Jim Curtin gave his weekly presser ahead of the Philadelphia Union’s home opener against Toronto FC this Saturday, and it did not disappoint. He picked apart the draw in British Columbia, talked about a few of TFC’s dangerous players and even took a shot at Skip Bayless. Questions were by committee (sorry I didn’t attach names this week, the audio was really choppy) and are highlighted in bold.
Opening statement: Just to reflect back on Vancouver: a very solid performance from the guys. Everyone put in a strong preseason and played well on both sides of the ball, tough place to play and we limited a very strong attacking team in Vancouver. Every team has improved now, and that’s what it will take to get shutouts in the league. We have a very difficult team in Toronto coming in, probably the best team in the East.
Opening at home against a rival in Toronto: You can’t really call it a rivalry match, but they knocked us out of the playoffs and had a great run in the playoffs. We had them a little bit uncomfortable when the game was at 2-1 and obviously there’s something there because they ended our season, but it’s a new year. Yeah it’s a playoff game, but maybe get another one this year and then you can start to say there’s something there.
Updates on Ilsinho and Warren Creavalle?: Warren is training full and is fine, available for selection. Ilsinho today was his first day back and he went through full training. We’ll have to see how he feels, I haven’t spoken to him yet. He was supposed to start before he picked up the knock before Vancouver but I have to see how he feels after this week.
Limiting Sebastian Giovinco, especially on counters: Gio is the league’s most dangerous player. He’s tricky because it can’t just be center backs focusing on him because 1v1 he can beat anyone. You’re really just trying to limit touches and when he gets the ball. You want him as far away from goal as possible. What he’s really good at is finding space when the opposing team has possession. The message all week is being organized and knowing where he is at all moments. Don’t let him get started and turn at you, because he’s as dangerous as he is. Very good attacking team, one we respect a great deal but we think we have a good plan in place.
Getting everyone involved in attack given TFC’s 3-5-2: They have three center backs who can really jump and attack balls. Drew Moor is a great player, one who doesn’t get enough credit. We actually tried to get him in free agency (during the 2015-16 offseason). He’s vital for them too because he can really start the attack. Their wide guys too: Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour are great and they have two strikers in Jozy Altidore and Gio who can make you pay. Michael Bradley is a field general and a gifted player. I think I just named off their entire starting XI. (TFC head coach) Greg Vanney has them very organized and the 3-5-2 is something you’re seeing more of and to his credit he switched early. Hopefully we can exploit some of the weaknesses that we can’t talk about now, but we think we know where they are weak.
How does Derrick Jones doing well impact team: Derrick did a great job against Vancouver and that was huge, but credit everyone around him for making his job easier. Toronto will be quicker and they like to put pressure on opposing midfields so Derrick’s head will be on a swivel, but I believe Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin beside him and our outside backs getting forward will help him settle in. Derrick is a good passer and does well to break up play which will be a good thing to have against Toronto.
How we will see the team line up at home compared to away: You won’t see us change too drastically from the guys who did well against Vancouver. Ilsinho and Fabian have a couple different qualities for sure, but how we want to set up and defend won’t be different. We tend to have more of the ball at home but we connected 499 passes in Vancouver. Really we just need to get that final ball in the box a bit more reliably.
Roland Alberg fitting into the team: Roland’s a very talented player and he scored a number of big goals for us last year, and I think he’ll do the same this year. He’s obviously a guy who is a special talent, especially around goal and right now he’s working on fitness things that we expect from our guys at that position.
Fafa Picault coming on in Vancouver: He’s a dangerous player, he is able to get in behind and make defenders run and that’s something as a coach you really like to see. Obviously we can use a guy like that late in games and you’ll see more of that as he adjusts to the league.
Thoughts on Oguchi Onyewu’s fitness: Again, I said to him in the airport - and not to sound cheesy - but I said congratulations because to get 90 minutes on astroturf after being out of play for that long at his age is great. We’ll be smart in how we manage him, but he’s answered everything he’s asked us to do. You think about when Keegan Rosenberry blocked off the goal line, Gooch laid out two times to protect the net.
On Ken Tribbett and the other defenders we didn’t see: Tribbett has a calf injury. It needs to be said that Jack Elliot and Aaron Jones are cleared and their visas are in which wasn’t the case last week. But yeah, it’s a minor calf thing for Ken.
Ale leading the team vocally: You see him taking a bigger role in terms of holding guys accountable. That’s something I’ve encouraged him to do. He’s hard on Jonesy, I think everyone is on Jonesy but the players can say things to him that if I said I would have a lawsuit on me. It’s a great group and that’s easy to say but I really believe it. That’s a big part of things but over 34 games you need guys who have each other’s backs and they do.
ESPN anonymous player survey and Ale being overrated: Michael Bradley is on that list too and right there is two guys that every coach or GM wants. I saw the list and it’s great in a Skip Bayless kind of way but it’s jealousy for lack of a better word. Anyone who does those surveys and won’t put their name on it is gutless anyway. Anyone that wants to say those things about other players or coaches should just come out and say it. I get why it exists but it makes me upset to talk about anyone in our league like that and more so when it’s one of my guys.
Jay Simpson pressing high, work rate with Ale: We asked a lot of Jay and Ale to defend a lot and we wanted both those guys to get more touches. I told him there’s no pressure for him to get goals, we want to get pressure and the goals will come in time. He’s been great for us, really happy with his defensive work.
Fired up for the home open yet? Disagree with anything Jim said? Thoughts on the ESPN survey? Let us know in the comments!