The New York Red Bulls' regular-season finale is also Once A Metro's last chance to check in with the Brotherly Game before the playoffs. Eugene Rupinski made time to fill us in on the state of the Philadelphia Union.
Three Questions with the Brotherly Game about Philadelphia Union
What's up with Philly? Brotherly Game offers a few answers.
Once A Metro: Have the wheels come off the Union's season, or did the team just stop to change a tire?
Eugene Rupinski, Brotherly Game: I think the Union can still pull things together, although they've certainly made things difficult on themselves. The club has won two of its last 14, and yet is still a 12-goal differential from being in the postseason for the first time in five years.
They'll have to go on the road for a play-in game against Toronto FC, New York City FC, or D.C. United, and if they're to be anything but a one-and-done, they're going to need to get things figured out quickly. CJ Sapong hasn't scored in over two months, and that just can't happen for that extended period of time. The defense has allowed a whopping 52 goals - far too many even for a high-scoring team like the Union. If a team can't score and can't defend, that's a recipe for disaster.
OAM: How is Alejandro Bedoya working out for the team?
BG: Alejandro has taken over the number 8 spot for the departed Vincent Nogueira, and while the jury is still out, I feel like he's a much better option than either Warren Creavalle or Tranquillo Barnetta was at the 8. That's not a stab against either Creavalle or Barnetta - Creavalle's defensive prowess meant he wasn't the offensive spark plug needed at the 8, and Barnetta's offensive abilities meant he was often exposed defensively at the position. Bedoya is a much better fit in that position, and you've seen some stabilization in the midfield with him there.
I can't help but think of next season though. I don't feel like Bedoya should be thought of as a long-term solution at the 8. Bedoya is good but not only are there better players at that position, he's much better either on the right or in the 10. With Tranquillo Barnetta going back to Switzerland at the end of the year, conventional wisdom says the Union should either move Bedoya out on the right and put Roland Alberg in the 10 or put Bedoya in the 10 and platoon Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers on the right - or bring in someone new altogether.
OAM: Will we see a full strength Union on the pitch for the regular-season home finale, or is Curtin going to hold some players back for the mid-week playoff game?
BG: I think you'll see most of the regular starting XI with some exceptions. CJ Sapong was undergoing concussion protocol earlier in the week, and honestly - even if he passed protocol - it might be the perfect excuse to sit him and allow him to rest and re-focus ahead of the playoff game. Josh Yaro was also undergoing concussion protocol, so you'll probably see Ken Tribbett in his place. Maurice Edu would have been a good addition to the squad, but it was reported that he was injured in training so he will wind up missing the entire 2016 season. Instead look for Brian Carroll to start at central defensive midfielder, since Warren Creavalle is listed as injured with a rib contusion.
Injuries and Suspensions
BG: It looks like both Sapong may cleared concussion protocol as he was not listed on the MLS Injury Report. Yaro however is listed, as is Warren Creavalle with a rib contusion. No suspensions, no one on international duty, and no sulking goalkeepers banished from the locker room.
BG: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, Keegan Rosenberry; Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho; Fabian Herbers