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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What he said: Jim Curtin's first press conference

Jim Curtin, alongside Nick Sakiewicz, took the podium for the first time as the Union manager Thursday morning and patiently addressed a number of topics for the better part of an hour. This is hardly the whole thing, but allowed me to post a few of the highlights. (Note: There are plenty of less-than-relevant asides in here that, for the sake of brevity and sanity, I didn't transcribe. I've tried to preserve the context here as best possible.

Opening statement (yes, it's this long):
First, I’d like to thank Jay Sugarman and Nick Sakiewicz for giving me this opportunity. It’s one I’m very excited about, one I’ll take with great pride, being from this city, it means a lot to me. I’d also like to thank John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian. Those are two guys that were able to give me my chance in the game with this club. Those are two guys that put in a lot of years here and left the club better than when they started. …
To the team, I’d say to put it simply, we’ve had a bunch of very good players have poor first halves of the season. We have 18 games left; that’s the good news. We have 18 games to get this ship right. We have the U.S. Open Cup, which we’re going to take very seriously. This club needs a trophy. There’s only two that you can lift, and that’s one of them, so we’re going to take that very seriously.
The big thing with me, the results haven’t been there this year. We all know that. We only have three wins in 16 games, so the results haven’t been here. But the resources are here to win. I’m confident in my staff that’s being formed right now, it’s getting pieced together, it’s a very strong one, it’s one that I trust. As an assistant coach, I have Mike Sorber, a guy who I respect a great deal, I’ve connected with very quickly, I’ve known from the past, times in Chicago. He’s a guy in a lot of ways who is more qualified as an assistant than anyone in MLS right now. He’s a guy that has World Cup experience. He’s a guy that’s played in a World Cup, so again a guy I’m going to lean on heavily. I also have a bright young technical director who’s very progressive in Chris Albright, a guy that I have a great relationship with. Again, has done everything that you can do in this game, an all-Star, he’s played in a World Cup, He is a guy that I’m going to lean on heavily to make decisions personnel wise, along with Nick….
On to the players, right up the middle, you talk about a Conor Casey who right now is in very good form, scoring four goals in his past two games. He’s a guy that just needed a run of games, and now he’s got that and he’s going to get that with me. He’s a guy I trust. We have a Vincent Nogueira right up the middle again, a guy that every coach in this league wants on his team. He’s special. We have Maurice Edu, who in my mind should be in Brazil right now, but he’s not. Has it been tough for him mentally? Yes it has, but we’re going to get him going the way we know he can be, and he’s a special player, one of the top players in this country and one of the top players in this league. When we talk about the things behind the scenes that are going on with this club, we talk about the resources that we had, the little things that you might not see – again I said the results might not be here, but the resources are. ...
We have the most passionate fans in the league, I believe. I’m a Philly fan as well. ... I know the passion that the fans have, I know the emotions that they have, and I know that the thing that they want is winning. That’s what this is about. We need to win. And we’re going to do it with accountability, accountability from the players on and off the field. That sounds like a simple message. I could sit up here and talk tactics and formations and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, what matters in this town is winning, that’s what I believe.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nick Sakiewicz press conference, June 10

Apologies for being a little delayed in posting this, but I wanted to make sure I went over it a couple of times to iron out a few slightly confusing details. You'll also find a bit of redundancy, which I can't really control. Here you go.

On the decision to fire John Hackworth:
Yeah, it’s tough. It’s always tough when you have a lot of respect for a person. John’s a great guy, first-class, been with us a long time. But I just felt at this point in the season, halfway through, we needed to make a change. We needed to make a change because first and foremost, I don’t know if any of you were at the game on Saturday, but it was an amazing environment, our biggest crowd of the season and we just had the best fans. And our fans deserve better results on the field. Unfortunately for John, he knows that it’s about results and this is a tough, tough business and you’ve got to make tough decisions. But really we have to go out and we’ve got to find a top, top-class manager that’s going to be able to deliver the results that our fans deserved.

On how long the search will take:
I don’t know. I know that the resumes are flooding in from all over the world. There’s a lot of people that love big markets and love to coach in Major League Soccer, so we’re going to be very careful and deliberate. Very strategic. And the most important thing is to find the right guy who can take this group of players, which frankly I still think is pretty good. I mean this is a team that a few games ago beat the defending champion in their home park. So let’s not lose sight of the fact that there’s a pretty good group of players here that need some direction and need some motivation to win a bunch of games in the remaining part of the year. But beyond that, we need a coach that is going to be able to take this team to an MLS championship.

On the timing during the World Cup break:
Well it certainly gives Jim Curtin a little breathing room and a little time to assess the situation and make whatever adjustments he needs to make. Jim’s been with the organization a long time. He knows our culture. He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows our fanbase. He’s a Philly guy. And he’s got sharp teeth. So I imagine he’s going to put together a plan and this time gives him that opportunity to do that.

On an audition for Curtin:
Pretty much every coach is an interim coach, isn’t he? If you really think about it in any sport. Jim knows what he’s getting into. He’s got an advantage over the many résumés that we’re going to look at, the many people we’re going to talk to, and Jim will have a solid kick at the can for this job.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moving on: A look at John Hackworth's potential replacements

For the second time in the club’s history, the Philadelphia Union have announced a coaching change Tuesday, heading in a different direction from John Hackworth’s so-so two years, punctuated by a disastrous first half of the 2014 season. In steps Jim Curtin, who is regarded as having the knowhow for the job even at a young age (34). Given the fact that Hackworth was hired from within two years ago, it’s no surprise that Curtin will get a definite shot at the job and be vetted appropriately. A “serious global search,” in the words of CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, is currently underway for a long-term replacement.
Former Union player Veljko Paunovic, seen here in 2011,
has become a successful coach in the Serbian youth ranks. (AP)

Who that could be is an open question, and there’s no obvious name that jumps off the page. With the downward trajectory of Hackworth’s last four months, the window has long been open for speculation, and some of that preliminary work has been done by my colleagues over at PSP. But let’s float a few names out there.

Jesse Marsch: Like Hackworth, the 40-year-old did a stint as a U.S. national team assistant before a less-than-stellar turn with the Montreal Impact in 2012 in which he went 12-17-7 in the team’s first MLS season. What should’ve been sufficient for a second season in charge led to an ostensibly amicable split with the club that was likely less than amiable. A veteran of over 300 MLS games, Marsch is the solid, MLS-savvy option.

Veljko Paunovic: There was a fair amount of questions when the well-traveled Serbian midfielder ended a three-year retirement to play for the Union in 2011. However that term is regarded, Paunovic has parlayed it into a successful coaching career, piloting the Serbian youth teams since 2012. Having played nearly 300 games in Spain as well as other top European leagues, Paunovic presents a more international option, and he’s about the closest thing to hiring from within beyond Curtin.

Martin Rennie: The options for recycled, recently-fired MLS managers are slim. I would assume Robert Warzycha’s similarities to Peter Nowak (fairly or otherwise) would lessen his chances. Former New England coach Steve Nicol doesn’t seem quite right for the role (plus he’s well entrenched with ESPN), nor does Montreal’s hotheaded Swiss ex-manager Marco Schallibaum. Richie Williams, given his ties to New York during Sakiewicz’s days there, is intriguing and a name that was floated after Nowak’s axing. Rennie is a young manager who was dismissed by Vancouver last year against the popular wishes of the fanbase, and the Scot could invigorate a youthful Union squad.

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