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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What they said: Highlights from Union media day

At his first Union media day, Sporting Director Earnie Stewart
had plenty to say. (Times File)
As far as I can recall, Thursday marked the first Philadelphia Union media day (at least in the three-plus seasons I’ve been covering the team), which gave reporters an opportunity to sit down with players and get some info ahead of the season.

Among the headlines were Maurice Edu’s position and national team prospects, plus a lot of the usual status talk from Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart. All that and more will produce hours of sound, video and reading for the coming days (keep an eye out for some rookie profiles and more next week).

But the couple of hours’ worth of conversations yielded a few gem quotes, so let’s throw a few of the best out there.

Let’s start with Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, who had a couple of provocative responses. The first, about off days which I thought was worthy of tweeting, may be a little splashy in the message that can be distilled from it, but it’s a thoughtful response that warrants some real consideration and discussion. This came from a question of roadblocks that Stewart has encountered in MLS that maybe surprised him. It also, for what it’s worth, echoes many of the criticisms of college soccer and its efficacy as a player development tool:
There’s rules that you have to abide by that I’m not used to, when it comes to days off in a week that are mandatory from a players’ union perspective or mandatory vacation days that there are. I’m not used to that. It’s a short period of time. I feel in the United States, we’re working very hard to create players that are world class players. And on the other hand, we have a lot of days off, and the combination of those two, I don’t get. So those are things that I have to get used to, and hopefully towards the future, we can tweak those because I think for every sport, no matter if it’s soccer or if you look at swimmers or what they do every single day getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and then practicing in the afternoon. If they want to be Olympians and they want to get a gold medal, they have to work hard. And vacation will come someday. But not when you’re in the prime of your life. So those are things that you have to get used to, but they are what they are.
Stewart also had an interesting response (at least to me) to Kevin Kinkead’s question about the difference between American soccer media and its European counterpart:
There’s not too much. They ask questions, you guys ask questions, it’s all about soccer. I’d say if there’s a difference, it’s the questions asked. I do have to say that in the last two years, and you see that a lot in Europe, it’s usually about the negative things in what’s happening and hardly every reflect on the positive things. And now in my experience with your guys has been that you get both sides of it. When it’s bad, it’s bad, it’s simple as that. But when it’s good, it’s also good. Maybe there’s a small difference there, but nothing major.
Here are three quick hitters from manager Jim Curtin. First, on defender Anderson Conceicao:
Anderson has kind of separated himself as a guy who can really pass out of the back. We’ll have to continue to build on that, but he has some really great starting points in terms of starting the attack with that left foot of his. He plays through the lines very well to (Vincent) Nogueira, eventually Mo, and also (Tranquillo) Barnetta.
Curtin on Vincent Nogueira’s expectations:
I think again Vincent falls into the category of, if we do a little better job with the talent of players around him on the field, he’s a guy that can be that connector, that link from the back to the forwards. He’s a guy that can play the diagonal ball, so we need to get him on the ball more with a little more time and space than we have. We’ve sometimes tended to force things into him with guys on his back. He’s no secret now.
And a nice quote on Richie Marquez (I’ll have more on Marquez at some point next week):
Richie Marquez is a guy who has shocked a lot of people. It’s players like him who are kind of like finding gold. They’re very friendly on the salary cap, they kind of come from nowhere, overachieve and not only just do OK in the league but can compete and cover the best strikers in the league, so very happy with where he’s at.
This response from CJ Sapong on the ordeal that he endured last year, in terms of injuries and legal troubles, is enlightening for its thoughtfulness and self-awareness, with those unique Sapong vibes thrown in:
I’m completely grateful for that because I think before all those things took place, I felt like I had an understanding of where I was as a player and a person, and not to say that I was far off, but it’s always good to gain a little bit more perspective. And I think that’s what led me to have success after those situations. I completely surrendered to a lot of my own internal issues that maybe I wasn’t looking at before, and I think coming back, I was able to emanate more of a cohesive energy to my teammates, which in turn made me feel my own validation which allowed me to play at the best of my abilities.
Here’s Ray Gaddis on what the emphasis on possession means for his approach:
It really doesn’t change my perspective on the game, but in the back, we have to be a lot more clinical because if you make a mistake, they’re right at goal. It’s good to be on the ball a lot more, and that shows the confidence that the coaching staff has with the backline and with the players that are here now.

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