Chivas USA are right back on the proverbial horse on Saturday night, as they host the Philadelphia Union for the only time in 2014. The Goats have never beaten the Union, and both teams are struggling so far this season, so it's one of those games where it seems like just about anything could happen. Here to get us caught up with the goings on in Pennsylvania is Eugene Rupinski of SB Nation Philadelphia Union blog Brotherly Game. Thanks to Eugene for answering my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Brotherly Game:
1. Philadelphia have added some interesting new players this season. Who are some of the key additions, and how are they fitting into the Union and/or MLS so far?
While much of the focus on the Union's offseason player acquisitions has been focused on Maurice Edu (and deservedly so), the best acquisition in my opinion is ex-Sochaux captain Vincent Nogueira. He has been a consistent, steady force in the midfield who has shown he can pull the strings. Edu has been good as well, providing that calm professionalism that the team has sorely needed. Cristian Maidana is the other midfield addition - a free kick specialist who has been hot and cold for the club. The Argentine has had some adjustments to make in MLS - perhaps most famously John Hackworth questioning his eating and sleeping habits - but overall he's been a definite upgrade over what was there in 2013.
On defense, the Union added Austin Berry and Ethan White. Berry was Rookie of the Year and has struggled somewhat to fit in on the Union's back line - at one point being replaced by forward-turned-center back Aaron Wheeler. As for White, no one knows. He was acquired in the deal that sent Jeff Parke to DC United but has yet to see the pitch. As for why is anyone's guess - Hackworth has admitted the back line has been terrible but still we haven't seen White get a minute of play. Hackworth places how a player looks in training above all else, so perhaps White doesn't show well there. Who knows though.
2. Despite the new players, the Union are having a tough start to the season. What do you think is the reason(s) for the struggles, and at this point, what are your expectations for this season?
I think the struggles this season are due to a multitude of reasons. The biggest issue for me is that John Hackworth keeps playing a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 yet doesn't have the personnel needed to play that. Without a true target striker up top you will go nowhere. Jack McInerney wasn't that physical guy who could win a ball and bang it home. Conor Casey was that guy last year, but injuries and age are catching up to him. Andrew Wenger may become that guy, but he's not physical enough right now and he can't finish on a regular basis. Beyond that, we have Antoine Hoppenot and Sebastien Le Toux, both of whom use speed as their primary weapon because they aren't physical players.
Also our defense has been a revolving door with little stability and a propensity for gaffes and blunders. The biggest issue there in my eyes is the lack of veteran leadership. This is the first year the club has been without a solid leader on the back line. They had guys like Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, and Jeff Parke - rugged veteran leaders. Nothing against the guys that are back there now, but none of them fit that mold, and it has cost the team dearly. Now Valdes is on loan to San Lorenzo in Argentina, and that loan is set to expire in June or July of this year. Whether or not he returns is a different story - my gut tells me however that he will look to remain outside of MLS and won't return to Philadelphia.
Now that lack of a target striker, the porous defense, and being married to a formation you don't have the personnel for all falls squarely on John Hackworth. He is the one who assembled the team. He's the one who fills out the lineup card. He's the one who sets the formation and makes the decisions that lead the club to victory or defeat, and that's why you see a lot of hostility from the fans right now.
3. How should Chivas approach Philadelphia's defense? Any key ways to attack?
Chivas should run right at the teeth of the Union defense. There's little in the way of cohesion or confidence in the back, and they have been prone to mental mistakes such as poor turnovers and missed marking assignments. I would focus on set pieces, where the Union have been poorest. I'd suggest lots of movement and criss-crossing routes to lose your marker.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
While Chivas USA might not be the strongest team in the league, they are at least a team headed in the right direction. The Union have been a complete mess and seem to be on autopilot going into a World Cup break that may or may not see changes at the top of the organization. I'll go 3-1 Chivas.
You can find my answers to Eugene's questions here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!