Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin knows all about Bob Bradley’s ability to work with young players. Once upon a time there was one of them.
Bradley, then manager of the Chicago Fire, drafted a 21-year-old Curtin in the third round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft.
“I learned a lot from Bob as a player. I learned a lot as a coach,” said Curtin, whose league-leading side face Bradley’s Toronto FC on Saturday night at BMO Field.
“It’s an honor to coach against him. Bob is an incredible coach. He’s an incredible leader and he’s a winner.
Curtin is already impressed with what he has seen from Toronto under the 64-year-old Bradley.
“You can see the way they’re playing right now, they’re very dangerous. They’re all really comfortable and good with the ball,” he said. “You see a lot of ideas from Bob, and it actually gives young players an opportunity. He’s not high enough as a guy who’s willing to give young players a chance.
“He did it in Chicago when I was there as a player, with DaMarcus Beasley and Carlos Bocanegra. He really believes and trusts young players. There’s no better coach to develop young talent. And you see with Toronto a lot of good local kids, a lot of real potential on the field in guys who play big minutes for them.
Bradley, for his part, remembers Curtin as a “smart player and a really good guy”.
“I’m not surprised to see him become a coach and do very well, because (of) his understanding of the game…I’m proud of him.”
And Bradley relishes the chance to test his young team against Curtin and top-flight Philadelphia, now 5-0-1. Toronto is 2-2-2, unbeaten in three and have won their last two home outings.
“If you look at the first six games (of Toronto), there were good times. There were some good goals,” Bradley said after practice on Friday. There are still things that are improving and need work. But the chance now at home to really step up and play a great game against a top team, that’s really important for us. And with that, we need as many guys as possible at their best (Saturday) night.
Philadelphia is the only undefeated team in the league. The Union have won a franchise record five times in a row, including four straight clean sheets to tie a club mark set in 2017.
Curtin’s side haven’t conceded in 418 minutes — since Lassi Lappalainen scored for Montreal in a 2-1 loss on March 5 at Olympic Stadium. It’s the longest scoreless streak in MLS this season.
Philadelphia goalie Andre Blake, whose last appearance at BMO Field was in the Jamaicans’ 4-0 loss on March 27 that secured a World Cup berth for Canada’s men, enters the game with a scoring average allocated miser of 0.33. He has conceded just two goals in 540 minutes this season.
On the other hand, Toronto goaltender Alex Bono allows almost two goals per game (1.83). TFC conceded a goal in a club record 18 consecutive home games, the fourth-longest streak in league history (including the playoffs) and the longest since Kansas City allowed a goal in 23 consecutive home matches in 2002-03.
With 16 points in six games, Philadelphia tied for the third-best start in MLS history.
“Guys have confidence right now,” Curtin said. “We recognize that we are in good shape, but we still have a lot of things that we can improve and improve. It’s still very early in the season.
Sergio Santos has six goals in six games against Toronto.
Toronto will be without defender Carlos Salcedo, suspended after being shown a red card in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake. Bradley says forward Ayo Akinola, sidelined since last July when he suffered a knee injury playing for Canada at the Gold Cup, will dress but see a limited number of minutes.
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