Chivas USA conclude their three-game road trip Friday with a stop against the Philadelphia Union, their first game at PPL Park since 2011. It will be the teams' only meeting this season, and while the Union are currently sitting in the playoff places in the Eastern Conference, it appears there is still considerable anxiety about the true abilities of this Union squad.
In order to get a sense of what's working and what's worrying fans of the Union before the match, I spoke with Scott Kessler of SB Nation Philadelphia Union blog Brotherly Game. Thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Brotherly Game:
1. Philadelphia has largely stuck to their plan of having a young and talented roster, and now their persistence appears to be bearing fruit. How has the season gone so far for the Union, and at this point in the season, what is the goal for this team?
The goal for this team is to make the playoffs. The season has gone well for them so far, providing them with an amazingly easy opening half of the year to give them the chance to get into the playoffs. The lack of strength in the Union's schedule up until this point has really masked their overall ineptitude. The midfield has been awful all year, Raymon Gaddis as a left back has been somewhat of a disaster, Jack McInerney is pretty much the entire offense and Zac MacMath has displayed an inability to find his consistency.
Head coach John Hackworth has shown an over reliance on the stereotypical American player: hard working, strong, hustle, etc. It's going to come back to haunt the Union. Philadelphia has already slipped from third place in the East to fifth place, despite three straight games of having a man advantage prior to the 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo.
2. Defensively, Philly often play well, but they seem to let in quite a few goals. What's working on the backline, and in what ways can Chivas take advantage of their vulnerabilities?
Gaddis at left back is a big problem, since he's a second year player who is really a right back and only has his right foot. His best attribute is his speed, which allows him to recover very well, but he sometimes thinks too highly of his own physical gifts and he takes risks that cause problems. It's not Gaddis' fault; he was thrust into a new situation and he really isn't suited to it. The Union traded the team's former starting left back, Gabriel Farfan, to Chivas USA this season and even he was a liability in the back. Philadelphia has had only two true left backs on roster in four seasons (Jordan Harvey, Porfirio Lopez), and it just added a third in Fabio Alves, aka Fabinho, who has rather mixed reviews from fans of Australia's A-League.
As for what's working... I guess one could say that the center back pairing of Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke has done well enough, but even they have had their own lapses, which has caused confidence issues in MacMath. Even Sheanon Williams, who has been the team's starting right back since the end of the 2010 season, has taken a step back this year.
At some point the Union are either going to stop letting in so many goals, or they're going to really be in trouble defensively. The backline is straddling a fine line at the moment.
3. I think most people who are familiar with MLS know of Jack McInerney's scoring tear so far this season, but he won't be in this game as he's with the USMNT. Is there another player who has really flown under the radar but is impressing you this season?
I don't think there's really anyone who fits this question. MacMath is iffy, the backline is iffy, the midfield is almost non-existent and other than McInerney, everyone already knows of Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux.
Can Roger Torres count? He finally got in another game last week.
4. Prediction for the game?
1-1, because somehow the Union will give up a goal late for the tie.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!