On Wednesday, the Union announced a two-year contract extension for manager Jim Curtin, but the coach is wary of his newfound job security, especially after last weekend’s lackluster 2-2 tie against Orlando City. Curtin doesn’t want his new contract – or, more significantly, his team’s place atop the Eastern Conference – to detract from the Union’s focus.
“I don’t want this to sound like we’ve accomplished anything yet this year because there’s still a lot of work to do,” Curtin said. “Now, you’re seeing a lot of real positive things happen with the group. Old guys, young guys coming together, so from that standpoint I’m happy with where we’re at, but I don’t want this to be a feeling that now we’re going to take our foot off the gas. Still a lot to achieve and a lot to work on.”
Curtin remarked on Sunday that his team might not have taken the matchup with ninth-place Orlando sufficiently seriously, and he did so again Wednesday afternoon.
“I think we got a lesson against Orlando, thinking that it was just going to be a nice, comfortable victory,” Curtin said." “We’re not going to just run away with this thing. We have a lot of really good teams chasing us, so every point’s going to matter.”
The hot and humid Orlando climate combined with the game’s postponement to complicate things, but the Union’s apparent lack of focus was glaring. On two occasions against Orlando City – a Dom Dwyer header from a Nani free kick and a Santiago Patiño goal off of a corner – careless errors and improper execution of tactics led to conceded goals in set-piece situations.
“Something we need to clean up and get rid of,” Curtain said of the Union’s recent vulnerability after restarts. “In this league, a split-second can mean the difference between three points, or one point, or zero points, so we have to do better.”
Curtin was still proud of his team’s effort to salvage a point with Kacper Przybylko’s 90th-minute equalizer. He noted that in past years, the game might have ended in a sizable loss for the Union, but his squad’s resilience gave him reason to think that the draw was an off-day and nothing more.
The Union will again venture into adverse conditions this Saturday to take on Real Salt Lake, who sit in eighth place in the Western Conference. The Salt Lake City altitude and heat won’t make things any easier, but Curtin was clear that there are no excuses for giving up goals after dead balls.