Fanposting this because I was unable to get my answers to Steve in time for him to post them on site. Hope you enjoy them.
The Bent Musket: This has been quite a rollercoaster season, especially in the beginning of the year when Peter Nowak appeared driven to coach himself out of ever getting another job in soccer again. What was it like to watch key players like Le Toux and Califf walk with no clear idea as to why?
the Brotherly Game: I think that people in Philadelphia will dislike this answer a little bit, but there were reasons behind both moves, whether or not the fans agreed with them. Sebastien Le Toux and the front office, or rather Peter Nowak, had a failing out of sorts over his contract. The Frenchman has only three months left on his contract in Major League Soccer and after two consecutive years of statistically stellar player - I may that distinction because last year he wasn't exactly prolific until the second half of the season - Le Toux felt that it was within his rights to ask for a significant pay raise.
The number thrown around after the situation came to a breaking point was $400,000-a-year, which would have made Le Toux a Designated Player by roster rule standards. In actuality, the $70,000 in allocation gained by not using roster slots 29 and 30 would have bumped him below the threshold, as the team is thought to have down with Faryd Mondragon's $396,000-plus contract. All of this culminated in the Union trying to offload Le Toux to England, but it blew up in their faces and possibly their wallets when they sent him to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Given that the working relationship between Le Toux and Nowak was forever broken, it made sense for the Union to move him, but not to fans or media (this one is a little bit of an assumption).
As for Califf, sources have told me that he was planning to being an assistant coach if/after Nowak left the Union or was fired and people who follow the team closely say that he's always been very close with John Hackworth, the current interim head coach, since joining the team in 2010. The move allowed for Amobi Okugo to step up and claim a starting role either in the midfield or in defense. However, the trade left Philadelphia rather thin at central defense, with the only real depth at the two positions left being Porfirio Lopez, who has been a big disappointment, and Chris Albright, who has been an All-Star off the field - he's built up a sizeable amount of fan goodwill - but clearly has seen better days on the playing field. The Union acquired Michael Lahoud and allocation money for Califf and while Lahoud has had mixed results when put into play, the allocation money either went toward the addition of Bakary Soumare or has stagnated upon a decent pile of allocation money that Philadelphia has tried to accumulate over the last few years.
TBM: John Hackworth seems to be righting the ship that Nowak left crippled and adrift. What's different about his coaching style and philosophy, and why is it working?
tBG: His coaching style is vastly different from Nowak's in that he's a player's coach, not a disciplinarian or over the top trainer. I liken it to when the Philadelphia Phillies moved from Larry Bowa, whose tool of choice for motivation was yelling, to Charlie Manuel, who is known as a player's coach. People love to play for both Hackworth and Manuel. They seem to somehow free players from the problems that hardline coaches put those same players into prior to a coaching change.
Philosophy wise, Hackworth has gone with the hot hand almost every time when choosing lineups. Nowak seemed to just whimsically throw things together on game days, whether or not the lineup was kept consistent or not. His hybrid 4-3-3, coupled with the philosophy change for player selections, have helped the Union move forward and develop a cohesive (and young) attack.
TBM: Freddy Adu appears to be playing some of the best soccer we've seen from him in years. Is this a result of Hackworth's philosophy, or do you think maybe the one-time American phenom is just maturing and figuring it out?
tBG: If by best soccer you mean frustratingly inconsistent soccer, then yes. He's still not fully there yet with his conversion to a winger. Sometimes Adu looks like he's best suited to return to his no. 10 role, then other times he looks very fashionable on the outside, cutting in toward the net.
All in all, Adu has had his moments, but he hasn't been consistent. I think that's really been his major problem, more than anything else. If he ever was to find consistency on any level, he'd be looked upon much differently.
Perhaps Hackworth is helping, but Adu isn't helping himself right now. He violted team rules and missed the Union's big game against the New York Red Bulls last week. Something has to give with Adu, either on or off the field.
TBM: I normally ask for an under-the-radar player, but let me ask for this instead: give us the lowdown on the Farfan brothers. They're having really good seasons right now; what do they mean to this team going forward?
tBG: I think Michael Farfan's season has had more of an impact, but Gabriel Farfan has held his own as well. Marfan (and Garfan, as they're respectively known by Union fans) has quickly embraced a freer role since the somewhat disastrous attempt by Nowak early this season to make him into a central attacking midfielder. Marfan is exciting to watch, brilliant when on his game and routinely one of the only Union players that makes any impact upon the opposing team's defense. He does more than chip the other team's goalkeeper these days.
As for Garfan, he's not a true left back. He's a Nowakian styled wingback. Someone who can easily get up on the attack and quickly back into defense and a player who puts offense in front of defense. He's had days where it's clear that he's never been entirely comfortable with playing out of the back, but Garfan has down a very good job of helping the Union have a free flowing offense and also securing the defensive backline despite a few of his marking shortcomings.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
2-1 Union. I think history repeats itself and the Union continue their excellent form against the Revolution.