Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin is feeling the pressure ahead of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal match against Club America as the team fights to maintain a 2021 MLS playoff position.
The Union are set to chase a 2-0 aggregate deficit on Wednesday at Subaru Park for the second leg of the series against the Liga MX side. The American side crumbled during their initial visit to the historic Estadio Azteca, leaving Curtin furious at the result.
Now, the head coach admits his side might not be great, but welcomes the upcoming challenge.
“I’ve said it all season, we’re a good team. We’re not a great team yet,” said Curtin. “We have to all raise our level down the stretch here, because again, people remember more so than ever, how you finish the season, and not how you started.
“So we can still have a special year, we still can do special things, but we all have to be at our maximum to do it. Our margin for error with our club is very small. I think we all know that.”
The Union sit in fifth place on the Eastern Conference table, but maintain a slow decline after retaining a record of 2-3-2 since the start of August. Curtin blamed the overlapping matches and competitions, claiming their schedule has begun to take a toll on everyone involved.
“It’s our first time going through it, and look, history will show you when you do play in the Champions League, it has an effect on the team, one way or the other,” Curtin said this week. “Sometimes positive for moments, for stretches. But also it can have a negative impact and it can make it a little more challenging.
“It takes a lot of players working hard. It takes tough decisions for the staff, to field a 20-man roster and utilize your subs the right way,” he later added. “And juggling all the different rules and different competitions has been unique and new for us.
“But it’s a challenge we want. We want this for our fanbase, we want this for our club. It raises certainly the stature of this badge and we recognize that. So we want to put on a good show for the fans, we want to make a run and get to a final.”
Curtin took a positive turn to defend his side for their efforts among the chaos. With 13 regular-season MLS matches remaining, the Union still have the chance to clinch their playoff spot.