Philadelphia Union travel north to Toronto, Canada Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the first of three road matches in just nine days’ time as they play Toronto FC Friday night at 8PM. Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin discussed his team’s bounce back performance against D.C. United last Saturday while remaining cautious as the club begin a daunting road trip.
Win at home boosts spirits
“I thought we had all 11 guys attacking and all 11 guys defending which was a real positive,” said Curtin of the 3-2 win against D.C. during his opening statement Wednesday. “It was a really complete performance from our group when we needed one,” he said.
The win last Saturday was the first since the season’s opening match at Talen Energy Stadium two months ago today – a 2-0 W against a 9-man New England Revolution squad by match’s end. That win also marks just the fourth match in which Philadelphia earned points throughout the first seven matches of 2018. Curtin and his club understand they must perform better given their early struggles. But that is no easy challenge when facing three straight road matches in less than 10 days.
“We’re one of the better possession teams in the league, and towards the top in shots created,” said Curtin. “We recognize that we have to do better converting those chances,” Curtin admitted as he continued through his opening statement Wednesday.
Converting chances against a power-house Toronto FC squad will be strenuous indeed. It will surely be difficult at Columbus May 9th, and not much easier at Montreal the 12th. Yet, Curtin and his roster of both young and seasoned veterans plot steadily on in hopes of continued success.
Young coach and his captain
One player in particular has helped ease the burden of leadership for the young Philadelphia head coach and his youth-filled squad though, Alejandro Bedoya. The captain has taken it upon himself to do even more on and off the pitch and training grounds this year than in years past to help bolster team chemistry and development. When asked about Bedoya’s impact over the last two weeks for his club, Curtin heaped praise on the much-deserving captain midfielder.
“Alejandro does thing that I don’t see which are in the actual locker room inside the training facility,” said Curtin. “I don’t go in too often, actually I never go in there when the guys are there, that’s their space,” Curtin said. “Then there are things that I see him do visually on the training ground like putting his arm around [Anthony] Fontana or speaking with Auston [Trusty] and Jack Elliot and giving them hard words of encouragement,” explained Curtin.
Bedoya has played numerous years of professional soccer in addition to his several international appearances at the sport’s highest competition levels like the FIFA World Cup. His experience and knowledge is distributed throughout the locker room in both tangible and intangible ways, like a true leader.
“[Bedoya] has taken a much bigger leadership role,” said Curtin of his captain. “He’s a very good leader. He’s a good person. He wants to win more than anybody and he’s a competitor. All those things are real positives,” said Curtin.
Bedoya clearly has the pedigree and fiery competitive demeanor Curtin needs to keep his young roster in shape. “He’s done everything I’ve asked for and more as a captain,” said Curtin. “We’ve had good conversations. I feel like [Bedoya] is not just a player for me but a friend. I like to have relationships with my players and he would be one that i get along with quite well,” said Curtin of his relationship with his captain. “We recognize and share the same burdens in some ways, yet we only want what’s best for this club and that’s to win,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference with the media Wednesday.
But to win against Toronto FC on the road, means going up against a Michael Bradley lead team with immense talent. Bedoya knows Bradley and the injured Jozy Altidore, two of Toronto’s best players, very well.
Curtin discussed the relationship between Bedoya, Bradley, and Altidore while mentioning the battle between Bedoya and Bradley may be an exciting matchup to watch. “They’ve shared the field together and battled together,” Curtin said. “There is always something a little extra in it. Alejandro has historically performed pretty well in Toronto and I’m sure the ‘Michael [Bradley] factor’ is a reason, Jozy [Altidore] as well,” said Curtin.
Tough road test begins Friday night
Whether or not Philadelphia can remain successful during this stretch of tough road matches remains to be seen. They will be hungry for results and eager to prove the naysayers wrong after what has been labeled a poor and slow start to the 2018 campaign.
“When you go through international battles together, I think there’s a little something extra and I know [Bedoya] will rise to the occasion,” said Curtin.
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Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.