Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin will battle against long-time mentor and fellow local native Peter Vermes Saturday for the first time since 2020 when Sporting Kansas City comes to town for an inter-conference game.
The two coaches are currently the longest tenured coaches in MLS and both are eagerly looking for bounce-back performances from their sides.
During a midweek press conference, Curtin mentioned Philadelphia will hope to “get back to being us,” Saturday night in Chester against a winless Kansas City club. However, to do so Philadelphia will have to avoid falling to a team coached by one of the best American soccer coaches in the history of the game, let alone MLS.
“When you think of Kansas City, you think of Peter and what he’s built there: the trophies, the success, the strong teams,” said Curtin of Vermes, a Delran, N.J. native. “It’s really incredible what he’s done there.”
Vermes is the longest tenured manager in Major League Soccer and the sixth-longest tenured manager in global soccer. This season is his 15th at the helm for Kansas City. He started back in 2009, which at this point seems like a lifetime ago.
Entering the 2023 season, Vermes-led teams have earned 183 total regular season wins and four major trophies, including a 2013 MLS Cup victory and 2015 US Open Cup victory (although some of us would like to forget that ever happened…) as Kansas City defeated Philadelphia in heartbreaking fashion.
The coaching success is built on top of an extensively successful playing career. Vermes earned a spot in the National Soccer Hall of Fame back in 2013 after winning both the 2000 and 2004 MLS Cup and earning spots on USMNT Olympic and World Cup rosters as a player.
Despite the success as both a player and a coach, Vermes has remained open to helping fellow coaches, especially those with local connections like Curtin.
Curtin is not far behind Vermes in terms of longest tenured MLS coaches. The Oreland, Pa. native is currently coaching in his 10th MLS season.
“He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to a ton,” said Curtin. The two have collaborated in the past while attending soccer related committees, coaching meetings, and licensing protocols. “He’s been a great mentor, a guy that I’ve learned a ton from, and, you know, he’s one of the best that our games had.”
The respect is mutual as well. Vermes commented on his relationship with Curtin this week and had nothing but good things to say.
But if you were to put the pleasantries aside for a moment, both clubs are are struggling to find solid consistency in form to start the 2023 campaign. Each fan base has grown slightly weary as well due to a lack of early season wins and points.
“We both want to win on the weekend, and it’s two teams that are, are fighting to get back on track,” said Curtin.
Philadelphia (2-3-0) have just 6 points through 5 matches with a neutral goal differential having scored 8 goals while allowing 8 goals against. Kansas City (0-3-2) have been even less impressive earning just 2 points, 0 wins, and only 2 goals scored on the season through their first 5 MLS games.
“When you play [Vermes’] teams, you always know that it’s going to be a really difficult match. They’re very organized, hard to play against. It will be no different,” said Curtin. “And again, all the different friendships off the field kind of go out the window once the whistle blows, but obviously a guy that I respect a ton.”
If starting goal keeper Andre Blake returns from injury, Philadelphia will have their brick wall behind them once again which should create even more challenges for an already anemic Kansas City offense. Fans may be able to celebrate the return of Blake to the pitch by purchasing a fresh blue keeper kit from the team store.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:39 p.m. with the broadcast behind the MLS Season Pass paywall on Apple TV.