Rais M’Bolhi’s days in goal were numbered, and Jim Curtin saw enough on Sunday to let him know he had to make a move.
Winless through five games and coming off a loss to Sporting KC, Curtin has opted to bench goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi for the time being in favor of John McCarthy.
For Curtin, who says former No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake will be McCarthy’s back up, the decision was made based on M’Bolhi’s performance and the decision was his and his alone.
“Just to be clear on that, it was my decision,” Curtin said at a press conference Wednesday. “A decision that I made and it was based on performance. It’s what I think is best now for Rais and the Philadelphia Union moving forward to get a result against New York City FC this weekend.
“As the head coach, I am responsible for all decisions that are made here. It’s not up to players. It’s not up to Nick (Sakiewicz). It’s not up to Jay Sugarman. I have the final say. I make the decisions to move this team forward. I’m responsible for our three losses as well.”
For Curtin, last week’s loss to Sporting KC proved to be the catalyst for the change in goal. Although he called M’Bolhi an intelligent player, Curtin did not feel that the goalkeeper was displaying the confidence needed to push the team out of its recent slump.
“We win and lost games as a team, but as the Kansas City game went on and throw-in after throw-in went into the box, there seemed indecision with Rais,” Curtin said. “I just think, and I talked with him yesterday about it, that he doesn’t seem like himself. He doesn’t seem like the goalkeeper that I saw that was winning us games in the preseason single handedly. I think the confidence was gone in him, the confidence to come off his line and make a punch after balls were getting thrown into the box to bail out defenders.
“I understand he can’t do that every time, but after the repetition of Besler throw-ins, five, six, seven, eight, nine and seeing that we were struggling a little bit, maybe there’s a moment where he can came out and get one. We talked about that and my decision is based on that right now he doesn’t look like himself and I think it is best for the team that he has a seat and watches and the team can move forward.”
Curtin refused to discuss the potential departure of M’Bolhi, and left the door open for a return in the future, although the head coach admitted that his salary does bring extra expectations going forward.
“He’s an experienced player who needed to rise to the moment and get us points and win us games and that’s not happening,” Curtin said. “It could still happen down the road, but at the same time, now it’s not and I think it’s a needed change.”
The Union have turned to McCarthy, who is in his first season in MLS after winning USL Pro Goalkeeper of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors in 2014 with the Rochester Rhinos.