Jim Curtin is instilling a proven club culture at Philadelphia Union

Jim Curtin sat down with the Coaches Voice YouTube channel at the end of last month to answer questions from their subscribers. In that 36 minute video, he painted a clear picture of the identity he has helped to instill. It’s not just an identity, it’s a proven club culture at Philadelphia Union.

Mandtory Credit: Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire

Proven club culture at Philadelphia Union

As Jim Curtin answered questions, he spoke to a lot of MLS’ rules and regulations; he also went into detail on the Union’s club culture. Curtin has grown through his role of head coach. There have been growing pains, so much so that Curtin and the Union failed to create an identity in his first few seasons. That is to say, that this proven culture has taken time to work out, and the common denominator is that Jim Curtin has been here to instill the Union’s culture. Here’s a look at what Curtin said makes up the Philadelphia Union’s culture.

Three Pillars to the Club

When it came to questions asked about the club’s success in 2020, Curtin was quick to reference three pillars of the Philadelphia Union. He went into detail on what these pillars are. The three pillars are:

  1. Build from within
  2. Be a cohesive team
  3. Be Innovative

Looking at these three pillars, they all make sense. Certainly, they can all be seen throughout Jim Curtin’s tenure. He went on to explain each one.

Build from within

Curtin spoke about pillar one, and obviously, he mentioned the academy. The ability to develop players and move them up to the first team is a huge accomplishment. It’s one Curtin knows first hand as he used to coach in the Union academy.

While this is mainly what the first pillar is about, he also mentioned that they look to build from within with staff and coaches. The Union wants to be a club that is built up with people that truly understand the club.

Be a cohesive team

This is an interesting pillar. After the Union has worked their way up to winning their first trophy, getting better year over year since 2017, they have shown why this is an important part of the Union’s culture. Jim Curtin said as much in this video.

Curtin mentioned that having 11 players playing for the badge can beat anyone superstar. With the Union’s track record of not spending on star players, this had to be put into place. Curtin brings this, and helps the players play as a collective, and not to rely on just one star.

Be Innovative

Innovation will likely be a pillar of any modern soccer team, but the Union is trying to be on the cutting edge of the newer innovations in soccer. Philly’s ability to actually do this can be seen in a few different ways.

Curtin mentioned that innovation to him and the club is all about finding ways to get a leg up on the competition. Whether this is through the utilization of analytics, newer technologies, or scouting, the Union will use the newest innovations to keep or create a competitive edge.

Curtin ended this section of his answer saying that these three pillars will always be the cornerstones of the club. This is something he has helped to instill!

Philadelphia Union Value (PUV)

In another question, Curtin was asked about the type of players he and the club look to bring in. Curtin gave a very specific answer about how the Union evaluates players. So much so, that he divulged the metric that he calls the Philadelphia Union Value, or PUV, of a player.

This is a number that they use to assess the value of current and players they want to bring in. Essentially, it takes the principles that the club sees in a player. Curtin made sure to stop there and say that he isn’t looking at or using the same metrics other MLS teams use to evaluate players. This focuses on their style of play and the way they want to play, which then gets to the number he and the Union use to evaluate their players.

This is how the Union evaluate their prospective new signings before they go travel to either watch them play, or meet. Curtin also mentioned that a lot of what he likes to see in players is that underdog mentality; as in, how they play when their backs are against the wall.

This is very innovative and shows a lot about the way the Union evaluates their players and potential new signings.

The Union’s Modern Day Formation


Curtin was asked about the type of formations he likes to use for his teams. This prompted a chuckle from him, as he admitted that he used to be too rigid. In his early coaching days, he said he only played the 4-2-3-1 formation and had to learn more about the modern game, and modern formations.

Now, Curtin says he will look to utilize a modern formation. He eluded that this means that his teams will shift to the modern game that has a backline and then five, six or seven pressing players in front of them. For the Union specifically, he said that the 4-4-2 diamond formation is very fluid, and is more so just a back four and then six pressing players ahead of them.

Jim Curtin alluded more to this, saying that the backline dictates how much space is going to be in behind them, and how high or low their line is. Essentially, he and his team plan this ahead of matches, and then he has the six players ahead of the backline hunt the ball. Through the appropriate tactics, spacing and hunting cues, he’s been able to transition his team’s style to be one that presses and counters without the ball, and then is ruthless in the attack moving forward.

He ended his answer by saying that if the principles are right and the players have bought into the team has done in the week of training, then they can adapt and adjust the formation on the fly to strategically beat teams that may have better players.

Check out the video

Curtin spoke on all of this and much, much more. He really has been influential to the progression and proven club culture at Philadelphia Union!

For anyone interested, here is the full video of Jim Curtin answering questions on Coaches Voice:

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Mandatory Credit: Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire