Questions for The Brotherly Game
B&RU: What is going on with the Union's defense? Specifically, why is John Hackworth trying to convert a forward into a center back when he has Austin Berry, Ethan White, and Andrew Wenger, all of whom are natural center backs?
tBG: I wish I had an answer that made sense. When the Union traded Jeff Parke for Ethan White and picked up Austin Berry, it had appeared that John Hackworth was looking to get younger at center back without giving up too much in terms of quality. And that seemed to be working until Berry got hurt and Wheeler was started. Why didn't Hackworth give White a shot, especially after Wheeler's atrocious game against the Chicago Fire? No one knows, and Hack isn't saying much. Why Wheeler continues to start over Berry even though Austin seems to have recovered from his injury is an even greater mystery. Union fans are all asking these questions, and have this far received no answers.
B&RU: How are you all feeling after the Jack Mac trade?
tBG: I think fans are glad to have Andrew Wenger here and were sad to see Jack go. Andrew is a class guy and replacing a fan favorite like Jack is always difficult. That being said, I think while it was a good move for both players, it hasn't paid any dividends in the standings. The Union are still as offensively impotent as they were when Jack was here, and a lot of that seems to be the result of the system employed. Neither Jack nor Andrew have the ability to play the lone striker role that they are (or were) being asked to play.
B&RU: How are all the new midfielders fitting into the team? Do you think the amount of money that the team is playing Maidana, Nogueira, and Edu is worth it so far?
tBG: Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu have been amazing. Cristian Maidana has had flashes of brilliance and hasn't been bad per se, but seems to be underperforming a bit considering his Designated Player status. Whether it's adjusting to the MLS style of play or (as John Hackworth might have you believe) he's eating dinner late, it's taking Chaco a bit of time to adjust. Even with all of that, the midfield is the complete opposite of the disorganized, anemic mess that was last year's midfield.
B&RU: Injuries, lineup, and prediction?
tBG: No injuries
Lineup: MacMath; Williams-Okugo-Wheeler-Gaddis; Carroll-Edu-Maidana-Noguiera-Cruz; Wenger
Prediction: DC-Philadelphia is always an emotional affair, and this will be even more so as it is the first home match since the passing of Sons of Ben original Eric Shertz. As terrible as the Union have been lately, I think they will turn the corner and pull this one out 1-0.
Questions for Black and Red United
tBG: DC United was the worst team in MLS last season. A lot was made of the offseason moves made, and the 11 points in 8 games is justshy of the 16 points earned last season. Is it too early to call the re-tooling a success?
B&RU: I think we will have to see how the team performs down the stretch, testing depth and so forth, but the early returns are promising. The defense was just awful last year, and so this season's retooling focused on that area: the backline of Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Sean Franklin, and Cristian Fernandez is entirely new to the team, and have performed much better than last year's version. There have been some bumpy patches (see last week's Portland Timbers game), but overall the defense is better and I think it will continue to get better throughout the season. Fabian Espindola and Davy Arnaud are two more new additions that have been key so far, and everyone is expecting Eddie Johnson to turn it around at some point. This is a team that I definitely think can be in the playoff hunt come September and October.
tBG: What is the latest on the stadium situation? Will United be playing in Buzzard Point?
B&RU: The latest on the stadium situation is that there is nothing new on the stadium situation. The initial deadlines for the land deal to be presented to the DC Council have long since passed, the deal itself has been politicized in a number of different ways (including by the challenger who beat the incumbent mayor for the Democratic nomination), and a few weeks ago the mayor's office said that they would be meeting with the final landowners on the stadium footprint. This is the closest United has ever been to a stadium, but the deal is by no means assured. I still think that, in the end, it will get done, but D.C. United fans will still live and die with every tidbit of news until the stadium is actually built since we have been burned so many times.
tBG: Talk to us about the rivalry between DC United and the Philadelphia Union from a United supporter's point of view.
B&RU: I like the way that one of our commenters put it on Black and Red United recently, while calling it one of the most underrated rivalries: "DC vs NY = a majestic musketeer duel for honor. DC vs Philly = a knife fight in a city alley for peanuts." For me personally, it has passed the New England Revolution rivalry for second behind the Red Bulls, and with the coming of NYCFC this DCU-Philly rivalry could become even more important.
tBG: Injuries, lineup, and prediction?
B&RU: Key injuries: Sean Franklin is day-to-day and Chris Pontius is out indefinitely.
Projected lineup: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Christian; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson. If Sean Franklin can't go, Chris Korb will take his place.
Score prediction: I will go with a 1-0 D.C. United win.