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A Rais-ing Power Struggle: Curtin’s Declaration of Power

Head coach Jim Curtin makes it clear it's his squad.



​Jim Curtin’s declaration of intent to Kevin Kinkead, of CBS Philly, on Tuesday, to bench Rais M’Bolhi sent shockwaves throughout the Philadelphia Union fanbase. The news the club’s head coach dropped on Wednesday during Curtin’s weekly press conference left at least a few mouths agape.

Curtin stated he told M'Bolhi to take some time off away from the team.

​"I spoke with him yesterday," Curtin said to reporters on Wednesday. "It was my decision and it's best for him and the team right now that he's not with the group."

Curtin was forthright when it came to questions concerning M'Bolhi, his performance and his attitude. The former MLS defender disclosed pertinent information, unlike his predecessors, leaving little to read between the lines – except in terms of his power dynamic with the Union's ownership group.

​"The last thing I would like to clear up too is that, as the head coach, I am responsible for all of the decisions that are made here," Curtin said at his weekly press conference. "It's not up to the players. It's not up to Nick or Jay Sugarman. I have the final say and I make the decisions to move this team forward. I am responsible for our three losses as well. I am a guy that has been honest and up front with all of the press and much like coaches in this league and a lot like quarterbacks, we get a lot of praise when things are going well and we deserve to take the heat when things aren't going well.

"I am responsible for the three losses," Curtin said. "I make the decisions here and I have to live with them. I have to get this team back in form. We still have very good players and we still have a very good team and a real belief."

Co-founder, CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz claimed the M’Bolhi signing as his, and was perceived to have continuing wielding influence over the goalkeeper’s status and some parts of soccer operations. That influence in spite of Sugarman, the other majority owner of the Union, stating publicly at a press conference that Sakiewicz would take a step back from soccer related business in favor of financial parts of the team, including sponsorships.

Now it seems that Curtin has put a stamp on the squad as his own, publicly flexing his muscles. The Oreland, PA born head coach heads into Saturday’s game with New York City FC with John McCarthy, an MLS rookie who started in USL PRO last year, but lacks top flight experience. Andre Blake returned to training this week and is the presumed starter in any other situation devoid of M’Bolhi.

The upcoming schedule will make or break the status of Curtin with both the fans and the owners. With a rookie in net, and a team struggling in front of the last man, Curtin has put himself at the forefront of fan emotions and complaints in order to make it clear who runs his club.

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