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How You Doin'? - Philadelphia Union – Meeting the First

Eugene Rupinski of The Brotherly Game provides a look behind the curtain at the Philadelphia Union ahead of Saturday's match

Strange things are a foot at the Union, but that is a fine looking stadium
Strange things are a foot at the Union, but that is a fine looking stadium
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kick-starting the coverage as Toronto FC prepares to head into their seventh game of the season, I spoke with Eugene Rupinski, the Managing Editor of SB Nation Philadelphia Union site, The Brotherly Game.

My Questions and Eugene's responses below:

Question the First
Philadelphia has struggled through the first nine games of the season, how is the atmosphere around the club? Is Jim Curtin on the hot-seat or do fans have faith that he is the man to lead them out of the current funk?

The atmosphere around the club seems to be pretty poor right now. Usually the players are all tweeting one another or posting funny pictures or whatever, but lately it's been quiet. The players were also upbraided publicly by Curtin for not acknowledging the Union fans who made the 8 hour trek to MAPFRE Stadium last week after a 4-1 loss. And the fans have started voicing their displeasure toward the team and have also started turning on one another.

As far as Curtin being on the hot-seat, I don't think that's the case for a good portion of the fans - and certainly not the club. The Union are, for all intents and purposes, still very much an expansion club. It's a collection of players from two previous managers that may or may not fit the system Curtin is trying to implement that train on fields that were just built (prior to this year, the club held practices at a public park). The youth academy is in its first real year. So with all of these things being built and implemented, I think most people realize that it's going to take some time to get things here fixed. If Curtin were to be let go for whatever reason, no matter who you bring in it's still going to be a process. Curtin is well liked here and seems to have a huge upside as a manager, so to try and replace him would be an(other) act of futility.

Question the Second
Two players that Toronto fans are particularly interested in are Steven Vitoria & Mo Edu – how has Vitoria adapted to MLS and is his calming influence in the back appreciated? And Edu appears to have become a vocal leader; does that armband weigh heavy on him during the struggles?

Vitoria's game is decidedly unsexy, but it's solid nonetheless. I think the biggest thing that's hurt him is the inconsistency on the back line. Between injuries, suspensions, and players being benched due to poor play, there hasn't been a solid back line for most of the year. With Sheanon Williams getting healthy and Maurice Edu replacing Ethan White at center back, Vitoria should finally have a defensive corps to help keep the ball out of the Union net.

And I would imagine that the bad run of form does weigh heavily on Edu. A captain's leadership isn't always reflected in the general table, and I think that's the case here. Edu's a great leader on and off of the field, and I think a lesser leader would have allowed the things you see typically with teams that are playing poorly - guys not hustling and giving up on plays as well as off-field issues.

Question the Third
Philadelphia is no stranger to a bit of controversy. What is the current state of the Rais Mbolhi disaster? Are people wishing Zac MacMath had not been shipped to Colorado? Any updates on the Piotr Nowak lawsuit or has it fallen off the radar?

M'Bolhi is no longer with the team and has returned to his home in France. I've heard murmurs about the team trying to deal him, but there's nothing solid other than the Union's desire to get rid of him and the club being the butt of many goalkeeper jokes.

I think the consensus is that MacMath being shipped to Colorado was gambling on M'Bolhi working out, and the Union lost big on that. Already out one goalkeeper, they could be out two if MacMath impresses in Colorado this season. Luckily for the Union, Clint Irwin has played every match for Colorado and done very well, so they may deem MacMath surplus and return him at the end of the season.

Nowak's lawsuit was dismissed last year. Honestly I had to look that up because I hadn't thought about it in a while, so I guess that counts as falling off of the radar?

Barbed Question
In the recent waves of expansion, Philly is one of the few teams to make TFC look somewhat like a decently run club – we'll leave Montreal out of this, they're licking some fresh wounds at the moment – what's the deal with that?

Haha well I'd disagree that the Union makes TFC look well run. The Union have made the playoffs once, and have done so without throwing a ton of money at players who didn't want to be there (Jermain Defoe, Eric Hassli) or players that just were looking to pad their retirement (Mista, Torsten Frings). But let's not make a bloody big deal about all of that money wasted and focus on the present, which sees Toronto in a familiar pattern, throwing money at players (Bradley, Altidore, Giovinco) and going 2-4-0 in their first six. Luckily because of how bad the east is the Reds (short for red ink?) could still make the playoffs, but it's Toronto - they'll be at Maple Leafs games in November instead of at BMO.

Predicted lineup: McCarthy; Gaddis, Vitoria, Edu, Williams; Wenger, Maidana, Lahoud, Ayuk; Le Toux, Sapong

Predicted score: 1-2 Toronto

Many thanks to Eugene for swinging by for a chat before Saturday's match. He can be followed on twitter @GolazodelGringo and be sure to check out all the pregame chatter over at The Brotherly Game.

My responses to his questions can be found here