As the Philadelphia Union prepares to take on the Houston Dynamo, head coach Jim Curtin hailed the competition by labeling Hector Herrera as Concacaf’s best player.
The Union head into the match as leaders of the Eastern Conference, while the Dynamo struggle in the West in 11th place with a mere 25 points in 22 matches. Still, Curtin insists Philadelphia cannot underestimate their opponent with the Mexican national team captain on their side.
“I think Hector Herrera, for quite a bit, has been the best player that Concacaf has had. He's such a great midfielder, can dominate the game with possession. He's so comfortable and calm on the ball. Obviously has had an incredible career,” said Curtin.
“He's injected real life into Houston's group. Obviously has a huge following and the fans will come out, I'm sure a lot will come out in Philly to see him just because he's that big of a star. I respect his game a great deal.”
Herrera arrived in Houston midseason, after he committed to the club through a pre-contract in March. Before joining Major League Soccer, the Mexican saw stints with Porto and Atletico Madrid, regularly competing in the Champions League.
Internationally, he’s earned over 100 caps with El Tri, leading the team to several trophies.
Now, his focus is on the Philadelphia Union as the Dynamo fight to climb the Western Conference table.
“With the great players, you're just trying your best to limit the amount of time they have on the ball because they're so talented that they're going to hurt you at some point during the 90 minutes,” Curtin said.
“We just hope that's in parts of the field that it doesn't hurt us too much. A special player and personally one of my favorites. It will be a real tough test to play against him. He can kind of start their attacks, he can join into the box late and get goals. He hurts you in a lot of different ways and is a really talented, special player.”
With aspirations to overtake LAFC in the Supporters’ Shield race, the Union cannot afford to lose. The Western Conference giants currently boast 45 points in 21 games, while the Union trail behind with 42 in 21 matches.
But working off of four consecutive victories, Philadelphia has what it takes.
“We want to finish first in the East [and] LAFC obviously is the team to chase right now,” Curtin said. “But they're not so far ahead of us that it's unrealistic to say the words Supporters' Shield. It's not crazy. So we want to push and go for as many points as we possibly can get. There's still a lot of points out there to do it.”