With two days to reflect on that frustration and surveil his team’s next task in Sunday’s trip to visit the Portland Timbers (10 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes), he began his media remarks on Friday with more optimism, acknowledging how most other sides would quickly trade places with his if given the chance.
“We’re still in a good spot in the table," said Curtin, whose Union hold a one-point lead on four others atop the Eastern Conference. "We haven’t played our best game yet, which I’m OK with. We’ve had some guys have very good seasons, we’ve had some guys have some average seasons, and some that need to do a little bit better for the group. But the message is, if we get everybody just going good, this team, is there a team in the league that’s better than us?”
Philadelphia have already taken nine points without defeat from five games against the current top 10 teams in the Supporters’ Shield standings. That doesn’t include a draw away to a Nashville SC squad that probably would also be there without the wait to open GEODIS Park sending them on the road for eight games to open the season.
Of all the single points the Union have settled for, it’s mostly the last two that have felt frustrating: a 1-1 draw against the 10-man New York Red Bulls in Week 11, and a 0-0 affair with Inter Miami CF on Wednesday in which the Union dominated all but the score.
“We’ve seen a lot of the top teams already, and we’ve played with them all pretty even to better than some of them,” Curtin said. “So we’re in a good spot. We know we can be better. I apologize to the fans for not getting it done on Wednesday.”
Portland isn’t currently among that elite group in the standings, but Curtin believes they will be reckoned with this season. He need only look at how the defending Western Conference champions tore apart Sporting Kansas City in a 7-2 win in Week 11.
“Right around this mark [of the season] you start to realize who the top teams are. And for me, Portland still is a top team,” Curtin said. “When a team puts up seven goals, it speaks to the quality of the talent that they have. And they can score goals a lot of different ways.”
But the most fascinating game within the game may come on the other side of the ball.
A former center back himself, Curtin heaped his biggest praise on Portland holding midfielder Diego Chara, holding the 36-year-old Timbers great up as a template for the 27-year-old Jose Andres Martinez in the Union’s midfield.
“I have the most respect for what Chara does,” Curtin said. “Because sometimes the defensive-minded players, it takes longer for the public, for the fans, for the media to recognize their greatness. And with Diego Chara, for me you have the greatest No. 6 that our league has had.
“[Chara is] a great role model for what Jose can be with his potential. He can be one of the best 6s in this league’s history. I believe he has that kind of talent.”