Will a final-third difference-maker please stand up?
Philadelphia have suffered just one loss this year, but Curtin knows that if they want to maximize their Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup potential, they’ll need to become more incisive in the game’s most pivotal moments.
“It’s not lack of effort. These guys put everything into the game,” Curtin said. “But what we are missing right now is that one player to make a play. Maybe it’s beat a guy or change how the defense is playing us.
“Right now we’re a little bit safe and stagnant to play against, or easier to play against. We missed that one piece to really break down the opponent and get in behind them.”
Now, Curtin didn’t state whether he’s looking for that piece to come via internal or external means. If it’s the former camp, midfielder Daniel Gazdag generated some Landon Donovan MLS MVP buzz before the June international break and their two new Designated Players, Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre, are still gelling up top.
But an inability to put teams away begs the question of what Philadelphia might pursue during MLS's Secondary Transfer Window, which runs from July 7-Aug. 4. They have an open DP spot after their wintertime trade of Jamiro Monteiro to the San Jose Earthquakes, while striker Kacper Przybyłko was traded to Chicago Fire FC as well – two key pieces from their 2021 Eastern Conference Final group.
Then again, Philadelphia won’t be mistaken for being MLS’s highest spenders and they’ve shown a commitment to elevating young, academy-developed talent. Perhaps those like Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson, two of four Union homegrown players currently with the US Under-20s at the Concacaf Championship in Honduras, take a step up in the season’s second half and start producing boxscore-wise.
Whatever outcome arrives, Curtin understands what the fanbase is feeling.
“Again, it’s a point. I’m kind of getting tired of the ties,” Curtin said. “I’m sure everybody is. It’s frustrating.”
Philadelphia, who have won just once since mid-April, will look to find their attacking spark next Sunday when high-flying New York City FC visit for a nationally-televised match (6 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes). By then, some of the apparent rust should wear off for the East's third-place team.
“Overall it looked like a team that had been off for three weeks,” Curtin said. “We weren’t sharp enough with our passing, too many unforced errors. Uncharacteristic of this group but at the same time we take a point and we move on.”