By Kevin Kinkead
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin confirmed on Tuesday that goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi will not start this weekend’s home game against New York City FC.
The team’s top goalkeeper turned-in another shaky performance in Sunday night’s 3-2 road loss against Sporting Kansas City.
Mbolhi mis-played a corner kick when he came out and stepped on the foot of Maurice Edu on the first conceded goal. He then looked hesitant to come off his line on Sporting’s stoppage time equalizer. The defensive marking was also a major culprit in the disappointing loss, and has been a recurring issue through the first five games.
Mbolhi has conceded 9 goals on 20 shots this year, earning the lowest save percentage among all starters in Major League Soccer. He has been the target of league-wide criticism from fans and media.
It’s unclear right now whether Andre Blake or John McCarthy will start on Saturday. Blake is now training in full after undergoing off-season knee surgery.
Additionally, Vincent Nogueira, Fabinho, and Fernando Aristeguieta were not present at Tuesday’s training session. Sheanon Williams was a full participant while Cristain Maidana worked with fitness coach Kevin Miller off to the side.
Following training, CBS Philly spoke one-on-one with Curtin about Sunday night’s loss.
CBS Philly: A couple of days later now, thoughts on the weekend result?
Jim Curtin: You go back and watch the tape and it kind of confirms a lot of what we saw in game, which was, we were very tough to play against in the run of play. We didn’t give up too many chances. There were a couple of shots from outside the box but nothing major. All of the chances we gave up, and the goals we gave up, were off of restarts. So, again, it’s the same, recurring theme. We’ve struggled on restarts. The message to the guys is that there were still a lot of good performances that kind of went wasted. To come up with zero points in that game is kind of devastating. Everyone is sick to their stomach about it. But at the same time, there’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get back up and play NYC FC, who isn’t going to feel sorry for us one bit. They’re going to come in here, and as the game gets late they and think that we’re a team that will collapse late and they’re going to keep pressing and coming at us. It’ll be a thing where, until we win games and close them out the right way, that’s going to be our M.O.
CBS Philly: If that chance is finished off at the end of the game, then we’re not even really talking about this.
Curtin: Exactly. For sure. It’s a game of inches and it’s a game of taking your chances in the box. If you rewind (that play) all the way, Fernando gets a breakaway from midfield, his legs are gassed and he’s obviously tired. He gets into the box, and you actually could call that a penalty. It’s a foul inside the box. But the ref lets advantage play, which I’d rather have a penalty kick to be honest. But Seba makes a good move to get in the box and their goalkeeper makes a great save and tips it off the post. Mike, we talked with Michael about it, about having some composure, taking a touch and burying it. Then it’s 3-1 and it’s a completely different narrative. But at the same time, we should still be able to hold on and win 2-1. No excuses in that regard.
CBS Philly: What do you tell the defense and the goalkeeper about the set piece marking and about those three goals?
Curtin: At that stage, they’re pumping a lot of balls into the box. Matt Besler probably had 12 to 15 throw-ins at the end of the game. There’s corner kicks coming in. I think all of the guys, if you look at our matchups individually, we had the bigger team, you know what I mean? Just height-wise, from a physical standpoint. We just got outcompeted on things. It’s a combination of our defending and also the goalkeeper having the confidence to come out. I think he lacked a little confidence to come out and make a save in some cases, especially when so many of the throw-ins were thrown to the exact same spot. So the timing of it, you should get a “beat” for it.. not every one obviously, because there’s traffic in there, but occasionally maybe you come out for one. Steven Vitoria is one of our big guys and we want him to be more aggressive attacking the ball. We just didn’t see the game out the right way but I felt like our matchups were good in that regard.
CBS Philly: You can always point to the first ball in, but what’s the message on the second ball? Do guys just have to do a better job at holding their marks?
Curtin: Yeah, I mean, it’s a tough one because, on their second goal, Fernando heads it out, it’s cleared, they pick it up and take a touch, and we’re still stepping out. A lot of guys were square with their hips still facing the ball, as opposed to being turned sideways where you can now retreat and jump up and go again. A lot of guys were caught square, it goes over their heads, it takes them awhile to turn, and I think Jalil Anibaba is just trying to head it down and put it in the mixer. To react to the second ball is key. He heads it down, there’s a little indecision from Raymond Lee to put his foot through it, he kind of lets it go and it goes in the side of the net. It’s disappointing in that regard.
The third goal, obviously we get beat to the near post, it gets on Raymond fast, and at that point there’s nothing he can do. The biggest thing is preventing that flick at the near post, which is inexcusable. I say as a whole though, the one way to eliminate being poor on restarts is to not give them up. The silly fouls at the top of the box, when you can prevent giving up the throw-in, we talked about it at half time, if you can take an extra touch and drive the ball up the field, where you’re not giving Besler a chance to have a chance to have 30 seconds to walk up and take a long throw, so it was our own undoing. We gave up too many. And there were instances when you watch the tape, our clearances are just mis-hit, and they go out for corner kicks and throw-ins as opposed to good, solid contact up the field where we can fight for it.
CBS Philly: Anything you would do differently with the subs? Any reason to hold on to the third one? Was there a thought to get some more height in there?
Curtin: As a starting point, we’re obviously thin on the bench at the moment. With the subs that we made, you go back, and Eric Ayuk was gassed. He was gassed in the first half. He gave me as much as he could until the 72nd minute. I put C.J. in there to give us some size and presence, to be physical and win some corner kicks and throw-ins. From that point, Fabinho goes out with the injury. You can talk about maybe, I thought about throwing in Ethan on the right and moving Ray to the left, but that would make two changes and you’re putting Ethan, he’s a center back, he’s not an outside back, in an uncomfortable spot. Raymond Lee was good in training all week. We gave him a chance to perform and again, this loss has nothing to do with just him. It’s a team thing. He got a little bit unlucky with some of the bounces that went his way. He has to learn from it though, especially the second goal. The third one I think is unpreventable but he’s a good young player who I think is going to learn from that experience.
To not make a third sub, what I had on the bench I don’t think would have helped in any regard in terms of the throw-ins and the corner kicks and what the game had become at the end, just fighting in the box. Guys worked their asses off and I thought that group deserved the right and the chance to finish the game the right way. I was happy with their effort until the 91st minute and then it kind of unraveled, so it’s tough.