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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Meet the Media: Curtin and Stewart's end of year press conference

Earnie Stewart's word cloud, if you're into that kind of thing.
Transcript in full. Earnie Stewart first, then Jim Curtin.

Opening statement: 
Obviously starting the 2017 season, one of the main points was building our roster and making that foundation stronger as we have started in 2016. For the most part, I can say that the building of the foundation was more from the bottom and from the side, (Tranquillo) Barnetta leaving and bringing Haris Medunjanin in, and not being of the possibility to sprinkle in from the top yet. From that part I think the roster that we had for 2017 was a roster that was better than it was in 2016. Obviously when we look at the season and the start of the season, I think that kind of determines how people look upon a team, as the Philadelphia Union, going into those first eight games of the season and not coming out with a win is a difficult period for each and every one of us in the organization, but I truly believe that that part is something that was – when you talk about progress and where we were last year in 2016 when we got off to a great start, where everything was new and when toward the end of the season it became a little bit more difficult to handle the stress situations that were there – the beginning of this year was totally different in that regard because we were in a stress situation right away and if I see how the technical staff and the team responded after that, after those first eight games, everyone counted us dead and out at that moment. There was asking for change; In my view, it was the worst thing that could happen at that moment, I believe I made a couple of statements about that, that I don’t believe in that. And I think the system-based approach that we have and that we had put in place in 2016 actually shows how important that is in this 2017 season. We came back from being down and out. A lot of words went on in our locker room area. I think the group responded, the technical staff responded to what we set out to do and stress situations are never easy. It comes down to having players do the things that we feel is important and once we knew that, you can see that we can get results at the same time. Obviously still disappointing because in everything you want to win, you want to become MLS champions and that is more maybe ambitions than a realistic goal, but I do feel that you have to set the bar as high as possible because if you just set it as making playoff or anything like that, sometimes you see you make playoffs and you go out. I do believe in setting the bar high and will do that for the 2018 season, just as well because I believe that’s very important in getting the best out of everybody.

The end of the season I would say when you look back and everything, the same amount of points from 2015 where we had a goal differential of minus-13 to 2016 when we had a goal differential of minus-3 to 2017 where we had a plus-goal differential of three. So when we talk about progress and what we’re trying to do in a system-based approach that we have and making sure people get chances and can show themselves, I think that part has shown throughout this year. I don’t think there were too many games that we were in where we were blown out at any moment. I can pretty much say that three or four games, five minutes before time we weren’t in a position to get anything from the game. But other than that, our coaching staff has done an excellent job in making sure that we were in a position to get results. Obviously disappointing from the fact that in the end, 1) we did not make playoffs, and 2) that we did not, even though we were in the position, we never really capitalized, especially in the away games to make sure that we could make the next step and take those points because that’s where the difference lies and that’s where we have to make sure that we’re a lot better towards the 2018 season. When I look at our home games for the most part, you can be very satisfied with the amount of points that we got there. Beginning of the season I think we played a couple of games where I think maybe we should’ve gotten more and maybe there were games towards the end or in the middle there where maybe it should’ve been less, but it is what it is. That’s real simple. That’s the way we look at things. That’s the way we view things and we’ve got to get better, especially on the road and that’s something that we’re going to do in the offseason, make sure we evaluate the offseason as much as possible and what we haven’t done because evaluation doesn’t only start here but it starts a little bit earlier but where we’ve done that and made sure in those away games we can get those points to make the playoffs in the next season.

Having said that, building to the 2018 roster, obviously one important part of that is the head coach, so I’m very pleased and proud to announce that Jim Curtin will be the head coach in 2018 and we’ll make sure that we keep going in the same direction that we have been going in. I think he’s a big part of this foundation that we’ve laid down. Once again, when we talk about progress, I think the system-based approach and the stability of good organization, continuity is very, very important and I think that has shown in this season and in a time where everybody thought we were down and out, we were at one point we were in a position once again to get back into the playoffs, and that is a great credit to Jim and his coaching staff, so very pleased with that, very pleased that he will be back.

Those sound real simple, but when you look back at the progress we have made and the players, there will probably best questions about that, what is the progress of a player? But I also look at my head coach the same way, and I think he has progressed in a great manner, and once again I’m very pleased that he’ll be part of this 2018 season and that we can build on the continuity that we have and look forward to the 2018 season.

On possibly underestimating the pace of improvement in the Eastern Conference?
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Let me sum up: Postseason assessments from Union brass

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart had plenty to say
Wednesday in evaluating players for 2017 and beyond.
(DFM file)
Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin spoke for 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium. The discussion got very big-picture and very granular at times. There’s plenty to parse out of the many informative digressions, and I’ll post a full transcript later (after I recover from the transcription).

But first, let’s hit the high notes, rapid-fire, player by player to offer the postseason assessment from Curtin and/or Stewart. So here goes:

- First, Roland Alberg, who Tuesday was introduced by CSKA Sofia. Here’s Stewart: “In the conversations I did have with the agent, it never really materialized that there was going to be a substantial transfer fee, so we would’ve maybe looked at that option. It wasn’t something that was there.”

Stewart had more praise for the Dutchman: “When you look at Roland Alberg and his biggest quality, anything that gets close to the 18-yard-box, everything gets on target. Even though he’s a midfielder, I want to say he’s one of the best scorers that we have out there. I’d say his role was very good. When we talk about possession and we talk about touches on the ball and having that, that’s something that we knew we did want to add that special part of Roland to the group, but now that we’re transitioning and trying to go a little further in, we came to the conclusion that the (salary) number that he was at, it wasn’t the right fit or the option number that was there.”

- Andre Blake, via Stewart: “In the offseason, because I remember we talked about Andre Blake, and I can still and will say there were no offers for Andre Blake. That doesn’t mean that there was no interest for him, but not that we were aware of.”

- Here's Curtin on Keegan Rosenberry: "A very good young player that we strongly believe in. Every player goes through highs and lows, peaks and valleys in their development. Again, if you think to when he was selected, obviously the Homegrown issue comes up, but at the same time, we were maybe crazy for doing so from the public perception, and then he went on to a very quick rise: All-Star in his first year, playoff team, U.S. national team player. So a really high high. This year there was the feeling of a low low for him. So again, we have full confidence that he can bounce back quickly. If he as great as the guaranteed, penciled-in, right back starting national team player? Maybe not. But he’s also not defined by just how this year went. So again a developing young player that is a very, very strong right back, an important position because we like to attack with our outside backs. But when you talk about development, there’s on-the-field development, there’s off-the-field development, there’s handling success, there’s handling the down times. These are all part of growth, and to now write him off and say that his development has stopped is silly, because now if he bounces back and we’re a playoff team next year and he’s starting again and is an All-Star, did we all of a sudden redevelop him? I don’t think that’s the case either. ... We believe in him. He has all the tools, all the assets on the field to be a good player, and we’ll pull that out of him. I know he’s going to attack this offseason with a chip on his shoulder, come back ready to go."
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