After a devastating 4-1 to Columbus, the Philadelphia Union invited the media to discuss anything they wanted Union related. The Union are trying the idea of having a player speak to the media first so out stepped the Union Academy poster-child Zach Pfeffer.
In reality Zach had nothing to report, much like the rest of his previous counterparts. Questions focused primarily on his time with the U-20s and their successful trip. With a 2-2 draw against Qatar and a 1-0 over Croatia, the U-20s feels confident going into the U-20 World Cup and that confidence was echoed by Pfeffer. He remains confident he'll get a spot on the side headed to New Zealand.
His confidence on the Philadelphia Union wasn't as strong, but individually Zach getting more playing time than ever in his career is heard loud and clear by the young midfielder. Improvements on the defensive side of the game will do wonders for the youth international and this week will be a huge test as Toronto comes to town. The likes of playing against Michael Bradley didn't seem to phase Pfeffer as he talked about needing to press him close to keep his time on the ball limited.
Pfeffer has a huge task at hand this weekend and it sounds like with Vincent Nogueira still nursing his ankle that he'll be starting on Saturday.
My favorite thing about a Jim Curtin press conference is that he answers any tough questions he may face before they are even asked. If anything, Curtin understands the mindset of the Philadelphia Union faithful. His clear message sent to the players was that even despite a heavy loss away, not acknowledging the traveling support for his team is unacceptable. Saying that outright was the right thing to do, with a fanbase that is already on edge.
Curtin addressed the disappointment in the performance against Columbus and reiterates the disgust amongst the players on Saturday. Curtin declared that the match Saturday was not what this team is capable of. This team needs to play better defensively as a whole unit and that closing the ball down effectively is key to the press they are trying to do.
On the injury front, Nogueira and Andre Blake were the highlights. An in depth breakdown of Andre's situation shows the frustration in the process of bringing a player back from a nagging injury in any instance. Blake, as much as Curtin hates using percentages to judge injured players, is on that "last 5%" in his recovering. He played 45 minutes today in an exercise with Harrisburg City, but will most likely not start in goal against Toronto.
The focus, however, from Jim Curtin is that the team is not performing well defensively because the overall team effort is not up to par. This problem is not a goalkeeping issue and emphasizes that by giving a detailed account of each goal. John McCarthy could've bailed the team out sure, but as Curtin points out the team defending the way they are comes first. If there was a grading scale for team defense, the Union would get an F. Too many soft goals and putting themselves in the position where they aren't limiting chances. The Union defense is needed to put out too many fires and the lack of team-wide defending everywhere on the pitch is causing that.
- Brian Carroll played through a "serious hamstring injury" on Saturday and is dealing with that this week.
- The Union have no confidence to play with the ball in tight spaces and as Jim Curtin put it: Their Possession has been a disaster this season.
- Despite all of the poor performances, Jim Curtin refused to call the match against Toronto a must-win. Too much season left to play and that better performances certainly need to come, but not a must-win.