The last question Jim Curtin was asked in the moments after the Union’s last game of the season was one he knew needed to be asked.
But he quite clearly didn’t like it.
What if Sunday’s 6-1 win over Orlando was his last game in charge of the Union?
A change does not seem likely. Sporting director Earnie Stewart has backed Curtin time and again this year. For Stewart to reverse course now would prompt many questions, from why he changed his mind to whether anyone could win a trophy on the Union’s tight budget.
Still, the question had to be asked.
Curtin bristled in a way that he hasn’t always when discussing the Union’s future.
“You might as well just ask me if I’m a human being,” he said. “Of course, you think about things like that. When [the media] ask, ‘Do you hear the boos?’ — do you think I have ears?”
Curtin called the question “silly” and offered some pointed words about the questioner’s motives, too.
Then he changed his tone a bit.
“It’s professional sports — I understand it’s results-driven,” he said. “I give you credit for asking the question, but I have a decent understanding of where I stand in the organization, and I’ll continue to work to try to get it better. And I know it’s not good enough right now, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I possibly can.”
Stewart is expected to speak later this week, though it could be a few days before he does. In the meantime, this much is certain: There was a lot of support for Curtin among his players in the locker room. And some of the strongest backing came from those whose futures in Philadelphia are in even greater doubt than his.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the guy,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “I think he’s come a long way, and you see it year in and year out — learning the game, and coaching it a bit more.”
If the players weren’t fond of their manager, they might show it by not giving their all in a meaningless game.
“It has never been that way with this team — we all held each other accountable,” Pontius said. “Yeah, there were some results that didn’t go our way this year, but none of the guys ever checked out.”
Ilsinho hasn’t always been much of a talker, but the Brazilian midfielder spoke strongly in Curtin’s favor after recording two goals and an assist Sunday.
“Jim is a great guy,” he said. “Everything that’s possible to do for him, we try to do. We need to help him.”
Ilsinho is a prime candidate to leave Philadelphia this winter. He’s 32, out of contract, and has the third-biggest salary on the team. There have been promises from the Union that a big-ticket playmaker is high on the off-season shopping list. But he wants to stay here.
“I’m so happy here,” he said. “All the season, I’ve tried to help, to do my best, and sometimes yes [I succeeded], sometimes no. I love everything here; I like it here. I hope to be back.”
Roland Alberg also said he’d like to stay, but he understands it’s out of his hands right now.
“We will see what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “I don’t know yet — of course, I hope to stay. I’m very happy here, and we will see.”
If Sunday was his finale, he got to leave on a high note.
“It’s nice that we can give something back in the last game,” Alberg said. “We were motivated, and I think we showed them some good soccer.”