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Three Questions about the Philadelphia Union with The Brotherly Game.

It hasn't been long since our we last saw them, but let's check in with our friends in Philly with our usual Three (Plus a Bonus) Questions

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls travel to Philadelphia Sunday night to take on a familiar foe. The Red Bulls last played the Union in the Open Cup where they defeated the Red Bulls 2-1. This trip will be different than most. The Red Bulls are are looking up at the Union. The Union are 2 points ahead of the Red Bulls and have a game in hand.

Once a Metro: I'm sure you get this a lot but the Union have really turned a corner this year. What signing has been the biggest in the turn around. Pontius? Sapong? Alberg? And who should the Red Bulls really focus on stopping.

Brotherly Game: The biggest signing as far as the Union's turnaround goes wasn't a player, it was Earnie Stewart. Stewart has brought a clear vision and a good eye for players, and this has been the single biggest factor in the Union not being in the MLS cellar this year. As far as players go though, Sapong has been the biggest reason the Union are doing so well. One needs only look as far as the stretch this year when he was injured - the Union lost three and won only once. If you're looking to stop the Union, you need to stop CJ and do it one on one. This isn't the Union team any of us are used to - this team has plenty of offensive threats, so shutting down one just opens up the path for others.

OaM: Quick follow up - do you think that Jim Curtin and Earnie will work out or is Jim a stopgap?

BG: I think the conventional wisdom early on was that Jim was a stopgap, but he's proved himself as someone who can be a great manager in MLS. Earnie isn't the one making the starting XI or subs - that's on Jim. Don't forget Jim was a very good defender for a long time in this league - he's picked up a few things along the way that a guy that never played ball in MLS wouldn't understand, so I feel like that resonates with the players.    

OaM: Andre Blake has looked very good this year, looking like he can finally close the revolving door that has been the Philadelphia Union goal keeping situation. What about him has set him apart from past talents like Macmath and co. And what weaknesses can the Red Bulls hope to take advantage of?

BG: I think Blake has been the clear cut number one goalkeeper, and that's made all of the difference. When MacMath was here, it was always a distraction wondering who was going to be the number one and if the Union were going to bring someone in again. And with as well as he's been playing, there's been no need to even consider bringing in anyone else. Jim Curtin said in the press conference last night that "Andre is going to be our starting goalkeeper, that's safe. That's safe to say. There is no question about that."
As far as weaknesses, good luck. He sees the ball very well and his range is unparalleled. He's smart and athletic and there are a lot of people who believe his play will get him noticed by big clubs overseas. Your best bet is to hope to exploit a defensive breakdown.

OaMRoland Alberg has kind of come out of no where and been a beast. What's the scouting report on him and what has be brought to the table that has made him so successful so far? How can the Red Bulls hope to slow him down?

BG: I think Roland Alberg was picked up during the offseason from ADO Den Haag, and for the first part of the season he was viewed as a bit of a bust. He was stuck on the bench, and managed to have a bit of a poor showing during his first few matches when he was subbed on. That all changed when Vincent Nogueira unexpectedly went back to his native France. Alberg took Nogueira's place in the lineup, and made an immediate impact. In his last five MLS matches, he's scored six goals, including a hat trick against the Chicago Fire.
Alberg has great vision and a nose for goal, absolutely punishing any defensive mistakes either with a great pass or a shot on goal. Alberg's downfall can be his ability to pick up a foul or a card at an inopportune time. If an irritant like Dax McCarty or Aurelien Collin can get under his skin and get him off of his game, it could be a long day for the Union - and maybe a short one for Alberg.    

OaM: Detail injuries/suspensions, predicted XI & scoreline. 

BG: Injuries: Maurice Edu (Out - stress fracture left tibia)    

No suspensions.

Predicted XI: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry; Brian Carroll, Tranquillo Barnetta; Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho; CJ Sapong

You can read Once a Metro's answers to The Brotherly Game's questions here.