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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Jim Curtin weighs in on his future

It’s been a busy week for the Philadelphia Union, and that’s just the club’s participation in the rumor mill.

Rumors have been swirling particularly swiftly this week over the possible appointment of a new coach full-time. First, there was this report by’s Kevin Kinkead about a possibly imminent hire:

Then there was Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz quickly distancing himself from those reports to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, adding the name of Rene Meulensteen to the list of potential replacements on the record for the first time:

(It should be noted that Meulenesteen’s visit(s) to PPL Park had been reported prior to Sakiewicz’s confirmation. This would also be a good time to point out my column on the matter, as published last week.)

The topic obviously came up in interim manager Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference on two occasions Thursday.
Union manager Jim Curtin. (Times Staff/TOM KELLY IV)

First, the question of how Curtin handles the rumors and uncertainty in the context of his day-to-day responsibilities:

“The communication and dialogue has been open with Nick and I. Our relationship has grown greatly over the past months that I’ve been in charge. We have a good relationship, and we agree on players and the selections we’ve made and different players we’re targeting and that kind of thing. That’s grown greatly. They’ve told us there’s going to be a long-term commitment to myself and the current staff, so that is reassuring to have that in the back of your head, that that is something that is real and out there. The only thing you can control is on the field. We’ve been a group now that, I preach in the locker room that we do our talking on the field. For me to sit up and get too into the coaching thing would be contradictory to what I’m preaching to our players. I’m not a self-promoter. I’m not going to sit up here and do that. I’m not going to talk negatively about anyone else. I’m just going to do my job, and Red Bull is the focus. We’re going to go in and get three points against Red Bull, that’s the goal, and then the Open Cup final, the biggest game in this club’s history. Two big things, and we’re focused on that. That’s the priority.”

And later, on how he views that Union’s upcoming games as they relate to his position with the club:

“They’re all big. It’s tough to quantify these games. Is the New York game bigger? Does it mean more to our club than the Seattle game? It’s impossible to quantify these things. For the club financially, there’s impacts from both games. Making the playoffs, a lot of people don’t realize, is a big financial impact at the club. Winning the Open Cup is a huge financial impact at the club. Exposure wise, you get all kinds of different things with making the playoffs; you get a lot of things with Champions League (for winning the Open Cup). There’s a million variables with it. It’s not about me. It really doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m just going to keep trying to win games. That’s kind of what I’ve said from the very start. My job is to come in here and win. I knew we had the talent to win, and we’ve done that. Again, I’d be a hypocrite if I started doing the self-promoting thing. I’m getting a lot of information from different people that I should be doing more of it, but I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and walk into the locker room and tell my guys to do our talking on the field, and then sit up here when I have a microphone and say I’m the best. It’s not going to happen.”

The two big takeaways here: First, the commitment to Curtin and his staff is on the record. This was hinted at as soon as Curtin took over. Here’s a quote from Sakiewicz from the press conference the day John Hackworth was let go in June, pertaining to the possibility of a foreign coach coming in:

“If it ultimately is a foreign coach, we have to make sure we surround that foreign coach with someone who knows MLS and someone who knows the salary cap. Right now we have guys in the front office in the management technical side, people like Chris Albright and Jim certainly, they know the salary cap. So no matter who comes in, I don’t expect guys like that to depart. They’re part of the fabric of the Union and they’re going to continue to be with us in support, whether it’s a domestic coach who knows the league or someone who comes in from the outside that doesn’t. But that’s really important because MLS is a different league and has a lot of complicated rules and structure. I’ve seen a lot of foreign coaches – very good ones that have won World Cups – fail in MLS because they didn’t have the knowledge of the league or the patience to understand it.”

The second obvious point is Curtin’s humility in all this. It’s the kind of approach that has awakened a team from the doldrums of the East into contention, and it may just serve him well in the job hunt.

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