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Union Notebook: Jim Curtin on McFadden, Sakiewicz, and Offseason Priorities

By Kevin Kinkead

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- This is the first week of the post-Nick Sakiewicz era at PPL Park.

Philadelphia Union returned to training Tuesday, three days after a 3-1 loss in Toronto officially eliminated the team from playoff contention. 32-year old Scottish forward and Premier League veteran James McFadden was present at the session and is reportedly in town for the next two weeks.

CBS Philly spoke with manager Jim Curtin following training.

CBS Philly: A couple of trialists out here.. James McFadden, anything you can tell us about him?

Jim Curtin: Yeah, obviously he comes from a tremendous pedigree. He played at the highest level (EPL and Scotland international games). At the moment he's returning to full fitness off of an injury. So we'll have him in, take a look, and give him a few days to impress. We're always looking to upgrade the roster.

CBS Philly: Derrick Jones is still out here, along with a defender from Harrisburg.

Curtin: That's Ken Tribbett. Ken had a very good year at Harrisburg, one of the top defenders in USL Pro, so we've had him in now for the past couple of weeks. He's done really well. He's a guy that we're high on. He has some size and presence, can play outside back and also center back. Good, young defender. Derrick Jones obviously is a guy from the academy that everyone is familiar with. He's progressing nicely and is growing as a player.

CBS Philly: A couple of games left now.. Fernando Aristeguieta, Andre Blake, Steven Vitoria were all in the lineup in Toronto, two of those guys are here on loans, I guess you have to use these games to evaluate these guys.

Curtin: Yeah of course. Anytime we take the field, guys are evaluated. I think Andre has been one who has really stepped up in the past couple of weeks and impressed. The hope is that he can take ahold of the starting position and solve a lot of the past Union goalkeeping problems. Hopefully he's a guy who takes ahold of it and doesn't let it go. He's shown the ability to make the huge save that can win you a game or keep you in a game, like we saw in New England.

Toronto, I thought he was a bit unlucky on the goals. Our wall doesn't hold up well on one that deflects in. Sebastian Giovinco is at a stage where everything he touches is going well for him. I thought (Andre) actually had a decent game against Toronto. He'll be the starter the rest of the way. We'll evaluate and make decisions in the offseason, but right now all signs are pointing to him being the guy that can be the man for us.

CBS Philly: Any general thoughts, comments, on the front office changes?

Curtin: Anytime there's change, there's opportunity for other people to step up. That's kind of where we're at. In regard to that, I would say 'thank you' to Nick for the opportunity he gave me. He was a big part of getting the team here and establishing things (in Philadelphia). Now we have to push forward and look to improve the team, and get it to where he hoped it would be, which is a team that's in the playoffs and competing for a playoff spot every year. Right now we've come up short in that, and no one is happy about it. From the players' standpoint and a coaches' standpoint, we know we have to get better. We have two games left. We want to finish the right way and evaluate some things, then go into an offseason where we can be aggressive and look to improve a roster that can be upgraded.

CBS Philly: Jay Sugarman came down on Friday. He spoke with the media, spoke with the staff, spoke with some of the fans.. I think the thing he reiterated was the search for a sporting director. Your thoughts on that? Obviously there's a lot to do; you've got the new USL team starting next year as well..

Curtin: There are a lot of decisions that need to be made. Jay and I had some very good conversations. He assured me that I'm in his plans moving forward. He's a guy who's passionate about this team, and getting us back to winning, and back into the playoffs. There are some big decisions in terms of hiring a sporting director. That's something they've been looking for since the beginning of the year. It's not an easy position to fill. They want to get it right. They're in the process of evaluating different people. The USL coach will be a decision that needs to be made in the coming weeks just because of how quickly the rosters need to be pieced together. Teams have a little bit of a head start already and they're forming their rosters, so we just want to give the coach in that position the opportunity to put together a roster that will be competitive and develop players for the first team.

CBS Philly: You've got four guys out on loan (Zac MacMath, Leo Fernandes, Danny Cruz, Austin Berry). Some have expiring contracts. Some don't. Also the contracts of Cristian Maidana and Vince Nogueira, anything you can tell us regarding those guys?

Curtin: This is a big offseason. It's one where we'll have to make some hard decisions. There's a lot of money that will be opening off the books, so we'll be able to add some quality pieces. I'd say we need at least two more Tranquillo Barnetta types (of players) to put ourselves in a position where we can call ourselves a playoff contender. Right now, we fell a little bit short of that. Those are the kinds of players that we need to add. There have been some good performances from players, but still, at the end of the day, when you look up, we're not in the playoffs. There's going to be changes. I don't think we have to do a complete overhaul and clean house, but there are going to be some tricky choices that need to be made, and we'll make those decisions in a way that best suits this team longterm, not just for next season.

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