No, not like the kind with Sarah Palin, go away.
In celebration of this game finally happening after being postponed, Scott K. from Brotherly Game and I decided to have one of the usual pre-game chats about our teams. Rather than just do the normal 3 Questions sort of thing that you usually see around SBnation's MLS sites, Scott and I decided to throw down a full fledged chat. So we opened up an unnamed chat client (hint: it rhymes with KOL) and just started going on about our favorite squads... as well as covering whatever other topics we felt pertinent during the time we were going on.
The first half of the transcript is below, you'll find the second half at BG.
UZ 10:21 pm
All right, obviously the conversation should start with the question; do you think Philly has a good shot at knocking off the red hot home form of the Rapids?
Scott K. 10:22 pm
Yes, it's become apparent in the past five games that the Union can actually put together 90 minutes of quality football. Prior to this 3-1-1 run, the Union would have given hope and thrown it away 95% of the time. But the move to start Brad Knighton seems to have changed the way the Union operates in the back of the field.
UZ 10:24 pm
I'm less concerned with Philly because despite the 3-1-1 run they've still only had 2 clean sheets all season, and the Rapids last 4 games at home they've out scored their opposition 10-0. This despite missing their best defender Marvell Wynne for a game of it.
UZ 10:25 pm
And part of the reason is they're taking the teams like Philly, low teams in the table and basically taking them behind the woodshed at the Dick. The only concern I have with the Union is that they're a far better offensive team than Chivas, Houston etc. Even if that offense is consistent entirely of Le Toux and Mwanga
Scott K. 10:29 pm
The main concern for the Union is always going to be defense. There's the obvious statistics, the Union have a goal differential of -9. 39 goals against is the 4th highest in the league. But the Union are above average in goals scored with 30. The curse of the Union will always be the back four plus the GK. However, this 5 game streak has produced both clean sheets and 3 wins. Prior to this streak the Union only had 17 points. I think this is a completely different Union team than 20 games into the season.
UZ 10:31 pm
Philadelphia is actually hitting a vein of luck in that regard. They may be facing Colorado with both of the "feared strike force" members missing from the Rapids front line. Omar Cummings was injured in the recent Revolution game and will most likely be a game time decision, and Conor Casey got a yellow card to activate the 1 game suspension against Real Salt Lake. So if the Union were going to win a road game, doing it with Mac Kandji and Andre Akpan going against the back 4 is probably a Union fans dream.
Scott K. 10:33 pm
It's problem the Union's defensive dream.
UZ 10:34 pm
Not that it's going to be the rookie Akpan starting, he's just my favorite of the depleted striker corps they have.
To be fair though, you talk about Philly being a completely different team from a few games ago, but the Rapids have been completely rejuvenated as well since the trades at the Roster Freeze. I doubt the old side without Brian Mullan or Mac Kandji and with Mehdi Ballouchy marches into Salt Lake and pulls out a 1-1 draw that by all means they really should have won. Even I was impressed, considering I predicted a 2-1 loss before hand.
Scott K. 10:38 pm
I counter with the return of Shea Salinas and the rebirth of Fred. Plus the introduction of Sheanon Williams as left back. No matter what we argue about the streaks of the Union and Rapids, it has to be recognized that Sebastian Le Toux is one of the best players in the MLS. The game will be dictated by him no matter what and that's what the Union truly have going for them in such a hostile situation.
UZ 10:41 pm
Oh, I agree. As my friend Ben said on the podcast I was on, I don't know why Seattle let him go.
Scott K. 10:42 pm
I don't think anyone does. The situation in Seattle is a very odd one when it comes to Le Toux. From all indications he was the best player on the USL 1 Sounders and was an absolute fan favorite as an MLS Sounder as well. On top of that, when he was given chances to play last season he scored (though the majority of his play came in cups/non-MLS season games). The Union made an excellent decision and chose Le Toux as one of their 10 expansion players.
UZ 10:43 pm
Well the Union lucked out; I don't believe that the Rapids have had a game changer like Le Toux since the salad days before 2002 when the Marcelo Balboa types were still wearing blue and black stripes at INVESCO. He's a guy you can build a team around for sure, a couple defensive additions and I'd say he can lead Philly to the top of the Eastern table in only a year or two.
Scott K. 10:46 pm
Defensive fixes are easy ones for the Union. One real problem lies with how to form a midfield and at the same time allow Le Toux to do what he does. He's all over the place and that means that he's not a true second striker but at the same time he doesn't sit far enough back to act as an attacking midfielder. In many ways he's what Ashley Young of Aston Villa is turning into - a center forward like player who sits behind the main striker.
UZ 10:47 pm
So he's basically Mehdi Ballouchy except his passes and shots actually go where he wants them to.
Scott K. 10:47 pm
There's that but there's also what he brings off the ball. His runs cause as many problems as his on ball dribbling or shooting.
UZ 10:48 pm
Philly strikes me as a young team trying to figure out their identity. They've got the one true game changer, a decent attacking supporting cast (Danny Mwanga, Fred) and past that a bit of a mystery. I'm actually excited to see what Philly can do if they can solve the mystery and turn into the side that they have the talent for.
Scott K. 10:50 pm
Danny Mwanga has the physical and soccer talent to be as aggressive/physical as Jozy Altidore but has much better shooting/on ball skills. He has to stop turning his back to the goal every time he's around the 18, though. That's his real problem right now.
UZ 10:50 pm
Actually that sounds exactly like Jozy Altidore.
Scott K. 10:51 pm
Jozy still needs to work a lot on his scoring touch. Mwanga is there but is still very, very young.
UZ 10:52 pm
If he turns into the good version of Jozy, maybe Bob Bradley can sneak him onto the pitch and pretend he is Jozy, hope nobody notices.
Scott K. 10:52 pm
Mwanga actually just recently stated that he'd love to play for the US National team.
UZ 10:53 pm
Oh, I would enjoy that.
Scott K. 10:53 pm
The Union also have two other USMNT hopefuls in McInerney (just turned 18) and Okugo (20?).
To read the second half where we throw down our game predictions and talk at length about the US Men's National Team for no particular reason, go check out Brotherly Game!