The agreement was reached, the papers were signed and the manager was announced.
At Chickie’s and Pete's South Philly on Friday, the Union officially removed the interim tag and presented Philadelphia native Jim Curtin as the club’s third manager.
“The title changes with me but the message is the same — I’m here to win,” Curtin said. “I have to push this team forward in that regard. I’m here to win and get this team back in the playoffs where we belong.”
After an exhaustive search for a high-profile bench boss, Union CEO & operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, who said he received over 200 inquiries, couldn't ignore Curtin’s success with the Union.
“I said at that time that we would go on an extensive search for our first-team coach,” Sakiewicz said. “I asked Jim Curtin to take over as interim coach and caretaker of the team. And boy did he take care of the team — 17 games unbeaten in 23. He did a great job.”
Sakiewicz continued praising his new manager.
“Jim is the perfect fit to lead our first team because he worked through our system, he understands our great fans, partners and community, and shares our burning passion to deliver a winning product on the field,” Sakiewicz said. “He’s played in the league and knows what it takes to be successful in Major League Soccer. Jim has proven he’s a winner as a player and coach.”
Considered a temporary bandage following the firing of John Hackworth midway through the 2014 season, the 35-year-old Curtin led the Union to a 10-6-7 record and Open Cup final, which the Union lost in a tightly battled contest with the Seattle Sounders.
But despite the Open Cup loss and missing the postseason, the rookie manager received enough of a response from his players on the field to claim the head coaching position.
“For the fans that will question a 35-year-old, a young coach, that’s natural, it’s normal,” Curtin said. “I ask you to give me an offseason, a full offseason, and see what we can come up with. I promise you we’re going to work to bring in great players and improve the roster that’s already very strong.”
A center back in his playing days, playing nine years in MLS between the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA, Curtin’s thumbprint on the Union will be an emphasis on defense and quality defenders.
“We’ll build with a strong defense,” he said. “Someone needs to stop the David Villas and Kakas that are coming in. We’re not going to be the club that spends 70 million dollars on three different [designated players], that will not be us. We’re going to build from the back. We’re going to add speed and we’re going to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
Although Curtin said he intends to add speed in order to open up plays for guys like Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana, the club’s style of play is still up in the air.
“Until you have success and championships as a team, you can’t claim a style,” he said. “I believe in ideas and principles in a league that’s moving forward right now, and ways to attack that.”
On-field plans aside, Curtin will work to instill a team culture based on honesty, respect and accountability — a reflection of their coach and the city he’s from.
“More so than any city, more than L.A., more than Chicago, more than New York, your reputation in this town is earned every day, you have to earn your respect and you earn your right to play,” he said. “It’s honest, it’s real, and I plan on operating transparently.”