Press Conference / Union

Santos out a month, and Fabián’s red card provides an opportunity

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The breaking news came at the end of Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference:

First year forward Sergio Santos will be out at least the next four weeks with a Grade II hip flexor injury.

It’s a tough break for both the Brazilian and the club, who’ve both had a difficult start to the season. Santos, who was acquired from Chilean Primera Division club Audax Italiano for an undisclosed transfer fee, suffered a knee injury in preseason. While he bounced back before the opener, Santos has failed to crack the starting 11 so far this season.

The club’s rocky start was compounded by a red card the Union’s newest Designated Player, Marco Fabián, received in Kansas City on Sunday.

There was debate as to whether or not the infraction was warranted— as it was only given following the use of VAR. Thus, the question arose of if the Union would appeal the accompanying one-game suspension for Fabián.

“We are not going to appeal Marco’s red card,” Curtin told group of reporters at Talen Energy Stadium. “Realistically, probably not something we have a good chance of winning.” The manager explained that the league placed a point of emphasis on stepping on an opponent this year.

But with the loss of the Union’s dynamic No. 10 comes an opportunity for another. And that chance could belong to a teenager ten years younger than any midfielder that’s started this season— Brenden Aaronson.

While Curtin declined to commit to naming the 18-year-old, or any player, as the starting No. 10 in Atlanta, he did hint as to who it could be. “We have a good idea who that is.” Curtin continued,”It’s a player who’s been deserving of minutes in the past couple of weeks.”

For those peering into the crystal ball, the biggest clue that Aaronson is in line for the start was the coach’s comment that it’s someone “we’ve tried to get into the game.” Last week, Curtin mentioned Aaronson was going to be subbed into the opener, but Toronto FC’s second goal altered that plan. It also seems to rule out choices such as attacking midfielder Ilsinho and others who’ve already taken the field.

“Brenden is certainly high in our thoughts for the weekend. It’s not because he’s a nice story,” Curtin effused when asked directly about the potential debut of the club’s homegrown. “It’s because he’s deserving.”

“I’m not scared to start him.”

Curtin’s tidbits
  • The positive injury-related news was that center back Mark McKenzie has cleared concussion protocol and was a full participant in today’s scrimmage between the Union and their USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel.
  • While Ilsinho was stepped on during said scrimmage (save your “point of emphasis” red card quips for the comments), Curtin believes the Brazilian will be ok. He’ll get an MRI and X-ray tomorrow.
  • On Philadelphia’s newest signing midfielder Jamiro Monteiro’s prospect of playing this weekend: “There’s a possibility for Sunday.” But Curtin cautioned, “As of right now, he’s not available.” He did however mention his debut will be against Columbus Crew “at the latest.”
  • On the struggling offense: “We’ve created a lot of chances, whether you believe in the eyeball test or data.” Curtin continued, “I’d be a lot more concerned if we weren’t creating chances.”
  • On the criticism of midfielder Haris Medunjanin: “The least of our concerns right now is Haris. He set up literally every chance we had in the first half” against Sporting Kansas City.
  • On the club’s difficult start to the season: “We weren’t expected to win at Kansas City. We aren’t expected to win in Atlanta. We’re still chasing those three points from the home loss to Toronto.”
  • Speaking of Philadelphia’s next opponent: “They’ll put a lot into that game,” said Curtin of Atlanta’s CCL clash tonight. “They’re a dangerous team that can break out at any moment.”
  • And to end on a positive: “Andre [Blake] is one of the top goalkeepers in the league,” Curtin said of Blake’s 100 starts. “He’s a goalkeeper that keeps you in every game, and we are going to call upon him to do that.”


  1. Atomic Spartan says:

    Optimist: JC has a history of doing the right thing when there are no other options in road games vs. superior opponents (cf: Sounders, Seattle, 2018). Aaronson, Mbaizo and DJ will play.
    Actual Union Fan: JC will find a way to screw up this golden opportunity because he doesn’t want his fragile youngsters to be haunted by a loss in Atlanta. (cf: preponderance of all other lineup SNAFUs). Medunjanin, Ilsinho and Gaddis will play. And a one-legged Edu if he were available.

  2. Trusty will start and play 90. He will be DIRECTLY responsible for one opposition goal and there will be no repercussions.

    Marketing and Academy reps will be happy.

  3. Wishing Santos well in his recovery. Tough start for the guy.

  4. God, I hope Curtin would have a good idea who it is, there’s just 25 players on the roster. Minus the injured, plenty of room on the shrimp patrol.
    Ilsinho left practice with a knock. The new guy isn’t supposed to have his visa and play til Columbus. That leaves the not-a-10 Fontana and probably-a-10 Aaronsen.
    Not quite “Who shot JR?” in terms of suspense, but I’ll allow for the possibility Curtin screws this up with Bedoya or Accam.

  5. Im not scared to start him means he would like to play safe and predictable so that he can not be blamed for taking a risk. His hand might be forced this time. He is scared to start him.

  6. How improbable would it feel to take 3 points from Atlanta right now? On the road, big signings unavailable, Atlanta needing the W, struggling a bit defensively with our new shape, etc. Yet, sit back and watch some sort of weirdness occur: a couple of cards against Atlanta, maybe a handball in the box gifting us an easy goal, perhaps some VAR karma balancing things out, or even more improbably a couple of wonder goals from some unlikely sources. Whatever…should that happen, the Union come out of their first 3 games with 3 points, which is pretty much how you handicapped it when the schedule came out, isn’t it? And then we all get to sit back and recalibrate our anger and dissatisfaction a tad…until roughly late August when things take their annual turn toward ending the season on the low side of mediocrity. See you next year.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Last time we played Atlanta I think Union finished the game with 7 men.
      Least that’s how it looked and felt. Good old fashioned southern home cooking by the guy in yellow.

  7. Curtain reading the public’s comments on his perceived inept ability to manage? “I’m not scared to start him” lol

    “When our backs are against the wall, fearing an 0-3 start, I’ll make the changes our fans have been begging for.”

    Jokes aside, it would be wild to see them win Sunday although I’m not betting the house on it.

  8. Quite simply, Aaronson must play like it’s the only chance he’ll ever have. Despite what Jim says, the kid’s only chance of sniffing the pitch is in situations like this when more seasoned guys are unavailable. I don’t want to wish harm on anyone but if Haris were to go down injured we’d actually get to see Fontana and or Jonesy. Same goes for Gaddis/Mbaizo.
    Jim is stuck seeing players for who they are now, not who they can be. Aaronson is not a World Cup veteran. Fontana is a bit of an enigma. Jonesy doesn’t create much as he destroys. Mbaizo takes offensive risks. These are all things that can change. Players evolve…if you let them.

    • I don’t even think Curtin sees players as they are now. It’s more like he sees players as they were, what he Thought they were.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    Season starts in May gentleman!! LET”S GO!!!

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