The Brotherly Game exchanged three questions with Guillermo Rivera (a big thanks out to him for taking time to do this piece with me) of Chicago Fire Confidential about the Union's upcoming game with the Fire.
I asked Rivera to answer the following questions:
(1) Brian McBride is on his last run around the league this year, after his announced retirement. Known as an MLS and USMNT great, how has McBride impacted the Fire since returning from a stint in Euroe?
(2) In the Fire's 2-1 victory over the Union on June 5th, Marco Pappa was the game changer with his goal and play in the second half. Who should the Union look out for in this game?
(3) If you could take one player off of the Union (to put onto the Fire's roster) not named Sebastian Le Toux or one who is not under the age of 21, who would it be?
Rivera answered as follows:
(1) McBride's impact on the field was never quite as large as originally expected, particularly after having surgery last season to repair a torn right labrum. His most lasting legacy, however is evident in the reverence and respect that his teammates and coaches show him when asked about their experiences working with him. McBride has been a player that exemplified how a professional should conduct himself on and off the field, during training and after it - although his years with the Fire came after his prime.(2) The Union should look out for Nery Castillo. When acquired he came into the team lacking fitness since he had just spent two months during his current off-season without kicking a ball. Castillo has gotten progressively better over the last few weeks culminating with his best effort to date against Toronto FC on Wednesday night. He appears to be on the verge of being the player they thought they were getting.
After the jump, see what three questions I had to answer while standing on the Bridge of Death.
Rivera asked me two questions that I'm sure any Union fan has pondered at one point or another:
(1) Justin Mapp was acquired from the Fire via trade in July and has provided some offensive punch for the Union. What impression has Mapp made in his short time in Philadelphia?
(2) Peter Nowak is still a popular figure among Fire faithful. What strengths and weaknesses has he displayed as a manager during Philadelphia's inaugural season?
His third question dealt directly with my impression of the Fire's post season chances:
(3) How do you feel the Fire stack up against the Eastern Conference and the remaining playoff contenders in the West?
(1) Justin Mapp is still an open book at this point. His beginning with the Union was one that allowed for any Union supporter to realize that Chicago was giving up Mapp for a very good reason. He has exceptional potential and is still young (25) but he had never truly lived up to that potential. Upon his arrival in Philly, Mapp continued his below average play and did not do much to gain the favor of Piotr Nowak, the Union's coach. However, of recent Mapp has had a rebirth and is finally showing his potential on the field. His chemistry with young Jack McInerney has led to two goals in three games together and has cemented, at least in my mind, Mapp as the first choice wing or outside midfield player. I'm still uncertain on whether or not he has displayed more aptitude on the left or right but he is clearly one of the better midfielders on the Union to date. Impressions of Mapp have changed over the Union's recent positive form. It seems that when he is playing well that Mwanga and Le Toux have an easier time up front.
(2) Nowak is a polarizing figure but what great coach is not? His greatest strength for the Union is that he is a coach that can bring long time stability to the team, which is vitally necessary for the future of any expansion team (or team for that matter). Nowak's faith in the youth of the Union will pay dividends in the future, if not next season. Danny Mwanga under another coach may not have been given the playing time that Nowak gave him from almost day one. He definitely knows how to play to a team's strengths as well. The Union's offense is built off of Nowak's highly aggressive tactics. But on the other side, Nowak does have a couple major weaknesses. For one, he fails to realize that even though Danny Califf is the team captain, he is actually detrimental to the team's success. Nowak also fails to realize that his highly aggressive tactics are only sustainable if the defense is able to stave off opposing assaults - which will not happen with the current defense for the Union. His biggest weakness is his faith in Chris Seitz, the current starting goalkeeper for the Union. It's nearing October and Seitz remains the starting 'keeper for the Union, even though his indecisive and lacking play has cost the Union plenty of points over the course of this season. Nowak needs to let Brad Knighton take his turn as starter. Other than those three weaknesses, Nowak has been a vital cog for the successes of the Union so far into the season.
(3) The Fire have the same chance to make the playoffs in the Eastern conference as any team not named the Columbus Crew or the New York Red Bulls. Spots 3-7 are too close to be talked about otherwise. I believe that the Crew and Red Bulls are deservedly in the lead spots in the Conference and in the West, it's clear that the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas are the clear cream of the crop. I think that those top five are the most reasonable choices for taking the MLS this year and that the Fire and other competition has little chance this year to overtake them in the playoff run or in the playoffs.
What do you think?