Press Conference

Curtin press conference: Homegrowns and swan songs

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin took the podium Wednesday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium for his weekly press conference.

The biggest news of the day broke toward the end of the event, as the league released the 18-man roster for the MLS Homegrown Game on August 1 at Toyata Park in Chicago.

The roster featured two familiar faces, with both Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty selected for the match.

“It means a heck of a lot,” said Curtin. “It’s special to get recognition for their actions on the field.”

He also spoke to what it means for the organization as a whole. “We’re a club that wants to be at the forefront of youth development in the United States.”

It’s a sentiment that rings especially true given another talented homegrown player may be making his debut this weekend.

Curtin all but said Anthony Fontana will feature in the match against Swansea City A.F.C. on Saturday. When asked by a reporter about the possibility, the coach joked that the reporter must have been speaking with his assistants. He said it is “something we’ve discussed and thought about” before describing Fontana as a young kid that is “what we want a Philadelphia Union player to look like.”

The 17-year-old won’t be the only unfamiliar face taking part in the friendly with the Premier League club from Wales.

Curtin consistently referred to the match as a “training exercise.” He mentioned it as an opportunity to reward some players who’ve done well with Bethlehem Steel while allowing some Union players the chance to build on solid performances.

It’s a match that should showcase the club’s depth. It’s that depth which led to Curtin saying it’s the “strongest ” roster the team has ever had. He also hedged that statement stating, “the top end [talent] is similar to where we were last year.” Despite being a deep team, it’s a misconception to confuse that with results. It’s especially true when “every other team has gotten a lot better.”

Yet it is this depth that may help the club traverse a grueling stretch of four games in eleven matches starting next Wednesday in Montreal.

With Chris Pontius on international duty, Curtin discussed a few of the options.

“Marcus Epps has impressed,” Curtin said. “He’s pushed.”

He also mentioned the possibility of Ilsinho sliding back out wide.

His comments on the roster segued into his comments on a squad-turned-starter. Curtin discussed Giliano Wijnaldum, who seized the left back position from Fabinho. His first road game, against Sporting Kansas City, was “a little different…there were really good 1v1 defending moments, and moments where he could get a little tighter.”

Curtin spoke more about the match in Kansas City in his opening statement. It was “not our best game with the ball.” Despite this, he was pleased the side was able to secure a point.

He mentioned the importance of earning points on the road against teams like Toronto and Atlanta “if we want to be the a team that takes the next step.”

It was this overall focus on the Union’s first half of the season that dominated the rest of the opening statement. Offensively they have, “come up a little short, but the quality is good. [We] need to improve quantity [of chances]  and get the outside backs more involved.”

“Defensively, good first half of the year…Goal differential is strong..and we’re eager to get going in the second half,” said the coach.

The Union’s 6-3-1 record in the last ten is the “tier we have to be at.” Curtin also said the club’s “margins are small” if the side is to make the playoffs.

Other tidbits

On Andre Blake, Alejandro Bedoya, and Chris Pontius: 

  • With both Blake and Bedoya wearing the captain’s armband for their respective nations, Curtin said, “It’s special…something we work towards.”
  • Pontius’s return to the national team was a goal discussed with the player before his signed with the club.

On injuries

  • The club is healthy outside of Fabian Herbers, who is getting an MRI on his abdomen.
  • Maurice Edu is “still a ways away.”

On the No. 10

  • Adding a No. 10 is a possibility, but more because it’s a position “everybody in the world is looking for.”
  • “Roland [Alberg] is in very good form right now.”
  • Ilsinho has had “good games and good moments, also disappointing ones.”

On Bob Bradley

  • His firing “didn’t seem completely fair to me.”
  • “He’s a winner, best coach I’ve ever played for.”


  1. Sigh… I guess we can look forward to some matches with Roland Alberg at the 10-spot… Then again, with 4 matches in 11 days, there’s no way Ilsinho can play them all. I was hoping maybe Najem would be his understudy instead.

    I would predict that any match with Alberg starting at CAM winds up in a draw at best. Maybe he scores a nice goal from 20 yards out, but he also repeatedly fails to pick up a late runner in the box, resulting in an equalizer (or worse). Or maybe he spends 70 minutes waiting for service and petulantly bitching at the ref for a foul he didn’t get until he’s subbed out.

  2. I beleive someone posted that both Illsinho and Alberg are on club options after this year.

    I like them both but I would 110% deny them both and move on from both of them.

    • SilverRey says:

      If Ilsinho actually made something of his beautiful footwork I’d say keep him as a wing option, but way too often he makes someone look like a fool then puts himself into a dead-end situation where he can’t even pass off to anybody. I’m with you James.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      My memory says each is in the second year of a contract. It would be no surprise that there be a club option for 2018.
      Whether my memory is reliable I do Not know.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    If Curtin takes Fontana AND Najem for the Swansea game Saturday, he is weakening Bethlehem noticeably for its league match that day with Pittsburgh.
    One or the other would not be a problem if Tribbett comes down to play defensive center mid with Hugh Roberts returning to the center of the back line.
    Dawson McCartney and Josue Monge would like provide the star substitute if both Najem and Fontana are absent.

  4. Excited to see Fontana. I thought he looked good in his preseason opportunities.

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