|Jim Curtin, left, and Earnie Stewart wrapped up the Union season |
with a lengthy press conference Wednesday.
For over an hour Wednesday, members of the Philadelphia Union worked either on the field or in the weight room, a coda on a long campaign and a gateway to the offseason. Then coach Jim Curtin
and sporting direction Earnie Stewart
fielded questions for 30-some minutes, wrapping up a playoff season that was and previewing an offseason of tinkering rather than rebuilding.
Those two, particularly Stewart, discussed a wide range of topics. Some takeaways:
- First, big picture. The Union announced options declined on six players: Loanees Anderson
and Matt Jones,
plus Cole Missimo, Taylor Washington, Walter Restrepo
and Kevin Kratz
(more on that later). It’s still mulling decisions on Charlie Davies
and Leo Fernandes.
Everyone else is back. That is a level of decisiveness and transparency that past squads have lacked.
- Breakup days of seasons past have been helter-skelter affairs – exit interviews, players slinking back to their personal lives, some informal workouts organized. This year, the Union are in Chester for two weeks after the season, working with the staff to prep for the offseason. Captain Brian Carroll
indicated that that was a stark departure from the past, emblematic of the changes Stewart has instituted.
- Plenty of fans have opined about Curtin’s future as the coach of the Union. Stewart was unequivocal in assessing his performance:
“Really good, and I say that with a lot of confidence too. The way we set out the start of this season, I was curious in the United States how we go about practicing and do we go out with purpose, and Jim has exceeded those expectations in going out every single day. When we talked about roles and responsibilities as the players, you can go out and play games, or you can put a purpose behind everything that you do in the exercises that we have and in trying to create those moments of, the angled passes that we always talk about, playing forward that we always talk about. You can say it, or you can go out and practice it. I have to say Jim and his technical staff have been excellent in that in what I’ve seen, the level of training. And that’s my form of recognition to seeing how things go. If you see the progress in the beginning of the seasons in our keepaway and if you see the process now of where we are in our keepaway games, that’s a major, major difference and a lot has to do with the coaching staff in that.
“I think the beginning of the season showed that confidence level that we have, the way we can play. Do things happen during the season that we can’t reach that totally? Yeah. Do I feel that there’s open discussions about trying to tweak it left and right within our formation, within our style, within our system in getting better and getting those results? Yeah, they’ve been there. We’ve had open, honest discussions with each other which I think is fantastic and a very good way of working. That evaluation has been really good.”
- The Union adapted to a new training load, with two-a-days and other new tactics. Stewart was adamant that the increased burden didn’t precipitate the late-season swoon. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I do know how it works from a player perspective. That’s my own experience. When you win games, you’re never tired, and when you lose games, you’re very tired. And that’s just it. A human body can do way more than we think, so I don’t believe in that. That’s not an excuse.” Curtin added that per team data, he didn’t see players late in the season failing to reach the physical outputs they did early on. “To put in on fatigue, I don’t buy it,” Curtin said.
- The reasons for the late struggles remained elusive. Some of it was a young roster in the heat of a playoff chase for the first time. Some was untimely injuries. Part of it was the schedule getting tougher, leading to crises in player confidence. Some of it, as Stewart pointed out, is simple perception. Said Curtin: “We are examining and trying to pinpoint exactly what it is, too, and the harder we search and the more we look at the data, the analytics, the games, it comes back that it’s a variety of things.”
- Stewart has said that the club hasn’t received concrete offers for Andre Blake.
The goalkeeper, who graduated Generation Adidas Monday, will count on the Union’s salary budget for the first time in his career in 2017. Stewart concurred that Blake has earned that and he would listen to offers for the Jamaican goalie, but they haven’t yet materialized. Stewart: Read more »
Labels: Anderson, Andre Blake, Atlanta United FC, Brian Carroll, Charlie Davies, Chris Pontius, Earnie Stewart, Fabinho, Jim Curtin, Kevin Kratz, Matt Jones, Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union