield, when it’s best not to get into a foot race and drop together. Obviously, the first goal against Orlando is just a mistake, it’s a one off. I don’t think that that’s something you really prepare for, it’s just a mistake on the field. How we respond to the mistake is the key. But, yeah, [NYRB] did give us some issues with some balls played in behind so whether we drop our line little bit deeper with a [Bradley] Wright Phillips coming into our building remains to be seen but we’ll have to be smart because they have guys that do play a lot of good balls in Dax [McCarty], and Felipe, and Sacha [Kljestan], they look for him in behind the line. So, we’ll have to be compact from our center backs to our front line and be really tough to play through.

You mentioned the three possible knockout game matchups — NYCFC, Toronto, DC — do you have a preference?

No. I mean, listen, the good news is we’ve had good games and good performances against all three of those teams in there. Again, I said to the group, “Yeah, we respect all three of them but we’ve had good results against all three, even away.” So, we’ve gone away to DC, we’ve gotten a draw that we could’ve closed out. We had a good performance early in the year in New York City where we started slow [and] we came back a bit; it’s a team we’ve beat at home. And then Toronto, as recently as a couple weeks ago, we had a good performance in the first half, fell off a little in the second. So, the guys know it’s not an impossible task to go to those three places but, you know, as a starting point now, we have to have a good performance against New York [Red Bulls]. And I’m confident that, in a big spot, we can go on the road and get a result.

Injury report

Quillo [Barnetta] started the training session with the group, got through the technical and the possession part, and then we just thought it was best to hold him out when we went to goal.

CJ [Sapong] has a concussion that he’s recovering from; progressing quickly through the protocol. [Josh] Yaro’s still recovering from the concussion, as well.

But, yeah, hoping to get a full-strength lineup to pick from. [Chris] Pontius just had some hamstring tightness, it was the same tightness that he felt last year before he had a serious injury with it. He identified it in the game and we were a little proactive to get him off the field. So, he stayed in [the training facility] and got some maintenance but I don’t foresee him being limited this week.

Was it the collision at the end of the Orlando game that resulted in Sapong’s concussion?

Correct, yeah, with Ken [Tribbett], yeah, kind of blindsided.

And Barnetta leaving training early, just maintenance?

Maintenance, yeah, season-long maintenance in the knee.

On Maurice Edu’s status

We’ll see how the week progresses but, yeah, Mo’s been really sharp in training, he’s improved a great deal in terms of the ground he’s covering. We’ll see what makes the most sense but it is a possibility he’s available for selection; he was with us on the bench this week [against Orlando]. But, yeah, it’s a possible option to have him in the starting XI for the first time.

Given Sapong’s goal-scoring struggles, is this possibly a week to rest him, concussion symptoms aside? Is Charlie Davies ready to start? Could Fabian Herbers play up top?

Yeah, I mean, Fabian’s had a good season; obviously, he’s capable of playing the No. 9 or playing wide, I think he’s done well in both spots.

CJ’s worked hard but, yeah, it’s no secret that he hasn’t got goals in recent weeks. When I talk about that spark and finding something that lifts us a bit, yeah, that’s an area that we would look for a possible spark. How we handle it is still to be determined. He does have the head injury so you have to have in your mind a possibility of a change.

Charlie’s been a little bit sharper each day in training. Again, it’s tough for people to forget that he as recently as a month and a half ago was beating cancer so, again, the sharpness, the fitness is starting to come back, and the strength, you’re starting to see that, which is really positive. But, in terms of just throwing him out there for 90 minutes? That’s why it’s taken so long, in that regard. So, he wants to start, he wants to play like any striker does but we have to be smart about what makes the most sense for the team to get a result this weekend, and then on into the playoffs.


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Holy crap… an Edu question!!!

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    ….for the life of me do not believe I’ve seen a sleight of hand like the Edu situation ever.
    This guy is making $700k played almost a month ago now for Steel in multiple games, is officially in the 18…. playing a game that essentially doesn’t mean a whole lot and the manager still cannot commit to their DP playing…. 45 minutes even. Looking for anything to spark the players. Anything at all…. like the return of their signature player.
    Funny someone mentioned about not messing up the MoJo as a reason for not playing him…. which I appreciate about as much as the more recent mention regarding insurance claims as the reason.

    • I have gone to the mat for Edu more times than I can count, but I wholeheartedly agree with you. This has been down right ridiculous which keeps the overall doubts about the integrity of this organization in question. There is still that “Dog and Pony Show” component about some things Union. Even though things have changed for the better, I look at John Curtin sometimes and I see the guy who’s beginnings as the Union head coach that was a complete reality TV fiasco. At some point along with bringing in Earnie Stewart, launching BSFC, and having a world class training facility, the Union need to go big with a Manager and staff. You’re either Varsity or you’re JV…

  3. So the back 4 will still be the same, but if Mo can play the 6, we will have a player that can put some more fires out back there.

    My guess is that Fabian starts up top, And1 slots into the 7 position. So:


    One game to get the kinks out before the play-in game. Go Union!!

    • I would not be surprised to see Pontius and/or Quillo on the bench to start the game based on the comment of “There’s discussions; the guys that are banged up.” Pontius has the little hamstring tweak and Quillo has his knee issues. Maybe Alberg gets a start?

    • i’d rest pontius. i don’t like the sound of him saying his hamstring felt tight like it did last year before it went. and we’re going to need him in good health for next tuesday

  4. Who is this Edu guy everyone keeps mentioning?

  5. “we won’t change our formation”
    Come on, Jimbo, just let me dream.

  6. Everyone needs to stop thinking the lineup will change. Regardless of saying they need a spark Curtin as usual will run out the same old tired lineup with the same three predetermined subs to be brought on to late. The only chance we have of seeing a change is if Sapong does not clear the concussion protocol. Which I know it seems wrong, but just for a change I would like Sapong not to be cleared to play on Sunday. Pontius will play, it’s Quillo’s last home game he will play, and Sapong will be up top not scoring and falling down. And as you heard it Herbers has been doing a good job out wide so once again he will be out wide. Changing things up will never be Curtin’s style and its unfortunate when you go on a losing/winless streak like this because sometimes you need the change.

    Oh and as it was said weeks ago give up on the Edu thing he will not be playing this season period. The only reason he is even in the 18 is likely because their probably thinking of resigning him at contract end. They should not resign him, but they probably will and they will continue to waste that DP slot.

  7. The other thing this team needs to remember is they aren’t in the playoffs yet. Sure unlikely NE gets in above us, but if they pull out something like 7-0 game and the Union lose 6-0 their in and Union is out. SO stop thinking about playoffs and focus on winning the game at hand.

  8. 7-0 … 6-0… DON’T EVEN GO THERE!!! I will hurtle my body off the edge of the cliff and sail downward to my demise with wanton fatal injury intended to put myself OUT OF Eternal MISERY… ha 7-0… 6-0… Immpossible right?!?… RIGHT!?!?! ANYONE????

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