Jim Curtin has expressed pride in his Philadelphia Union side ‘punching above their weight’, but believes they’ll have to remain patient as they attempt to overcome an impressive Nashville SC.
The Union host Gary Smith’s side in the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Sunday after beating the New York Red Bulls in round one.
That was just their second-ever MLS Cup Playoff win after they beat the same opposition at the same stage in 2019. Last season, they won the Supporters’ Shield – the club’s first-ever piece of major silverware. The trend at Subaru Park has been undoubtedly positive.
“Little by little we’ve progressed each year. We haven’t done it in a flashy, loud, obnoxious way. We’ve done our talking on the field,” Curtin said at his pre-match press conference (via MLSsoccer.com). “The players deserve all the credit for consistently improving, being a team that punches above our weight a little bit. But we don’t fear anybody.”
Though, as Curtin puts it, the Union won’t be afraid of Nashville, they will be cautious. The Tennessee side were level on points with Philadelphia during the regular season, losing the fewest games (4) throughout the league. In Hany Muktar, they have who many feel is the real leading contender for the MLS MVP Award.
“I don’t anticipate a high-scoring game; you have two great defensive teams with special playmakers in attack. I think the chances will be few and far between,” Curtin said of the match-up.
On how to beat Nashville, he elaborated: “It’s important when playing Nashville not to force things centrally.
“When they turn you over, they’re excellent at playing forward quickly. You can get baited and frustrated to forcing things centrally, that’s a recipe to play right into Nashville’s strengths. We have to have patience, to move the ball side-to-side, to find Jamiro [Monteiro],[Daniel] Gazdag in the pockets.
“It’s not an easy task, but we can’t get frustrated because they can really hit you on the break.”