Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SB Nation Soccer world to get some insight on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy.
We’re playing again? No...
That can’t be right.
Believe it or not, the Boys in Blue are back in action, less than three days since they hosted the New England Revolution and played to a frustrating 2-2 draw. New York welcomes the Philadelphia Union this Saturday and will be gunning for all three points in a game they will want desperately to win.
New York City FC took down a struggling Philadelphia team 2-0 on the road the first time we played. New York fans haven’t forgotten that game, as it featured a mere moral invoking the power of the gods to make it rain from the heavens.
Philly was winless when they met NYC FC the first time, but have since raised their game, taking 14 points from 7 games since they played New York. Eugene Rupinski is with us again for round 2 to chat all things Philly. We discuss Alejando Bedoya’s absence, Philly defense, and how the team has changed since we played.
Q. Union will be without CM and playmaker Alejando Bedoya, who is on duty with the USMNT this weekend ahead of some big qualifiers. When we last traded questions, you explained to me that Bedoya was being asked to play the no 10 role, and that unless Union got him back into the no 8 position, the midfield would continue to struggle. Since that exchange, Bedoya has settled in nicely with Philadelphia and, according to WhoScored, is the Union's best player by match rating. What has Philly done to put Bedoya in a position to succeed and what have you seen from Bedoya since the NYC FC match?
ER. The decision to move Bedoya back to the 8 and put Ilsinho at the 10 has paid huge dividends for the Union. Bedoya looks far more comfortable being able to control the play deeper, and Ilsinho's technical ability and passing vision really help him play the 10 well.
Unfortunately for us, Bedoya will be with the United States National Team for our match on Saturday. This will most likely mean that Warren Creavalle will take his spot, and Creavalle will play the 6 while Haris Medunjanin will play more of an 8 role. Haris has been playing a high 6 lately, so a deep 8 won't be that much of a difference for him - and the size of the pitch at Yankees Stadium will hopefully help mask any time he strays too far from his assigned positioning.
Q. The Union rank as one of MLS's best in terms of limiting goals, conceding only 16 times in 13 games. How much of this has to do with how well Andre Blake is playing in goal? Also, curious as to what you expected out of Oguchi Onyewu prior to this season and what you've seen from him thus far?
ER. I think Andre is a huge part of the Union's success, but I also think you're seeing better defensive play across the board from the entire team. Andre's job is easier when the defense is making plays. The defense's job is easier when the midfielders and forwards are committing to defending and disrupting plays. When a guy like CJ Sapong makes a defensive play that turns into a goal, that's going to really reinforce that mentality across the team.
As for Gooch, I don't think many of us thought he'd be more than depth. The guy has had one hell of a career, but how much punishment can a 34 year old take at one of the most punishing positions in a punishing league?
Thankfully he's been able to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong. He's been great filling in for the injured Josh Yaro, and should compete for minutes even when Yaro comes back into the mix.
Q. Our first meeting was tight affair, but New York controlled for the most part, taking 55.4% of the possession and out shooting Union 16 to 11. Union had some chances while the game was 1-0 but David Villa made it rain in the 90th to seal the victory (sorry, but you know I had to). Things changed dramatically after that game, with Union taking 14 points from their next 7 games. How have the Union changed since that match and how are things going to be different the second time around when these two teams face off?
ER. Hey thanks for reminding me of yet another awful goal in Union history, up there with Chris Seitz giving one away to Jaime Moreno or Rais M'Bolhi letting in a softie against Chicago late to knock the Union out of the playoff mix.
I think the biggest thing that changed was the Union got easier opponents. After playing you, we played against the Montreal Impact, LA Galaxy, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, and Real Salt Lake. All of those teams are rather bad, although we did get lucky and get Houston at home (they've been awful on the road). Aside from that, the Union have had had time to gel, and the newer guys have had time to adjust. Fafa Picault hadn't played in MLS, and Haris Medunjanin hadn't played in the United States at all. Gooch hadn't played pro soccer in two years - these sorts of adjustments take time, and unfortunately for the Union it resulted in a record stretch of futility. That's changed though, as you're seeing these guys get into rhythm and perform much better over the past stretch.
ER. OUT: M - Maurice Edu (left ankle/left tibia surgery recovery), OUT: M - Brian Carroll (lumbar disc herniation), OUT: F - Fabian Herbers (right adductor partial avulsion), QUESTIONABLE: D - Josh Yaro (shoulder surgery 2/9, out 3-4 months)
Q. Starting XI?
ER. Andre Blake; Fabinho, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Warren Creavalle; Fafa Picault, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius; CJ Sapong
ER. Not having Alejandro Bedoya will hurt, but NYCFC having to play on Wednesday will hurt worse. Union pull it out 2-1.