Jim Curtin, solo shot — March 10, 2019

When MLS games return after the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin has a clear sense of what could give his team an edge.

Fitness, Curtin said in a wide-ranging interview on Sons of Ben: The Pod, will be at a premium. That’s especially the case when considering MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s commitment to playing the full 34-game regular season, likely prompting a condensed schedule.

“We’re going to be playing – the commissioner is pretty adamant about playing all 32 games that are left, so it’s going to be Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday and you better be in shape,” Curtin said. “We’re going to need our whole roster to be in shape, too, so it puts a real premium on home games.

"The points you get in home games are always important, but now our stadium, we have to take three points every time we play there because we’re going to be going Saturday, probably on the road on a Wednesday and you might have to play your second group when you come back to home on that following Saturday. You have to get those points.”

When MLS went on hold, the Union were carrying momentum after a dramatic 3-3 draw at LAFC, the 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners. Curtin felt they had a strong preseason, too, one season removed from winning their first Audi MLS Cup playoff game and finishing third in the Eastern Conference standings.

They then had a comparatively quiet offseason after dipping into the transfer market to add center back Jakob Glesnes and central midfielders Jose Andres Martinez and Matej Oravec. And while Curtin said there’s not currently much traction on the transfer front, they’re also not the finished product.

“We’re actively looking in league, [since] we do have some roster spots open,” Curtin said. “You look around the different rosters in the league and you see maybe some guys in the first two weeks and first two games who didn’t get a lot of minutes who were on our radar prior. There’s still phone calls going on for those types of guys. 

“Like I said, we do have some open roster spots and we have set ourselves up with a good chunk of money to be aggressive in that regard. We’re not the complete team right now, we’re not finished. So I think some things will happen, but during this whole coronavirus pandemic everything is taking a backseat just to health and safety, which is most important right now."

One addition will likely be a returner, Curtin said, when asked about Cory Burke. The Jamaican forward is currently on loan at Austrian club SKN St. Polten through June, but Curtin said he’s been part of their team Zoom meetings and the timing works in their favor.

For more from Curtin on the Union, the evolution of Major League Soccer and much more, check out the full podcast here.