Jim Curtin is not immune to Union fans’ frustrations. The Oreland native hears the boos when his name is announced with the starting lineup at games, and he doesn’t pretend otherwise.
“I know that I’m judged each and every day by the fans,” the Union manager said Wednesday. “There’s been a lot of negativity this year, and it’s been deserved, because we haven’t gotten the results that we set out to do at the start of the season. In Philadelphia, in any pro sports city, when you’re not getting wins, the fans are going to let you hear it, and that’s part of what I signed up for.”
He also signed up for a team that has been outspent by much of the rest of MLS throughout his tenure, whether on player salaries or facilities or scouts.
Even when Curtin’s players perform at their best, there are plenty of nights when they simply don’t have the talent to secure a higher place in the standings. Whether that’s Curtin’s fault has been the most-hotly debated question among Union fans lately, especially on social media.
By results, Curtin is the most successful manager in Union history, even if that bar isn’t too high. Of greater consequence is his having guided the team last season to its first playoff berth since 2011, and to U.S. Open Cup finals in 2014 and 2015. Those defeats, Curtin said, still sting.
Ultimately, the only answer Curtin needs to hear is from his superiors in the team’s front office. Sporting director Earnie Stewart has repeatedly backed Curtin, and given no indication that he’s considering dismissing the coach.
“I do know that the people that matter most in the organization have my back, and that is a powerful thing,” Curtin said. “We had a plan that we set out to accomplish. Have we been perfect this year? Absolutely not, but we still believe in the project that we have.”
Curtin has said many times in recent weeks that the plan for this off-season is headlined by an increase in spending to get higher-quality players. He repeated the point Wednesday, saying the team is “ready to take that next step.”
Fans’ skepticism likely won’t be quieted until those players are on the books, and just as importantly, producing. There won’t be tolerance for another signing such as Jay Simpson, whom Stewart hailed for his scoring instincts back in January but has just one goal to his name.
Curtin doesn’t hide from any of that. Neither does he hide his deep-rooted desire to finish a job that he believes isn’t done yet.
“I want to make the fans happy, trust me — I want nothing more than to win a trophy for this city,” he said. “We know that the margins are tight in this league, and we can still, especially moving forward, put together a product can lift a trophy.”