It might only be two weeks into the season, but the Philadelphia Union sit one point and one place higher in the standings than the New England Revolution. The Union are coming off a big win against Columbus while the Revs have looked good in two games, but only have two points to show for it.
Eugene Rupinski of Brotherly Game and I exchanged questions this week, don't forget to check out my answers about Jermaine Jones, the rise of the Revs in recent years and the I-95 Cup (which is totally a real thing despite what New York says) on their site.
TBM: Philly started the year with a road loss at FC Dallas then beat the Columbus Crew at home. Besides Chris Pontius' brace, what changed in those two games?
ER: The way the Union went about the games was the biggest difference. They tried to play possession against FC Dallas, who ate them up on the counterattack. Against Columbus, they went with the counterattack, employing a dual central defensive midfield pivot with Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle. This was very successful, largely containing Kei Kamara and disrupting the service in from Federico Higuain and the rest of the Crew midfield. I think this is a sign that Jim Curtin is maturing as a coach and is becoming more comfortable with adjusting his tactics to get the best lineup on the field.
TBM: Maurice Edu is out long term, how are the Union coping without him defensively?
ER: It's raised a great deal of questions about the central defensive midfield for sure. Someone is going to have to bear the weight of the load there - especially with the Union's back line having only one guy with more than one MLS season under his belt. Brian Carroll has been the default answer, but he'll be 35 later this season and there's a sense that the other shoe is going to drop on him at any time. There have been calls for Warren Creavalle to get more minutes at CDM, something that was perhaps emboldened a bit after the good performance he had against Columbus. Creavalle is a bit of a mystery though, so while the fans (myself included) are pretty high on him I think there's that sense of the unknown. Past Creavalle, there's been talk of getting Josh Yaro minutes at the position but the rookie has never played that position before and has zero MLS minutes thus far, so that's a stretch for now.
TBM: Andre Blake, of UConn fame, was stellar late last year against the Revs, why do I have this bad feeling he's quickly going to establish himself as a "Revs killer" in goal?
I really hope you're right! I'll let you in on a little secret that shouldn't be a secret much longer - Andre Blake is probably the best goalkeeper in MLS right now. He has fully recovered from meniscectomies in both knees last year and his performances in 2016 have been nothing short of spectacular. He's amassed 14 saves on 17 shots in just two games and was up for Save of the Week this week. The sky is really the limit for him and his abilities, so you may be in good company that considers him to also be a "Crew killer" and a "Red Bull killer" and so on.
Predicted lineup: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Anderson Conceicao, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry; Brian Carroll, Warren Creavalle; Ilsinho, Chris Pontius, Leo Fernandes; CJ Sapong
Predicted score: New England has never done well at PPL Park (now Talen Energy Stadium) and I don't see them doing particularly well in the snow on Sunday. I predict an ugly, cold 1-0 win for the Union.