The Philadelphia Union still have a month until they open the 2019 Major League Soccer season against Toronto FC, but manager Jim Curtin is excited about what he’s seen from his group so far.
The Union won their first preseason scrimmage in Clearwater, Florida on Wednesday, as they beat the New York Red Bulls 3-2.
Although it was only a scrimmage, Curtin was happy with the performances his players turned in.
“Good for our group to start off the preseason with a convincing win,” Curtin told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “We recognize it’s a preseason game, and most important is Week 1 against Toronto, but to gain belief, trust, confidence, whatever you call it, in a new system and new style, the best medicine for that is results.”
“The players have responded very well,” Curtin said. “I think they enjoyed themselves yesterday in the game. It’s rare in my experience in preseason to have as many guys this early have a positive impact on the game. I’m happy from that standpoint.”
It’s hard to decipher how the Union will look on March 2 from one scrimmage, but it was interesting to see Sergio Santos and Cory Burke as the starting forward pairing.
Over the next month, Curtin has to decide which forward pairing is the best to throw at Toronto FC, with C.J. Sapong and Fafa Picault being the other options.
Curtin’s decision-making process might be made even harder by Kacper Przybylko, who is also impressing among the collection of forwards through a week-and-a-half of preseason.
“We’re going to try a lot of things this preseason,” Curtin said. “We will vary our formation. We’ll ask guys to be paired with different players. I can tell you right now Sapong has been as sharp as he’s ever been in preseason. Kacper’s movement and finishing in front of goal is probably the sharpest.”
Curtin aligned his starters in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Warren Creavalle moving into a starting role.
While Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin are in line to start in central midfield right now, but their competition has impressed Curtin so far.
“Warren Creavalle had a great performance yesterday,” Curtin said. “Derrick Jones broke up a ton of plays.”
Perhaps the most open position at the moment is center back since Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie are still with the U.S. Men’s National Team for its annual January camp.
Aurelien Collin and Jack Elliott started on Wednesday in their place, but it was a player off the first-team roster that stood the most in the eyes of Curtin.
Academy product Ben Ofeimu, who recently signed with the club’s United Soccer League affiliate Bethlehem Steel, shined during his time on the field guarding Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“When you see Ben Ofeimu playing against Bradley Wright-Phillips, you kind of do a double take, but he really held up and did a good job,” Curtin said.
“Ofeimu steps into a game yesterday against Wright-Phillips and had some really high highs, made a mistake or two and bounced back and had a pretty good game,” Curtin said.
Next up for the Union is a Saturday scrimmage against the University of South Florida, which should feature an increase in minutes for a few players before two scrimmages next week.