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Three Questions With: Eugene Rupinski, The Brotherly Game

This week we speak to Eugene Rupinski from the Brotherly Game, the SB Nation site for the Philadelphia Union to learn more about our opponents for this weekend's match.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

86F: The Union have only three wins in 2014 and went through a nine-game winless streak after they beat the New England Revolution in just their second match of the season. Why have the wins been hard to come by for Philadelphia, and are there any signs that they are turning this around?

TBG: Quite simply, the Union have been unable to put the ball into the back of the net, and they haven't been able to stop others from putting the ball into their net. On the offensive side of the ball, Jack McInerney wasn't able to score with regularity before he was sent to Montreal, Andrew Wenger hasn't been able to score with regularity since coming over from Montreal, and Conor Casey hasn't been 100% this season. Now Casey had a great game last week against Chivas USA, so there is hope that he can turn it around this season. Wenger is young, so perhaps he'll be able to turn it around as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, the lack of veteran leadership and stability at center back has been a problem. Carlos Valdes is still on loan in Argentina with San Lorenzo, so we're left with a revolving door of mostly players who have been converted from other positions. Amobi Okugo is a former defensive midfielder and has done well at center back, although many people would like to see him back at his natural position. Aaron Wheeler is a converted forward who has been serviceable, although he has made some costly mistakes at times. Sheanon Williams is a converted forward who is mostly used as a right back, however he's been called to play center back as well. Austin Berry is a natural center back who has been hit or miss when he's been healthy. And Ethan White is a natural center back that can't seem to find a way to get minutes for some reason. All of that leads to a jumbled patchwork that could use the leadership that the Union have always had on the back line - from Danny Califf to Carlos Valdes to Jeff Parke - but don't seem to have this season.

86F: Despite their record so far, the Union are still in the hunt for a playoff berth. There is plenty of soccer to play this season, but are the playoffs a realistic goal for Philadelphia?

TBG: I was talking to a friend of mine about that the other night. He seems to believe that the club can and will make the playoffs. There's plenty of time left in the season, and perhaps the club gets a new forward, or shores up the defense, or brings in a new manger, and everything will start to click after the World cup break. I'm not as optimistic. I think the club has dug itself a huge hole and won't have the advantage of games in hand should they be able to turn it around. There are just too many variables for me to feel confident saying that I think they'll make the playoffs. I hope my friend can predict the future of the club better than I can!

86F: Are there any positions that the Union needs to strengthen, and if so are there any plans to bring in new player(s)?

TBG: There are all sorts of rumors that the Union are in the market for a striker - possibly a DP striker who can help save the season. I don't think that happens. I think the club doesn't have much in the way of wiggle room under the salary cap and won't be able to convince anyone worth having to come and try to help bail out a club that's been floundering since March. But who knows? MLS isn't very transparent when it comes to tracking salaries and money and rules and all, so maybe we somehow land that piece of the puzzle.

Predicted Lineup: MacMath; Fabinho, Berry, Williams, Gaddis; Edu, Okugo, Maidana, Noguiera, Cruz; Casey

Predicted Score: I think Vancouver is one of the most dangerous teams in the league, and while I think the Union will play better than they have over the past few weeks, Vancouver should be too much for them. 3-1 Whitecaps


TBG: The Whitecaps are currently 4th in the Western Conference and are an impressive 5-5-2. What can we expect to see from your team?

86F: We've seen the Whitecaps grow and improve under the guidance of new head coach Carl Robinson.  Vancouver has had an atrocious road record since joining MLS, and it still is an area of concern for many fans.  In past years we would see the Whitecaps play very different when they were away from home, but this season we're starting to see this turn around.  Since the end of last season, we've seen the Whitecaps win some big games on the road versus our Cascadia rivals, Seattle and Portland, and battle back to steal a point at Real Salt Lake. Being able to win big games or steal points when perhaps they didn't deserve them have given them confidence and Vancouver are now a real threat wherever they play, and cannot be taken lightly.

TBG: Reports are coming in about Camilo possibly returning from Queretaro. How do you think this will play out, and how well will this sit with the fans in Vancouver?

86F: The Camilo rumor mill has been in overdrive ever since the Mexican authorities stepped in to take over at Querétaro FC a few months ago. Here at Eighty Six Forever we've debated this situation in depth, and it seems that opinion is divided on the subject.  There is an extremely vocal segment of the fan base that does not want him back here in Lotusland, but there are also many fans that would welcome him back and would put everything in the past.  I've finally come to the place that I'd be happy to see him back in Vancouver, but if it doesn't play out that way then I'm fine with that as well. Initially Camilo could get a rough welcome from some of the fans, but I think most people would be supportive.

Camilo has said in the past how much he respects Carl Robinson and the good relationship that the two of them had when he played here in Vancouver. Robinson personally went to Mexico during the off-season to try and solve the situation, but to no avail. I think the club and the coaching staff would be professional enough to overlook the past as long as Camilo is 100% committed to staying with the Whitecaps and honoring the terms of his contract.

TBG: Who is a player on the Whitecaps that the Union fans should pay attention to that maybe flies under the radar a bit?

86F: The Union will definitely have to watch out for Matías Laba, who partners with Gershon Koffie in midfield. Laba, who the Whitecaps picked up from Toronto FC in the off-season, goes about his job as a defensive midfielder quietly, but he is a very, very good player. Laba and Koffie have been a revelation in recent weeks, and the Whitecaps' backline must be grateful to be playing behind these two.

Bonus question: We loved Jordan Harvey when he was here in Philadelphia. Do you guys Harvey All The Time?

86F: Yes!  We do love to Harvey all the Time! Jordan had a bit of a tough time last year after the Whitecaps traded his predecessor, Alain Rochat to DC United. Rochat was a very popular player with the fans, and the trade went down like a lead balloon. As a result, Jordan was under a microscope for the rest of the season and often came under criticism for (mostly) his defensive positioning. At times this criticism was warranted, but he did score several important goals in 2013 as well.

Jordan has improved his game this season and is winning over his skeptics. He is a consistent and valuable member to the Whitecaps' defense.  He has been very reliable and is still scoring goals (2 so far)!  Harvey's goal in the thrilling 4-3 victory over the Timbers down in Portland proved to be the difference in defeating our Cascadia foes.  Jordan Harvey Goal Machine has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Predicted Lineup: Ousted (GK) - Harvey - O'Brien - Leverón - Reo-Coker - Laba - Koffie - Teibert - Morales - Fernández - Hurtado

Predicted Score: Philadelphia Union 1 - 2 Whitecaps FC


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