Scott Kessler: Philadelphia Union head coach John Hackworth almost said to the team's media yesterday that there is no rivalry whatsoever with the Revolution. How does the Massachusetts club and its fan base feel about such a situation? Is there a rivalry? Or is this so called rivalry week a farce for these two sides?
Steve Stoehr: Abram actually wrote something about that this week. To be honest, there's no real rivalry at all. We have a much deeper hatred for D.C., Chicago, and even Houston than for Philly. That said, the stars kind of align for the Union and the Revs to develop into each others' nemeses. Both Boston and Philadelphia were major cities in the American Revolution, our most natural rivals (NY, DC) are embroiled in a major rivalry of their own, and we're both part of the I-95 corridor that gets played up sometimes as a connecting factor.
I will say this: maybe you aren't aware, but Philly fans cast the first stone in trying to develop a rivalry. I know of several Revs fans who had food and even beer bottles thrown at them during MLS Cup 2007 by Philadelphia fans, before there was even a Philadelphia team. Maybe that was just a rude, pigheaded subset of your fans, but people don't forget. The fan groups up here have zero love for the Union (though many of us respect the Sons of Ben in helping to bring a franchise to their city, and for backing us during Fortgate). So the hatred for the team isn't really there yet, but we're certainly not fans of your fans.
SK: Last season it was Saer Sene who absolutely dominated the Union in their first match up of the year. Who do you foresee being the Sene of this weekend's game?
SS: It could be one of a few players. Jerry Bengtson already got off the mark this season, so he could very well be the goalscorer that puts you guys down. However, he doesn't have the all-around game that Sene does, so in that vein, I might go with Lee Nguyen or Juan Toja instead. Hell, it could be Kelyn Rowe for all I know. It's too early and this attack is still a bit raw for me to make a prediction like that with any kind of accuracy. All I know is that the four players I just mentioned all played well against Chicago, and have the potential to play even better on any given Saturday.
SK: Speaking of Sene, how has he done in his rehab and come back from a major injury that ended his 2012 season early?
SS: All the news regarding Saer Sene has been positive during his recovery. Last thing we were told is that he should be making his return to full training and fitness sometime in April, though obviously setbacks are always a possibility.
SK: Is Jerry Bengston living up to his somewhat hyped up transfer to the Revolution? He showed signs of becoming a major striker in Major League Soccer last year, but seemed to ebb and flow in his play. Do you expect him to clash well with Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo on Saturday?
SS: Well, he definitely didn't live up to it last season. Two goals in twelve games isn't enough. However, Jerry had to deal with a lot of adjustment issues last year, coming up in the middle of the season, immediately leaving for the Olympics, having his wife and newborn child still live in Honduras...all of these things contributed to make it a tough year on the guy. This year, he's much more settled, and while he'll still miss plenty of time with the Honduran national team, the biggest barrier to team chemistry for him is going to be learning English.
This season, he's already got a goal, so things are looking up. Jerry's definitely a poacher, first and foremost, so a lot of his success is going to depend on the success of his teammates in getting him service. Against the Fire, he put in a hard shift and definitely showed a high work rate as the lone striker, which is good. If we can keep getting in crosses like the one that Kelyn Rowe served up to him, he'll more than live up to his hype.
SK: Just as you asked me, what do you project as the starting 11 and the scoreline?
SS: I doubt there will be any major change to the starting XI, except maybe to bring Rowe into the starting lineup in place of Donnie Smith. Look for something like this:
4-2-3-1, L to R: Reis; Alston, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell; Cisse, Simms; Rowe, Toja, Nguyen; Bengtson
I'll predict a 1-1 draw. We have zero luck at PPL, and while we turned around a long run of bad results at Toyota Park last week, I don't expect lightning to strike twice. I also don't think the Union are strong enough to boss us around, even at home, so I'm hoping the Revs won't lose.