Concacaf Champions Cup / Press Conference / Union

Curtin confident as team prepares for the first leg of the Champions Cup – “We don’t fear anybody”

Photo: Paul Rudderow

In the final press conference before the Union opens its season, Jim Curtin stated what should be obvious by now. “We are okay if Saprissa has a lot of possession – we actually expect that. Where we are very good is in the transition.”  

The Concacaf Champions Cup match against Deportivo Saprissa will happen at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, a venue where only two MLS teams have emerged victorious in the past – the Union and Columbus Crew. The match can be viewed at 10 p.m. ET via FS2 on cable, all the FOX Sports streaming platforms, fuboTVTUDN USA, and

The Union emerged with a 1-0 win during the Covid era of the Cup. This time the challenge will be different. Curtin said “It’s an honor to be one of those teams, but I’m also smart enough to recognize that when we won in this stadium it was Covid and it was empty, so it will be a totally different animal tomorrow.”

For the coach, Saprissa is “the biggest club in Costa Rica” and while the Union have a little bit of history with having played Saprissa in the Cup before, there are always concerns going into the first game of the season. Not only will the game be played before fans this time, but the Union is just winding up its pre-season, whereas Saprissa is in mid-season form. Curtin said “Saprissa has been in a good run of form in the league” and “is a little bit more fit than us. That’s natural.”

He reiterated that the Union “worked very hard in the pre-season to try to get to a good fitness level … but as we all know, coming to this stadium is different than a pre-season game.” Curtin recognized that the first fifteen minutes of the match will be critical, saying “we know Saprissa will throw a lot at us, we have to be brave and have to be calm and not make mistakes in the early going.”

Curtin went on to say “Saprissa is a team we’re very familiar with, the players and personnel. There is a lot of MLS experience in their group.  I’ve prepared for its players several times in the past.” “They have a player in [Mariano Néstor] Torres, that for me is one of the top players in Concacaf.” He continued that the Union has “a lot of familiarity, we respect them a great deal, but we don’t fear anybody. That has to be our mindset. We know we have a good team too.”

Curtin was very cognizant that the Union are opening a two-leg series on the road, saying “I always say the tie can be lost in the first leg, it can’t be won. So, we have to be very intelligent with how we approach the game, very disciplined….We are going to be smart about how we approach the game, respectful but also brave.” 

He continued “I also recognize this is a new test, new players, this 90 minutes is basically half time – so we have to set ourselves up in a good way to go back to Philadelphia, it’s an important goal of ours to not concede, try to score on the counter, and then protect our home in Philadelphia.”

If the Union can remain disciplined on the road in the first leg, Curtin noted that the Union’s “home field advantage is a very good one – I think in our last 65 games [at Subaru Park] we’ve been beaten three times. We are very good at home. The challenge is to set yourself up for that second leg. It is an advantage to have the second leg at home, I believe, but you also have to be very cautious with the approach in the first 90 minutes [on the road].” 

Wrapping up the press conference, Curtin spoke to which players have shown some spark in the pre-season. As head coach he said he doesn’t like to single out individuals, but “we’ve had really good performances from guys [in each line] – we’ve had Damian Lowe take a big step I think as a central defender, Quinn Sullivan has had a great pre-season and has really emerged as a good two-way player for us, and Julian [Carranza] has been himself and has been hitting the back of the net.” In summary, Curtin said “I like where we are at physically fitness-wise… I like where the group is at, and I really look forward to our first test.”


  1. Welcome! Good to see that you are a Chelsea supporter! Hope you are part of the Philly Blues! Thanks for the update before tonight’s game!

    • Hi Guido,

      My son and I are paid-up members of the Philly Blues! I do admit it has been a while since we’ve been down to TNN… I think it was when Chelsea stopped by on their pre-season tour.

  2. 4-3-3


    • I think we are going to see a 4-4-2
      Wagner – Elliott – Lowe – Mbiazo
      Martinez – Sullivan – McGlynn – Gazdag
      Uhre – Carranza

      I think Sullivan gets a start on the right of the diamond instead of as a winger in a 4-3-3. Though it is possible that Bueno gets a start in diamond because of the defense-minded plan I think we see tonight. But Curtin called out Sullivan’s “two-way play” so….

      • Mbaizo is out from a red card in last year’s semifinal game in LA.

      • I think it was definitely a 4-4-2 despite what Fox said… when Uhre came off it seemed liked they switched to 4-2-3-1 with Bedoya and Bueno playing the double pivot and McGlynn and Sullivan as wingers on either side of Gazdag, and Carranza the lone striker up top.
        Thanks Andy for noting Mbaizo’s card carrying over. I forgot about that. Harriel looked solid.

      • I had forgotten too until I read the lineup notes on the team’s webpage so they are the ones who get credit.

  3. curtin used a 4=3=3 formation good for him he even scored 4 goals

    • In the post game press conference, Curtin alluded to switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1.
      Wonder why you think it was a 4–3-3 to start? Curtin said the diamond middle 4 was:
      ———- Martinez ————
      Sullivan ————- McGlynn
      ———— Gazdag —————
      And Uhre and Carranza up top.

      Just going by what Jim said. But I guess it is in the eye of the beholder. Either way the result was a good one.

      • indeed good result, but it was obvious the team aligned in a 4-3-3 during the game it was maintained he used a trident of attackers which pressed. Curtin said this and that but i’m guessing that this is important in the future……watch for this soon… no hard feelings here, i think you are a football expert less a soccer one.

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