After drawing 2-2 to FC Cincinnati after holding a 2-0 lead at halftime, Union will need to shake off the disappointment and re-focus for a trip down south against Charlotte FC. This will be the 2nd game in 4 days for Union, and a 3rd in a week will come on Saturday at home against LAFC in a 2022 MLS Cup Final Rematch. Here’s what Jim Curtin had to say about the club’s trip to the Queen City(No, not the one in Ohio, The one in the South)
First Jim gave his general thoughts on the draw against FC Cincinnati.
“Yeah .Just to reflect on Cincinnati, look, two heavy weights in the conference going at it. We had a chance, I thought, in the firs thalf to kind of deliver a knockout blow. We were close but didn’t quite do it. We let a good team hang around and then they started the second half and counter punched and came at us again. Disappointing when you have a lead at home, certainly something that we’re not used to doing, dropping points from a lead in our building. So that hurt. But also when you watch it back, that’s a very strong Cincinnati team. I think it’s, again, two of the top teams in not only the East but in the league getting together and it was a hard fought game. We’ll take some positives from especially the first half and we’ll move on now to a Charlotte team that is fighting right in and around that red line to get into the playoffs, which is always difficult. They’re a team that presents some challenges because they’re very comfortable having the ball. We’ll have to be nice and compact and organized. Obviously, it’s a difficult place to go play, have to navigate things like travel, the turf, all those variables, and a team that’s going to be hungry for all three points. So we expect a difficult match and know that we’ll have to be at our max to get a result.”UnionHead Coach, Jim Curtin
Next, Jim Curtin was asked about his thoughts on the NFL potentially moving to all grass playing surfaces, and what that might mean For MLS.
“I actually think Ijust read an article to it. I think it got outlawed, maybe in Holland just for the rubber pellets and the cancer scares, especially with goalkeepers and the black pellets. So usually there’s a little bit of a lag time. Hopefully they can eliminate turf, especially for the pros, just because of the injury risk. And obviously, if there are health risks as well with the ground up tires, that’s a bad thing. So, again, look, certainly these players are getting bigger, stronger, faster. The contracts, the investment in them is incredibly high and the last thing you want as a coach of any sport is injuries and having those great athletes missing time due to injury that are preventable. So I think everybody would be in agreement that natural grass is the best way to go across all sports. Always easy for me to say because I don’t buy the stadiums or do the maintenance or that type of thing. But certainly the sport of soccer, I believe the sport of football as well, is safest played on natural grass. It is a big topic right now, and hopefully, I hope someday every field does shift to grass. I know that’s easier said than done, but yeah, hopefully in the future that is something that comes true.”Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
While it was a big disappointment to watch Union blow a 2-0 lead after halftime, it’s promising to know that they can still put the best teams in the league under pressure. Here’s what Jim had to say about the tale of two-half on Saturday, and what the reasoning of that was.
“I don’t buy that it’s as much about the formation as it is about us playing in our principles, because you look at the intensity in the game. We played against Red Bull with three in the back the first half, than we played against the top team in the league in Cincinnati in the first half. So like you mentioned, we’re capable of playing regardless of what the formation is, three in the back or diamond with the best teams. But what we didn’t do was do it for 90 minutes. So again, I stress to the group as the games get tighter and the teams are all desperate, now you’re in a position where the chances are few and far between. So getting back to those clean sheets that we haven’t had for as much as frequently this season is something that really defines us. Keeping a clean sheet is critical, especially as you move into the playoffs, into the games where the margins are razor thin and there’s not a lot of chances. So sometimes you need a little luck, you need a deflection, you need a big block, whatever it might be. There’s been games this year where we’ve kind of ran away and gotten a little comfortable and maybe conceded a late one.That keeps us from getting a clean sheet.But overall, in general, eliminating the little technical mistakes is a method to get more of those clean sheets or at least put yourself in a position to get them. So we’ve talked a lot about that, so I would agree. There are still things that were really positive against Cincinnati. That’s a really good team again. And, you know, the mistakes we made, we talked about them, we went through the film, and we know it, and we need to get it cleaned up.Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
Jim was then asked a follow-up question to that response, on whether or not complacency sets in with this team at this time.
“Look, I think you guys know me well enough. I think you know my team well enough and understand that, look, we know when we’re a favorite, we know when we’re an underdog, we know when we’re at home away, what those different variables bring. And look, we’re a team and a club, that when we play at our max, like you said, we can beat anybody. When we don’t, we can get beat by anybody. And I think if you look at it, there’s five years of data now and facts where we play for things for sure.There’s five years of us being at the very top five in points per season and also spending in the bottom five. So again, these are things that I’m still proud of our players, I’m proud of our staff, I’m proud of our unique way that we do it and achieve it. So these are all things we recognize and realize. And we know our margins are small, so I don’t think there’s complacency because we’re in September or August or what it might be. But closing those games out and keeping the clean sheets, that’s a tough one to say is really important. It’s what our identity has been. And I’m still proud, very proud of this club and what we’ve accomplished over the years. We can play with anybody, we know that. But if we’re not at our max, we can get beat by anybody. And that’s our margins and we all recognize that. And as a club, I think we’ve embraced that. Instead of running and hiding from it, we know our goal is to be at the top and we’re not going to spend at the top. That’s okay. We really don’t hide from that anymore and that’s a good thing.Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
Curtin was then asked about how his team will handle having a string of big, emotional games in a week’s time.
“It’s always difficult. We have to have some freshness in the team. There will be some rotation to get some fresh bodies out there. You have home games. You don’t value one set of three points higher than the other at all, but you want to approach it and give yourself the best chance to win. So we will have some rotation just like I’m sure Charlotte will going into this game. We have a quick turnaround and have to play a really strong LAFC team who is playing for the Western Conference against St.Louis on Wednesday. They have a Campiones Cup game with us sandwiched in the middle. So the teams that use their depth the right way, teams that execute and play at their max and at their best will come away with the result. And that’s the reality of our league and that’s the reality of our sport.”Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
The next question was based on how Union would handle Charlotte defensively.
“Yeah, look, they have a man city background at their club. They want to pass, they want to have the ball, they like possession. Having said that, they do get forward and put a lot of crosses and service into the box and like you said, Copetti’s coming back from injury and I thought looked sharp last game. Swiderski can really hurt you andis a great player as well. So they have good attacking pieces, whoever they choose to play on Wednesday. It’s going to be a really tough game and like Ialways say, points on the road in this league are really hard to get and we know we can achieve that, but we also know how hard it’s going to be. So again, good team, good opponent, and again,they’re going to be fighting to try to get in the playoffs as well.Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
Last season’s match in Charlotte proved to be detrimental to the Union’s Supporters’ Shield race, Jim was asked if that disappointment would provide any motivation come Wednesday.
“No, we know we weren’t good. We got beat pretty good there. And obviously the point total last year finishing tied with LAFC. You can still go to all 33 other games too, and say if this happened, if this didn’t happen. But, yeah, certainly that was one of our worst performances last season. We weren’t up for it. They played a great game on that day, as I recall, and certainly that is in the players minds, no question about it. But the personnel is different from their team. Our personnel is a little bit different as well. And again, it’s a new set of circumstances, right. It’s a Wednesday game in a busy part of the season and we have to approach it the right way. We have a really strong lineup. I’m happy with the group that we have going out on the field and it sets us up to not only hopefully get a result in Charlotte, but also be as fresh as possible and ready to go against LAFC, who’s another tough team, too.Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
With the fixtures not slowing down and the weight of each game increasing by the week, how will Jim Curtin and the team manage that heavy load?
“Well, the good thing is we had an opportunity to do this almost same exact schedule during the League’s Cup, right, where we were able to advance and play kind of Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday pretty consistently, which is hard, you want to try to mitigate injuries. You want to have guys recovering and being fresh. I think you guys know the areas where we’ve had a lot of change this year, the areas on the field where we haven’t maybe changed as much. But as you guys know, you can’t change ten guys in this league. It’s not something that’s realistic, and it’s not something, quite frankly, that ever happens. So we’ll have to be smart about how we do it. But, yeah, you certainly need to have fresh legs. You need to do a great job with yoursleep, your eating, your habits on and off the field become really critical at this stage of the year because, no coincidence, the teams that stay healthy and get that continuity going into the playoffs, that’s usually what wins that consistency and really knowing each other really well on the field.”Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
To end the press conference, Jim was asked about the health of Jose Martinez, and how his scoring affects other teams’ defensive setup against Union.
“Shooting from distance is a real weapon. It makes that defense step out. His ability on that particular goal to keep it low was really important, and that was a big goal for us in terms of his health. He’s fully fit and ready to go. Just took a hard knock to the back and wasn’t able to continue in that game, which hurt us. Obviously, he’s a great player, and we missed him, but at the same time, now he’ll be ready to go. Had 60 minutes or so on his legs. And again, like I said, we’ll put some pieces around him that’ll be fresh, and we’ll go again and try to get a result in charlotte.”Union Head Coach, Jim Curtin
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