It is always fun to find out what is on the mind of the fans and those who cover the other side of MLS matches, and this week I am lucky to bring you some thoughts from Eugene Rupinski (@GolazodelGringo) who runs the show at Brotherly Game, the SB Nation blog that covers all things Philadelphia Union.
Remember last year’s Philadelphia Union? The team that came to Rio Tinto and led for all but 14 minutes of the match, only to see an equalizer scored by a 10 man RSL side in the seventh (!) minute of stoppage time? Union fans certainly do. We look back at that match as two points that could have put us into the playoffs. We spent and entire offseason looking back at that match (and the home match just four days prior against FC Dallas where they gave up an equalizer to a 10 man side in the seventh minute of stoppage time) and grinding our teeth. Most fans were incensed when the club made no moves in the beginning of the offseason. But things changed. The Union signed Maurice Edu on loan from Stoke. They signed Vincent Noguiera from Sochaux and Cristian Maidana from Rangers (the one in Argentina, not the one in Scotland) and just like that the midfield was overhauled and these issues of dropping points late to 10 man sides were a thing of the past.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sure our midfield (which had been atrocious during the best of times last season) was much improved, but we still gave up a late goal last week to a 10 man Chicago Fire side – and gave Mike Magee a chance from the penalty spot which was thankfully saved by Zac MacMath. And the week before, we allowed Marco Di Vaio of all people to hit the equalizer in the 80th minute when the Montreal Impact were down a man. More dropped points for us to grind our teeth about come November? Maybe, maybe not.
The Union are a team that is still trying to gel as a unit. The squad has turned the midfield from a weakness into a strength by adding the aforementioned players and parting ways with Keon Daniel and relegating Danny Cruz to a late-game substitution role. The defense has changed only slightly, with Jeff Parke being replaced by the two-headed monster of Austin Berry and Aaron Wheeler. Berry has been solid when he’s played but has missed the last two matches due to an injury. Wheeler, the forward converted into a center back, has been serviceable at times but has also been exposed for well… being a forward playing as a center back. It was his cleat to Juan Luis Anangono’s chest that put Magee on the spot, after all. Zac MacMath has been very good in goal, possibly spurred on by the addition of Jamaican international Andre Blake. And since Jack McInerney was shipped off to Montreal for Andrew Wenger, all signs point to this being Conor Casey’s chance to re-assert himself as one of MLS’ premier goalscorers.
Unfortunately though, as you can tell from the recent run of form nothing has really come together yet for the Union. There will come a game where everything clicks, and the team catches fire and at that point they will be a force to be reckoned with. That being said, I don’t see that happening this week against a team that has such quality and depth top-to-bottom as Real Salt Lake. And while I’ll be there rooting on the boys in blue, I forsee my drive home being a long one after a 3-2 loss.
Check out his work at Brotherly Game
That’s How He Sees It