What better way to celebrate your contract extension than to steer your team to a win that cements your side’s position at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference. That’s just what Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin did last time of asking when his outfit chalked up a 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire at the Talen Energy Stadium.
The timing could not have been better for Curtin, who must have delivered a rousing pre-match team talk to get his charges back on track after they slumped to a shock 4-0 reverse at Real Salt Lake last week. But this time there was never really any doubt as goals from foraging midfielder Marco Fabian and the man to replace him, Anthony Fontana, to stay top of the pile three points ahead of Atalanta United.
As his team enjoys the spoils of the triumph and no doubt head for the play-offs, the club’s powerbroker – or, as he is known, sporting director — Ernst Tanner gave his take on the two-year extension on Curtin’s deal. He said:
“I think Jim deserves this because he’s a great coach, good on the field, a great leader in the locker room and, in addition, he’s getting quite well along with you guys from all that I know.”
As for the second-placed title chasers, Atlanta United, they kept up the pressure on the front-runners with a vital 2-0 win over DC United, who sit behind them in third place just a point adrift. Manager Frank de Boer chose to employ star signing Pity Martinez from the subs’ bench and the tactic worked wonders with the late arrival popping up with just a minute of the game remaining to give the home side the lead. Then in extra time, he got an assist as Josef Martinez struck to wrap things up for De Boer’s outfit. And the former Holland international says he is happy with the way things are working out with his super-sub after an earlier spat that led to a clear-the-air meeting between the two.
And De Boer said:
“He has to make my life as hard as possible and, right now, he’s doing that.”
De Boer added that the reaction he got from benched Martinez was exactly what he was looking for with controlled aggression, a certain sharpness, and a fantastic attitude. The coach admits it makes it tough for him to leave him out of the starting side but he is paid to make big decisions. He added:
“I have to make the decisions, and I only choose for the team what gives the most possibility to win. Maybe the next game it’s with him or without him, but I saw a fantastic Pity this time and that gives him a lot of confidence, but also his teammates and the club and me also.”