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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Prepping for DC: Notes from Curtin's press conference

Jim Curtin said the Union are taking it "game-by-game"
with Andre Blake in determining when he'll be released
to Jamaica for Copa America. (AP)
It’s a truncated week for the Philadelphia Union, with D.C. United coming to town Friday night for a big Eastern Conference clash. Plenty has been made of MLS’s splashy Rivalry Week exercise in synergistic branding, which includes a look at the DC-Union history, and much will be written this week about Chris Pontius facing the team that drafted him for the first time (check Thursday’s paper for that).

Beyond those obvious items, training was fairly quiet Wednesday (nothing that rhymed with "blatan" was brought up). Here are the high points:

- Ilsinho remains in injury limbo with leg issues, including the quad problem that kept him out last week, that don’t qualify as full-fledged injuries. He didn’t train fully Wednesday, but he did exercises with the group. Jim Curtin said he’s “anxious to get him back involved,” but “it’ll be close for selection this weekend.” Curtin sounded the “we have to be smart about it” bell, so if Ilsinho doesn’t pass fit this week, Curtin has three more games in the next two weeks to aim for.

- Roland Alberg has found playing time hard to come by lately, and we’ve speculated what it would take to get the club’s major international offseason signing back on the field. His absence is partially due to how well Tranquillo Barnetta and Vincent Nogueira have played. But Curtin thinks Alberg is doing what’s needed to stay in the conversation. Said Curtin:

“Roland’s been doing excellent in training. He’s been very good. He’s been making my decision every weekend tough to not put him out there. Again, it’s a team thing where we have to get a little more stable, a little stronger as a group defensively and in attack to where we can get more attack-minded guys on the field, and Roland is an attack-minded player. He wants to get forward. He wants to make assists and make goals. And he’s going to contribute.
“I think with every new player that comes into a team, there’s still that adjustment period. Tranquillo went through that last year. So it doesn’t just click instantly with the group. He’s done well with his minutes. He’s pushing for more.”

- Andre Blake will be in goal Friday for D.C.. Beyond that, Curtin and the Union are playing it game-by-game as to when the goalkeeper joins Jamaica for this summer’s Copa America. The Reggae Boyz open the tournament June 5 in Chicago against Venezuela, and it’s likely that a training camp of about a week will imperil Blake’s chances of playing against Columbus June 1 (though that is still being debated). The Union travel to Orlando May 25 and Colorado May 28. “We’re working with Jamaica now,” Curtin said. “Nothing is concrete. We have a good, open dialogue with them right now as to what’s best for Andre and when the release date will come. … Andre has been very important for us. He’s staying sharp, and it’s a matter of communication and open dialogue with Jamaica and doing what’s best for both parties to keep Andre playing at the level that he’s playing at.”

- Eric Ayuk received a call-up Wednesday to Cameroon’s Under-20 team for a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Zimbabwe Sunday, for what could be his international debut. Ayuk departs Friday. The 19-year-old, who played 28 games for the Union last season and set a number of youngest-ever club records, has played consistently with Bethlehem Steel this season, where he leads the team in goals (two) and assists (one). Cameroon starts a two-leg series with Zimbabwe in the second of three rounds of qualification for the tournament to be hosted by Zambia next February.

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