Jim Curtin

Philadelphia Union to bench struggling goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi

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Manager Jim Curtin confirmed to media at training today that he will sit goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi for Philadelphia’s upcoming home match against NYCFC on Saturday.

Mbolhi has been widely criticized for his play this season, having made a number of poor mistakes that have contributed to the Union’s winless start to the season. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle said Mbolhi is “earning a rep for being one of the poorest DP signings in league history,” and the Algerian international has been ranked among the league’s worst goalkeepers to start the year, having allowed 9 goals on 20 shots, the lowest save percentage among MLS starters.

Most recently, the 28-year-old horribly misjudged a corner to allow Dom Dwyer to head home a goal in a 3-2 loss to Sporting KC.

Curtin has either 24-year-old Generation Adidas product Andre Blake or former USL Pro Goalkeeper of the Year John McCarthy at his disposal to step in for Mbolhi, with Blake having recently returned to training fresh off knee surgery during the offseason. The manager did not say who would be his starter at this point. It’s also unclear how long Mbolhi will sit, whether it will be just a game to collect his thoughts or if it could be a longer-term spell on the bench with the requirement that he earn his spot back.

Mbolhi shined during the World Cup with Algeria and largely earned himself a big contract on that performance. He came to the Union from a third spell at Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia.

MLS transfers: FC Dallas add Colombian winger, Union sign ex-Nantes striker

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Two interesting signings in MLS have been lumnfirmed today: the Philadelphia Union’s loan move for former Ligue 1 striker Fernando Aristeguieta and FC Dallas’ signing of Colombian winger Michael Barrios.

The Toros have agreed to terms with Barrios, as his official arrival is pending the acceptance of his P-1 visa and ITC.

Barrios, 23, played four seasons at Categoría Primera A’s Uniautónoma and made 136 appearances in that span, while netting 35 goals overall.

“Despite being only 23 years old, Michael has a lot of experience in the first division in Colombia,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said. “He is a player that we know can come in and help us offensively right away. He has the speed and talent to be a great player in this league.”

Dallas employed the fast-paced counterattack as a key component to their attack last season, and the speedy Barrios, similar to Andres Escobar and Fabian Castillo, should mesh well with this offensive intention.

[MORE: Latest MLS news]

Over to Philadelphia, the Union have snagged a Designated Player in Aristeguieta, and due to league policy, terms of the deal were not revealed.

From January 2013 to now, the 22-year-old converted nine goals in 45 games at French top-division side Nantes, where USMNT regular Alejandro Bedoya also performs. On the international level, the Venezulan buried one goal in 12 caps since his 2010 debut.

Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin has high aspirations for his new athlete.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on the kid but I do see him as a guy set up to score goals in MLS,” Curtin said, per CSN Philly. “He can do it in a lot of different ways. He can shoot from outside the box. He can shoot off the dribble. He can run by a guy. He scores a lot from his head. He’s a big, strong kid and I’m excited to get him in the group.”

Maurice Edu pens long-term contract with Philadelphia

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Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu has completed his permanent transfer to Major League Soccer, the parties have confirmed, with the 28-year-old signing a “multi-year deal” according to his new parent club.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed per MLS policy.

Edu has transformed his game with a view towards returning to a long-term spell with the US national team, swapping time between defensive midfielder and central defender, much like Jermaine Jones has done since arriving at New England. It worked, and Edu was solid at both positions for Philadelphia this past season.

Officially on loan from Stoke City for the year, his move has now been made permanent.

In fact, Edu was so good last year that Union head coach Jim Curtain bestowed upon him the highest of honors, calling him “a soccer player.” Wow, high praise.

We kid, but in all seriousness, Edu was solid enough quickly enough that he made the preliminary roster for the World Cup, and although he was cut before the tournament began, he was a surprise cut for many who thought he would be a useful piece to Jurgen Klinsmann in Brazil.

“I couldn’t be happier to permanently return to Philadelphia and to play in front of our great fans,” said Edu upon signing. “I believe in this team’s future and am excited to be an integral part of that.”

It wasn’t always a guarantee he would return. Edu said his contract situation was “out of my hands” after the season, despite declaring he wanted to return. Curtin also said that while he “hopes he is in a Union jersey going forward,” it wasn’t yet a done deal. It is now.

Philadelphia will have likely had to pay a transfer fee for Edu’s permanent switch, but it’s unlikely to be of significant value. He played all of nine minutes for Stoke City during his time in England, despite his approximately $4 million price tag, which caused the Stoke Sentinel to label him as “midfield flop Maurice Edu.” Philadelphia may not be done either, as they’re rumored to be in the running for Sacha Kljestan.

Former Manchester United, Fulham coach joins Philadelphia Union as consultant

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For Rene Meulensteen, the last few lines on his resume have been relatively short ones.

There was the two-month stint as manager of Fulham, which sounds like an eternity compared to the 16 days in charge of Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia. He also spent a year at Brondby.

But, as a man in demand, Meulensteen’s new Stateside job has the potential to bear some long-lasting fruit, like his 11 years over two stints in the system at Manchester United.

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He’s been named a consultant for the Philadelphia Union in MLS, a club which is just one week removed from naming Jim Curtin its third-ever full-time head coach.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“We are happy to announce we have engaged Rene Meulensteen’s partner in sports practice to consult with us on many of our key decisions over the next several months, as we look to benefit from his exceptional history of success in both player development and first team performance during his decade of work at Manchester United,” Union chairman/owner Jay Sugarman said in a statement.

“René has hit the ground running and I know Nick [Sakiewicz], Jim, Tommy [Wilson] and our team of coaches as well as our academy staff will welcome René’s insights and experience during this important period for the club as much as I do.”

Prior to serving as manager for Fulham FC in the Barclays Premier League during the 2013-14 season, Meulensteen spent more than five seasons as a first-team coach of Manchester United under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. During that time, Manchester United captured four Barclays Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title and a FIFA Club World Cup title.

Curtin talked about Meulensteen’s vast experience being a boon for him, and said the former Fulham coach has already helped them refocus their development and player evaluation.

Sugarman said Meulensteen will be around for less than years and more than weeks, so it’s not a threat to Curtin. And he’s not a bad man to have around as a new coach separates the wheat from the chaff.

Philly makes it official: Jim Curtin named third coach in Union history

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The third coach in Philadelphia Union history in the second-straight to successfully shed the interim tag.

Jim Curtin succeeded John Hackworth as Union coach this summer, and spearheaded a turnaround that almost took him to the postseason.

[ MLS: Cup playoff weekend preview ]

And the poorly-kept secret, that Curtin and Philadelphia were negotiating a full-time deal, is now completed, public and official after a Friday press conference.

From CSNPhilly’s Ryan Bright:

“The title changes with me but the message is the same — I’m here to win,” Curtin said. “I have to push this team forward in that regard. I’m here to win and get this team back in the playoffs where we belong.”

After an exhaustive search for a high-profile bench boss, Union CEO & operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, who said he received over 200 inquiries, couldn’t ignore Curtin’s success with the Union.

“I said at that time that we would go on an extensive search for our first-team coach,” Sakiewicz said. “I asked Jim Curtin to take over as interim coach and caretaker of the team. And boy did he take care of the team — 17 games unbeaten in 23. He did a great job.”

Curtin deserves the shot after leading Philly to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final and making daring decisions — like moving Maurice Edu to center back — that helped the Union to a 10-6-7 record during his interim status.

The longtime Chicago Fire defender knows the league and knows his team. Now will he help them make the next step next season?

Trivia, for those who don’t know: Piotr Nowak was Philadelphia’s first coach.