Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SBNation soccer world to get thoughts on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy!
This Saturday, New York City FC travels to Chester, PA to take on the feisty Philadelphia Union at 4:00 PM. The Union find themselves tied for second in the Eastern Conference off the strength of some convincing performances against Columbus Crew SC, New England Revolution, and Orlando City.
The team has exceeded expectations so far this season on the strength of strong defense. Their midfield has improved considerably as well, mostly from new additions but also from improved tactical continuity.
Writer and managing editor of Brotherly Game Eugene Rupinski joins us this week to discuss all things Union. Eugene sheds some light on what's got the Union playing so well, what their new signings are doing, and how the fans are feeling about the strong start.
Eugene: From top to bottom, the biggest reason for the success of the Philadelphia Union is that the team finally has an organizational vision. Under Earnie Stewart, there's a sense of clarity and direction that the club has never had before both in terms of tactics and players. Couple that with a good draft (picking up Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers who have seen minutes) as well as a slew of smart signings during the offseason (trading allocation money for Chris Pontius, signing Ken Tribbett from Harrisburg and Ilsinho on a free transfer), and you're seeing the foundation of a new Union team that is well-run from top to bottom. Kudos to Stewart for getting things turned around so quickly, as many of us here were expecting a rebuilding year this year.
Eugene: Not a whole lot was lost in terms of overall production beyond Chaco Maidana, to be honest. Everyone else who was let go - Aristeguieta, Casey, Andrew Wenger, Steven Vitória, Ethan White - these guys didn't produce for whatever reason, and they were shipped out. What was gained by this exodus were the players who compose one of the best midfields in MLS, as well as the precedent being set that if you don't perform, you're gone.
Eugene: You never know with this team or Philadelphia teams in general how things will turn out. Once you start talking playoffs, people here either get all in on the hype train or start blaming everyone when things (no matter how minor) go wrong. Really it depends on who you talk to as to what answer you'll get - personally I'm pretty optimistic that the Union can continue their good run of form throughout the season and make the playoffs. Keeping everyone healthy and off of the Disciplinary Committee's list will be key though, because even the best team can totally self-destruct if they're not careful.
Eugene: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, Keegan Rosenberry; Vincent Nogueira, Warren Creavalle; Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius, Sebastien Le Toux; CJ Sapong
I think it'll be a feisty affair, but I think the Union's quality and home field advantage will ensure a long bus ride back to the Bronx.
Thanks again to Eugene, even if he's picked against NYC. Have your own prediction for the match? Let us know in the comments section, and be sure to check out the "reverse fixture," in which we answer three NYCFC queriesover at The Brotherly Game!