Union manager Jim Curtin enjoys moment of joy ahead of playoffs – Delco Times

NEW YORK – After crossing the finish line of an MLS marathon season, Jim Curtin gave himself and his team a moment of celebration on Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t the beer and pizza he had promised for a clean sheet at Yankee Stadium, a page borrowed from Claudio Ranieri’s book of his days as Premier League champion at Leicester City. Instead, it was a moment to greet the section of fans who traveled to the Bronx to witness a 1-1 draw with New York City FC on decision day.

Restoration aside, the Union had done what it intended to do on Sunday, saving a postage stamp point in the Bronx where it had only had one coin toss on six previous trips. . With it came second place in the Eastern Conference and the right to host the first two games of the playoffs, should they advance.

“Being cheered on by our fans today is something I will always remember,” Curtin said. “It was a special moment. Second place is nothing special. I’m really proud of our group.

That didn’t quite match the moment 364 days earlier when the Union took home their first trophy by winning the Fan Shield against New England. But on his own, navigating a season condensed by the lingering ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and split for the first time with the CONCACAF Champions League, the accomplishment stands out.

Since this celebration at Subaru Park last November, the union has:

• Say goodbye to two regular US National Team players, Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson. The first has been replaced from the inside; his replacement, Daniel Gazdag, arrived in May and was largely unproductive in September.

• Incorporation of five new Homegrowns, all teenagers and for which regular contributors.

• Had an under-the-radar 20-year-old Leon Flach as his main offseason acquisition who exceeded all reasonable expectations.

• Resisted signing of club record Jamiro Monteiro, demanding a transfer at the end of the summer before retracting and then playing one of his best footballers.

• Got a grand total of six appearances from Ilsinho, their seventh best salary.

• Managed seven players regularly called up on international missions, one of the largest contingents in the league. All Seven – Andre Blake, Alvas Powell and Cory Burke in Jamaica; José Martinez in Venezuela; Gazdag in Hungary; Monteiro in Cape Verde and Olivier Mbaizo in Cameroon – will depart during the November window. Locals Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson will be in Mexico for the US Under-20 camp ahead of the Revelations Cup.

• Won the club’s first international match in Costa Rica, won at Mercedes-Benz Arena and were the last team to advance to the CLC semi-finals.

So many of the club’s core values ​​have persisted, even as Aaronson and McKenzie’s individual glow has faded. The culture of depth, signing insight and empowering players to adapt in a late-season lineup change remain cornerstones of sporting director Ernst Tanner’s tenure. The award is a fifth playoff appearance in the past six years. The Union is one of only six franchises (NYCFC, New York Red Bulls, Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, Portland) to feature so consistently in the playoff table.

“It’s a great achievement,” Curtin said. “A lot of credit goes to the players for their efforts throughout the season. My staff have done an incredible job, a lot of hard work. And over the last three years Ernst (Tanner) just told me, to go third, first place, second place in this conference is quite an achievement. I’m very proud of the guys, and the players deserve all the credit.

The next hurdle is one of the only valid strikes against the franchise. In 11 years, he has won just one playoff victory. This happened in 2019 against the Red Bulls, who will venture to Subaru Park for the first round in two weeks. The club’s draft will always be worded with caveats until it maintains playoff success – not necessarily an MLS Cup, but some sort of playoff streak, stringing together wins and getting into those games of renown where anything can happen and where the trophies are decided.

“We haven’t played perfectly all year,” Curtin said. “But we’ve shown a lot of tenacity, a lot of resilience in one of our most difficult years.”

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