Union-United FC Preview
Having signed a two-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Union, Jim Curtin insisted there is still plenty to improve on.
A former academy coach at Philadelphia, Curtin led the Union to the Supporters' Shield in 2020 and has established the side as one of the most consistent in MLS.
Heading back into MLS action following the international break, the Union sat second in the Eastern Conference, with a trip to Atlanta United coming on Sunday.
"Without the struggles, without learning what it's like to be booed by an entire stadium in certain moments, it makes you eager to grow," Curtin said after signing his new deal.
"Eager to learn. It makes you not want to let people down, it makes you want to improve. Without the hard moments, I don't think any team, player or coach has success or grows without hard times. I wouldn't give up any of it.
"Now we're in a position where we have some stability. We are a very strong team in the league. But the second you get comfortable in this sport, the second you get knocked back down to reality so we recognize there's a lot of work to be done."
Atlanta go into Sunday's game on the back of throwing away a two-goal lead late on against Nashville SC to draw 2-2, and versatile full-back Brooks Lennon revealed Gabriel Heinze has been working on his side's fitness during the international break.
"We've been really honing in on our fitness," Lennon said.
"You know, we've been out here, basically every single day training super hard, super long sessions. We had a couple of double sessions mixed in as well. So we've really focused on our fitness and now, this week, we've been preparing for Philadelphia and getting ready for that match on Sunday."
Atlanta United - Erik Lopes
Atlanta looked to be cruising to the three points against Nashville until their late collapse. Erik Lopes got their second goal of the game to put them in control - it was his first strike in MLS.
Philadelphia Union - Andre Blake
With Andre Blake in between the sticks, the Union have conceded just one goal in their last five matches, the second time Philadelphia have conceded just one goal in a five-match MLS span (also in April-May 2017).
- Atlanta have held 60.9 per cent possession on average this season, more than four percent more than any other team.
- Indeed, Atlanta have held over 60 percent possession five times this season while no other team has done so more than twice.
- Philadelphia have won their last two away matches, the eighth time the Union have won consecutive away MLS matches. They have never won three in a row, recording four draws and three losses when looking for a third straight away victory.
- Atlanta are unbeaten in four straight matches (W1 D3). Atlanta didn't even manage to avoid defeat in three straight games during the entire 2020 season.
- Atlanta has won four of its seven MLS matches against the Union (D2 L1), including a 2-0 win in the Conference Semifinals in the 2019 playoffs. Philadelphia knocked the Five Stripes out of the CONCACAF Champions League with a 4-1 aggregate win in the quarterfinals earlier this spring.
Updated June 19, 2021