Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin emphasized the importance of a comeback in the second leg of the Concacaf semifinal against Club America on Wednesday, admitting the game will be an uphill battle.
It’s the Union’s turn to host the Liga MX team after falling 2-0 at Estadio Azteca during the first leg of the series on August 12.
Philadelphia stands as the last Major League Soccer club in the international competition after Sporting Kansas City, Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls were all eliminated by Liga MX opponents.
“We have an uphill battle, but with our fans behind us at home, the key becomes not conceding and pushing for that first goal,” Curtin said Tuesday.
“It’d shift the pressure to them. Our strategy is to just be ourselves at home. We know that we’re capable of scoring more than a goal at this building, we’re capable of keeping a clean sheet. That is our belief, that is our goal. You never know when you’re going to get this chance again; you have to empty the tank and give everything.”
Club America will not be an easy opponent as they lead the Liga MX table with 20 points in eight matches, but Curtin believes a defensive mindset will pressure their Mexican opponents to give up the first crucial goal.
“There has to be a belief in the group that we can get that first goal and put pressure on Club America. It starts with how we defend. In your career, the goal is to lift trophies and play in finals. We know we’ll need a perfect performance, but it’s possible. We’ll need all 11 guys on the field, all of our reserves and our fans to give us life.”
As of now, the Union must score twice to push the match into overtime, but only one goal by Club America would push the aggregate to 4-0 due to away rules.
The Liga MX giant has conceded only three goals and scored 12 so far during the 2021-22 season, while the Union sit in fifth place on the Eastern Conference table after a downward spiral.
Philadelphia has not won a match since their 1-0 victory over New York City FC on August 18.
“It’s easy when you’re winning games and guys are scoring goals, but you learn the most about your group, yourself and staff when you have a tough patch,” Curtin said. “Look, our tough patch isn’t as bad as some have gone through, but the bar has been raised for us….We want to get back on track. What better way than in a Champions League semi-final?”