The Jim Curtin offseason assessment
Both counts were resolved Friday when Jim Curtin was named the Union’s permanent manager. As part of the festivities, Curtin was made available to discuss some of the bigger issues the Union will face this offseason, offering the transparency that he touted to the media during his introductory presser.
So let’s go down the line and get Curtin’s take on some of the key talking points of the Union’s offseason.
On the top offseason priority:
“We are looking to bring in a striker. That is something that we’re actively pursuing. Chris Albright is tireless working. He’s been overseas a couple of times already. It’s a piece that we know we need. In MLS now, you look at the type of forwards that are working, it’s the Dom Dwyer, Quincy Amarikwa, kind of pain-in-the-ass, can-run-forever, stocky and fast and just annoying to play against. Those are things we want to add. We need to get bigger, stronger and faster. I know it sounds cliché, but a lot of times when you look at the national anthem and our group is lined up against the other team, we’re a lot smaller than the other team. I think we need to get bigger, a lot faster and a little bit stronger on the ball so we’re not getting pushed around a little bit.”
On Amobi Okugo’s contract situation:
“He’s in a unique one. Amobi is a guy that I had a conversation with three years ago when I was in the academy but I would come and help out at training sessions, I said to him ‘you’ve got to give Europe a try.’ It’s something I believe in his career. I’ve seen guys that play out their contracts, they go overseas and it goes great. Carlos Bocanegra comes to mind, guys that I played with that did it the same way Amobi did: Put in his time here, did a great job here. We’re still going to make him an offer so that we can maintain his rights, but at the same time, he’s going to try overseas. It’s not a secret. And I encourage it. It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s a guy that’s good enough to play overseas.”
Curtin later added that Okugo could accept the offer and return, saying “It’s still very possible that he’s still in a Union jersey.”
(A little clarity here: The Union would have to make a bona fide offer, as determined by the league with respect to Okugo’s market value, to retain his MLS rights should he go overseas, either permitting them first crack at him if/when he returns or compensation if he returns to another MLS team.)
On Maurice Edu's loan situation:
“There’s a lot of moving parts on that one. His agent did a good job with his contract. It’s done really well. I want him back. He’s a guy that I see value in. He can shut down a $5 million player, and we’ve got weight now what the number is to bring Maurice back. He’s an exceptional player. He’s got the tools to shut down an (Thierry) Henry, a David Villa, a Kaka. He’s a guy that I’m high on and I want to have back in a Union jersey.”
On Edu as a center back vs. Edu as a midfielder:
“I’m high on him as a soccer player, but I like him as a center back. Our end-of-the-year meeting was a good one. We talked about, his impact in the midfield was good; his impact as a center back was more. You just look at the results, we won a lot of the games when he was a center back. That’s when we did our most damage. It opened his eyes a little bit. I told him, national-team picture wise, he can be a center back in this next cycle. He’s that talented. Mo is a guy I believe in, I’m high on and I’d like to have him back, a guy I’d like to see in a Union uniform.”
On Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana:
“Their end of the year meetings with me were awesome. There’s always a question with foreign players: Are they happy here? Is it a hard adjustment? Vincent loved every second of it, and I was happy to hear that. He was frustrated with not making the playoffs. He wants to be in the playoffs for the fans. He’s a guy who I’m very high on. I think he’s one of the best midfielders in the league, easily. He’s a guy that probably still flies under the radar on our league for how talented he is. He mentioned contributing more goals and assists, which obviously that would help too.
“Maidana, same thing. He’s hungry. He wants to be back. He wants to be in a Philadelphia Union uniform, and again, we talked about getting more goals and assists for him.”
Curtin added that Maidana will not return to Argentina this summer, instead staying close to the team to work on his (occasionally suspect) fitness and avoid the games missed that plagued him last year.
On if all three goalkeepers will return:
“Probably not, if I’m being honest. I think Andre Blake needs games. I think he’s a great candidate to get loaned out and get those games, get 30 games. Zac (MacMath) is a guy who had his best season. He has value in our league’ he’s respected in our league. We’ll see on that one. There’s interest in Zac. And Rais (M’Bolhi) is a guy who’s angry, I’ll just say, about how the season ended, and he’s motivated to come back and prove to our fans that he is that world-class goalkeeper.”