For the first time since early in his tenure as Philadelphia Union manager, Jim Curtin finally has some job security.
After coaching for the last few years on one-season extensions to his original contract signed in 2015, Curtin received a new two-year contract from sporting director Ernst Tanner, it was announced Wednesday.
Curtin has been at the helm since June of 2014, when his predecessor John Hackworth was fired. The Oreland native and Villanova product was an assistant at that point, and moved over to the head role on the bench. After guiding the Union to that year’s U.S. Open Cup final, then-Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz took off the interim tag in November.
Since then the Union have reached two more Open Cup finals (2015 and last year) and made the playoffs twice (2016 and last year). Curtin has coached in a total of 186 games across all competitions, with a record of 72 wins, 75 losses and 39 ties.
Four of those losses stand out the most: the two Open Cup finals and the two playoff appearances. The Union have yet to win a trophy or a playoff game, and haven’t hosted a playoff game since 2011. That burns at Curtin, and he admits it often.
Curtin’s tactical acumen hasn’t always been ideal, and he has said so over time. His rosters haven’t always been ideal either, and that’s not his fault.
Even his critcs have admitted, though, that he has gotten better. In particular, Tanner has given Curtin the flexibility to experiment and diversify the playbook. That has paid off, as the Union have played well in multiple formations this year.
Just as important, and in some ways even more so, is Curtin’s strong reputation in the locker room. Teenage academy products and seasoned international veterans speak equally highly of him. That matters a lot. Tactical coaching can also come from the rest of the staff, and does at the Union. Tanner sets the tone, and assistant coach Pat Noonan is regarded around MLS as a rising star.
Former assistant Dick Schreuder also contributed a lot before leaving last month to join his brother at Germany’s TSG Hoffenheim. With Curtin’s future now settled, Tanner can turn to filling that vacancy.