Just a couple weeks ago, the Philadelphia Union was sitting at the bottom of the league with the Colorado Rapids. In their last three games, the Union have outscored their opponents 9-0. I talked with Eugene of Brotherly Game, SB Nation’s Philadelphia Union blog, to find out what they did to turn things around and what the Rapids should be ready for.
Burgundy Wave: Philadelphia started the season 0-4-4, then has won their last three games and outscored their opponents 9-0... what changed? Follow-up: How can the Rapids do the same thing? Kidding. Kind of.
Brotherly Game: I think the biggest change is that the Union's schedule has gotten easier. The majority of their matches to start the season were against teams that are (at least as of right now) in playoff contention, with draws against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC and losses to Orlando City, D.C. United (the lone anomaly), Portland Timbers, and New York City FC in the first six weeks. Since then, they've drawn the Montreal Impact and LA Galaxy while defeating D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, and the Houston Dynamo - the latter two having one win in ten games combined.
Winning games has certainly relieved the pressure off of the club, and I think it has allowed the club to gel a bit more. Last week's Starting XI had four guys (Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu, Haris Medunjanin, and Fafa Picault) who weren't on the team last year, so that's been a bit of a challenge as well. The pressure to win a game after going winless in 15 is gone and has allowed the team to just play with some freedom.
BW: All I've been hearing about lately from Philly is CJ Sapong (and for good reason - the man is on fire). But what other offensive threats do the Rapids need to be worried about?
BG: CJ is certainly getting some (well-deserved) recognition, but the Union have really turned into a team with multiple threats. In the game against D.C. United, four different players all scored goals (Medunjanin, Picault, Onyewu, and Fabian Herbers). Chris Pontius has yet to open his account in 2017 but led the team with 12 goals in 2016.
I think Medunjanin is getting more comfortable with the league and his teammates and with his free kicks and long-range abilities, he'll bag a few more goals for the Union this year. Picault too has had some issues with first touch and control, but if he can overcome those issues his speed will create a ton of opportunities for him.
BW: This isn't really team related, but I really want to know - what's the story behind the Chief Tattoo Officer? Do Union players really get that many tats?
BG: I think tattoos are a bit ingrained in the culture here in Philadelphia. Danny Califf was the club's first captain and was known for his sleeves. Richie Marquez has work done on his arms. Plenty of fans have them, plenty of fans have plenty of them. I think it's a good idea that will benefit the artist that's eventually chosen and will give the Union something that sets them apart from other clubs.
This story is still something that kinda took all of us by surprise. The story goes that Union VP of Marketing Doug Vosik was talking to new signees, found that tattoos were a common thread, and he thought it'd be a good idea to have a resident tattoo artist for the club. As someone who has tattoos, this makes a lot of sense. These guys are all young, and a good number of them have tattoos. They're going to want more, so they want to know who in this new city they're in is safe, reputable, and does good work. With the Union partnering up with a shop, they're providing their players with an artist that is those things.
Injuries, suspensions, etc.
Josh Yaro - Out (recovery from shoulder surgery), Maurice Edu - Out (broken leg), Brian Carroll - Out (lumbar disc herniation), Roland Alberg - Doubtful (left quad strain), Alejandro Bedoya - Doubtful (right ankle sprain)
No suspensions, no one close on accumulations
Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty are with the U.S. U20s for the U20 World Cup.
Andre Blake; Fabinho, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius; CJ Sapong