Press Conference / Union

Jim Curtin’s Union seek an elusive playoff victory

Photo: 215pix

Sunday afternoon’s first round playoff match between New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union means a little bit more for the home side that’s historically been starved of success.

Since their formation in 2010, Philadelphia have yet to advance in postseason play. Heck, this is only their fourth playoff appearance and first at home in eight years. Comparatively, this marks the tenth consecutive season the Red Bulls have reached the playoffs, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in three of those years.

“To take the next step as a club, that first playoff game is a big one to win.” Union manager Jim Curtin said during his weekly press conference at Talen Energy Stadium. “We’ve now worked incredibly hard this season and had our most successful, most decorated season.”

Curtin isn’t wrong. For much of the year, the Union sat in first place in the Eastern Conference. In the end, they slid to third, which still matches the club’s previous best-ever finish in 2011. Philadelphia also set club records with 16 wins and 55 points.

It’s why a loss on Sunday would be all the more devastating.

“Until you win a playoff game, there will always be the chatter and the noise in the background,” said Curtin. “We don’t hide from that.”

The coach hears that noise more than most. He’s been listening to it pretty much since the club’s inception. Even before being named manager in 2014, Curtin worked with the organization’s youth teams and as an assistant coach. He knows the history of this club. He knows the added pressure that can only be alleviated with playoff success. It’s a weight more of his players don’t have to bear.

“A lot of the players are new,” said Curtin. “When they come from Europe or they come in from different places, they don’t feel the last ten years.”

But Curtin won’t have to carry the weight of playoff expectations alone.

“It’s going to mean a lot more for Ray Gaddis,” Curtin continued. “It’s going to mean a lot more for Andre Blake. Maybe ‘more’ is the wrong word, but you know what I’m getting at. They’ve been here longer.”

While both Gaddis and Blake are locks to take the field on Sunday, the way in which the team has played guarantees the competition for even bench spots is fierce.

“I have guys playing their best from that aren’t going to make our 18, and that’s hard,” said Curtin. “That’s different in past years. Usually once we got past ten or 12 guys, there was a bigger drop off than there is now. I’m going to be telling guys who are literally playing their best soccer…that they’re not in the 18, not even in the team.”

That depth may come in handy. There’s a quick turnaround with the conference semifinals being played midweek.

But to get there, the Boys in Blue need to do something new. They need to win a playoff game.

Curtin’s tidbits
  • The Union finished the season a little banged up. There’s good news on that front. Captain Alejandro Bedoya returned to practice, while wingers Sergio Santos and Fafa Picault have been training in full.  Although Kacper Przybylko did not train in full on Wednesday, Curtin explained that “There’s certainly a plan in place that fully involves [Przybylko] starting on Sunday.”
  • So despite the Union’s late season struggles, are they the favorite against the Red Bulls? Yes, according to Curtin. The three seed is higher than the six, so it’s as simple as numbers. We have the home game. In pro sports the home team is usually the favorite. Usually the course of the season dictates that.”
  • But Curtin knows his side is used to being the underdog. “I wouldn’t say we prefer [being] the underdog, but I think we’re more used to [being] the underdog. I think that’s just what we’ve been, so our group responds well to that.”

8 Comments

  1. Pressure Valve says:

    Well……….what it really means is that his GM can finally exhale.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    See your future.
    .
    BE your future.
    .
    Make.
    .
    Make.
    .
    Make it.
    .
    Make it!
    .
    Make your future, Danny.

  3. While I am certainly rooting for the Union with all my heart on Sunday and will be disappointed if they don’t win, I will also say that regardless of the result of a one off game, this season has been the one where I’m proudest to be a Union fan/season ticket holder…and that includes attending 3 Open Cup finals.

    • Phil in Wilmington says:

      Agreed. They’ve played great soccer. And we have personalities on thei field that this town should be proud of. In the end that’s all you can ask for.

  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    The Red Bulls themselves do not terrify me, but the thought of losing to them is beyond terrifying, beyond horrifying. Being the favorites does zero to calm my nerves. It has been a great season. The June 8 NYRB game is in experience I’ll never forget, but what did that game matter if they can’t win this one?

  5. A win on Sunday would mean a lot to me. Vindication. Ten years of my life gone. Ten years gone.
    .
    Never gonna leave you, holdin’ on, ten years gone.

  6. Curtin Call or Swansong????

    If Curtin can not figure it out for the most important game they will play all year and come with a plan to win he should be sent packing. I think the players will all be motivated. Curtin just has to get them to channel their energy and be focused. If Curtin has not figured out how to counter the double team of Monteiro and or Ilshinio he should just resign at the end of the match. All Must play with confidence and grit. win all 50/50 balls . If you get beat double back and retake the ball. Get a lead and don’t back down. Blake needs to be fully focused for 90 minutes. No stupid fouls inside the 18. This is the best team the Union has had. Certainly good enough to win 1 stinkin home field playoff game against the hated Redbulls. Like I said if they don’t win Curtin should have his bags packed. He can drive Marco to the airport right after the game.

    Kai Wagner scores 1st goal of MLS career. Kacsper puts one neatly in the corner and Elliott scores on a diving header off a corner kick. Blake comes up big and shuts down Redbulls.

    3-0 Union

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