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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A case for Curtin: One reason why 2015 was unduly harsh

In Tuesday’s paper, I argued that seeming dissonance within the Philadelphia Union’s new front-office situation could be avoided proactively this offseason.

But there’s another reason why Jim Curtin should at least get a shot at one year as the coach under Earnie Stewart: His first full season was a disaster well out of his control. That’s not (entirely) a Rais M’Bolhi joke; it’s merely a reflection of the changes inflicted upon the manager.

Here’s a list of the formations assembled by Curtin for the Union’s 39 competitive matches this season (34 in MLS and five Open Cup ties):

Union formations

For those not willing to pore over the details (hint: if you stare at the word “Lahoud” long enough, it starts to become divorced of its meaning), here are the highlights.

- In 39 matches, Curtin diagramed 38 unique starting XIs. That means only twice this season did the same group of 11 players start multiple games. There is some noise contained therein – flopping Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis midseason, for instance, or the shuffling of Tranquillo Barnetta and Cristian Maidana between the wing and centrally – but it still speaks to monstrous and persistent doses of upheaval.

- You may think this has something to do with the carousel of goalies the Union used, and it does to a degree. But looking at just the outfield players, Curtin still cobbled together 36 unique assemblages of field players.

- Let’s make it even simpler: How many permutations of the six attacking players have the Union deployed? That answer is still alarmingly large: 30. (And that’s accounting merely for the players selected, regardless of shifting positions from wing to wing, etc.)

The reasons behind this are easy to comprehend. An impact player in Barnetta arrived midseason. Another fixture, Williams, departed. There’s the injury crisis, which was covered previously and culminated with 112 man-games lost by 21 players (full list below). Then there’s discipline: Despite the Union being atop the disciplinary points table and up for the Fair Play Miss Congeniality award, they lost 14 games to suspension in MLS, including CJ Sapong’s three-game absence for entrance into the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. The Union picked up five red cards in MLS, tied for fifth-most, and two in the Open Cup; three of those ejections had additional games tacked on by MLS Disciplinary Committee review.

It may sound trite to wonder how many coaches would have made the playoffs given this set of circumstances. But at the very least, Curtin’s ability to keep this group together and within a few inches of a trophy should warrant another shot on the bench.

2015 man games lost Blake 11 (knee, twice); McCarthy 1 (concussion); Sylvestre 10 (hand five, knee five); Williams 2 (hamstring); Gaddis 1 (ankle); Vitoria 11 (groin); Fabinho 2 (heel); Marquez 1 (ankle); Edu 9 (groin); Nogueira 5 (ankle three, quad two); Le Toux 3 (knee); Wenger 7 (concussion five, knee two); Maidana 3 (knee); Sapong 3 (concussion/facial fracture); Aristeguieta 8 (quad two, ankle six); Lahoud 13 (hip); Pfeffer 2 (groin); Casey 9 (ab three, quad six); Hoppenot 4 (hamstring); McLaughlin 6 (concussion three, appendix three); Ayuk 1 (ankle). Total: 112 by 21 players.

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