Union head coach Jim Curtin praises rookies after "big-boy" win in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – On a night when the Philadelphia Union needed midweek points on the road to stay within striking distance of the Eastern Conference leaders, it wasn’t the team’s star veterans that carried them in Columbus.

Instead, the crucial 2-1 victory was buoyed by a trio of rookies that head coach Jim Curtin put his faith in. Defenders Keegan Rosenberry and Joshua Yaro and attacker Fabian Herbers all started the match, with Rosenberry and Herbers scoring the pair of goals to lead Philly to three points.

Unprompted after the match, Curtin immediately praised the team’s youth — and its commitment to it.

“We had a lot of players on the field tonight that I think grew up and took a big step going forward,” he said. “We’re a club that trusts young players and believes in playing young players, maybe more than just tonight. If you had told me before the game that we would get goals from Herbers and Rosenberry, I probably would have told you you were a little crazy, but I’m happy for them.”

Though Crew SC now sit in last place in MLS, Curtin called the opponent “snakebitten.” And he said that his team’s ability to win in Columbus showed their maturation, especially with all three of Philly's 2016 first-round picks together on the field.

“Every player, young and old, goes through ebbs and flows of the season,” Curtin said. “This is the first time they’ve put together seven months after a college season that’s two or three with a spring season. Usually you see a dip in form, but for Keegan, Josh and Herbers to step up the way they did tonight in what I would call a big-boy game ... we had to be alert for 90 minutes. I think it shows them growing as players.”

While Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris tops many lists for MLS Rookie of the Year thanks to his eight goals, Curtin highlighted Rosenberry in particular and said the All-Star right back should be the frontrunner for the award.

“I think Keegan is the best rookie in our league right now; I think he’s established himself as such,” the Union coach said. “He’s going to have to score goals, because that’s what everyone loves to vote for — a goal-scorer. But he’s played every minute for us; he’s a warrior.”

In the end, Curtin wasn’t only happy with his own players. He also cited former NBA player and Philadelphia native Rasheed Wallace for some local inspiration when talking about how his team immediately responded to giving up what he thought was a controversial game-tying goal from Crew SC’s Adam Jahn.

“I think our fans have something to be proud of,” Curtin said. “This team is resilient; it’s a true Philadelphia-type team. It’s blue-collar, tough, doesn’t let adversity get in the way, and in the words of Rasheed Wallace, the ball doesn’t lie.”