On a bitterly cold night in Chester, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin became the second-youngest coach in MLS history to reach 100 wins.
After the 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, Curtin was surprised by his players in the locker room with a jersey and a plague commemorating the milestone.
“I’m proud to have been with Philadelphia for the length of time that I have,” Curtin said in the post-game press conference. “I’m proud that our ownership believed in me, even when things were difficult early on.”
Curtin was quick to deflect attention on his milestone and give credit to his staff and players. He also congratulated former assistant coach Pat Noonan on his first win as head coach with FC Cincinnati.
“It means I have a great staff,” Curtin said. “It also just means I’ve had really good players over the years. Individual accolades are nice, I say this to our guys all the time, but when the team wins and the team has success, that’s when those individual accolades come.”
It has been a long road for the Philadelphia skipper. His career did not follow along the same path as most head coaches in MLS. Unlike opposing Earthquakes manager Matias Almeyda, Curtin hasn’t had a career that spans the globe. He never played outside of MLS like fellow coaches Almeyda and many other MLS coaches, nor did he manage outside of the states.
Curtin never represented his country as a player, and he didn’t start as an assistant coach for the national team. Coach Curtin started as an assistant coach for a team he never played for and is now the second longest-tenured coach in the league behind Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes.
The first Villanova Wildcat to ever be drafted in the MLS SuperDraft, Curtin lasted all the way until the third round. The Chicago Fire took a chance on this Philadelphia defender, and he became a fan favorite and MLS All-Star. Philadelphia took a similar chance on Curtin in 2014, naming the assistant the new interim coach. Now in 2022, Curtin has come a long way from his interim coach status… taking Philadelphia to new heights.
The Union have reached the U.S. Open Cup final three times under Curtin’s leadership, taking Sporting Kansas City to penalty kicks in the 2016 final. The Union earned the Supporters’ Shield in 2020, finishing the regular season with the most points in MLS. Last year the Philadelphia Union nearly made the MLS Cup final, taking eventual winners New York City FC to the distance with a COVID-decimated squad.
Saturday’s 100-win milestone for Curtin is a great time for reflection on the past few years of Union football. A team that once judged major success based on whether they made the playoffs or not has become one of the top teams in the league.
Who would have thought at the beginning of the 2010s that the Union would win a Supporters’ Shield? That the Union would be just minutes away from an MLS Cup final? That a Union team would make it to the semifinal of the Concacaf Champions League?
The Union keep climbing every season building on the successes of the previous year. The standard of success for Union football has changed and the shouts of “Curtin Out” from the stands have been replaced by a full embrace of a coach who is now just the 13th in league history to reach 100 wins.
“I think coaches often need time in a sport that time isn’t usually granted to them,” Curtin said. “So I’m grateful for the time that I got and I think that big picture-wise in this league and in other sports leagues if you think you have the right person and you believe in them, I think you should give them more time.”