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Know Thy Enemy: Season Opener In Philly Edition

2018 begins as it usually does, with the Revs on the road, this time at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Today is a good day.

Soccer is back everybody! While the northeast is braving the winds and storms of another winter storm, the MLS regular season begins with another thrilling battle of the I95 Cup, which is still totally a real thing.

We chat with Brotherly Game’s Matt Ralph about far more important things than soccer and winning championships, but if the Philadelphia Eagles can win a Super Bowl, the Revs and Union can win an MLS Cup.

TBM: (Puts on Eagles gear) That Super Bowl win was pretty great yeah? (ducks tomatoes from Revs/Pats fans)

BG: I’m a bad person to talk to about the Super Bowl but I did watch the fourth quarter and thought it was a pretty exciting ending. My daughter was born four hours later - unexpectedly in my kitchen before medical personnel could even arrive - so I appreciated all of the fireworks and celebration on one of the absolute best days of my life. So yeah, I’m a one-for-five Philadelphia sports fan but even I can appreciate the magnitude of Philadelphia’s favorite sports team (it isn’t even close) winning a championship for the first time since 1960. How a team that dominated the league all season was considered an underdog still baffles me though.

TBM: Neither of us made the playoffs last year, and while there is always hope at the beginning of a new season, I don’t see the Revs or Union getting a lot of love in preseason rankings. What’s your take on Philly’s chances for the playoffs this year.

BG: Two high-profile additions, Andre Blake back and year two of the Haris Mendunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya midfield partnership actually give me hope for a playoff berth but making the playoffs as a fifth or sixth seed and going one and out still won’t be a great look. I want to go to a playoff game at Talen Energy Stadium before settling in for another long close season.

TBM: Known Revs killer David Accam loves playing New England at home, but that was when he was with Chicago, what is Accam going to do in Philly?

BG: I was at the airport when David Accam arrived in Philadelphia so clearly I’ve bought into the hype. I think he’ll be a big boost to the team offensively with his pace, ability to break down defenders and proven track record of scoring goals in this league. He’ll also take some pressure off of CJ and with Fafa Picault on the right flank be a complete nightmare for back lines. My fear is that he’ll be called on to do too much and that his production will suffer as a result but right now I feel pretty good about not having to watch Keegan Rosenberry or Ray Gaddis have to mark him this season.

Speaking of defense, a young back line with 19-year-old homegrown Auston Trusty, 2017 Rookie of the Year finalist Jack Elliott, veteran Brazilian Fabinho on the left and either Rosenberry or Gaddis on the right is the biggest question mark entering the season because this team is going to score goals.

TBM: Aside from Accam, go through the other additions to the Union and what the lineup will look like this year. Is it that much different from 2017?

BG: Czech Republic midfielder Borek Dockal was officially added to the roster this week on loan from the Chinese Super League. I don’t know much about him beyond that he will play the central attacking midfield position, but people who are familiar with his p lay with the national team and the domestic league have had nice things to say. A No. 10 not named Ilsinho is certainly cool with me. Now, I’d probably be more excited if Lee Nguyen were wearing blue and gold Saturday because of his proven track record in the league, but as it is 18-year-old Anthony Fontana is expected to make his MLS debut. Fontana flew somewhat under the radar during his youth career, where he played mostly as a No. 8, but there’s reason to be excited about him for either the post-Dockal (his loan is for one year without an option to buy) or post-Bedoya future.

The other new players in the team include Jamaica international Cory Burke, who was signed from Bethlehem Steel FC, and will fight with the much higher paid Jay Simpson for reserve minutes behind Sapong and two homegrown defenders in left back Matt Real and center back Mark McKenzie. Fontana was also technically added to the roster even though his signing was announced at the end of last season. You could easily argue that the team hasn’t changed enough to improve on last year’s dismal returns but I’m not really sure what fans of a team with an owner unwilling/unable to spend at Atlanta, Seattle or Toronto levels were expecting.