Press Conference / Union

Curtin breaks the ‘silence’ on Olivier Mbaizo

On Jan. 22, Bethlehem Steel announced the signing of Cameroonian outside back Olivier Mbaizo.

The 20-year-old flashed in preseason training, earning time with the Union first team in exhibition matches down in Florida. After injuring his knee during a closed-door scrimmage with Orlando City SC on Feb. 14, Mbaizo returned to Philadelphia for training.

Since then, there was nothing. No news. No updates.  PSP’s Tim Jones profiled the situation in today’s piece, Eight weeks of silence— Olivier Mbaizio.

That silence ended today.

Responding to a question posed by PSP (brought on by sites of Mbaizo working with trainers during Union practices), Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin addressed Mbaizo’s lenghty absence during his weekly press conference at Talen Energy Stadium.

“He’s back at training fully. He has the quality to train with the first team. Today was his first day back, and he trained with the first team.”

Curtin also mentioned the defender will be getting minutes soon, although he was vague on whether that will be with the Union or the Steel. It would be safe to assume those few minutes would come in the USL— at least to get some game conditioning.

Mbaizo might not be the only addition coming to the Union’s defense. Center back Joshua Yaro is a full participant in training after a short injury stint. Curtin also mentioned veteran defenders Richie Marquez and Fabinho are both about a week and a half from a return to schedule, which puts them ahead of schedule.

Yet the coach is more than confident in his current back four, the youngest in MLS history. Their success, he believes, has been overlooked nationally because of the storylines of “Zlatan and Toronto.”

“They’re very enjoyable to work with.” Curtin continued, “It’s a good young stable of defenders.”

Individually, Curtin was quick offer praise. “Auston Trusy has emerged as much a leader as you can be at 19,” he said before mentioning his delight with left back Matt Real’s improved eagerness to get forward.

“[Elliott’s] been a real revelation for us,” Curtin mentioned discussing the English center back about to make his 34th career start. “His feet in MLS are top in the league for a center back.” He continued and downplayed Elliott’s perceived lack of pace. While he might not have that elite acceleration, when Elliott gets going he can keep up with the best strikers in MLS, like he did when isolated with San Jose’s Danny Hoesen.

Curtin’s tidbits
  • Curtin downplayed any budding rivalry with Orlando City. “I don’t think there’s a ton in it. I could probably name six players on their team that don’t know that game existed.”
  • How about that chippy closed-door scrimmage that saw Mbaizo injured and winger Fafa Picault injured? “It’s in the past.”
  • On San Jose’s goal, “We encourage our center backs to be aggressive. If you rewind the play it starts with the press being a step late…they’re about 70 yards from goal…Trusty does release into midfield which is encouraged.” When the ball bounced back to the Quakes, “Real’s body position is a little bit square.” Basically, Trusty made a good play and the team didn’t react the way they should have after the initial challenge.
  • It was a “teachable moment” for Real. Curtin continued to mention the left back needed to move more centrally on the transition and close the space on Eriksson before the shot.
  • On winger David Accam’s recent struggles. “He needs commitment from an outside back or a midfielder that doesn’t draw a second defender into his area.” He continued, “David benefits most from not looking to cross balls,” and more from attacking the box. “He’s created some havoc. He’s created some chances.” Accam just needs the ball to drop, so to speak.
  • Another winger made his season debut on Sat. How did Picault fare? “He really impacted the game in a positive way with his speed and getting in behind.” Curtin “likes what we have” with his wingers.
  • On the Union’s attack, “I think the floodgates could come open,” Curtin said. “A Friday night game on national TV— I think the guys will be ready. We’ll get it right.”


  1. While logic says game fitness with the Steel, all should note that last Sunday, the organization as a whole had healthy two left backs, three trained right backs, a flank midfielder being evaluated as a right back to paraphrase coach Burke today in his teleconference, and four center backs one of whom was unavailable due to red card suspension.
    That’s nine bodies for eight slots last Weekend. Fortunately it is only sixty miles to Lehigh and McKenzie could do double duty.
    The injuries in the defense have created significantly straitened circumstances for both teams. The Steel had no defenders on the bench Sunday.
    The circumstance may influence where defenders coming back from injury get their minutes.

  2. Thank you for asking the question, Nick Fishman. Much obliged.

  3. “I think the floodgates could come open,” Curtin said. “A Friday night game on national TV— I think the guys will be ready. We’ll get it right.”
    Wishful thinking. I see another 1-1 with poor headers and wasteful crosses. Hope CJ scores but think he will be again too slow to get to a ball that bounces in the 6….

  4. Love the easy to read writing and format!

  5. A Scotsman. says:


    Elliott thinks of himself as Scottish (hence the Scotland flag in the River end). He is too good to insult by calling him English.

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