Press Conference / Union

Curtin says the Union face a “dangerous” opponent in Toronto FC

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It’s safe to say the 2017 version of Toronto FC were the best team in MLS history. The defending champions are coming off a record-setting season, and they also provided the best performance from a MLS side in the current version of the CONCACAF Champions League.

But they didn’t win it, falling on penalties to Chivas Guadalajara in the tournament’s final last week.

It was a heartbreaking result considering Toronto sacrificed domestic success in search of silverware. With the defeat behind them, it looked like the Canadian club would use their anguish as fuel against Chicago Fire. Despite jumping out to a two goal lead, the Fire offered no respite. Chicago’s Alan Gordon completed an unlikely comeback at the death.

After dropping the points, Toronto sit in an unfamiliar position — last place in the Eastern Conference, with a sole victory from six matches. They’re already 16 points off New York City FC’s pace.

With Philadelphia heading north of the border for a Friday night contest against Toronto, can the Union capitalize and build on their host’s early season struggles? Is this a good time play the perennial powerhouse?

Is there ever a good time to play Toronto FC?

Union head coach Jim Curtin needed only one word during his weekly press conference at Talen Energy Stadium to describe the club his team is about to face.

“Dangerous.”

Curtin expounded, “When you watch the Chicago game, you actually wanted them to beat Chicago 5-0. Now, they’re even a little more hungry for points. It’s not the best timing.

“Their only focus is now on the league, and that’s a dangerous thing for us,” he continued.

During his opening remarks, Curtin commented on the depth of Toronto’s roster, saying it’s the “best MLS has ever had.”

It’s that roster which helped the Reds come so close to that elusive Champions League trophy. But even in falling short, Toronto’s run earned Curtin’s admiration. “I was proud of them as a coach in MLS to see their performances in Mexico. To dominate those teams in Mexico is as hard of a thing to do in CONCACAF.”

Toronto’s roster is not only deep, but boasts elite talent at the top in both former league MVP Sebastian Giovinco and in the captain of the U.S. national team.

Stopping Toronto, according to Curtin starts with stopping the latter. “Michael [Bradley’s] career speaks for itself,” Curtin stated, “We’ve prepared for him at center back and the No. 6, a 3-5-2 or a version of a 4-3-3.”

For the Union to succeed on the road, they’ll need prevent Bradley from picking out passes from his deep-lying position. They’ll also need to stop Giovinco from doing what he does best — scoring goals.

One player Curtin will lean on heavily is center back Auston Trusty, who’s flashed promise in his first season with the club.  Curtin, though, doesn’t want the 19-year-old defending on an island. “Auston has to show Giovinco towards where we have help. It’s a very tough ask. There’s not a player that can do it in our league alone against Giovinco.”

There’s no debating that one player isn’t going shut down Giovinco. More than that, one player isn’t going to win the game alone. If the Union are going to win in Toronto, they’ll need a complete team effort.

Curtin’s tidbits
  • The match against Toronto kicks of a rough stretch of three road games in eight days for the Union. As far as squad rotation, Curtin said, “There will be some guys that haven’t played a ton of minutes this season that will be called upon in the next couple of weeks.”
  • Curtin’s squad will also be bolstered by the return of some injured pieces, including his preferred left back. “Fabinho will be back in the 18 [on Friday]. There’s still a decision to be made on if he’s a starter or a reserve.”
  • The coach also reflected on the win over D.C. United after a tough stretch. “I thought it was  a really complete performance from our group when we needed one.”
  • On his captain’s performance in the win: “I thought that this was his strongest game…When you hardly notice him that’s a good thing.” Curtin continued, “As he goes and Haris [Medunjanin] goes, our team goes.”
  • On the Union’s developing style: “When you do start to see your group in the proactive group of teams…it’s good to be in that grouping of teams [mentions Atlanta United and Columbus Crew as examples].”
  • “If you don’t have a real style to fall back on, you don’t have much.” Curtin continued, “It’s something Philadelphia Union are working on. We’re not there yet.”

5 Comments

  1. The only saving grace going into this game is that half their team is injured.

  2. Squad rotation might make some fan’s heads explode.

  3. The Truth says:

    Curtin’s commitment to the 4-2-3-1 style is asinine. Prediction 3-1 TFC

    • Nick Fishman says:

      They basically played a 4-4-2 for large portions of the match against D.C. When Fabinho was healthy, they often switched to a 3-man back line in attack.

      There’s been more flexibility this year, even if the lineup sheet looks the same.

  4. I think it’s cool that Le Toux might sign a one day ceremonial contract, so he can retire a Union player.

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