Press Conference

Summary of Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference

Opening statement from Jim Curtin
  • The team did well shutting down the DC United wingers – Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam, but the breaks didn’t go Philly’s way in the DC match. 
  • There’s a sense of urgency because it’s tough to chase from behind in MLS. Talking to the players, belief in the current group remains strong, and there’s still a good spirit in the locker room. It’s “huge” to be home again. It’s hard to go on the road in MLS.
  • Curtin will continue to be a coach that gives the players credit for wins and takes the blame for losses, so with that in mind he and the players all recognize that this upcoming homestand is important. Every home game is important, but especially coming up 2-3 points short of where the club wants to be over the first four games means these next few loom larger.
  • Perspective-wise, it’s only four games in. Still 30 games to go. There’s pressure every day. That’s normal. Accountability is necessary for the sport to grow, and Curtin doesn’t run from that. He’ll take the blame for losses, and the team has lost two in a row. The team has to get things right in this upcoming homestand.
On CJ Sapong and Jay Simpson
  • The spark CJ provided against DC raised the group’s belief again, and it took great work from Hamid to keep the home side ahead.
  • CJ Sapong’s form is pushing Jay Simpson for a starting role, but a decision will be made about whether Sapong could continue to be effective in a later-game role, with Simpson holding the ball up early.
  • Pairing Sapong and Simpson is a possibility, but also it’s necessary to do what’s best for the entire team. Looking at the data, though, the team has given up 13 shots on frame and six have gone in. If the team keeps limiting other teams and getting service to the strikers, the points will come. Things aren’t going the team’s way right now, but the locker room isn’t feeling down.
On Jack Elliot
  • Jack Elliot is training with the first team next to Oguchi Onyewu. Richie Marquez is going through concussion protocol right now. It looks as though Marquez will complete the concussion protocol in time to play this weekend, but that’s not guaranteed, so big decisions to make there.
  • Elliot came in very fit and confident and showed he could pass out of the back. He showed he belonged in preseason, and he’s shown he can progress in training. Gooch switched sides to make Elliot comfortable and got him on the ball early, and the rookie rose to the occasion. It won’t be the last time a young guy rises to the occasion.
On John McCarthy and Fafa Picault
  • John McCarthy still having some concussion-like symptoms so he’s not ready to come back yet.
  • Fafa Picault didn’t make the bench against DC United because the team wanted a more defensive bench on the road, but Picault is healthy and available this weekend.
On Derrick Jones
  • Derrick Jones has been excellent. His positioning, his workrate have been great, and opposing coaches have mentioned his name as a standout after each match. He’s really progressed.
  • Right now, Jones is playing in a box-to-box role, but the club would like to see him get a bit more involved in the attack. His ceiling is high, but he has the athleticism, passing, and tackling skill to succeed in MLS.
On Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya
  • Medunjanin has 13 chances created — which leads the league — but only one has been converted. As the team’s luck changes, he’ll get more recognition for his work. He’s been a great leader and works hard to help Derrick Jones develop.
  • There can be a bit of fluidity in where Medunjanin plays, but the midfielders should have clear goals. When the team doesn’t have success, people are going to point things out, but Curtin still believes the midfield has done a good job so far. Can the midfield get a bit better in their positioning? Absolutely, but it’s still a new partnership for the three of them. That said, there’s urgency in getting results now.
  • Bedoya still feels more comfortable as an 8 than a 10, and he and Curtin have talked about how he’s less comfortable with his back to goal playing higher up the pitch. But Bedoya is capable of playing anywhere and the team needs to find more ways to get him on the ball in dangerous parts of the field. He might need to drop a bit deeper to assist the buildup play, and that could mean inverting the midfield triangle to give him more freedom to move around.
On Portland
  • Adding Blanco to Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Fanendo Adi makes them extremely dangerous. Very fluid in attack, width from the outside backs. There are chances to get them in transition, but you have to be perfect. They can beat you a lot of different ways, and they have many guys that can get a goal or make the final pass. In the end, it comes down to stopping Valeri and Adi: We need to limit their chances.
On Eric Ayuk
  • It’s very crowded at his position, but the club still believes in him. The loan was done to get him minutes in high level games during this developmental stage of his career.
  • The Ayuk loan opens up a roster spot, and an international spot. The club hasn’t decided how to fill that spot yet.


  1. For all the talk about how we need to move beyond the college draft (an I agree in general), the Union sure have found a lot of solid MLS players (including bench spots) there recently.

    • Does that say more about the high quality of college or the low quality of MLS, though?

      • Well, most college picks from the draft are terrible and don’t even stick through training camp, I meant it more as the Union have been able to scout these players pretty well and that there is actually talent to be found in the college ranks. Getting backups from the draft can help a lot in a salary cap league.

    • The Union also seem to draft a lot of foreign-born college kids. Coincidence?

      • Tim Jones says:

        No coincidence. Elliott, A. Jones, Nanco and Moar were all internationals. Epps is domestic. If you want to count Najem and McGuire they are domestic.

  2. After everything said this week, if Curtin trots out the same exact crap on Sat with nothing new (ie, still tying Bedoya at the 10), then his days are numbered.

    • By Curtin’s comments, I don’t see how you can expect anything else. I’m not saying I don’t agree Bedoya shouldn’t be. I just think he will.

      • A bit of a litmus test: “He might need to drop a bit deeper to assist the buildup play, and that could mean inverting the midfield triangle to give him more freedom to move around.”

  3. It is not relevant to keep hearing the Coach take the blame for under performance. Just shut up and do a better job than you are doing now. Taking the blame does not absolve you. Just change things to make them better.

  4. Any presser that starts with some nod towards taking more accountability for results and then devolves into bad breaks and how we’re waiting on someone’s luck to change, well those are quotes from a man who doesn’t get it.

    • Or that you think that for the most part you have been creating better chances than the other teams so you are moving in the right direction?

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Interesting that Ayuk going on loan opens the Int’l spot. We must take advantage of this and find some attack sooner than later.

    • scottymac says:

      I’m still not clear that there’s an extra one. They seemed to be over one based on Earnie’s comments re: the spot traded to HOU.

      • pragmatist says:

        As our FO and other have said repeatedly, you can find an international spot if you need one. MLS has convoluted and ridiculous methods to allow teams to trade some unused asset to another team in exchange for an international slot.
        Not an issue if there is a player worth going through the MLS hoops.

    • Tim Jones says:

      That has been known for a while if you look at the MLS website.
      In the search box, type in “Philadelphia Union 2017 Roster” and open the resulting link.

      Roster spots 1-30 will be listed first. Note that Jake McGuire was not on the list before and after the D.C. Game.
      Then comes the Senior Roster, the Supplemental Roster and the Reserve Roster. They are followed by International Slots, then internationals who do not count against International slots – that was Ayuk, A. Jones and Yaro who is on the DL . Then comes Unavailable Players – Ayuk, A. Jones and McGuire.

      Before the table’s notes were changed, McGuire was noted as “Loaned to: USL”. After I brought that fact to the organization’s attention when they objected to something I wrote, the MLS website “mysteriously” changed. The Union, for whatever reason do not want you to know McGuire is on season-long loan to the Steel. He can play for the Union under the extreme hardship roster exception specific to goalkeepers in MLS’s rules. They can do that four times, unless the restriction somehow becomes waived. If McGuire appears against Portland they will have used two of their four, and will be short of what they need to cover Blake’s absences during the Caribbean Cup and the Gold Cup. We all suspect that won’t be a problem however, because MLS ignores its own rules when it wants to.

  6. Dick Saunders says:

    Where is any mention of Roland Alberg. It’s getting pretty silly. The very obvious play here is to move Bedoya to the wing, and slot Alberg in at the 10.

    Please please please ask about why Roland isn’t seeing any playing time?!!??!

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Think he is not fit….which if this is the case then we have no alternative but to wait and see.
      This is why I’m choosing to be mum regarding this alarming press conference, Kevin Kinkheads piece in PhillyVoice, and the De George piece.

    • I’d be ok with that experiment, but I like the idea of Bedoya at 8, Jones at 6, Alberg at 10 and Ilson on RM.

      Bedoya and Jones can both cover enough ground in midfield to make up for Alberg and Ilson. And Alberg and Ilson should be able to provide more offense in those spots.

      It may not work. But point is we need to try.

      • Tim Jones says:

        Already have, last season and this preseason.
        He’s been in 18s. That mitigates against fitness issues. He would not be available if fitness were a serious issue.

    • Joel Pterosaur says:

      It’s concerning to me that he isn’t seeing the field. A full off season with the team and he’s not fit? Really?

      My other thought was, why not put Medunjanin at the 10? Yeah he’s not gonna press, but so what? The backline isn’t going to be compact enough for it to matter anyway. Gets pressure off Bedoya by letting him be an 8 and Jones can be a pure 6 instead of the weird 8/6 thing and gets our apparently best chance creator closer to goal. Maybe it’s a dumb idea, but something gotta change.

    • Alberg is simply not a 10. The man has never participated in build-up play in his time with the Union. It’s not his skill set.

      Medunjanin is not a 10. He makes long passes from deep positions, recycles the ball, and cuts off passing lanes.

      The guy with the skills to be the 10 is Ilson. He should be tried there. It might not work.

      If Ilson doesn’t work there, then we simply do not have a 10, and we need to change to a formation that doesn’t use a 10. Period. And Jim needs to figure this out ASAP.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Alberg does not defend effectively as a number 10.

    • This conversation and the disagreements, IMHO, point to the elephant in the room (sorry, El P… not you): the current Union roster does not have the 10 it needs.
      No matter who we propose, there are valid arguments from those who say “no.”

      • “Right now I’m playing in a different position because of different circumstances and for various reasons and I’m trying my best to help the team out,” Bedoya told DeGeorge. “But you’re not going to turn me into somebody that I’m not, or what you want me to do as a number ten playmaker guy. I’ve never really been that type of guy in my career.
        You guys want me to be a playmaker? Well that’s never been my career. I’m not going to turn into Ronaldinho all of a sudden because I’m put in the No. 10 in the formation. But I’m still trying to do my best to contribute to the team.” (A. Bedoya)

      • The Little Fish says:

        Wah, wah, wah….
        That said, put him on the wing ASAP…!!!

  7. Saint Ernies Sins

    He underestimated Barnetta contributions to the succes of the 2016 team. He needed to release Alberg and Edu who are the 2 biggest wasted salaries and get a quality # 10. ….. Too late now……..When Curtin is fired and he will be if the team can’t win at a pace that puts them in to the playoff race by May15th…… The new coach will change formations that puts 2 forwards up top. Alberg will have to play more Bedoya will go out wide and Ilsinhio will be moved inside.

    • Soccerson says:

      +1 On Curtin. Good coaches have a design to maximize the potential of existing players and train and experiment to change that design for special games or opponents. Curtin (and perhaps also Ernie) seem to be doing it the other way around: Marrying to a design at all costs without getting all the right pieces for it. This then causes a lot of square pegs in round holes and an easy game prep for opponent coaches.

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