Coming off three straight wins in MLS play, the Union return to Subaru Park on Wednesday night where they’ll take on Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United. Union head coach Jim Curtin met with the media to preview the Eastern Conference showdown in which Union won by an aggregate score of 13-0 last season. Here are the main talking points from Jim’s press conference on Tuesday.
Curtin’s Presser Notes – Union vs DC
As always, Jim approaches the press conference with respect towards his opponent, making sure to point out the positive aspects of their game and where they can hurt you or be hard to play against. When asked about the differences he sees in this year’s DC United as opposed to the one Union gave a beatdown to last season, here’s what he had to say on DC’s midfield.
“They have a really dynamic midfield that I think has a lot of interchange, they have experienced players from the Premier League with Klich and O’Brien, two guys that have great engines, can play two ways, can pop up almost as 10’s, can play as 6’s, can play as 8’s, they’re very versatile and they can run forever, we’ll have our hands full dealing with that midfield.”Head Coach, Jim Curtin
Those aren’t the only two on DC’s side with Premier League experience though, and Jim Curtin knows that.
“And then obviously Benteke in the box gives them a dynamic that not many teams have. A guy that can create space for himself, can hold up the ball up, can bring others into the attack and then has the quality in front of goal where he’s clinical and can barry chances just like his coach used to do.”Jim Curtin
Curtin recognizes the effort put into both DC’s roster by their front office and the improvements made on the pitch with Wayne Rooney in the driver’s seat.
“It’s a really strong team. Like I said, if you look at their group, when they’re fully healthy, if they got a run of 10 games together, I think it would be a “Look Out”[for DC United] in the Eastern Conference, I really believe that. Unfortunately for a variety of different reasons whether it’s injury or suspensions or national team or whatever it might be they haven’t had their group cohesively together and that is really really important when you’re trying to build something. That being said, they’ve still gotten results, they’re in a good spot, they can move of the table, you can see how tight it is[in the table]. So it’s a big game early in the season and I have a ton of respect for what Wayne has built on the field and culturally too.”Jim Curtin
Martinez and Uhre Injury updates
Now that we’ve got Jim’s thoughts about DC out of the way, let’s get to some Union updates. Both Mikael Uhre and Jose Martinez missed out against Colorado last Saturday night, so one of the first questions asked in the press conference was an update on their health and availability
“Mikael and Jose are both going to be available for selection, whether it’s going to be as a starter or off the bench is “To Be Determined – don’t want to give Wayne[Rooney] any headstarts on preparation but – they’re both going to play tomorrow, let’s put it that way.”Jim Curtin
An update on Damion Lowe
Unfortunately, the good news came with some not-so-good news regarding Center Back Damion Lowe
“Damion has a family issue, he had to rush pretty quickly back to Jamaica to get things sorted out. Hopefully he’ll be back, the plan is he’ll be back for tomorrow. But again, Damion has been a guy that’s jumped into our group and not missed a beat. Whether we’ve asked him to play in a 3 or we’ve asked him to play in a 4, from the pre-season all the way until now, he’s been a top professional and he’s done a great job with his minutes. Does he want to be a starter everyday? Of course, I want every player to want that, but when he’s been called upon, whether it was in the champions league helping us beat Atlas, whether it was a big win at Red Bull and Colorado on the road, he’s a fighter, man. He’s a great Center Back, he’s maybe part of a dying breed – A defender that likes to defend, he really embraces that side of things. He’s been a great addition to our group, and again dealing with a little family thing and family always comes first with us, so hopefully everything gets sorted out and he can get back this evening.”Jim Curtin
It sounds like the team hopes Damion is able to return to Philly on Tuesday night. I’m still not sure if him being back in time for Wednesday’s match means he’ll get the start though, as it sounds like he probably needs a minute to breathe and decompress from whatever he’s been dealing with. Union is pretty thin at CB depth with Craig on international duty with the U20s, so I’d suspect Lowe to be on the bench. We wish the best for Damion and whatever he’s going through, and hope he knows the fans are behind him.
Union missing USMNT U20’s
Although not injured, Union will also be missing Brandan Craig, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack McGlynn who are on international duty. Jack McGlynn has broken his way into Union’s starting XI this season and has helped unlock the creativity the midfield needs. Here’s how Jim plans to fill the hole left by McGylnn’s absence in the next few games
“You’ll certainly see Jesus [Bueno] and Andres[Perea] in these next two games, obviously you won’t see Jesus against D.C. cause he’s suspended, so we get a little bit thin. We obviously lose McGlynn who I thought played his best game against Colorado, so hopefully he can take that now to the U-20’s and have a great competition there, because he was flying with us and doing a good job. So now you get Jose[Martinez] back, that’s a positive, but you lose Bueno to suspension, Andres is a guy that we trust that can play there, I think Matt Real has done an incredible job too when he’s been called upon to play in midfield. We have some options and some things to choose from, but certainly now we have a plan in place for not just Wednesday, but turning around and going against New England who will be fresh.”Jim Curtin
Formation and tactics talk
Jim was then asked about set pieces and the variety of different approaches taken throughout the last couple of games and if that’s something they’re trying to work on and implement more
“Statistically, Kai is serving in great balls, we’re getting great service. We’re actually leading[the league] in getting the first contact on the service as well, we just for a variety of reasons haven’t timed it right and gotten real accurate, free headers on goal, cause we’ve gotten a lot of really good looks. So we have mixed up some shorter corners, some deception, you saw McGlynn hit that one that just gets blocked that I think had a chance to go in, so we’re finding different ways to attack. Set pieces usually come in bunches so hopefully after one goes, the rest will follow. We had one and had it called back in the last game, so we’re getting closer. But it’s a combination of good service, timing the runs, and attacking, we’ll continue to work on it and continue to get better.”Jim Curtin
MLS rivalry week thoughts
While some don’t necessarily consider DC and Union a strong rivalry, seeing as this is MLS rivalry week, Jim was asked about the history between Union and D.C. United.
“I think there’s a history because of proximity and I think it becomes a bit of a rivalry game because we’re close to each other, we’ve had a lot of battles throughout the years, and again it’s a team that presents some problems on the attacking side. We had good performances last year but last year is in the past. We’re two different teams now, we’re gonna try at home like always to high press and make things difficult on them but we have to be respectful of the way they can counter and some of the weapons they have. So I expect a really tough test, and it should be a good game.”Jim Curtin
One of the struggles for Union so far this season, which many predicted based on the history of previous MLS teams, was managing both MLS regular season, Champions League, and Open Cup and the schedule congestion that brings. Here’s what Jim had to say on the toll it’s taken on the players and what it means moving forward
“Yeah 17 games, more wins than losses, some success in the champions league, obviously a heart breaking game against LAFC where we let ourselves down with the red card which was tough. When you look and analyze what the games we lost this year I would say – in League, Miami beat us I think fair, the Montreal game still bothers me, we had some changes but we still should have took care of business. Orlando we had to change probably seven guys with international duty, and Cincinnati we played our second group and they did a great job and they came up just a little bit shorter. We know what we’re capable of, I think we’re starting to show signs of getting everybody back and getting ourselves going and pushing forward towards the summer.”Jim Curtin
That’s all from Jim’s press conference previewing Union’s midweek match against DC United. Winning a few games in a row being back at home gives Union a great opportunity to keep things going and climb the table. Be sure to tune in Wednesday night at 7:30 pm est on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Tim Lovenguth | Justin Friedberg | El Parcero Philly
Zach LoBasso | Steve Beavon | Liam Jenkins
Eric Frysinger | Paul Frenzel | Jimmy King
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union