The Philadelphia Union are in the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) in 2021! Last night (Feb. 10, 2021) we learned who Philly would they would play in the Round of 16! Philadelphia Union face strong Deportivo Saprissa, a giant from Costa Rica!
Philadelphia Union face strong Deportivo Saprissa
Philadelphia will play Deportivo Saprissa in a two-leg playoff starting in April. The first leg will be at Saprissa, and the second at home for the Union.
Now that the Union they are facing Saprissa, here are a few things to know about this Costa Rican side. They are a perennial power in Costa Rica; drawing comparisons to Bayern Munich and Manchester United for their prowess in their country. Saprissa’s stadium is said to be one of the hardest to play in for opposing teams.
For the Union to progress, they will need to slay this Concacaf giant. Head coach Jim Curtin, as well as the other MLS head coaches, spoke to the media last night following the draw to give their thoughts on their opponents.
MLS Teams are ready to prepare
After the draw, Concacaf had a press conference where coaches from each team were given 10 minutes to answer questions about the draw. For the MLS coaches, it seemed as though getting preparation started was on their minds.
Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese mentioned that MLS teams will be behind the Central American teams as they will be playing matches before MLS sides. Columbus Crew coach Caleb Porter noted that the schedule congestion for the start of MLS’ season will make it more difficult to prepare for the first leg of this CCL Round of 16.
Philadelphia Union coach, Jim Curtin also gave his thoughts in his press conference.
Jim Curtin’s thoughts
Curtin, donning the team’s new warmup jacket, addressed the media Wednesday night after drawing Saprissa. Here are his thoughts from the presser.
- Jim says the team is prepared for this challenge and that the Union has already scouted Saprissa! #DOOP
- Jim says this is another progression for the club. Says is where they want to be, and they won’t be satisfied with just qualifying. #DOOP
- Jim wants the team to represent Philly well. Knowing the first leg will be difficult, as he played against Saprissa with Chicago Fire in the past. He says they’re up for the challenge #DOOP
- Curtin says he knows Costa Rican clubs have so much passion for their clubs, and that Saprissa is like the Bayern or Man U of Costa Rica. He notes that this Saprissa team is dangerous, but they will have to worry about their fitness with 5-6 weeks of prep #DOOP
- Jim notes that MLS clubs have grown exponentially and that Concacaf teams can play with anyone, noting Tigres. He says that competitions like #SCCL2021 bring out the best of players. #DOOP
- Jim ends the presser saying MLS starting later is what it is, and schedule congestion will need to be dealt with. He says that his team may be seen as the new kids on the block, but that they have the talent to play with the other #SCCL2021 teams #DOOP
Of all the MLS coaches that spoke after the draw, Curtin seems to be focused on what he and his team can control. He’s not worried about the newly changed MLS season start clashes with CCL on the chin. He didn’t allude to lack of prep time other than the schedule congestion will need to be dealt with.
It’s obvious that Jim Curtin is raring and ready to go. You could tell by his demeanor in the press conference. The Union now has to wait a little bit longer for their preseason to kickoff thanks to the MLS season being pushed back two weeks. This could put the start of the preseason at March 6th; the league has not announced that official date yet.
Now, Curtin and the Union have more time to bring in new players ahead of their busy and crucial 2021 campaign! With that being said, a huge part of the Union’s campaign is CCL. Let’s take a look at their possible path to glory.
A look at the road to glory
For Philly, they know that this competition will be one that is immensely challenging. Saprissa is not to be taken lightly. However, if we were to look ahead at the bracket, it seems like the Union may be on the “easier” half.
For example, should the Union best Saprissa, they won’t have to face off against one of the giants in Concacaf. Instead, they will get the winner of Atlanta United and LD Alajuelense. While both of these teams have immense talent, the Union can stack up against them in a two-leg playoff. The Union would be the higher seed, and therefore, have the advantage of the second leg at home. Should Philly make it past that quarterfinal round, they could meet Club America in the semis, which would be a tall task for sure.
To sum up, the Union are now in the thick of international competition. It is great to see, and certainly will be a tall task. In other words, the Union is now playing with the big boys. Consequently, they will need to show they can hang in this tournament. Moreover, this will be a real test to show if 2020 was the start of something or just one great season. Above all, Philly will need to stay true to their team philosophy to make a run in this tournament.
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Doop on Union fans!