Before today's all important (for them anyway) game against the Philadelpia Union, I chatted with Scott Kessler of the Union blog The Brotherly Game. We talk Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans, Andy Iro, Freddy Adu, Sebastian Le Toux, CCL and the playoffs, and that whether he likes it or not, the Union are probably going to be trying hard to lock up first in the East.
WTR: You guys feeling nervous with playoff qualification almost nailed down?
WTR: Are you hoping for Eastern Conference winning glory, or wanting to slip back into 2nd and 3rd to avoid the good wild card team?
TBG: I wrote an article about that situation, saying that the Union should slip into second place to avoid a potential first ever playoff series with FC Dallas. They don't match up with Dallas well at all.
WTR: Coward. Besides, Dallas are crap right now, you can take them. I've almost convinced myself TFC can take them.
TBG: Dallas just beat Chicago, which took 10 points of its last 12 and was set to make its way back into the playoff picture. That was despite Brek Shea being incredibly tired from playing so much the past two months or so.
WTR: Ah, you'll be fine, Philly's form isn't so bad these days. Le Toux's finally going again, Dallas might not even make it that far anyway. I'd be more scared of Salt Lake
TBG: RSL appears set in that third spot in the West.
WTR: They do, hopefully Dallas really concentrates on getting ahead of them, neglects the CCL a bit. Either way, do you think Nowak and co will share your desire to finish in 2nd or 3rd, or are they really going for it?
TBG: The players certainly want the bonus money from winning the conference. Nowak probably wants the ability to host every game possible.
WTR: So they won't be even subconsciously taking it easy tomorrow?
TBG: I don't think so, especially if Faryd Mondragon starts the game in goal.
WTR: Right, he could be back. How big is that going into the playoffs? Macmath's done OK.
TBG: MacMath has done well statistically, going 3-0-4 and giving up only four goals, in his last six games, since giving up four against New England. He has his problems: his aggression leads to poor positioning on corners and situations in the box. But his youth allows him to have excellent reaction time. Mondragon has better command, especially in the 18, and is a stronger player in terms of confidence (teamwise or personally) on the field.
WTR: That New England game was ridiculous. That comeback really seemed to spark your recovery, lost 2 previous games, undefeated since. Was that comeback the confidence boost they needed?
TBG: It certainly helped that Le Toux scored two in that game, including one from the run of play.
WTR: Why was he struggling so much early on after a great first season in Chester?
TBG: His first touch is off, though it was never the best, and his finishing lacked the luck necessary for even the most skilled finisher to put away every goal. Le Toux did stay perfect on penalty kicks during his slump, keeping his conversion rate at 100 percent as a Union player. It's my belief that the addition of Carlos Ruiz put Le Toux into an unnatural position, kind of a half-MF, half-ST kind of player and he couldn't find his way into the net from it.
WTR: Carlos Ruiz causing problems and not really helping? I think most TFC fans could believe that. Has Freedy Adu being getting a lot of time up front instead? How's he doing?
TBG: I think this answer might be interesting to your readers that read MLSsoccer.com a lot: Even MLS Analyst doesn't get what's wrong with him at this point. He has two goals, two important ones, but not much else to speak about. An incredibly poor first touch, poor decision making skills, an appalling ball forward and inconsistent speed. Basically the Adu that was seen late in his first MLS career, then again in Portugal. Not the one that did well in Turkey. The most concerning part of his play is that it's almost the opposite of how he performed in the Gold Cup.
WTR: I've never been convinced by him, doesn't really surprise me at all. I was surprised when Philadelphia actually picked him up.
TBG: After finding out that he and Nowak get along now, makes sense.
WTR: Is he signed long term?
TBG: For the next two seasons, on top of the current one, I believe. Roger Torres stepped up during Adu's problems, then fell off of the face of the earth again because he hasn't been played.
WTR: Last time, it was that infamous (or famous I suppose from your veiwpoint) 6-2 win, I'm fairly confident that won't happen again, but how do you see the game going?
TBG: I see a 1-0 or 2-0 win for the Union. Partially because they're better, and partially because TFC is going to be looking past this game toward Tuesday. How about yourself, what do you think the game will be like?
WTR: Though we should be looking to Tuesday's CCL game, a part of that is the fact that we've had two weeks off, so I'd expect to have the first team out there to shake the rust off and practice. That'll probably mean going with Torsten Frings as a spare Centre Back again, which will help keep us solid at the back, but limit us going forward, so I'll say 1-0 Philadelphia.
TBG: How has his time, and Danny Koevermans, been for TFC thus far? The two DPs are costing the team a lot of money.
WTR: They are, but it's well worth it. Frings has had a big impact wherever he's played. When at the back, he provides the organisation and calm to enable Andy Iro and Ty Harden to look competent. In midfield he's had a great effect going forward, Julian De Guzman finally looks like the 2007 Gold Cup MVP with Frings behind him. Hopefully we'll get ourselves a good Centre Back so Frings can move back to midfield. As for Koevermans, he's the anti Chad Barrett, he looks unathletic, and he's not a noticeable kind of player, but give him a chance, and he'll bury it. TFC have needed that kind of player for ages, so I'm very happy to have him no matter how expensive he is. A few judicious signings in the off season and we should have a good team next season.
TBG: Speaking of Andy Iro, was trading Tony Tchani the right move for TFC?
WTR: It seemed like a good idea at the time, as we really needed a dominant Centre Back. They gambled that Iro could be that player. It's been pretty comprehensively proven that he isn't, he'll be OK when paired with someone good, like he was with Chad Marshall, but he isn't good enough to be The Man to rescue our defence. Tchani was a bit surplus to requirements, but could end up being very good, so I'l say that no, it wasn't the right move.
TBG: Interesting. Very interesting.
WTR: I should wrap this up, but good luck in the playoffs, and as for Saturday, you guys can win 6-2, just don't injure anyone before the big game on Tuesday.
TBG: Haha, thanks. If TFC draws with Dallas, who progresses?
WTR: Definitely not TFC, but if Tauro beats Pumas UNAM the next day, the next day!!!!! then everyone would have 8 points, they'd both go through and Dallas would be out instead. Unless Tauro wins by 8, in which case it'd be Tauro and Dallas.