The final whistle hadn’t blown in Toronto before the knives were out and people were calling for Jim Curtin’s dismissal as head coach of the Philadelphia Union. It’s been happening for quite a while, and I just don’t get it.
I don’t understand any of the arguments to get rid of Curtin at all. I don’t feel the overwhelming need to ditch the guy who brought the club back into the playoffs for the first time in five years. I’m not alone in this sentiment - Earnie Stewart has recently said that Curtin’s job is not in jeopardy.
One of the most common reasons given for calling for Curtin’s firing is that the Union didn’t improve. This is simply not true. In every measurable statistic, the Union either stayed the same or improved. Wins? Up one from 10 to 11. Total points? Up five from 37 to 42. Goals scored? Up ten from 42 to 52. Goals conceded? Even after the defense imploded down the stretch this season they still managed to tie last season with 55 conceded.
The argument then goes that it wasn’t Curtin that improved, but the quality of the team itself that improved. This point is true, however it fails to take into account that most other teams in MLS improved as well. Sure, some teams regressed, but for the most part the overall quality of player has improved. So if the quality of both the Union and MLS competition has improved that’s something that helps show improvement on Curtin’s part.
The argument then inevitably touches on Curtin’s subs and personnel decisions. While not perfect, I feel like more often then not the best eleven were on the pitch and the subs made the best of a situation that wasn’t great. Ken Tribbett was a liability at center back, but who else should have played? Josh Yaro was hurt. Anderson was outmatched at Bethlehem Steel FC. Who else goes in? There is no one else. CJ Sapong was struggling up top, but who else was there? Fabian Herbers has shown to be much better on the wing than up top. Charlie Davies is two months removed from beating cancer and can’t go a full 90. Again, Curtin did the best he could with what he had. Would anyone else have done better with this roster?
Are things perfect? Of course not. The squad has plenty of room for improvement, as does Curtin. Mistakes were made along the way during the course of the season for sure, but that could be said of any team and the Union’s weren’t as egregious as some. There needs to be turnover at positions, but manager is not one of them.