Press Conference

Full transcript and notes: Jim Curtin’s weekly presser

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin met with the media Wednesday for his weekly press conference. Here is what went down.

Highlights
  • Everybody is available for selection except Mo Edu and Josh Yaro. Warren Creavalle played during the international break and is healthy, Jay Simpson will be available, and Ilsinho is back to full health.
  • Yaro started running recently and is ahead of schedule for his recovery. Team doctors got together Wednesday to figure out where Edu is at and map out a plan for a return.
  • Chris Pontius broke his hand and will wear a cast but is still fully ready to play.
  • Alejandro Bedoya will be re-joining the group on Thursday and will not be limited in terms of minutes despite playing in both USMNT qualifiers.
  • DC match is very important leading into a three game homestand, don’t want to be the team DC’s offense breaks out on.
  • DC’s striker Patrick Mullins should be out with a hamstring injury. He keyed the team’s late season playoff push in 2016.
  • On Seba Le Toux: “He served our club incredibly, he scored a ton of goals for Philadelphia Union. He’s been a guy who has scored in big games for us. I’m sure it’s a big game for him, and he’d like to score against the Union. They’ve had some injuries at the forward position, so I wouldn’t be surprised — knowing Ben — if he plays a bunch of minutes against us.”
Opening statement

Seems like it’s been a while since we played a match. Obviously, the international break came at a unique time this year. A chance for us to get guys with little nicks healed up, to work on a lot of our attacking movements, putting our key players on the ball in the most dangerous parts of the field, defensively as a team — continue to work on keeping our lines tight together, cohesion between the back four and the guys in front of them, when to step, when to drop, a lot of those things we’ve been able to work on the past two weeks, had a good exercise against Bethlehem Steel to keep the guys in a good rhythm. I think over the past week and a half we’ve really pushed the fitness side of things. Still is early in the season, but I think our sports performance department has done a good job in requiring a good load of training over the past days even leading into DC. I’m very happy with where we’re at in terms of guys being able to push for ninety minutes, so we’ve raised the bar in that category. Now we look forward to a tough opponent in DC United. A conference game that is early in the season but is still a very important game early in the season. After that we have three at home so we need to go on the road and fight for every point.

Bedoya’s availability

He’ll be available, that’s for sure. Even if he had gone ninety minutes last night, he’s the kind of guy that wants to be in with our group. I thought he did very well against Honduras, in that unique spot where you’re called upon to go in after an injury and perform. I thought he really stepped up and gave Bruce [Arena] a big effort. I think he’s a guy that it’s clear Bruce trusts and really believes in. Did a good job last night as well in a shorter period, only 20 minutes, but in some ways I was happy with that because I know he’ll be that much more fresh going into the weekend against DC. But two good results for the United States that Ale played a role in and did a good job.

How will Ben Olsen and DC change approach to score goals (zero goals thus far this season)

It’s a scary thing. You don’t want them to be the team that breaks out against you, right? Ben is a guy who is as hard a worker as there is in our league. He has a good team. If you actually look at the performances and watch the games as we have now on tape, they’re creating chances, they’re dangerous. Obviously, I think [Patrick] Mullins has a hamstring issue so he might not play a role. But they have a lot of dynamic attackers. You look at Lloyd Sam, [Patrick] Nyarko has given us fits over the past years. [Lucho] Acosta, who, when he gets going, his first game back against Columbus, he’s a handful, he pops up all over the field.

So again, it’s dangerous when you see they haven’t scored a goal because you know they have a potent ability to break out like they did at the end of last season. They were hot and really clicking on all cylinders. We’re hoping we can keep them… not catching fire, keep them quiet on the attacking side of things. That’ll be our goal. I’m sure Ben is working hard this week to prepare, just like we are. It’s going to be two teams that are fighting for points early on. Obviously it’s their third home game, it’ll be our third away game. So different challenges in the schedule early on, but one where we know we need to go there with some confidence and get points.

Does lack of recent wins weigh on you guys?

Any time you lose a game, you’re going to have that come up. We lost our first game of 2017 against Orlando, and we’ve had to sit for two weeks, so again I understand there’s going to be reflections back on last year. But it’s important to recognize that this year’s team is different from last year’s in terms of personnel, I think we probably have 4-5 starters that are different, some changes that have been made, it’s a new year, it’s a new group. 2016, while we were happy to make the playoffs, we weren’t happy with the ending of the year. It’s in the past. Again, we had months and months of off time between that, and a preseason to work, so I don’t really think you can connect the two years together.

I do know we lost a game to Orlando, which we weren’t happy about. Would’ve liked to get at least a point out of it, would’ve liked to get three out of Toronto. We didn’t. So now our players and staff know the task at hand and now we have to get points early on in the year because it’s important. You don’t want to be a team that’s chasing. It’s a hard league to come from behind and chase in. You saw last year with Seattle and DC getting hot late in the year, but that’s not a situation we want to put ourselves in. It starts with a good performance against DC building into the three game homestand that we had.

Creavalle’s status

They have a unique international schedule, they’re no longer in the Caribbean Cup, so the games were friendlies, we thought it would be good in the international window for Warren to go and represent his country, it’s the ultimate honor. He’ll be back tomorrow with the group, barring any crazy flight changes. Had a 0-0 tie last night against Martinique. So he’ll be back and it sounds like he got through it healthy and he’ll be back with us tomorrow.

Does Seba Le Toux have extra motivation to get on the field against the Union?

Of course. Of course he wants to play. Sebastien is a professional, I’m sure he’d like to be out there, I’m sure he’d like to score against us, for sure. That’s the nature of pro sports. You see it so often. Guys move from one club to the other and there’s a chip on their shoulder to score against their old team. That’s the nature of pro sports. He served our club incredibly, he scored a ton of goals for Philadelphia Union. He’s been a guy who has scored in big games for us. I’m sure it’s a big game for him, and he’d like to score against the Union. They’ve had some injuries at the forward position, so I wouldn’t be surprised — knowing Ben — if he plays a bunch of minutes against us.

Will Ale (Bedoya) be back tomorrow (Thursday)?

Yeah, Ale will get in today but he’ll be back with the group tomorrow in training.

How about Jay Simpson?

He’s good. All those little nicks, between Jay, between Andre Blake’s little knee tweak that he had in the Orlando game, Ilsinho coming back now fully fit, Pontius has a little broken hand, so a lot of little injuries that guys are starting to heal up from. Starting to see Josh Yaro run, which is really positive as well. So getting healthy, but again everybody will be available for selection except for Yaro and Mo [Edu], injuries you guys already know about. So yeah, expect Ale back tomorrow. And we’ll have the full team together tomorrow.

Any way that Pontius is limited?

It’s annoying. People don’t realize the amount you use your hands in this game, whether it’s grabbing, every little advantage, shoulder-to-shoulder stuff, pulling a jersey, you don’t have the same kind of grip. So it does bother him, to say it doesn’t would be lying. Even when you fall down and you brace yourself, your tendency is to fall a little awkward now because you want to protect it because it hurts. So all those little things do add up. It’s not something that will keep a professional soccer player who is hungry as Chris is out of the game, but to say that he’s 100%, no, he wouldn’t be, going in with a broken hand. You do use your hand a lot more than people realize. Fighting on corner kicks, fighting through screens, pushing guys. It’s painful for him for sure, but it won’t keep him out of the game. Especially against DC.

Any progress for Josh (Yaro) and Mo (Edu)?

Yeah, Josh has been progressing quickly, I’d say he’s been ahead of schedule in terms of where he’s at. To see him out there running. Again, you can still see in his gait that he’s a little stiff with the shoulder, but that’s normal with that injury. The muscles around the tendon tend to get really tight. But to see him running is really encouraging. Obviously, it’ll be great to have him back. There’s a meeting going on today with our whole sports performance department, all the doctors, this was the day they wanted to give Mo a timeline to heal. New scans will be read today as we speak, and the next step will be decided. What that next step is, I don’t have information on, but it’s basically a matter of are they going to push him more now, or where they don’t see any improvement and have to take a new approach. So no real new concrete news. So obviously, want to get Mo back as quickly as possible. It’s been way too long for him, way too long for us as well. He just wants to be back playing. This has been a painful, long, slow process. It’s hurt our team.

You had Christian Pulisic in the Generation Adidas Cup. You’ve seen what he did in the past two games. What do you think about him now?

It’s incredible to see how he makes the game look easy for such a young kid out there. Obviously, everybody sees at Dortmund the minutes that he gets there and what he does with them. But to see him now become — it’s early, I don’t want to say — the go-to guy, but a guy who’s getting assists and goals for our national team in pretty limited minutes, it’s been fun to watch. The way he goes about his business, the way he gets on the ball, he thinks and sees different than the normal American players. These days we have so many talented players that are kind of good at everything, they’re kind of 7/10 at everything, a little bit safe.

Whereas Christian, when he gets on the ball, he just goes at people. He’s quick, he’s relentless with it. And if you stop him nine times, he’s coming the tenth. You can see players come to life when they play with him, you can tell by the body language of Clint [Dempsey] that Clint loves playing with him. You can tell when they score, who they go celebrate with. Can’t say enough about the way he’s performed for our national team. Obviously, he’s from this area, his father — again, everybody wants to talk about, the buzzword in this country is development, who developed what player and this and that — his parents developed Christian. That needs to be mentioned. His dad was a former pro who had a great plan for his kid all along. I think the one thing that — the Chelsea development, the Red Bull, the Dortmund, the Bayern Munich — parents develop kids first and foremost. And he’s been in a great environment in that regard. And to his credit now, has gotten great coaching and is really thriving. Gets to work with Bruce Arena, and he’s done really well there too. Happy to see his progression and not just to see him out there as an 18 year old but dominating games. It’s been special.

Do you think the media should back off Pulisic and give him space?

Every situation is different, I would say. If you sit and talk with Christian, in two seconds you can tell he’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He’s smart, doesn’t have a big ego and is pretty humble. I think the fact that he’s at a club where he’s pushed every day and he’s pushing to get in the lineup and nothing’s handed to him is important. The fact that he’s playing in one of the top clubs in the country of Germany in a really top league — he’s not anointed “the man” there. There’s always going to be someone they’re bringing in who’s 26 years old who is going to be pushing him just as hard each and every day. So it’s a little different from the Freddy [Adu] situation.

Yeah, I’d say his support system is a strong one. You don’t want too much too soon in terms of the accolades and pressure on one person. He’s not a kid that seems to be phased by much of it. The way he handles himself off the field, when you talk to enough people that are around him now, as he has had success and things have gone really well for him, he seems to stay the same, so that’s a really good sign. His talent speaks for himself. It’s amazing for a guy who’s a teenager to do what he’s doing. I think it starts with the support system that he has around him. It’s a strong one, and he has a strong family, and I think that’s what’s going to lead to his longevity. And longevity is the name of the game. Whether it’s basketball, football, everyone wants to anoint who’s the next this, that. Just let kids be kids, don’t compare them to LeBron, the next Bryce Harper or whatever. Let them go through their growth and development. And I think when it’s all said and done, Christian will leave a big imprint on the United States in soccer.

What do the guys who haven’t collected a ton of minutes yet need to do to force their way into the lineup?

When you look across soccer, there’s not usually more than 2-3 changes per game. I think we’ve made a couple changes here and there. We’re three games in, I still think that the season has to play out a little bit. You get a good snapshot of what the team’s all about and the key guys who have rose to the occasion and taken ahold of starting positions about 10-12 games into a year, I think that’s when you really know. I guess you could say that we’ve played a similar lineup, we’ve had a couple of injuries here and there.

We’re still feeling out our best back four. We had the injury to Yaro, so there’s a little experimentation there, you’re thinking about different things in training, we have gone with a similar group to try and get some cohesion there. Derrick Jones has emerged and did well, so there’s still decisions to be made. It’s still evolving. We’ve had a bad half of soccer against Orlando. I don’t think it’s time to make drastic changes to the group. I think this weekend you’ll see — with Jay back for selection, with Ilsinho fully healthy — we have a couple decisions to make, for sure, but at the same time it’s not like you look across the3 league and coaches are making 5-6 changes outside of reasons other than international duty, injuries, and occasionally form. But I think it’s too early to make drastic changes because of guys’ form just because we lost one game.

2 Comments

  1. “There’s a meeting going on today with our whole sports performance department, all the doctors, this was the day they wanted to give Mo a timeline to heal. New scans will be read today as we speak, and the next step will be decided. What that next step is, I don’t have information on, but it’s basically a matter of are they going to push him more now, or where they don’t see any improvement and have to take a new approach.”
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    Sounds like sort of a make-or-break if we see Edu this season IMO.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    So Skipper…. who’s standing behind Keegan Rosenberry chomping at the bit to light a fire up his ass like the burner Chiristian Pulisic is continually being warmed over- forcing him to excel?
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    How about the acetylene torch under Fabinho’s ‘Chapped Ass’ and near horrid play the last three games… is he feeling heat from the Dutch kid chomping at the bit to get his chance to show he can play?
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    Just asking…cause it simply has to be better from the outside backs… mistakes and all- most are redundant and unacceptable.
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    These are important questions I’d like asked and answered in light of the window the manager opened.

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