Philadelphia Union: Jim Curtin proved why he’s the best in MLS

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Union found another way to get a result, this time battling back a man-down to secure an impressive 1-1 result at the New York Red Bulls.

The draw, which showcased some masterful tactics from head coach Jim Curtin, is another sign that the Philadelphia Union are among the very best teams in MLS this year.

A red card to goalkeeper Matt Freese in the 60th minute set up Patryk Klimala to put the home side up 1-0. Down a man and on the road, the Union bounced back when second half substitute Sergio Santos got his head on a cross from Olivier Mbaizo to equalize.

Curtin said after the match that “overall, incredibly proud of the group, the grind, the fight, the belief that they showed the entirety of the 97 plus minutes.”

Overall, look at 11 v. 11 felt good in the second half, I was really happy with how we played in the first half, it’s always a high intensity game and credit to Red Bull they’re a good team. As the second half started I thought the ball started to bounce our way, we had control of the game. Obviously, you know, mistakes happen. You know we have the penalty kick and the red card.

It was another impressive outing from the Philadelphia Union, who were hit hard with international call-ups and have seen their lineup dinged and battered due to injuries. The Union are now 5-3-5 (20 points) and are in third place in the Eastern Conference.

But having Curtin on the sideline means that the Philadelphia Union had a chance at securing points. The head coach has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best tacticians in MLS over the past two years.

At the 73rd minute, Curtin made a decision that would define the match, deciding to insert Santos for tireless midfielder Leon Flach. The decision, with the Philadelphia Union down 1-0 at the time, was clearly with the intent to steal a road point and not try to limit the Red Bulls.

Curtin admitted after the match that inserting an attacker was “risky, obviously on the road against the good team.” The game very easily could have gotten away from Philadelphia.

The substitution shifted the Union to a 4-2-1-2 formation that was a bit more offensive minded. It was enough to get a road point.

“Leon, did a great job defensively getting us to that 75th minute – if you remember he had six or seven recovery sprints to break up a play to keep it at 1-0. But at that point, you know whether you 2-0 or 1-0 you know, you’re gonna want to go down and take a risk, “ Curtin said.

“So we had it in our mind at 75 minutes would give Sergio roughly 20 minutes at least with extra time to make a play. And he came up and was a was a beast. We’re going to lean heavily on him now. The plan was to start him against DC that plan will still stay in place.”

Follow Kristian Dyer of ‘MLS Multiplex‘ on Twitter @KristianRDyer