The Philadelphia Union host a game for the ages as Supporters’ Shield favorites LAFC will enter Talen Energy Stadium for the first time ever tomorrow night.
This game has huge playoff implications for the Union as they currently sit three points behind New York City FC for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the matchup between two of the best teams in the league also is important for both coaches as it’s a battle between Master and Apprentice: Bob Bradley vs Jim Curtin.
Curtin played for Bradley for two seasons when he coached the Chicago Fire. Curtin was drafted by the team out of Villanova University and made the squad during the 2001 preseason and played there until 2008.
Bradley had created his own coaching tree with the 2001 Fire squad with players such as Peter Novak (the original coach of the Union), Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas, Eric Wynalda and Josh Wolff all part of the team along with current Atlanta United technical director and vice president Carlos Bocangegra.
“I’m proud of what he’s done,” Bradley said in a conference call with reporters earlier this week. “I think Jimmy has done an excellent job. He was always a smart player, a really good teammate, a guy who just understood sports and how chemistry and teams work and I think he’s been able to put all of those things together and provide a great leadership and do an excellent job with the Union.”
Last season, LAFC got the better of the Union at Banc of California Stadium on June 30 after Adama Diomande’s hat trick helped the Black and Gold defeat the Blue and Gold 4-1.
“I respect him a great deal; you just have to turn on an LAFC game and you can see what he’s built already in a very short amount of time there,” Curtin said in his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “They play a style, a brand of soccer that has a true identity; you see it jumps off the page right away when you turn on one of their games. That’s kind of the ultimate praise you can give a coach is that his team has a true way of playing, they get after it.”
Coming off a huge win on August 31 against the defending champion Atlanta United and the international break, this upcoming test against LAFC will be another battle for the Union to prove that they are among the top teams in the league and keep them in contention for the top spot in the conference and the coveted Champions League berth and first round playoff bye that comes with it.
“It will be a big test for us to go against them but it’s not about me or Bob, it’s more about LAFC and the Philadelphia Union, two really good teams this season,” Curtin said. “We’re fortunate it’s in our building and we’ll try and make things as difficult as possible.”