October 27, 2016
TORONTO – After ten long months, the 2016 Philadelphia Union season came to an end with a 3-1 playoff loss in Toronto.
Jim Curtin's team started well this year, then struggled down the stretch, finishing with an eight- game winless streak that began in September and carried through the playoff game.
Here are some notes, plus some reaction from Wednesday night's loss:
• Warren Creavalle played this game with 3 broken ribs, suffered in the October 1st game at Red Bull Arena.
• Alejandro Bedoya scored his second career Union goal. The first also came at BMO Field.
• Bedoya's goal ended a Union scoring drought approaching 300 minutes.
• Bedoya also became only the second player to score a Union playoff goal. The first was Sebastien Le Toux, back in 2011.
• C.J. Sapong finished the season with a goalless streak dating back to August 13th.
• Tranquillo Barnetta played his last Union game. He will head back to Switzerland to rejoin his hometown club, St. Gallen.
• Keegan Rosenberry was subbed out late in the second half of this game when the Union shifted the defense to add another attacker. It was the first time he was removed from a game in 2016.
Head coach Jim Curtin
"First off, congratulations to Toronto. Congrats to them for moving on. I thought that our team pushed the game, in the second half particularly. I'm proud of our group. This is a tough place to come into, and a talented roster. Listen, there's only one team whose season ends the right way. So our season ends now. It's difficult. I won't reflect on all of the positives that came from it. Somewhere deep down in there, I do feel like Philadelphia Union fans and players can walk a little taller, with their chest out. We're a franchise that's moving in the right direction and I believe that. It's tough after a loss to say that, but I think the foundation that Earnie Stewart has laid sets us up for the future. The detail he puts in will make us be able to address moving on to next year. We'll attack that now. It begins today. I am incredibly proud of the players and the season that they put in. I'd like to, in particular, thank Tranquillo Barnetta, a true professional and a guy who left everything out there tonight. Incredible performance from him, and then the best compliment I can give him is that he leaves this club establishing himself and moving it on to a bigger spot. It's much improved from the time he got here until now. So that's the biggest compliment I can give him. He's a real winner and had an incredible career with the Philadelphia Union. It's always tough in a loss to find positives, but I did want to address that and I'm incredibly proud of the effort the players put in this year."
On why the Union went winless in September and October:
"Yeah I mean, listen, when we started the season, nobody had us playing a 35th game, for sure. No one had us winning tonight. That was the message to the guys. We had a dip in form at the end of the year, and again, we don't hide from that. We know we could have played better down the stretch and perhaps set ourselves up for a home game. It didn't happen. But again, we move forward, we find ourselves as a team somewhere as, like I said before, somewhere in between the six to ten range right now, that's what I believe, with room to improve. We know we need to get better in the offseason. Expectations rose when we were in first place for some of the summer. At the same time, we still grew and learned a bunch from every game. Even tonight's game I think the intensity, the atmosphere, young players on the field – the only way you can learn is to go through those moments and they went through a big one tonight against a good Toronto team. At 2-1 I still think we really had some chances to make it interesting. I'm proud of their effort."
On Warren Creavalle's rib injury:
"He had three broken ribs a month ago. We just found out they were broken because the first x-ray didn't show anything. He took another knock against Red Bull. He's as tough a kid as I've seen. He wanted to be out there. I thought he put in a great game tonight, covered a ton of ground, broke up a lot of plays. To play with three broken ribs speaks a lot to what Warren is all about."
On adjustments for next year, improvements, targets in the transfer window:
"Yeah I mean, me talking about that now just gives everybody else an eye on what we want. It affects things like the expansion draft. So to reveal that you make your own assessment of what we need. I know that the way Earnie sets things up, it becomes very clear after the season ends the spots we need to improve, the data that we need to look at, the team will pick itself in the areas of the field that we need to improve on. For me to talk about that openly right now after the end of the season wouldn't be a smart thing to do."
Midfielder Chris Pontius
On the fast start to the game:
"I was happy with how we came out. We put some pressure on them. Then, obviously the goal, it's a bit of a crazy play, and it just breaks down at that moment and they get the goal. So, going into halftime, it's 1-0, it's not the end of the world. I liked how we came out in the second half, then, once again, another bit of an unfortunate bounce off a corner kick. That kind of put us behind the ball at that point. But still, we're battling, we get the goal, and we're really pushing it at that point and we were throwing a lot of numbers forward. They got on the counter, another bounce that went their way, and they put the game away.
Anything else that could have been done to get the equalizer?
"I wouldn't say there's anything that we could have done differently in the second half. I liked the mentality of the team in the second half. I liked the way we came out and pushed the game. In the first half, I think some of the nerves got the best of us. Instead of moving the ball around a bit I think we resorted to playing some long balls. I would have liked to see us move the ball around a little bit better."
On whether or not this season is a success:
"At the end of the year, only one team is going to be happy, realistically, with how things finish. It's tough to look back on it right now. You think about the good times this squad had, some pretty big wins, and some games where I thought we played some great soccer. Then down the stretch, we just didn't put things together quite like you need to going into the playoffs. You need to be a team on the up and up. You've seen time and time again how it doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish, and you want to be going into the playoffs hot. We just weren't able to do that this year."
On his individual performances over the season:
"Just happy that I was healthy and contributing to the team. I loved playing with this group. It's a good group of guys. The staff was great to me. We've got some great building blocks here."
Defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle
On the broken ribs:
"That happened about a month ago in the Red Bull game. It's just a tolerance thing. I wanted to be out there and give the most I could for the boys.
On the strong start to the game:
"It was a bit up and down emotionally. I thought we came out strong, then the first goal we gave up was kind of a punch in the gut, to give it up in that manner especially. We came back in at halftime and rallied and had a good idea of what we wanted to do. We came out in the second half, strong again I thought. I think we started playing a lot more in the way we wanted to play in that second half and we were unlucky to concede again."
On why the team began to struggle in September:
"I don't think it was any one specific thing to point to. I think it's just a learning experience for a relatively young group. Going forward, I think we have a lot to build on. There's no real excuse for it. We have to look at ourselves and see what we can do better going forward."
On whether this season was a success or not:
"That's something that is very relative and different people will decide differently on it. For us, it's something that we can build on. There are a lot of positives we can take out of the season, and a lot of lessons as well."
Midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta
On the strong start:
"Yeah, I do we think we started really strong. That was our goal for the first 15 minutes. So we did everything right. But we know that they're a good offensive team, even if I saw a clear foul from Jozy Altidore before the first goal. They were allowed to do just about everything and we never really got a foul call. But after that, we struggled a bit and it was hard. At halftime we said, 'hey, if we continue to believe in ourselves and remain confident, then we have a chance'. Even after giving up the second goal, I think we dominated a good team for (parts of the second half). We had our chances, got the goal, and had some chances for the equalizer. Unfortunately, at the end, they scored the third one and it was over."
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya
On starting well, before conceding a cheap goal:
"I couldn't have asked for a better start from the team. That's what we talked about, getting on the front foot and playing in their end, just being aggressive and showing that playoff intensity. I think it was a bit too frantic in the first half, but that's going to happen with the emotions. Then we gave up a cheap goal, which we talked about from the last game, too. We just can't seem to get away from giving up cheap, easy goals. Obviously today I was opportunistic on the (goal), but I think, for the most part, since I've been here, the goals we've scored have been tough. They've been good team goals. I think the other teams are getting easy goals and then it's an uphill battle for us. It's already hard enough playing away in MLS, then when you give up goals like we did tonight, it's always going to be tough."
On pulling back a goal to make it 2-1:
"Oh man, you can see in everybody that there's a belief. For me, for sure I thought we were going to get the second (goal). There was no doubt in my mind that we would get a couple more looks. Then there's another ball that kind of falls right at the defender's feet and we just aren't able to get it out of the box. Jozy was opportunistic and puts it away. That just takes the air out of the game. I think, obviously, in the second half, we were a lot better. The game plan changes from their end, they're up 2-0 and protecting a lead after we gave up another early goal in the second half. But then I felt like we able to play a lot calmer, stringing the ball from the left to the right and that's what we wanted to do. It's just bittersweet I think. I thought we could have done a lot more, but it is what it is."