February 17, 2017
The Suncoast Invitational kicks off Saturday evening with a match between the Philadelphia Union and host club Tampa Bay Rowdies.
A live stream will be available online at 5 p.m.
Head coach Jim Curtin spoke with reporters ahead of the game, discussing Wednesday's 3-3 draw with Orlando City, plus a variety of other topics.
Some notes from the conference call:
• Eric Ayuk left camp to join the Cameroon U20 side. The African U20 Cup of Nations begins in about a week and a half.
• Draft pick Chris Nanco was offered a Bethlehem Steel contract but has not yet signed.
• Maurice Edu is in Philadelphia doing rehab apart from the team. He's working one-on-one with trainer Bill Knowles, who specializes in reconditioning and athletic development.
• Josh Yaro is in the early stages of rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week.
The Orlando match was a 135-minute exhibiton that was split into three segments. Curtin was happy with the offensive performance, explaining that his team was more decisive in front of goal and built upon the positive possession that we saw in last week's scrimmage with Chicago.
Jay Simpson, Ilsinho, and C.J. Sapong scored for the Union.
Defensively, Curtin described each of the three conceded goals.
"(The defense) was very good in terms of limiting chances. The goals we gave up, the first one was off of a throw-in, which is disappointing. We fell asleep in the 45th minute. After scoring a good goal and kind of controlling things, we fell asleep for a brief period of time. A throw-in goes into the box and they get a goal out of it. At that stage, maybe we're a little fatigued, but the alarm bells have to (go off). Everybody has to be tuned in. It was a mistake on that one."
"The second goal, there was a tackle at midfield and a shot from distance, probably about 30 yards out that kind of fooled John McCarthy. He didn't do great on it, to be honest."
This is the goal from Wednesday where Curtin felt like McCarthy should have done better. pic.twitter.com/P2brriOBnF— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) February 17, 2017
"The third goal, John mis-kicked a ball, they steal it, and the head ref calls offside, but the linesman overrules him. Confusion and chaos in an MLS way. They ruled it a goal afterward but it started with a mistake. Silly mistakes and things we have to clean up. When the margins are so small in our game, you really can't gift goals, and we did that on Wednesday. As good as the performance was with the ball offensively, and being decisive, there were silly mistakes. The effort defensively was good and the lines were tight. Front to back, we're 30 yards (apart) and really working as a group. But the little lapses showed up yesterday. (We conceded) off a throw-in, a missed clearance, and a shot from distance that kind of came from nothing. The long answer is that we still have things to work on."
Wednesday was Haris Medunjanin's first action with the Union since arriving in the United States just 48 hours prior. Curtin explained that the Bosnian midfielder was used as a number six in the scrimmage, playing alongside Alejandro Bedoya in the number eight role.
"They played well together," Curtin said. "I roomed them together on the trip so that there's a little familiarity. You can tell on the field that they like each other. Good players can recognize other good players. They kind of fed off of each other. Again, it's early, but at the same time there was a good partnership with them there. Obviously, Ale is capable of playing the ten. You have guys like Warren Creavalle and Derrick Jones who are pushing for minutes, too, to make it interesting. We're still experimenting with what that best group will be. Haris gets forward as well. He probably played four or five final balls that almost lead to goals. He's almost like an offensive number six, which sounds crazy, but his passing and range of passing is unique and special and it was on display Wednesday. He was very good. Comments from the Orlando staff, too, were, 'who is that guy?' It was a good first performance, for sure. In terms of positioning, we're still trying to find out what the best partnership is."
Curtin said that he's "leaning" towards using Bedoya as a ten on Saturday, then putting a ball-winning midfielder next to Medunjanin. I'd expect to see Creavalle in there, but we'll see how they decide to start against Tampa Bay.
Here's how I'd roll it out for the start of the tournament:
Andre Blake is just returning from international duty with Jamaica, but he didn't play in Thursday night's win against Honduras, so I'm assuming he's good to go for this game.
Bethlehem Steel added games against Temple and Villanova to the preseason calendar.
There are three friendlies coming up, and each one is free and open to the public.
Here's the schedule:
February 22nd, 2:00 p.m. – vs. Junior Lone Star FC (at YSC Sports)
March 1st, 4:00 p.m. – at Villanova (Higgins Soccer Complex on Nova campus)
March 4th, 12:00 p.m. - vs. Temple (Chester)
The Union also play on February 22nd, but not until 7 p.m. at night, so there's no conflict there.