The manager of fellow SBNation blog RSLSoapbox and I exchanged 3 questions in advance of tomorrow's game. Enjoy.
1. Peter Nowak is known as a tough and disciplined player and coach, how has he reacted to a team that has 3 red cards in their first 6 matches and often seem to be playing in a very undisciplined fashion?
You're forgetting some red cards in the last exhibition going into the season too. Despite that I don't put the reds on Nowak. Each one has been an individual making a bad decision or getting unlucky. The Union had showed signs of very disciplined coaching in their passing and possession game but it doesn't last for very long. I think a better explanation is that this is an expansion team with a lot of players who lack experience. This frustrates the veterans who feel like things aren't getting done; it frustrates the young who feel like they can't keep up. The team needs more time on the field and more time to gel. I'm sure the road heavy schedule hasn't helped the team in its early stages either.
2. Chris Seitz is a former RSL player and he has struggled in goal with a 2.2 GAA, does he seem to still have the support of the staff and the fans?
Things got pretty bad there for Seitz after those first few games. Fortunately he really does seem to have legitimately bounced back. I know that stats don't really show that but he has played well since the Toronto game: making the saves he should, avoiding mistakes and keeping the score lower than it otherwise could have been. Seitz hasn't gotten much help from the team and the defense: giving up penalty shots and getting several red cards. The staff and fans are behind him if he keeps playing the way he has been. The defense is what needs to step up.
3. You have some of the youngest guys in MLS playing on your team (Torres, Okugo, Mwanga, and McInerney) how have they done so far this season?
Torres has a ton of talent and skill. He's able to play with the big guys. For one reason or another Nowak keeps taking him out 50 or so minutes into the game. We're all wondering what is going on there. McInerney has a lot of potential and energy. He is hungry and was finally able to finish one. Jack has gotten more playing time than I thought. Really haven't seen much of Mwanga and Okugo which is surprising because they were our first two picks in this years draft. Mwanga hasn't gotten many minutes. For some of the games it may have been injury related but lately it seems that Nowak just feels he isn't ready yet.
My questions to RSLSoapbox after the jump:
How do you feel about Real's start this year? - I think starting with 4 of your first 5 matches on the road is tough, I think facing 4 playoff teams in your first 5 matches is tough. I think having two matches (both losses) decided by the officials rather than by the play on the pitch is tough. I think a tough start to the season is what RSL needed, they won the Championship last year despite losing more matches than they won (if you count draws as 1.5, they actually had a winning record) and teams around MLS want to show that they can beat us. Our record on the road is awful, and must improve and playing well in all of our road matches was important, it would have been great had the results been better but such is life in MLS. Now with 6 of their next 8 at home, a place they simply dominate, they should be able to balance out their position in the standings.
What are you most concerned with going into Saturday's game? Emotion and focus , I know that the Union players want to win, I know they have to be saying that beating the Champions would be a huge boost for the team, and I expect that they will all come out and play with a high level of passion and energy. For RSL focus will play a key, they may let their guard down a bit knowing Philly is an expansion team, they know they have a tough week with this match, then a Thursday match against Houston and they might look past the Union. RSL put together their most complete effort of the season against Toronto last weekend and they will need to do so again to ensure the result goes in their favor on Saturday.
What is Real's greatest strength? I believe it is the ethos of "the team is the star", these guys believe it and no matter who is in the lineup they fight for, and support each other. I use the example of Robbie Findley a guy who is a starter on almost every team in MLS, but who often is asked to sit on the bench and wait while his teammates wear down a team and then he is unleashed on them. In 2009 half of his goals came when he was a starter in matches, but half of them came when he came into matches off the bench and used his speed and ability to give his team an advantage. I also think the way the team plays defense together, everyone plays defense and often (not just on set pieces) you will see our forwards chasing down a counter attack in support of both the midfield and the defense. It is that team effort that I really believe is the strength of the team.