The best first half of an MLS regular season has earned Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin something he hasn’t been afforded yet — some job security.
Union sporting director Ernst Tanner announced at a press conference Wednesday that Curtin’s contract was being extended for two years, which is as long-term as it’s come for the third longest-tenured coach in MLS.
“Every coach wants peace of mind and to know where they stand,” Curtin said. “I’ve had a lot of one-year deals in the past several years. This does feel stable so I’m very grateful to Ernst. I know he did a lot of hard work to make this happen.”
Tanner said he gave Curtin his last one-year deal when he arrived “in order to see how the partnership with him and our [relationship] is going to continue and grow.”
With a 10W-5L-6D record through 21 games and a five-point lead atop the Eastern Conference standings, Tanner has clearly been pleased with what he’s seen to this point.
“After half a year in the season now and doing extraordinary well, I think Jim deserves this,” Tanner said. “He’s a great coach, good on the field, a great leader in the locker room and in addition he’s getting quite well along with [the media] from all that I know. I’m very happy to continue and hopefully establish what we just have begun further on.”
Tanner said any questions about how Curtin and his staff have done implementing the plan he laid out before the season is evident with the Union’s first-place standing.
“We’ve never been doing so well, obviously,” Tanner said. “That’s something we could not even expect after all the changes we made. In addition we had a lot of traffic in our roster, which still is keeping on, as you know. It’s not an easy situation for a coach and we’re doing extraordinarily good.”
Tanner said he and Curtin haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, which he described as “good and normal.” But the lines of communication are always open.
“That’s a good situation,” Tanner said. “You don’t face it so often in a professional side.”
Curtin, who has worked his way up from the Union’s academy to being an assistant coach and then a head coach when his interim tag was removed after the 2014 season, said he’s grateful to be able to continue to coach his hometown team.
But he deflected praised to his players for keeping an open mind to tactical changes and battling through what he called “a lot of adversity this season.”
“Everybody keeps having that next-man-up mentality,” Curtin said. “It’s something that I’m proud of for the group, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
And that was perhaps Curtin’s biggest message. He’s appreciative of the opportunity to continue working. But he’s far from satisfied.
“I’m grateful, I’m happy,” Curtin said. “But I say to the fans, I’m not going to stop working here until we’ve reached the ultimate goal, which is that trophy.”