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Jim Curtin’s future as Union coach to be decided by next sporting director

Jim Curtin Philadelphia Union 15

photo by Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports


Jim Curtin is likely to return as the head coach of the Philadelphia Union in 2016, but likely does not mean definitely.

Just a day after dismissing Nick Sakiewicz as the Union’s CEO, club chairman Jay Sugarman held a conference call that lasted nearly 40 minutes on Friday to address a number of topics. One of them, naturally, was about the status of Curtin, who has been at the helm of the Union for the past season-and-a-half but struggled for results.

Curtin was unable to lead the Union to a win in a U.S. Open Cup final contested on home soil for the second consecutive year earlier this week, and Philadelphia is once again likely to miss the postseason in MLS play. Those mixed results have left the door open for a decision to be made on Curtin’s future, a decision that will be made after the club hires the first sporting director in its history.

“Here’s the good news: Almost all the candidates that I have talked to are definitely going to keep Jim in place,” said Sugarman. “They like what he brings, the passion, the connection to the players, the connection to the community. I have almost no doubt and I think Jim should have no doubt that he should be preparing to be our coach for next season. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

Who that sporting director will be is unknown right now. Recent reports have identified former MLS coach Octavio Zambrano as the person to be hired, but Sugarman stated on a couple of occasions on Friday that a decision has yet to be made.

Zambrano does check off some of the qualities that Sugarman wants for the Union going into 2016 and beyond, including being familiar with MLS’s intricacies and unique rules. Zambrano was previously the head coach of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars from 2000-2002 and was an assistant in Kansas City from 2009-2011.

Sugarman confirmed on Friday that Zambrano is one of “several candidates” being considered, but added that the evaluation process continues.

“No decision has been made,” said Sugarman. “My goal is to have somebody in place by the end of the year, so there’s no imminent decision. We are looking for somebody who covers as (much of our) criteria as we can, but we also understand that it’s important to have somebody in place.

“We can’t wait for perfection, but we think we’ve seen some strong candidates. We think they have helped us really think through what the opportunity set is. We have a few more we’re continuing to talk with, and certainly by the end of the year we can put somebody in place that’s going to elevate all parts of our team.”

The Union are in sore need of that. The club has not reached the playoffs since its second season back in 2011, and optimism continues to fade away in Philadelphia.

Sugarman is confident, however, that things will change for the better in the years to come.

“I do think we see a very bright future, an era of real progress ahead of us,” said Sugarman. “We have work to do, we will try to be as open as we can about things we do well and things we didn’t do well. As long as we’re fixing those mistakes, I’m really optimistic that we’ll put the Union to a place where we can all be proud of it.”


  1. Curtin has been given more than enough time, part of an interim year and two full seasons. So, does he make smart lineups, get the right people in the right positions, drill in a system, and sometimes win games he shouldn’t with tactics and subs? Or is he basically as good as the players he’s handed, makes poor decisions, erratic or just wins the expected ones? You should have an idea if he’s a coach or just rolls the balls out by now. If he’s a winner then with better players it might take off. If he rolls the balls out the team is never going to prosper even with more talent. But the idea of reserving judgment is for the birds. If he is only as good as his roster, then he’s actually not a great coach, and while the situation screams fire GM it would also suggest get a coach who drills the team into something more than the sum of its parts. You look at C-bus, SJ, Portland, there are some teams managing a playoff run without much to work with. You go too far with “but he doesn’t have great players” — we hear that in Houston too — and it’s basically either making excuses or the unwillingness to judge.

  2. It seems like the Union’s pattern is always the same: hire a sh!tty coach, fire him, hire his assistant coach (who plays the same sh!tty style), fire him, repeat.

    • i think i feel your logic. look at seattle. the microsoft guys knew without any hesitation that they wanted to build their (mls) team with sigi schmid. they went after him hard and they got him. they fill his pockets with dough and he fills the stadium with people. and for how many years, now?

      maybe philly needs to break the piggy bank and go for a high price coach?

      • A lot of people think the Sounders will want to go a different direction after this season. Schmid could very well be available. Would certainly be better than just hiring some random player on the cheap.

  3. Three things:

    1. Mike Sorber is probably going to be the next Sporting Director.

    2. Union supporters better pray it’s not Octavio Zambrano.

    3. Curtain,….like any coach,..deserves three years to do his thing. (Excluding Mike Petke of course because Red Bulls did so poorly under his guidance.)

  4. This is good. This is what we want to hear.

    For too long, this club has made moves haphazardly, throwing things against the wall to see if something stuck. And now, for once it seems, we’re looking at making a sensible decision. Bringing in a Sporting Director. A Sporting Director with a vision and a plan for this club. And now with Sak out of the picture, said Sporting Director will actually be a person with the latitude to bring that plan and vision to fruition (or, he won’t, and we’ll know that the problem was actually Sug, not Sak. At least not completely Sak, anyway.) If Jim Curtin is part of that plan, great. I’m 100% behind that. For as much as I railed on the guy after Wednesday night’s loss, I do truly believe that he can be a great coach in this league if given the proper support system.

    On the other hand, if Jim Curtin isn’t part of that plan, that’s fine too. Bring in someone who is. Make personnel decisions that fit the plan. Fill holes, fill gaps, keep an eye on the long term. These are the things we need our Sporting Director to do. And while everything Sugarman said today is just talk – talk that, based on experience, should come with a healthy dose of skepticism – I can honestly say that I feel better about the direction and future of this team than I have in a long, long time.

    So, Jay…. do work my man. We’re counting on you.

  5. I’m a Union Season Ticket Holder since Day One. Today is a great day. There is still work to be done, yes, but this news is 100% good. We will now learn how much of this problem was Sa and how much of this is Sugarman. He has said the right things before… it is now time for real action.


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