The Philadelphia Union are through Group A and onto the knockouts of the MLS is Back Tournament, but head coach Jim Curtin wasn't exactly ready to thump his chest following his team's 2-1 win over Inter Miami CF.
While Curtin said he was happy to be advancing, and lauded a highlight-reel counterattack his team finished off for the game-winner from Kacper Przybylko (watch below), he added that on the whole he didn't feel like the Union "looked like ourselves."
"We did have bursts of looking like ourselves and that goal was an example of how the Union want to play," Curtin said at his postgame press conference. "That's the type of goal that we see as us. It was quick, simple passes, always forward and central. A good goal for sure, but we needed more of that tonight, I think we made it very hard on ourselves and made a lot of mistakes.
"We were sloppy. Part of it is Miami made us sloppy, they probably deserved another goal or two to be honest. ...It was just a little bit off. I'll take responsibility as the coach for not having them completely ready to go. It's something we have to improve for the next game. Obviously, Orlando is another tough opponent so we'll be happy for the win. It's a big three points, don't get me wrong, but still a lot of work to do to improve."
One notable bright spot for Philadelphia continues to be the play of 19-year-old midfielder Brenden Aaronson.
Aaronson put in a Man of the Match performance against Miami, picking up an assist as part of an active all-around shift, and after the game Curtin commended his effort and overall development. He added, though, that he wants to constantly challenge Aaronson to maximize what is clearly lofty potential.
Aaronson's Opta line for #PHIvMIA: 89 minutes, 13/18 passing, 1 assist (another waved off for offside), 2/3 on dribbles, 8 defensive actions, 3 fouls won. At age 19 he's become deceptively essential for one of MLS's best teams pic.twitter.com/p3JMwtxmPR— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) July 15, 2020
"Overall we've challenged him from last season, to this preseason to his time with Gregg Berhalter and the [US men's] national team, to now the quarantine period, to get better at making the final ball, to get more goal-dangerous," Curtin said. "And he's really taken the next step. Everybody sees his work rate and ability to run and cover ground and cover distance. If he's going to make it as a No. 10 at the very highest level, and that's the ultimate goal for him, he's going to do it by being a volume player, a player that's on the ball all the time. And he might make a mistake 3-4 times but he's coming again at full speed. So that's something he's worked hard on: His final pass, his through balls, getting his shot off a little quicker in and around the box. He's taken big strides, but the Philadelphia Union, we're going to be greedy and push and demand more of him because he can play even better than he did tonight.
"We're going to continue to push Brenden because we see how much talent he has."
For Aaronson, it's the culmination of all the work he says he's put it in with the goal of being an elite No. 10 at the highest level. To accomplish that, he said it's about dedicating himself in the gym and on the training ground, but also making a point of soaking up all the knowledge he can from his veteran teammates.
"For me, just getting repetition," Aaronson said. "When I got in those spots tonight, I was confident. Last year it was I'm a young kid, not many young kids are 10s. So last year I wanted to learn and soak up anything I could [from the veterans]. I take it in and I try to get better from it. I think my patience of just working hard, working on the final third and getting in the gym, I think that's really coming out now, so I'm really proud of myself."