Jim Curtin addressed the media yesterday ahead of the first game day of the season. Here’s an analysis Union Presser: week 1 Vancouver. Let’s get right to it with Jim’s opening statement.
Jim stated that the team is anxious to get 2017 underway. the pieces have come together and everyone is eager to get the regular season rolling. Curtin continued saying that this is the deepest union squad ever. That may be true, with 30 players on the roster all of whom have quality. This depth creates difficult decisions for the coaching staff, but Curtin is confident in the players fitness and skill going up against a tough test in Vancouver. Now we get on to Curtin’s answers to questions.
Curtin said he has a very good ideas about who his staring 11 will be. He likes that they have their first game on Sunday, giving the Union an extra day to prepare. Because of that, the team is leaving for Vancouver today, a day earlier than normal. They get a chance to adapt to Vancouver and also watch them play in the CONCACAF Champions league Thursday night.
The Union coach was asked about the long travel and Vancouver’s turf. Curtin said they’re taking precautions to get new players acclimated to the long travel, and the team as a whole acclimated to the time chance. They wont eat dinner in Vancouver tonight until what will feel like 11pm EST on Thursday night. His response to the turf was expected. “Turf is awful for soccer. It’s not a surface that anyone would want to play on.” No players are being kept home because of playing on turf everyone is a full go for the match! Curtin talked about getting good results on the road; “If things go well and we get the result it’s worth it, if not we’ll tweak it (how we prepare).”
Jim also questions about players. First was on Derrick Jones. Curtin talked about his excellent preseason, and how he isn’t scared to test the young midfielder. He’s “programmed to win the ball give it to Haris, win the ball give it to Ale.” This alludes to the fact that Jones might start in Vancouver. This is a possibility but I think Jones will be in the 18, but won’t start against Vancouver.
A main topic of conversation was Haris Medunjanin. Curtin see’s him as the Union’s quarterback. MLS/early season learning curve may be tough for Haris, but Curtin expect his passing to be on point. Curtin said Haris will be the D-Mid on the ball always, and the other whether it be Ale or Derrick are the ball winners. Jim said that Hairs has a good relationship with both Ale and Jones. He’s confident in whoever he choses to play next Haris.
As far as the Union’s striker conundrum, Jim expects a lot from both Simpson and Sapong. Curtin liked the goals both strikers scored in preseason, and discussed the difference in style both strikers possess. He has a hard decision to make on the starter. Curtin see’s both strikers have opportunities to score, but see’s the team scoring as a committee. “Zlatan’s not walking through that door.” The Union will need contributions from others; Pontius, Herbers, Ilsinho, Alberg and Bedoya all offer goal scoring capabilities.
Ilsinho especially has shown Curtin a lot on the offensive side. His fitness and ability to push the game have impressed Curtin. His shooting from distance, and having shed some pounds make him better than last year. Curtin is hoping he can bring his special footwork, and rocket of a shot to new heights in 2017.
Two Union players who have been injured as of late were mentioned. Fafa Picault has apparently been dealing with gout like symptoms. He is back to practicing, and Curtin said will be up for selection in the first match of 2017. His speed is crucial on this slower Union team. Another player dealing with an injury was Warren Creavalle. He had a positive day yesterday, playing in the 11v11 games in practice. His strong performance creates another hard choice for the Union coaches.
When it comes to how the Union will play in 2017, and who will play where. Curtin said “We’ll see.” The question was mainly about Haris at the eight and Bedoya moving to the 10. Curtin like’s both in those spots, and it might be game-to-game basis on where they play. That being said, Curtin also showed that each game will provide a different approach by the Union. They may even lineup differently away, as opposed to home, like they did last year.
As for the opponents the Union face, Curtin praised their speed in attack. He admires their fast break ability. Siting Hurtado and Manneh as players that could really hurt them as they did last season. Curtin said if Vancouver gets into their fast break mindset, that they may have to “make the game a little bit ugly.” Commit some smart fouls to slow down the flow of the game versus a tough task on the road.
Jim Curtin and the Union are ready for 2017 to start. This Union team seems confident and ready for a tough first game. Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for a full preseason review, a preview on the Vancouver match up, and a Union coverage update tomorrow. Until then, peace out Union fans.
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports