I do love the USOC, though sadly I'm about to drive five hours to Lake Champlain, Vermont with minimal internet/TV access and might have to follow tonight's game on Twitter.
However, Eugene Rupinski of Brotherly Game was kind enough to answer a few questions before I leave and while he was very diplomatic about the last question I have no such reservations.
I think the winner of this game is going to the final, which means I very much want to see the New England Revolution win tonight's match at home. But the Philadelphia Union are a solid team this year and still stinging from their defeat in last year's final, so a win and a berth in the semifinals against either the Chicago Fire or the NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers is not a sure thing.
Make sure to check out my answers to Eugene's questions over on their site.
TBM: Okay, so first the Union let Sacha Kljestan score twice and then Philly came back for a 2-2 draw last week. What went wrong early and how did the Union correct it and get a result?
The Union weren't ready for the Red Bulls' high press, and they paid dearly for it. The center backs are not used to having to immediately get rid of the ball, and Ken Tribbett took too much time getting rid of the ball on Klejstan's first goal. Mike Grella applied the pressure as Tribbett tried to dribble forward, Bradley Wright-Phillips came over and picked his pocket, and hit a wide-open Klejstan for the first goal. That play was emblematic of the problems the Union faced in the first half.
In the second half, the Union seemed better equipped to handle the high press.The center backs played with a sense of urgency, and the sub of rookie Fabian Herbers for Roland Alberg really sparked the offense. Herbers was instrumental in both Union goals, and fought like crazy for every ball that came his way. The Union were able to really take it to Red Bull - even after Ilsinho was sent off and the Union were down a man. If it wasn't for a superb performance by Red Bulls' goalkeeper Luis Robles, the Union would have had three points.
TBM: It seems like the Union have been mostly using their starters for the Open Cup, which if I were Jim Curtin and the 2015 USOC runner-up, I'd probably be doing as well. Has the team talked openly about how serious they're taking this year's tournament?
Jim Curtin has said it's a little different situation this time around, saying "There's the MLS Cup and there's the U.S. Open Cup, and we're going to try to win both of them." The past two runs in the Open Cup, the Union were not very good in MLS play and really all they had to look forward to was the Open Cup tournament. This year the drive to win it is still there, but they are riding a wave of success in MLS play and the confidence that brings. Hopefully that is the difference between this year and the past two tournaments.
TBM: So the winner of this game plays the winner of Chicago-Fort Lauderdale...which means even if the semifinal is a road game, one of our teams is going to the Final, right?
Not necessarily. Chicago is terrible in MLS play, but look at the Union the past two years and D.C. United in 2013. You can't expect to just show up and beat teams in this tournament. Even if Fort Lauderdale progresses on, they can be as dangerous as an MLS side because they have nothing to lose. 'Any Given Wednesday', right? I'm very hopeful the Union will do well, but just like the upcoming match I don't count anything as a certainty.
PROJECTED LINEUP: Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry; Warren Creavalle, Tranquillo Barnetta; Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho; CJ Sapong