They did it! The Philadelphia Union won a game, and our mailbag questions are a lot less gloomy as a result. Instead of answering questions about how to style brown paper bags meant as headwear, we’re now talking about, like, which center backs should start. That’s a step in the right direction. I don’t want to go back to that dark place.
Was this win vs. Red Bull a one-hit wonder or is this a sign of things to come?
Jordan Wohl: I honestly do not know. There was a some positives to take from the Red Bull win. Alejandro Bedoya looked great at the eight. CJ Sapong is now tied for the Golden Boot as well as another shutout for Andre Blake and the defense.
I'll give you both views and let you choose which one sounds closer to reality.
This is a sign of things to come. The offense is clicking and Bedoya looks extremely comfortable at the eight. If he can continue to play both sides of the ball well and be that vocal leader, this team could become respectable as well as string a few wins together. The defense is working well together as Jack Elliott continues to grow into a solid centerback alongside Oguchi Onyewu. CJ Sapong will continue to look like the striker the Union have desperately needed and will finish the season with 15 goals or more.
This was a one off. While it was nice to see a win, there are still glaring weaknesses on this team. The wingers, besides Pontius' three target winger assists, have given the team absolutely nothing on the flanks. The defense was bailed out by Blake multiple times as well as a few mishit shots that should have been finished cleanly on Saturday night. CJ Sapong has had an excellent start of the season, but he will need to continue to put together a full season of that type of output for the Union to push onwards.
John Rossi: It's too early to tell, of course, but the Union have enough talent to not be the worst team in the league. That's not saying much, but I'm expecting them to be simply mediocre and not historically terrible in their remaining 25 games.
This team still has problems, to be sure. Roland Alberg is a worse #10 than Alejandro Bedoya, Curtin's preferred wingers produce next to nothing, and the defense is bruised and shaky. But with Blake and Bedoya returning to form, and Sapong putting in good work up top, this is a team with the ability to narrowly miss the playoffs.
When Josh Yaro comes back which two center backs start? Yaro, Jack Elliott, and/or Richie Marquez? Or all three?
Jordan: It is a good question. Technically, there are four different starters to take into account, if you include Onyewu. After he gets match time in Bethlehem, I would think Yaro would take over for Onyewu. Between Elliott and Marquez, I think Marquez will get the nod as the veteran. That is not to say that Elliott will not push Marquez or Yaro for minutes. But, if I had to predict it, I would say that Marquez and Yaro will be the starting center backs when everyone is healthy.
I don't think the Union are looking to play a 3-5-2, so I doubt all three will start at the same time.
John: I think (and hope) the starters will be Yaro and Marquez, but Elliott's rise gives me pause. Last season, Ken Tribbett similarly shot up the depth chart in the spring, and he even managed to push a healthy Yaro to the bench on multiple occasions. Yaro should be getting all the time he can handle consider this team is going nowhere fast, but I worry that Elliott will take a few games off him.
Will Marquez start the next game Instead of Onyewu? And will the bench be the same because I love Wijnaldum.
Jordan: If Marquez is healthy, I would say so. I am unsure if he will be though after reportedly losing seven pounds while out with an illness. Wijnaldum should be making the 18 and, at some point, should get playing time. If he continues to progress well then he should at least get a start somewhere down the line.
John: As Jordan pointed out, it's no sure thing that Marquez will be good to go after being so sick. If he's unable to play, Curtin will probably feel comfortable giving time to Onyewu and Elliott again after their clean sheet against the Red Bulls.
Is CJ Sapong good, great, or otherwise?
Jordan: Don't look now but CJ Sapong is second in the league in goals scored. He's a mercurial player. Some days (see last Saturday) he looks like a force to be reckoned with anywhere near the net. On other days, you could even forget he was out there. The key to Sapong continuing his great form right now is for him to continue to get service. CJ definitely has the talent to be a very good, if not great, striker for the Union, the only question is if he can do it consistently week in and week out. For the sake of the Union, let's hope his hat trick is a sign of things to come.
John: He's very good. After driving it for much of 2015, I fell off the Sapong bandwagon in 2016. But I'm back! Sapong's always been a hard worker throughout his time here, no matter how terrible his supporting cast has been. Like this year, for instance. Ilsinho is awful and the team doesn't have a real #10, but that hasn't stopped Sapong from scoring goals at the fastest pace of his career.
What threw me off the Sapong bandwagon initially was his inability--or outright refusal--to get in the box. His hold-up play has always been excellent and he's taken a beating in every game he's played for the Union. That's still the case this year, but he's made more of a commitment to get into the box in the attack and get on the end of whatever service comes his way. If his midfield can up their chance creation coughcoughstartherberscoughcough, there's no reason for Sapong to score fewer than 15 goals.