Postgame / Press Conference / Union

Curtin talks VAR, player performances, and remaining undefeated following comeback draw in Atlanta

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The following contains the transcript of the post-game Atlanta press conference. Head Coach Jim Curtin fielded questions regarding:


1) Andre Blake’s injury

2) Uhre’s performance 

3) Disallowed goal

4) The wording and implementation of VAR in MLS

5) Carranza’s early yellow card 

6) The ending of the game 

7) What it means to be undefeated in MLS 

8) Center back rotation 

9) If the Semmle sub changed the game plan

10) A message to the fans


     Opening statement from Curtin, “Overall, the team continues to show a lot of grit and heart and represents the city of Philadelphia really well. First half, we both canceled each other out. Not a lot of clear-cut looks, pretty even half. Credit to them, they come out in the second half and make a good play and have a little bit of pressure on us. Second goal’s a shot from distance that kind of picked up speed from the wet turf, but our guys showed character to come back and score the two goals, [we] score a third goal that’s about as close as possible to being good. Still haven’t seen a clear view that would say it wasn’t good, but these are the breaks when angles of the camera in our league, for some reason, are on an angle. It would cost like eight dollars to put one at the top of each 18, but no one wants to do that so we never get real true angles. So, I don’t know if it was offside or onside. Overall again, showed a lot of heart, could’ve won the game could’ve lost the game overall a good point and the guys will get some much deserved rest now.”


1. Jonathan Tannenwald: “What’s up with Andre?”


     Curtin: “Took a goal kick…mis-hit it and something went in the quad/groin area. It’s unfortunate he’s had a lot of little, unlucky moments this year that have led to injuries. So, hopefully, we can get him fixed with a little bit of downtime here. Not an easy thing for Oliver to come into. Obviously we missed Andre a lot. I think guys picked up the defending a bit in his absence, lots of blocks…big last ditch tackles in the box and coming out of here with a point…hopefully it’s not too bad. Even Andre, when I asked him, wasn’t sure of the extent of it either he just knew something wasn’t right and he had to come out of the game.”  


2. Tannenwald: “Mikael Uhre, how important was that goal for him, coming in as a substitute?”


     Curtin: “Yeah that’s a striker’s goal and when the other team makes a mistake you have to punish them, you have to have that killer instinct to make them pay and Mikael did. He still had a lot of work to do from the angle that he had. Obviously an unexpected mistake and a pass back that he was alert to and finished the play off. From that point on [it] shifted the momentum of the game. We had that goal, and Kai’s goal, in pretty quick succession and the third goal that gets called back which was tough. Then had a 5-on-1 situation that we should probably execute on and do a bit better on and so we’ll get to work on those 5-on-1’s on the practice field this week.”


3. Joe Tansey: “To go further on that disallowed goal it feels almost similar to the Cincinnati one where the angles and the offside is that something that can be fixed, what do you think of that as a whole there should be at least a better angle there right?”


     Curtin: “There’s nothing harder than making those calls, I always hear that we’re supposed to err on the side of the attackers and keep the flag down that’s why we have VAR but you can’t blame Kathryn for thinking it was offside. But now, when we go to the video, we should have a clear view one way or the other that is in line with where goals are scored which is from the 18 yard line and in. I’m not complaining about it because it’s an even game that could go either way. Like I said we could have won or lost but let’s have a view that’s not from literally a blimp that’s on the side angle shot. Let’s have a view that’s just straight across the 18 yard box where we can see and make these big decisions because they’re game winning and game losing decisions…Look, the linesmen have an impossible job…you almost have to look at where are balls played at the speed that these players are playing at and then do you put it up do you put it down it’s impossible. So, let’s get camera angles that help it. You can tell me that the goal line tech costs millions of dollars and I’ll say ok that is a big expense for every stadium…I’m sure Apple® could make a ten dollar camera that’s stationary and we could get a view straight across.”


4. Matt DeGeorge: “I don’t wanna harp on this, but MLS has the standard that if there is not a clear and obvious error in that call they will not go to Video Review. I wonder if that design is frustrating at all from a coaching perspective that that is the standard?”


     Curtin: “Look I don’t want to make this about a referee thing but again what does clear and obvious even mean? What’s clear and obvious to me might not be to the next human. A lot of millions of people watch Two and Half Men. I think it’s the dumbest show ever. It’s clear and obvious to me that it’s terrible but everyone watches it so maybe I’m wrong. We could go on and on about what clear and obvious means. Again, not a referee rant at all just more of a technology rant.”


5. Jose Nunez: “Would love to hear… just how important Carranza and Uhre are in terms of what you do to shape the defense, they’re your first line of defense. How much did that caution in the 21st minute affect your gameplan on Carranza?


     Curtin: “It changes how anyone plays when you’re on a yellow card early. Julian gets so much out of his physicality, his pressing. You could tell he was very smart in how he had to do it, we were proactive to Jose who was right on the edge of picking up a second yellow. Danny too. It’s the difference between being able to fully go into a tackle versus being smart about how you approach it and never really leaving your feet when you’re on that yellow card. So you lose a little bit of your aggression. I thought he still played great, even on the yellow card, made some big plays for us. But, overall a lot of character from the entire group to come back and get a result.”


6. Nunez: “The ending of that game where it ended… what’s going through your head, what’s going through the locker room right now conversation-wise?”


     Curtin: “I think they thought we were going to go to the corner to run the clock out but, then a ball gets cut back and now our number 10 is at the top of the box with a couple options to play and it’s a mistake where the whistle should not be blown in that instance. I think he realizes that. At the end there, when everyone surrounds the referee I know guys are on yellow card, so I’m just to trying to get everybody out of there. I got one myself just for the situation but I pulled everyone so we don’t lose anybody cause they’re a lot more important than I am.”


7. Tannenwald: “Those of us who spend too much time on social media had to deal with a lot of people saying, ‘oh the Union aren’t for real. They haven’t done anything really serious on the road yet and all of the teams they’ve played against on the road aren’t any good’. You’re still the only undefeated team left in the league and I’m not normally the cheerleader but what does it mean that you did come back and get the point and walked out of here and you’re still the only undefeated team in the league?”


     Curtin: “I’d add on to that five out of seven on the road so not an easy schedule either. We get to get back home now for two really tough games against Salt Lake and Seattle in quick succession, so we’ll have to recover quickly. I challenged the guys let’s push this thing as far as we can. Are we going to go on a run like Bayer Leverkusen? I’m not advocating that by any stretch but let’s see how long we can push it. At a minimum weather people in the public think were good or think were bad, they will at least say were tough to play against. I think that unequivocally across the board, there’s not a coach or GM or fan in this league that would say were an easy team to deal with and play against so part of that is not losing and finding ways to turn loses into ties ties into wins and well look to try to continue to do that and really protect our home field cause now were the middle of the back pack part of the schedule we get a lot of those home games in Subaru Park where were pretty good to play against.”


8. Todd Lewis: “Jim I know you’ve been saying the last couple weeks that you guys have three really good center backs in Jakob Damien and Jack. What goes into the decision where it looked like Jakob and Jack were building their momentum getting back to their old form, you go with a back three against Nashville and now you go with Jakob and Damien, something you haven’t done since Chicago?”


     Curtin: “I talked with Jack Elliot and he’s very professional about it. It’s one of the few times in my coaching career where I don’t really have an answer to exactly why he was the one that was chosen to get a rest. The one thing is maybe in a game against Atlanta where it turns into a track meet, Damion’s ability to put out some fires and win those kinds of crazy duels was something we decided on. Jack’s gonna start again for us probably in the next game. I want these guys all on their toes, all ready when they’re called upon. It’s the first time I’ve really had to look at a player and say this isn’t even fair Jack. We can only play with two this week, we think that’s the way to go against the personnel that Atlanta has …We’re gonna miss Damion for a stretch at Copa America. The idea of keeping them all fresh, all ready to go for the most important part of the season, which is the end, is something that we learned a little bit about last year. I think I maybe drove Jakob into the ground and that led to his surgery. So, we’ll be a little bit smarter about how we manage the minutes but it certainly wasn’t performance-based; Jack’s been playing amazing for us. So is Jakob now in recent weeks and Damion is as well. This is a good problem for a coach to have and they’re gonna share the load until we get to the Copa America and then we’ll regroup and assess things and go from there.”


9. Lewis: “Did the Oliver sub change the game plan at all going into halftime 0-0? Damien and Jakob both seemed like they were playing well in the first half… do they have to play less aggressive or do they stick to the same game plan?”


     Curtin: “This isn’t anything to do with Oliver, it’s not Oliver’s fault that Andre’s the best goalkeeper this league’s had, it’s not on him. Of course you’re gonna [play a little more risky] when you know Andre’s behind you. So, it does change things a bit. Oliver’s come in now several times this year and done a great job for us and we’ll need that to continue. But he’s still a young goalkeeper that’s gonna get better and better with time. These are the first times he’s playing at this high of a level. I’m not disregarding College or USL, but this is a level-up. This is a national TV game against a really good attacking Atlanta team where you’re out there and there’s nowhere to hide and he did a good job. Could him and Jakob maybe communicate better on the first goal and one of them maybe come for it? Yeah, I think we would agree with that. Would he want that second one back? Yeah, you watch it and its actually hit from a ways out but it picks up speed as it hits the turf. So, he’s gonna learn in all these moments. It’s not easy to go out there as a goalkeeper as a sub. Nothing good can happen for him. He’s not gonna remember much of anything he does unless it’s a mistake. So, he did a good job and our team, after going down two goals, showed a lot of heart to get the goals back, and hopefully Andre’s not out too long and Oliver, we know, is more than capable of doing the job in his absence.”


10. Musembi: “After a hard-fought draw and still undefeated, any words for the fans as you look forward to coming back to Subaru park in two weeks time?”


     Curtin: “…we can’t wait. We’ve been away for too long. We had a lot of travel in Champions League. We miss them. We had the unique situation where a game gets rained out, so we lost the Seattle game at home which we’d at least have under our belt. But five out of seven on the road is really really hard in this league. I like where we’re at. Could some of the ties be wins…? Of course. But like we’ve said, we’ve proven we’re tough to play against, and at home I know we’re gonna create chances, I know we’re gonna score goals, I know we’re gonna get the fans into the game and we can’t wait to be back home.”


Closing Thoughts:


  • It’s always refreshing to hear that Curtin is not afraid to speak his mind, especially when he does it in a respectful manner to the other people involved. His comments about the implementation of Video Review in MLS, and the confusing wording of ‘Clear and Obvious,’ are well put and included a hilarious dig at Two and a Half Men.


  • A notable data point was learned regarding the center back rotations. Curtin felt he overloaded Glesnes last season and is now being more cognizant of the rotation required in MLS. While Glesnes and Lowe handled the full 90 in Atlanta, Curtin hinted that Elliot would make a return to the starting lineup against Real Salt Lake. It’s possible that Glesnes heads to the bench in one of the next few games, as Curtin seeks to balance the center back’s minutes more carefully this year.


  • The Union head into their bye week as the only undefeated team in MLS and with a two-game homestand coming up, albeit with a Tuesday game against Seattle, it’s certainly possible that the Boys in Blue keep the streak going.


  1. I love Jim Curtin. TBH, I thought they should have let him go after his first couple of seasons and SOOOO glad I was wrong. Then, it seemed like he was too passive while other managers were ranting and raving at the refs. I also thought he was way too PC for me. Now, we have a super intelligent, thoughtful and pragmatic person who questions what the league is doing in a wonderful way to push things towards the better. We are SOOOO lucky to have him as a coach. Now, if the ownership would just be willing to spend more on players than facilities….

  2. Thanks George, this is a public service. I also enjoyed the two and half men reference-

  3. “not a referee rant at all just more of a technology rant” OMG I love Jim Curtin

  4. Matt Custer says:

    I’ve been a Curtin critic for a long time because of his questionable squad rotation and in-game bench management. In the past, he rotated personnel reluctantly, when dire circumstances forced him to use reserves he apparently did not trust.
    Now, it appears he may be learning the wisdom of keeping his veterans fresh through rotation. Either that or he feels he has reserves he can trust. The Bedoya situation may be a contributing factor as well, since he can’t go full time and must be rotated. Don’t know what exactly is going on in his head, but it seems to be working.
    Also, his comment about working on 5 on 1’s on the training grounds – Hilarious!

    • I would argue that up until recently the Union simply haven’t had any depth in order to rotate the squad. Curtin’s refusal/reluctance to rotate the squad or use subs was simply him knowing that those choices would lead to losses/poor results.
      The main purpose for using subs is to change the game. If your available subs are merely positionally like for like or don’t obviously bring something different outside of fresh legs, those subs are being made for the sake of making a substitution.

  5. I really like Curtin’s frank and generally fair approach- no nonsense but not unkind. It bugs me however that he acts like learning to rotate is some new insight they figured out from last year when it was obvious to everyone else that it was going to be a problem.

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