Union

Jim Curtin on Union's attempt to jump-start Derrick Jones: 'We want more'

uspresswire-union-derrick-jones.jpg
USA Today Images

Jim Curtin on Union's attempt to jump-start Derrick Jones: 'We want more'

With captain Alejandro Bedoya suspended for Saturday’s match against Minnesota United, the Union handed an opportunity to midfielder Derrick Jones.

“He and Warren (Creavalle) will be the two vying for that position to replace Alejandro Bedoya,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “It’s big shoes to fill but two guys I’m confident can do it.”

All Jones had to do was take it. Curtin laid out the player's path to the starting XI, a spot Jones hasn’t seen since July 6. First, the 20-year-old needed to join the Union’s USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel for their match against Orlando City B. Second, he needed to perform well.

Curtin wasn’t convinced of the latter after the 1-1 draw in Florida.

“He had an OK game,” the coach said. 

It was an unconvincing effort in what has been an unconvincing second half of the season for Jones. After losing his starting job five games into 2017, and suffering a concussion midway through the year, the physically dominant midfielder has been a mediocre version of the player the Union saw early in the season.

“We had a good talk with Derrick to try and get him going again,” said Curtin, talking about himself and sporting director Earnie Stewart. “We’re seeing decent performances with the Bethlehem Steel, decent performances in training but we want more. We want more of the Derrick we saw at the early stages of the year.”

One of the Union's most promising homegrown players, Jones hasn’t been bad, just not dynamic and certainly not dominant, which the club wants to see from its better players at the lower levels. 

Curtin believes that Jones may have simply hit a wall.

“You get past the midway point of the year, with the younger players, there’s a tendency to maybe have a step back,” Curtin said. “The grind, the length of training, doing it each and every day, that’s what it takes to be a true professional. It’s something that he’s still learning and something that he’s worked towards.” 

Yet, even with the lackluster grade, Jones is up against Creavalle to start at the No. 8 spot for the Union on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Because when it comes down to it, the struggling Union are in need of a youth movement as they hang onto an 8-12-7 record and sit three points from the Eastern Conference basement. 

“The conversation that he’s had with Earnie, with myself, with the two of us, I think he has shown an improvement,” Curtin said. “Now, he’s a guy that is in the discussion for the starting 11 against Minnesota.” 

Union squander opportunities but still earn another road point

usa_auston_trusty_union.jpg
USA Today Images

Union squander opportunities but still earn another road point

BOX SCORE

HARRISON, N.J. — Goalkeeper Luis Robles was honored in a pregame ceremony for the conclusion of the longest Ironman streak in MLS history and the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union both had their winning streaks snapped as they played to a scoreless draw Saturday night.

Robles sat out due to a knee injury he suffered in the final minutes of a win at Colorado a week ago, ending his streak of 183 games dating to September 2012.

Backup goalkeeper Ryan Meara had two saves to record the shutout in Robles' absence. Philadelphia's Andre Blake preserved his shutout with four saves, including a leaping grab in the 13th minute.

The Red Bulls (7-3-1) had their four-game win streak snapped. It was New York's second loss in its last 14 home matches.

Philadelphia (4-5-2) had its two-game win streak snapped. The Union have just one win in their last 17 road games.

CJ Sapong, who led Philadelphia with 16 goals last season, missed a penalty kick wide right in the 53rd minute after New York's Kemar Lawrence was called for a handball in the box.

Earnie Stewart speculation no distraction for 'focused' Union

usa_earnie_stewart.jpg
USA Today Images

Earnie Stewart speculation no distraction for 'focused' Union

With the Union on a two-game winning streak and facing the talented New York Red Bulls Saturday, talk around MLS should be about the team's opportunity to become a factor in the Eastern Conference.

Instead, the attention has been on sporting director Earnie Stewart.

“The club’s made a statement regarding Earnie,” Union manager Jim Curtin said during Thursday’s press conference at Talen Energy Stadium. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have him here.”

Stewart, 49, who is in his third season at the Union helm and has 101 caps for the U.S. men’s national team, has been a known candidate for the national squad’s open general manager position. But on Wednesday, New York's Metro reported that Stewart is the “likely favorite” and "in negotiations" for the role.

The team’s statement was roughly, “No comment.”

“For him to be in the conversation with U.S. soccer speaks to the pedigree and quality that he has,” Curtin said. “I can’t speculate or talk about what if this happens or this. I try to stay in the moment. Earnie is our leader and a guy who is focused on us beating the Red Bulls. That’s where we stand.”

With 23 games left in the season, news of Stewart’s potential departure is a surprising turn of events for the Union, who have just recently witnessed success by claiming back-to-back wins following a lengthy winless streak. 

Still, the 4-5-2 club is on pace for its third consecutive 11-14-9 season. Under Stewart, the Union are a paltry 26-33-20, with one playoff appearance. But despite news breaking prior to the important match against the 7-3-0 Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, Curtin waved off any potential distraction.

“Conversations come up all the time during the course of the year,” he said. “There’s always reports and talented people get talked about a lot in the soccer world. Earnie is no different. He’s very good at what he does and with that brings attention from other areas."

If Stewart, who played in three World Cups for the U.S., were offered and accepts the USMNT GM position, it would be a natural fit. The Dutch-American midfielder left a personnel position at AZ Alkmaar, and likely turned down opportunities in Europe, to join the Union, where he was able to get his foot in the door of American soccer.

Now it appears like the top of the nation's soccer mountain is within his grasp. 

"That’s pro sports," Curtin said. "People who have a lot to offer are hot commodities and Earnie is one because he’s very good at what he does.”