It’s been eight long years since the Philadelphia Union last hosted a playoff game, and they’ll have to knock out a playground bully if they’re to make it a successful occasion, head coach Jim Curtin said on Friday.
No. 3-seeded Philly will welcome the New York Red Bulls to Talen Energy Stadium next Sunday (3 pm ET | FS1 in US; TVAS2, TSN4 in Canada) in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, and Curtin was blunt in describing the situation in a radio appearance on “The Daily Ticket With Sean Brace.”
“We've earned the right to play at home with our strong record and we have to take advantage of that now. It's a rivalry game against Red Bull, a team that we don't like,” said Curtin, adding that “Red Bull bring the best out of us” ahead of the latest clash with the Union’s cross-Jersey counterparts.
“They're going to high-press us. They're a very good team and we respect them a lot. But we have to approach the game and be fearless in that we're in our home stadium,” he continued. “The pressure for once is actually on us now. We're the favorite. That's a new role for us to play and we have to do it in a way that's emblematic of Philadelphia – which is to be brave, to not be scared. They're kind of like a bully with the way that they play; they want to be physical. If you punch the bully in the nose, a lot of time it backs down. That has to be our mentality from the opening whistle.”
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Curtin went on to discuss being short-listed for the MLS Coach of the Year Award and also sought to soothe supporters’ concerns about key starters Alejandro Bedoya and Kacper Przybylko ahead of what’s just the second postseason home game in club history.
“He's ready to go. The quad is fine,” Curtin said of Bedoya. “He was actually at training today striking balls full and he'll be participating fully in [Saturday’s] practice, which is plenty of time to get ready for Sunday.”
“He'll be ready for the game for sure,” Curtin said of his Polish-German striker. “We're just being a little cautious with him right now in training, but it's responded well to all the tests we've put him through – all the MRIs and X-rays have been positive. So Kacper is a guy that everybody knows is vital to our attack, scored tons of goals for us and has been great being that first line of defense for us. He'll be ready. I don’t want Union fans to be worried about that.”