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Jim Curtin: ‘Health and safety of the community and our fans’ most important

Philadelphia Union head coach talked to reporters about the league’s response to the coronavirus outbreak

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin spoke to the media via conference call on Friday, but in a very different manner than he is accustomed.

Talk of what should have been the team’s home opener on Saturday was replaced with discussion of the whereabouts of his players and colleagues as the team adjusts to a suspended MLS season amidst the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Some things are obviously much bigger than soccer and at this time the Philadelphia Union is in full support of Major League Soccer and Commissioner Garber’s decision to suspend the season,” he said in an opening statement. “The health and safety of the community and our fans is what’s most important. We look forward to our first game in Subaru Park in front of our amazing fans but assure that will only be when the well-being of our fans, players and staff is assured.”

Curtin was informed of the league’s decision to suspend play for at least 30 days when he left the training field at the Power Training Complex in Chester on Thursday. He described the feeling upon hearing the news as “eerie.”

“It’s the eerie feeling of the unknown, for what this really means,” he said. “I think we’re kind of just at the tip of the coronavirus.”

All players from both the first team and Union II were told to stay home today and not report to the training complex in Chester. At the earliest they will return on Monday, but that like so many things right now is subject to change.

“As the head coach of a team and professional soccer players I think we are all wired to find every single advantage that we can gain and how do we have a mini preseason and can we schedule friendlies and games to prepare us but I think that has to go completely out the window right now,” he said. “I think the health has to come first so I think that competitiveness has to take a backseat to doing what’s right and doing safe things so that’s where I’m at with it.”

Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie and Matt Freese all returned from the United States U23 training camp in Mexico on Friday. Curtin said they wore masks on their flight and would be tested only if they showed any symptoms. He said all other players and team personnel are in the U.S.

The Union’s academy has shut down — YSC Sports is closed and YSC Academy has shifted to online — and every competition teams and players at every level were slated to participate in has been canceled or postponed.