Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin’s post-match press conference: full transcript from Saturday night

Philadelphia Union blanked New England Revolution on their way to a crucial 1-0 home win Saturday night. The win extended the club’s winning streak to four straight. Below is a transcription of Union head coach Jim Curtn’s post-match press conference. Curtin was quick to mention the sloppiness of the match, but still remained positive as his team now have two road matches against Eastern Conference opponents this week.

Jim Curtin (Left) chats with New England Revolution coach Brad Friedel (right) before Philadelphia Union’s 1-0 win over New England. Mandatory Credit:  Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Opening statement…

“Overall, not our best night of soccer by any stretch. Disappointing first half from our guys. I think we felt it at halftime, we weren’t happy. Credit to New England, they came out with three defense minded midfielders and basically man-marked our three guys in Ale [Bedoya], Haris [Medunjanin], and Borek [Dockal]. Kind of frustrated us a little bit. We didn’t do a good job with our other players maybe just advancing the ball and connecting passes. We kind of forced things and rushed things. Little better in the second half I thought. Very good to win 1-0 games at this stage of the year.

I think though there’s moments in seasons now – you can point to David Accam’s goal in Chicago, you can talk about the play that gets made by Ilsinho to make the New York City game comfortable, and about Andre Blake tonight and the performance he has where he basically gets us three points – these are moments that can define seasons, that can shape seasons. We need to use this momentum and recognize that we didn’t play our best tonight, but we still found a way to get a result which is very important. I’d also like to say that with our staff, the work that Tim Hanley has done with Andre [Blake], B.J. Callaghan, Pat Noonan, Dick Schreuder – our entire performance staff put a lot of work in and sometimes maybe they don’t get the love and accolades that they deserve.

So I do think it’s a moment to recognize them and the hours and hard work they put, our equipment guys – everybody the whole crew has put a lot into things right now. And it’s always good sometimes to step back in this whirlwind of a season and recognize that ‘hey there’s some people doing some good things here and they deserve it.’ Credit to the players tonight. A big three points. Great crowd, they pushed us on. Entertaining game, strange game, whatever you want to call it. Three points at the end of the day.”

On what he saw on the VAR replay and how Cory Burke played to the whistle…

“I mean listen, I’m not going to take credit for that play as a coach. You hear it from the age of five, play to the whistle. Credit to Cory [Burke]. He was the only one that kept going it seems in the whole stadium maybe. There was a moment, because I was next to the linesman, who was certain of himself that he was offsides, where now you’re almost embarrassed for Cory who was celebrating and taking his shirt off and, on his knees, looking up to the heavens and you’re kind of going ‘This is an embarrassing moment for the kid.’ But, it was a goal and a big goal that won us a game. A strange night in that regard in terms of the goal that decides the game, but we’ll take it.”

On some moments of frustration in the first half and what changed going into second half…

“With this group, it’s important not to compare it to old groups because every year is new. Auston [Trusty] is frustrated with himself in that moment. He said a couple words that his mom would not be proud of. But it was visible frustration and in those times when it is hard and it’s not going your way and maybe we’re not passing the ball the best, it can become contagious. And the next guy tries to make a key play instead of doing the simple things that make us good. Just pass it and give it to the next guy and put the special players on the ball and let them do their thing.

Still a shutout and a clean sheet so there’s still moments to learn from but in every player’s development there’s going to be down games and I think Auston had a tough game but at the same time he fought through it and did a good job and kept a clean sheet and made some big clearances. These are the types of games in the past we maybe had let downs, didn’t close things out. We’ve been a team, and you can go to the data on this and I don’t want to jinx things, but when we do get a lead we’re closing out games. When we take a lead, it’s tough for teams to break us down. It helps to have Andre Blake behind you but at the same time I think it shows some growth in the organization.”

On Ilsinho and Derrick Jones coming in to close out the match…

“They do it in two totally different ways. Ilsinho with beating guys and dribbling and beating guys and drawing fouls to frustrate a tiring opponent. New England put a lot into the game and they fatigued toward the end which is important. And then Derrick [Jones] kind of changes it by the little things. Breaking up a play or dribbling out of a tight spot and then connecting a simple pass. Those are hard moments to come into games, nothing good can happen especially for a defense minded sub in Derrick. Because if you win, you’re just supposed to and if you concede a goal, people point to you, fair or unfair. That’s the reality of it. Again, young kid who goes into a tough moment and did a good job for us. Broke up plays, ran with the ball, killed some time. And if you’re going to win in playoff time, if you’re going to get to the postseason and then actually do something there, you need those types of intelligent plays from guys.”

On the conversation with New England coach Brad Friedel following Burke’s goal…

“I was confused. I just said I didn’t know what happened. [Brad] was just talking about what happened as well. We were just trying to piece together the moment and what happened in that moment. Some days it goes for you some days it goes against you and I think all the coaches can kind of relate to each other, the highs and lows and the small margins. It was just a discussion about what was a strange goal in terms of some guys stopped some guys kept playing. If the flag goes up, was the whistle blown? All things I didn’t really have an answer for. But VAR concluded it was a goal.”

On calming his players down after the goal, especially Haris Medunjanin who was animated after VAR decision…

“Yeah Haris [Medunjanin] was competitive tonight. I think when you get man-marked and chased around the field like he with maybe some contact here and there like he did, it raised his emotions a bit. But he did it in a way that was right on the edge, that fine line of you’re controlled but you’re also able to frustrate  the guy you’re playing against. I just reminded Haris to stay calm. You could tell some players were trying to bait him into doing something not smart and he to his credit kept his composure in a hard spot and we get out with three points which was key.”

On what head ref Drew Fischer and the assistant referee said following the decision on Burke’s goal…

“I actually didn’t ask because they said it was a goal. [laughter] The linesman put his flag up and I just gave the ‘Are you sure?’ and he said he was 100% sure [Burke] was offsides. Turns out it wasn’t so you know a day where I think VAR, again I don’t have all the details and all the angles, but hopefully it was the right call. It’s a big call and a big three points for us. New England put a ton into the game we put a lot into the game. It was an ugly night of soccer but at the same time no one remembers that, and people go home happy and it’s three points.”

On how important it is to pick up points in the next two road games against opponents beneath them in the standings…

“I keep stressing we haven’t really accomplished anything yet. Toronto’s coming. DC’s coming. It’s not going to be easy. There’s things that will change from now until the end of the year. Some team that you think is dead in the water will step up and come out of nowhere. It happens all the time. Momentum changes so fast in this league. I think the only certainties right now is that Atlanta’s pretty good. We have a lot to work on, a lot we can improve. But we are starting to show that we are in the discussion of one of the good teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s a strong Eastern Conference. Everybody’s going to be picking each other off down the stretch now.

We’re going to need Atlanta to keep winning, we’re going to need the teams that are in and around us, New York City and the teams that are realistically too far ahead for us to catch right now – we’re going to need them to pick off some of the teams. It’s going to be wild. It’s going to be typical down to the wire. But I’m really proud of my team for winning these types of games where in the past tonight looks like a tie. Or maybe we’ve read too many of your guys’ headlines this and there could’ve been a letdown. I was concerned about that in film. I’m really proud with the intensity they showed and to get a shutout at home in what’s been pretty much five really big games in a row. They’ve all had big pressure and guys are raising their level.”

On Haris Medunjanin waving his arms to pump up the crowd after VAR upheld Burke’s goal…

“My first reaction as to what was going on was that it felt like a WWF moment. [laughter] That’s the way it felt. You had a guy over here celebrating a goal. You had people confused. The DOOP thing didn’t go off. [laughter] There was just confusion in the entire stadium. And then Haris [Medunjanin] is getting the crowd fired up. I’d say organized chaos, I don’t know how to describe. We’re happy we came out on the right side and that they got the call right. But it was certainly one of the strangest things I’ve seen and you guys have seen some strange things around here. But yeah that was a wild one for sure.”

On Ray Gaddis becoming the franchise leader in minutes played…

“It’s an incredible achievement. When you think of the Philadelphia Union you think of the Le Toux’s, the Brian Carroll’s, you think of Ray [Gaddis]. And for him to achieve that and to put the minutes he has for the club, as a starter, off the bench, left back, right back, and he never says a word and brings everything to training. He’s such a mentor for our young players. And he loves the city of Philadelphia and really loves the club. He’s in the community everywhere.

He has a big heart, he’s from a great family. And it’s an incredible achievement for him. Being number one in anything is important and that just shows you’re a true professional and you’re consistent. You’re here every day. That’s a hard thing, especially for young players, to understand. Whether they’re in the Academy or in the USL or with the first team: that this thing is a grind and there’s going to be good days and highs and lows. Part of being a professional is how you respond to those hard moments. Ray’s been a guy who has been through some of those.

He’s been through the heartbreaks of Open Cups with me. We’re going to give it another crack at it and we’re going to give it everything. He’s the type of guy I think of when we get to a final, because you never know how many you’re going to get to. I want him to win it more than I do, I want it more than anything but at the same time you want it for Fabi [Fabinho] who’s been here for a long time too. You want it for Andre [Blake]. And again, I can’t say enough positives about [Gaddis] and the season he’s having, he’s been excellent.”

On whether the sub which sent Derrick Jones on for Borek Dockal was too early…

“We had some guys cramping. We had some fatigue out there. New England started to pin us in a little bit. We wanted to maybe get Ale [Bedoya] in front and get his legs out to press balls. It kind of back-fired because he pressed so hard, he cramped up in his groin and in his calf. We had to make another change. But that was late enough that is was covered.

There’s nerves every time you make a sub. Shoot is it too early, is it too late? I think we’ve gotten more right than wrong this time around this year. But yeah certainly it was early, probably earlier than we wanted to do it. But you started to see fatigue from Cory [Burke] and when Cory can’t quite press the way we want, it has a domino effect. And then Borek [Dockal]’s a little late.

So we wanted to make a change where we had a true guy that would sit in there in Derrick Jones and he did pretty darn good job for us. It was 80th minute but I had a feeling of that as well, maybe we push for a second goal and finding that balance. This week it went right, it might not go right on Wednesday. It can change quickly.”

On what set the tone for the second half after having the midfield trio man-marked all first half…

“I think we started the second half very well which is critical. And that’s us. Haris [Medunjanin] plays a long ball but we’re alert for the knock down. The little things of squeezing space and now being in a really good spot as that ball is traveling through the air. It’s not so much if CJ [Sapong] wins it or not, it’s who’s there to scoop up the next one and you saw us scoop up that second ball and now all of a sudden you’re only 25 yards from goal. We talked with them, when you’re getting man-marked, number one they’re going to get tired. Because that three [midfield trio of Bedoya, Dockal, and Medunjanin] is as fit as anyone in the league and I know that there’s some guys for their team that haven’t started a lot of games this year.

The message was patience and to move in a way to create space for others. If they’re just going to follow you around, find different ways to run through late just so you’re taking someone with you to clear space for other people. They did a good job of that. But listen, it wasn’t our best game. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m really happy with the style of soccer we played but on certain nights, Ale set the tone in the second half, those little things add up. We get a corner off of it and it gets the crowd going and it can shift momentum pretty quickly.”

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Mandatory Credit:  Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

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