CHESTER, PA- JUNE 25: Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy #1 of Chivas USA drops down to play the ball against Carlos Ruiz #20 of the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on June 25, 2011 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Union won 3-2. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
We're back with the latest entry in the three questions series! Today, we welcome Scott Kessler of the Philadelphia Union SB Nation blog Brotherly Game to answer some questions about the Union. You'll find his questions to me and my answers about Chivas USA here, if you are interested.
On with the questions:
The Goat Parade asks Brotherly Game:
1. Philadelphia have had a season full of ups and downs so far. The Union look set to make the playoffs, although they haven't wrapped up a spot yet. What are the team's goals for the Union for the remainder of the season? How do the current objectives reflect the goals at the beginning of the season?
At the beginning of the season, I pegged the Union as a 40 point team, doing enough to barely miss the playoffs. At the time I believed that the fan base and the team would be more than happy with that result. The times sure have changed since then. With the Union on the cusp of the franchise's first ever playoff birth, fans are expecting something in the realm of a second place finish in the Eastern Conference. Their expectations have been emboldened by the Union's early season form, plus the fact that the team was able to beat the Columbus Crew and DC United in the last five games.A young, somewhat speedy and creative line up has brought the Union to where they are now, so the objectives will most likely be continuing success with this line up, finishing high in the Eastern Conference and at least competing in the Wild Card round.
2. The Union's match with Chivas comes in the middle of a brutal run of three games in ten days. Any ideas of whether the squad will rotate against Chivas, and what changes we could expect to see?
The squad that Nowak has chosen to go with for most of the Union's recent five game unbeaten streak is rather young, so swapping out players probably won't happen much at all, despite the close proximity of the games. Players like Roger Torres, Michael Farfan, Zach Pfeffer and Amobi Okugo haven't played much this season, which means that their youthful legs are more than prepared for the rigors of this part of the season.
Nowak may, however, choose to go with Michael Farfan, Ryan Richter or another player at right back instead of Sheanon Williams, due to injuries that the potential American international has picked up over the past few weeks.
3. With the end of the season approaching, who would you consider the MVP of the Union this year? It seems many players have been streaky this season for Philadelphia.
Carlos Valdes and Danny Califf were the front runners early in the season, but since the defense has unraveled a bit of late, neither are really being thought of as MVP anymore. Sheanon Williams has put plenty of great appearances together in 2011, yet the defense breaking down has hurt his candidacy. Brian Carroll at has a claim because of his outstanding play as a center defensive midfielder, what limits him is that a CDM typically doesn't get much love from fans or writers.
In the end, the easiest choice is Sebastien Le Toux for a second year in a row. The reasoning is simple: he who scores, or contributes mightily to goals, ends up being one of the most important players on the team. Last year Le Toux accounted for over 70 percent of the Union's goals, through either his own scores or assists. This season Le Toux's impact on the team was lessened by the presence of Carlos Ruiz and a changed role. He played a lot out of the midfield, which lessened his goal scoring opportunities, but increased his ability to provide assists to teammates. Le Toux's 10 goals and eight assists make up 45 percent of the Union's 40 goals scored this season, with nine of those ten goals coming in the last eight games. If the Frenchman keeps up his current hotstreak, he might even get votes for MLS MVP.