To get everyone ready for Atlanta United's first match against the Philadelphia Union, we spoke with Brotherly Game's Eugene Rupinski to get his take on Philly's inconsistencies, their playoff hopes, and my namesake, Haris Medunjanin.
DSS: Philadelphia has gone through a weird stretch of winning matches 3-0 and losing 3-0. Any thoughts on what you've seen from the Union recently?
BG: The Union are wildly inconsistent and there's no real rhyme or reason to when they get hot. The potential is there, as evidenced in a 3-1 dismantling of FC Dallas a few weeks ago where the club was finally able to get everything to click against one of the best teams in the league. That was immediately followed by a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the lowly Montreal Impact.
The club's inability to perform well revolves around the absence of a good number 10. The Union's 4-2-3-1 is designed to run through the 10, and right now there is no one who can really take that mantle. Roland Alberg was supposed to be that guy, but showing up to camp 20 pounds overweight and alienating some of your teammates in addition to mediocre play means Alberg will most likely be shopping for a new team in January. Ilsinho has done well at times in the 10, but in all fairness he's a right winger by trade. Adam Najem will probably be the 10 of the future, but he's still a bit inexperienced and most likely won't be given the starting job for another couple of seasons.
DSS: Philly are currently 9th in the East, and six points out of a playoff spot. Any optimism for the playoffs?
BG: No. The clubs vying for the final playoff spot all have games in hand on the Union and only D.C. United has worse points-per-game than the Union. All we are waiting for at this point are the words "mathematically eliminated" to make it complete.
Let's say however that the Union make the playoffs - what good would that do? The last game out saw Toronto FC - the likely Supporters Shield and Eastern Conference winner - put a 3-0 beating on the Union that was generous to the Union. Toronto would eat their lunch in the playoffs. The only thing that being one-and-done in the playoffs would do would be to lessen the value of the first round SuperDraft pick that was traded to New England for Charlie Davies.
Everything is bad.
DSS: This is a selfish question, but I have to look out for my Bosnian brethren. How's the greatest player of all time, Haris Medunjanin, doing?
BG: Medunjanin has been a bright spot on an otherwise bad team. It took him a bit to get in sync with Alejandro Bedoya (mostly to Bedoya's being played out of position early in the season) but the talent was always obvious. His vision is uncommon for an MLS side and I think with a solid 10 in front of him as well as some help along the wings, he could really be a catalyst to push the club back into relevance in 2018.