Jim Curtin believes the Philadelphia Union made a statement in their last game.
As a player, Curtin used to make his statements donning the colors of his next opponent.
It figures to be a special moment for the interim coach Saturday night when his Union go on the road to face the Chicago Fire.
Philadelphia (5-8-7) has picked up seven points from four MLS matches since Curtin took over after John Hackworth was fired June 10. That includes Wednesday's 3-1 home victory over New York.
"We made a statement tonight," Curtin said. "We talked before the game that respect isn't given; it's earned. And we had to grab it. And we did that tonight.
"On national TV, we know the whole league's watching, and I think the Union tonight made a statement that we're going to be a team in the Eastern Conference that's going to be not just pushing for the fourth spot or fifth spot but a team that can play with anybody."
The victory moved Philadelphia three points clear of Chicago in the East, although the Fire (3-4-10) have played three fewer matches.
Curtin will be in charge for the first time against the Fire, the club he played for between 2001-08. He was known for his hard-nosed defensive presence despite not being overly athletic and went into this year ninth on the franchise's all-time list in minutes played (12,408) and fouls committed (159).
The Union have played some free-flowing soccer with 10 goals in his four matches. Conor Casey, Fred and Sebastien Le Toux scored against the Red Bulls.
Curtin may have to make changes to a team playing for the third time in eight days, and could opt to give former Fire defender Austin Berry some rare minutes.
Berry, who has played just six times, was selected ninth overall by Chicago in 2012 and earned rookie of the year honors. He played every minute for the Fire last season before being dealt to Philadelphia on Feb. 25.
The Union's defense will key on reigning league MVP Mike Magee, who has plenty of incentive for the Fire. Magee remains haunted by his failure to convert a penalty kick that was saved by Zac MacMath at the end of a 2-2 draw in Chicago the last time these teams met April 5.
"That was a massive opportunity to get three points that obviously hasn't been easy for us to do," Magee said. "To miss a penalty on the last play of the game won't be forgotten and that's kind of the only thing on my mind right now."
The Fire have two draws and a victory in their last three games. Their last two were on the road, a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on July 6 followed by last Saturday's 1-0 win over New England.
"Everyone's happy. We've been working hard so we're very excited about getting to the playoffs and getting four points on the road against direct opponents in the Eastern Conference," defender Bakary Soumare said.
Chicago leads MLS with 10 draws, six shy of the league record set by the Fire and Red Bulls in 2011.
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