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How you doin’? Philadelphia Union

Ahead of the game against Philadelphia, Waking the Red swapped questions with Eugene Rupinski of SB Nation’s Philadelphia Union blog, Brotherly Game, talking Jim Curtain, Respect, and a handful of grab-bag questions. So, Philadelphia, how you doin’?

Whoa, hold your horses, there are some questions to be answered before the match begins
Whoa, hold your horses, there are some questions to be answered before the match begins
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

WTR: Jim Curtain seems to have turned around a team that was floundering under John Hackworth. What has he instilled in the side that was absent before? Surely it’s more than just putting Sebastien Le Toux closer to goal.

BG: I think Jim Curtin runs a tighter ship than John Hackworth ever did, and I think the players respect him more than they did Hackworth. Curtin played in MLS for eight years. He knows what it takes to win in this league. He knows what it's like to have to play in Boston on Wednesday and then Los Angeles on Saturday. He knows how to succeed in the league. Hackworth never had that experience (he played one game for the Carolina Dynamo), and while he may have been good at coaching and running practices, he just didn't have what it takes to succeed as a manager.

Hackworth also liked to play guys out of position, which Curtin doesn't do unless forced to. One of the things that the fans here used to complain about when Hackworth was manager was that you never knew who would play where. Le Toux on the wing wasn't a terrible idea, but when you have guys who are much more adept at playing the wing and you need a speed guy like Le Toux up top to balance out Conor Casey, it seems like it'd be a no brainer to play him up top. Moving Amobi Okugo from defensive midfielder to center back, moving Aaron Wheeler from striker to center back - these were experiments to try in the preseason and in training, not when points are on the line in league play. When Curtin became manager, he sat down every player and told him what the expectations were. I don't feel like Hackworth ever did that, and I think players perform much better when what's expected is clearly defined.

WTR: Philadelphia, as one of the expansion clubs pre-the Great Northwest Explosion in 2011, along with the rebirth of San Jose and Montreal, have sort of fallen through the cracks in the attention of wide observers. What is the general state of the club locally in a very saturated sports market and does that national/international oversight rankle with the passionate fans? Saw that there is a training facility in the works and that ties with the local youth scene have been ongoing, plus PPL Park is one of the most picturesque grounds in the league, so the infrastructure is coming along.

BG: Philadelphia fans of all sports have that complex where they don't ever feel they get the respect or recognition they deserve, and the Union are no different. I know I'm personally galled when Seattle-Portland is put at 5 PM EDT (2 PM PDT) on a Sunday while San Jose - Philadelphia in Philadelphia is at 8 PM EDT (5 PM PDT) on the Sunday before school starts. It really helps cement into place that "second-tier" mentality, and draws into question MLS' commitment to being "family friendly". That being said, I feel like the fans here are just as passionate - and perhaps even more so - than the celebrated fan bases of the Pacific Northwest. No disrespect to them, but it's much easier to show up and support a team that is front page news in that town and is doing well than it is to show up and support one that barely gets a mention on the news and losing like the Union were earlier in the season. The Union regularly draw between 14,000 and 16,000, which a lot of teams who are playing well would kill to have.

The training facilities were sort of a surprise - they've been rumored to happen since ground broke for PPL Park, but a lot of other things were rumored to happen that haven't materialized. It was out of nowhere - the Union announced out of the blue that ground was being broken on the lots. As a fan, it's great that the club is building what should be a world-class training facility right next to the stadium, however it's eating up a huge swath of parking, meaning people have had to adjust where they park and tailgate before a match. Everyone but VIP's and Media were pushed back about 400 yards or so, so everyone but the VIP's and Media are a little miffed about that. But this will be a minor wrinkle in it all. We'll adjust and move on, and if it means the players get a better park to train in (they currently train in a public park), so be it.

The Union have decent infrastructure in place. Having the stadium has been huge, especially with it being as beautiful as it is. I invite all of your readers to come down and check it out - I know I'm biased but I really believe it's one of the most picturesque stadiums on the league. The area is also historically a hotbed of talent, and having that as well as good academies such as YSC in Wayne, PA and FC Delco helps immensely, as the club has Homegrown Player rights to all of the kids in those systems. So there's a pipeline of talent, a new training facility, and a beautiful stadium in our favor. It's always sunny in Philadelphia, indeed.

WTR: A grab bag of random queries: How is Mo Edu settling back in MLS? Does he miss TFC? The club is aware they can only play one keeper at a time right? And finally, will we see those awesome Bethlehem Steel-homage kits in the US Open Cup final? A chance at some tasty silverware, no? Best of luck against Seattle.

BG: Maurice Edu seems to have settled in nicely. He's played just about all of the minutes available to him, and has established himself as a leader on the field and off. As far as if he misses Toronto or not I have no idea, however I'm sure he'll always have a soft spot for the team that gave him his professional start. That being said, don't expect him to show any mercy this week.

I think they realize they can only play one keeper at a time, however with this club's history I wouldn't be surprised to see Andre Blake as the starting center back. Seriously though, it's a great problem to have - a World Cup veteran like Rais M'Bolhi, a proven MLS starter like Zac MacMath, and a young prospect and national teamer like Andre Blake - as well as academy prospect Zach Steffen, who many feel has a definite future with the USMNT. Factor in that M'Bolhi and Blake have national team duties, and having MacMath around is a very smart move. It remains to be seen what all will happen with the situation, but I'm all in favor of having guys have to compete for minutes.

And yes, I believe the club already stated they would wear the black kits, and there's been talk of the fans doing a "black out" where everyone wears black to the stadium (think the Winnipeg Jets and their "white outs"). And I think we are all confident of beating Seattle. They haven't won on the road in the US Open Cup since defeating D.C. United at RFK Stadium back in 2009. I think having to travel that far on short rest (they play Real Salt Lake the Friday before) will be a huge disadvantage, and Philadelphia seems to just be coming into its own as a team. Of course I'm a little biased, but I hope to be celebrating well into the night on the sixteenth.

Check out Brotherly Game for all things Philadelphia Union and Eugene can be followed on twitter @GolazodelGringo