By FRANCO PANIZO
CHESTER, Pa. — For 120 minutes on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union played with passion. A trophy was on the line, and they stood toe-to-toe with one of the most talented teams in MLS.
The Seattle Sounders ultimately landed the final blow to hand the Union a crushing 3-1 loss in extra time of a U.S. Open Cup final that was a lot tighter than the scoreline indicated. It was a disappointing end to an impressive run for the Union, who still have yet to decide whether to take the interim label off head coach Jim Curtin.
Had Curtin led Philadelphia to its first trophy, it likely would have been his job to keep or, at the very minimum, would have forced ownership to really reconsider why they had yet to hire him.
That is not how things ultimately played out, and Curtin’s future as head coach of the Union is still up in the air despite the growing notion that he should be the man to lead the charge.
“Jim Curtin has done a great job here with Philly Union. I don’t know if I’m his agent, but I think he deserves a shot at this thing,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “They were a tough team and we know it was going to be a tough game.”
On top of coming up with a gameplan that had Philadelphia on level terms with Seattle for much of the match at PPL Park, Curtin has admirably helped turn around his club’s fortunes in MLS.
The Union have compiled a 6-2-4 record since Curtin was named John Hackworth’s successor on June 10, and that has Philadelphia on the cusp of a playoff spot. They are currently tied with the fifth-placed Columbus Crew with identical 9-9-10 marks, but are on the outside looking in due to having a worse goal differential.
Rumors are swirling, however, as to which direction the Union will go in. The club has said it is looking at a number of candidates and that it will take its time in deciding the next step.
All Curtin can do to help his cause is try and lead Philadelphia to the playoffs for the second time in club history and first time since 2011. He will need to lift the spirits of his demoralized players and refocus them on the task at hand in order to do that, as six games against Eastern Conference opposition, including a pair vs. the Crew, remain in the Union’s season.
Accomplish the feat of salvaging a season that looked to be in serious jeopardy a few months ago and Curtin’s case to remain will be strengthened.
He missed a big chance to do that on Tuesday, but is hoping to capitalize on this other opportunity.
“The good thing about our group is we’ve played since I’ve taken over what feels like a playoff game,” said Curtin. “Every game’s been a playoff game. We have no margin for error, we can’t lose, we can’t drop points, so they all feel big.
“It’s kind of funny everyone comes up to me after every game (and say), ‘Oh next one is a big one,’ and it’s like, ‘They’re all big ones.’ There’s no margin for error in the Eastern Conference.”
What do you think the Union should do with their search for a head coach? Should they just hire Curtin on a permanent basis? Prefer to see someone else take the reins?
Cast your vote here:
How did you vote? Think Curtin has done enough to keep the job? Holding out hope the Union lure David Moyes out of coaching limbo?
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