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!
Following a disappointing result on the road against DC United, New York City FC travels to Chester, PA to face a struggling Philadelphia Union team. The Union are without a win to start 2017, managing only two points from their first five matches.
Brotherly Game’s Eugene Rupinski was nice enough to answer our questions ahead of the match today. Eugene breaks down the Union’s struggles, the heat of Coach Jim Curtin’s hot seat, and what Union fans have to look forward to in the future.
Q. I'm sure you field a lot of questions regarding the Union's recent struggles, so I'll skip over the part where we try and analyze what's gone wrong. Looking forward, where do you stand when it comes to overhauling the technical staff and coach Jim Curtin? How long should his leash be moving forward, and what are you looking for in a replacement if he were to go?
E. It's a tough predicament for sure. I like Jim Curtin. I think he's got a ton of potential, and I worry that if the trigger is pulled too soon it could be a situation like with the Cleveland Browns firing Bill Belichick. I am in the minority in that opinion however, and the calls for Curtin's head have become louder with every winless week. His leash is most likely very short, and I can see the axe being dropped if the Union end their home stand (against Portland last week, NYCFC, and Montreal next week) still winless.
As far as a replacement, that too is anyone's guess. The Union keep everything close to the vest. There's really no telling who they would bring in. It could be an MLS veteran like Sigi Schmid or Bob Bradley. They could look to get someone outside of MLS, however this is all speculation.
Q. The offseason additions of Giiano Wijnaldum, Haris Medunjanin, and Jay Simpson, among others, were considered positive moves for the club attempting to build off of a tough second half but a Playoff berth nonetheless. What can you say so far about the new additions and why have they struggled early? How can the Union make changes to put their new players in positions to be successful?
E. Giliano Wijnaldum has been a bit of a bust thus far, as he's behind Fabinho (the guy he was supposed to replace) and Ray Gaddis (a right-footed right back that was converted to left back out of necessity a few years ago) on the depth chart. Jay Simpson has been decent, but the lack of service to him has made him ineffective - as it would all but the most world class forward. Haris Medunjanin has been perhaps the best of the bunch, as his passing from deep midfield has lead to some decent breaks for the Union.
The Union however have to do one of two things they've been thus far unwilling to do - either alter the formation to suit the players they have or sit some of their better players and give some guys further down the depth chart minutes even though it might not be the best eleven men on the pitch. Alejandro Bedoya is the key to this. He's said himself he's more comfortable at the 8, but he's been playing as a 10 for the entirety of this year. So the Union would need to change to a 4-4-2 to allow him to drop deeper, replacing (most likely) Derrick Jones with a striker pairing of Simpson and CJ Sapong. Or they're going to have to sit Jones, move Bedoya to the 8, and put in Roland Alberg at the 10. The problem with that is that there are significant concerns about Alberg's fitness, so it's not known if he can even go a full 90. Either way, something has to change in order for this team to perform at an optimal level.
Q. In a disappointing season so far, where have the bright spots been? Are there building blocks around which you could see a team forming?
E. Most of the building blocks are already in place. Andre Blake is the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year and has looked decent despite giving up goals. Keegan Rosenberry continues to make a case for himself as the right back of the future for the United States National Team. Derrick Jones has been a revelation at the 8, making his case to be the starter at that position. CJ Sapong has seen a resurgence in his form, as has Oguchi Onyewu. It's not all gloom and doom - there have been some good individual performances from players.
Q. Injuries or suspensions to know about?
Maurice Edu is out and has been out while recovering from a broken leg. Josh Yaro is out while recovering from shoulder surgery. John McCarthy is out with post-concussion issues.
Q. Predicted Lineup and Score?
Andre Blake: Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Derrick Jones; Chris Pontius, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilson Jr,, CJ Sapong
I hate to say it, but I can see NYCFC winning this one fairly easily. I hope I'm wrong, but I could see a 2-0 loss for the Union.
There you have it, Eugene is going for the classic reverse jinx. Have your own prediction for the match tonight? Give us shout in the comments section.