Orlando City finally got back in the win column, after a long and often cruel six-game stretch, with Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact. That's the same score line that the Lions were on the wrong end of back on April 8 at Philadelphia. That loss against the Union (which shouldn't have been a loss) began the six-game winless streak.
But Ka is a wheel and time is a flat circle, so it's only appropriate that as soon as that six-game skid ended, here come the Philadelphia Union into Camping World Stadium for the second of three scheduled meetings (the Lions return to Philly Oct. 16).
Back again to help us scout the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia side (how strange does that sound?) is Eugene Rupinski from SB Nation's Union blog, Brotherly Game. I've answered Eugene's questions as well. If you're interested you can find those here.
We're about a third of the way through the season and the Union are leading the conference. Are Philadelphia fans convinced that this team is for real or are they waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Eugene Rupinski: It all depends on who you ask. For me personally, I think the roster is built to win and -- perhaps more importantly -- the organization is built to win. The entire organization has a direction and a purpose now, and it's really satisfying seeing a club that once floundered aimlessly putting things together. That being said, there are people who are still convinced things are going to fall apart because it's Philadelphia and things always tend to fall apart in Philadelphia sports. For me though, the improvement over last season is apparent -- and that's the measure of success.
Philly and Orlando played a pretty solid back-and-forth game in the first meeting. How have the Union developed since that match and what changes (if any) tactically do you expect for Round 2?
ER: I don't expect any changes tactically. The roster is set up to play a 4-2-3-1, so I think that isn't going to change. What will change is the personnel -- you're not going to get the same look that you did last time out. Vincent Nogueira missed the match against D.C. United with a left oblique strain, so you may see Warren Creavalle in his place. Roland Alberg has also been relegated to more of a bench role now that Tranquillo Barnetta is fully healthy. And center back Ken Tribbett was just loaned out to Bethlehem Steel FC, having been supplanted by SuperDraft pick Joshua Yaro. Factor in that the Union are playing four games in just 13 days, and there's a chance that you see even more lineup changes on Wednesday.
The Union have been great on defense this season. Has it been philosophy, personnel, execution?
ER: I think the personnel have been the biggest reason the Union have been so sound defensively. Andre Blake is -- at least in my mind -- the best goalkeeper in MLS right now. He has been lights out, and when you have a guy like him in front of you it makes the defense's job that much easier. Richie Marquez is another guy that has been superb -- the Union having a lost season last year allowed him and the other guys to really work on their game without fear. Yaro and fellow SuperDraft pick Keegan Rosenberry have been solid contributors, with Rosenberry turning in a Rookie of the Year caliber performance thus far into the season. Having these guys with veterans like Fabinho, Brian Carroll, and Warren Creavalle on the pitch has really turned the Union's defense from one of the worst to one of the best in MLS.
Will be missing due to injury/suspension? What's your expected starting XI and final score prediction?
ER: Injuries: Maurice Edu (Out - left tibia stress reaction), Vincent Nogueira (Questionable - left oblique strain), Ilsinho (Questionable - right adductor strain), Anderson Conceicao (Questionable - right shoulder dislocation)
Predicted lineup: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry; Warren Creavalle, Brian Carroll; Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux; CJ Sapong
Predicted scoreline: It's going to be a toss-up between two tired teams who are looking down the barrel of playing again this weekend. I'll go with a 1-0 win for the Union, but wouldn't be surprised with either a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.
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My thanks once again to Eugene from Brotherly Game for giving us some insight on the Philadelphia Union. Now let's see if the Lions can string together multiple wins.