Wonderkids, depth, and KD: Five takeaways from Jim Curtin’s presser

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media on a zoom call earlier today ahead of the MLS resumption next month. Here are five things we learned.

The opener

The groups have been known for about a week, but Curtin revealed on Wednesday that the team’s opening fixture will take place on July 9th against Nashville SC.

“We did break down Nashville.” The Union Head Coach said. “When you look at Nashville they are as organized as any team. They went to Portland in a very difficult game and hosted Atlanta – one of the best-attacking teams in our league. For long stretches of both games, they dominated the play. They don’t give up a lot of chances, they’re very organized defensively.”

Nashville did lose both of their opening fixtures, but that’s not fooling Curtin into being lazy when it comes to preparing. The Union were lucky to have tape on the former USL side and will treat the game every bit as seriously as their stunner against Atlanta.

KD

In case you had been…wait, we all feel like we’ve been sleeping under the same Soccer-less Rock forever. Anyway, Kevin Durant is now a minority shareholder in the Philadelphia Union and spent some time with Curtin.

“He was very impressive in terms of his knowledge of his game of soccer. Down to earth, very humble guy who tends to do a lot off the field to help the community which fits our club very well…

…it’s a really exciting time for our club.”

We know that Durant is a big soccer guy, but to impress a figure who has been as prominent in MLS as both a coach and player has to count for something.

Florida spike

There has obviously been a spike in COVID-related cases in Florida which is certainly a little concerning given that every single MLS franchise is headed to Disney in a couple of weeks. Curtin remains fairly calm and composed, however.

“I have to say, the standard of what’s coming from the government, there seems to be a lot of confusion. All we can do is control our own safety. I’ve never felt more safe in terms of the testing and precautions our team and league have taken. I’ve been tested three times this past week. Our club has done a great job of keeping things as safe as possible and I trust the league will have the safety of our players at the forefront of things.”

Underdogs

While the Union have been working out under the guidelines given to them by both the MLS and government, Curtin has noted significant improvements from two players.

One is Jose Martinez, who joined the team in November after making 65 appearances for Zulia FC, but is yet to see MLS playing time. The other is slightly more exciting for fans of wonderkids.

“Jose Martinzez has been sharper than he was in preseason by a long shot. Jack De Vries has come in now and is making a case to get his first minutes Orlando. Every player has been really sharp.”

De Vries is just 18-years old and has made one start for the Union II in 2020. Graduating from YSC academy, De Vries has already spent over a year with the team and has earned plenty of praise from his Head Coach.

“Offensively, Jack with the ball at his feet running at a defender – his age and experience go out the window. He’s really impressive in that regard. We’re working on his connection to the team defensively.

“We’re at our best when all 11 are defending as a group. That’s exemplified by Kacper, who is one of our leaders in interceptions and winning duels. You can only imagine what we’re trying to stress to Jack if he can add that dimension to his game. He’s improved but there’s another level he needs to go to, he can become a real dominant player.”

Maybe, just maybe, there’s room for some more explosive young talent on this roster.

Depth

When asked about the Union’s biggest strength, Curtin’s reply was a very pleasant one.

“Teams are only as good as their weakest link. When you look at last year when you could bring on Ilsinho, Marco, and Fafa off the bench. There’s new blood now that’s just as hungry and dangerous.

It’s not a bad problem when we’re picking the ‘first-team vs the reserves’ and sometimes it’s even or the reserves win. It’s a good problem for a coach to have. Our depth is something we take pride in. Our players know they’re going to be called upon and it’s something they’re really embraced.”

It seems as though the Union are ready and raring for tournament play down in Orlando.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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