Before Saturday's game against Philadelphia, I swapped questions and answers with Scott Kessler of SB Nation's excellent Union blog Brotherly Game, which is well worth checking out for the Philly viewpoint before the game.
After the jump we'll get into the key additions to the Union squad from last year, as well as a likely lineup and formation, and check out Brotherly game for my thoughts on tomorrow's game, how TFC have adapted to losing De Ro, and just how in the hell we're still within a win of the playoffs. So, Philadelphia Union, How you doin?
Waking the Red: Only 1 and a half years in, after starting from scratch, and there you are at the top of the conference, what's gone right?
Brotherly Game: It's a mixture of various parts, not all of which have been successful in their own rights. Piotr Nowak rightfully identified and addressed the two disappointing portions of the Union's inaugural season: the defense and goalkeeping. By bringing in Colombian internationals Carlos Valdes and Faryd Mondragon, Nowak found the perfect players to slot into a team that desperately needed aid on the defensive side of the ball.
Introducing a voice to command the backline was the smartest thing that Nowak could have done. Last year saw Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton fail to grasp proper command and organization of the back four. Mondragon almost never is without a comment or command for his teammates and they seem to lap up anything he says, especially his compatriot in Valdes.
Valdes has given a new lease-to-life for Danny Califf, who has played almost as if he was five years younger. On top of that, Valdes is considered to be in the running for MLS Best XI with his displays so far this season. Can't beat that one bit.
WTR: Carlos Ruiz and Faryd Mondragon are the biggest (and best) names added to last year's team, what other changes have been made to get you doing so well early on?
BG: Trinidad and Tobago international Keon Daniel has been pretty impressive since joining the Union from the Puerto Rico Islanders. His play on the left side of the field early in the season was something that endeared him quickly to the fans and his combination with Michael Farfan against the San Jose Earthquakes was a thing of beauty.
Giving Amobi Okugo a starting position was a move that was a long time coming for the Union, and something that needed to be done. Stefani Miglioranzi just is not cut out for a starting role on the Union. He's too mistake prone, too slow and not athletic enough to cover the ground necessary in Nowak's central midfield system. It's still going to take some time for Okugo and Brian Carroll to fully form their partnership in the center of the field.
WTR: Philly obviously have a great defensive record, what's behind that, what kind of formation and lineup can we expect to see on Saturday?
BG: The Union really haven't gone that far from a typical 4-4-2 style, utilizing a 4-2-2-2 often - though not as attacking as last year's 4-2-2-2 - and going into 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-2-1-2 otherwise. It's benefited the Union that their central midfielders are still the depth of the unit, with a crop of Carroll, Okugo, Miglioranzi, Kyle Nakazawa, Zach Pfeffer and Roger Torres to choose from.
Here's my predicted line up, with Ruiz missing due to his Gold Cup call up by Guatemala and Okugo out because of a high ankle sprain:
LB: Jordan Harvey
RB: Sheanon Williams
RM: M. Farfan
ST: Danny Mwanga
ST: Sebastien Le Toux