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Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia Union - 3 Questions plus edition

Well Scott Kessler of The Brotherly Game was kind enough to exchange questions and answers with me, here are my questions about the Union and his answers:

1) The Union have made a huge turn around in how they play this year, going from a much more attacking team to one that has built itself around defense and a more grind it out style to get themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference.  In 9 of your matches the team has scored 1goal or been held without scoring, in 9 of your matches you have held your opponent to 1 goal or shut them out, have the fans embraced this more conservative style of play?

A) Yes and no. 

They enjoy the winning. A win is a win and all that jazz. It was fine for most people when they were winning 1-0 because it showed that the team had come a long way from last year's defensive fumbles that cost games. In the same right it showed that the offense was no longer the high flying sort of attack that Union fans enjoyed last year.

Now that the Union have showed that they can score two or more goals a year, the expectation is for them to do it more often and to use that confidence to continue to have good games against the better teams in MLS.    

the rest of my questions for him after the jump:

2) Last year I thought that Sebastien Le Toux was the MVP of the league with 14 goals and 11 assists but this year he is sitting at 1 goal and 4 assists after 12 matches of the season, what has happened?

A) Last year he was able to get away with his relatively poor first touch by out hustling and out running the opposition, which was aided by the defense being worried about strike partner Danny Mwanga's goal threat. This season Le Toux has played at almost every position possible for an attacking player and that certainly didn't help him through an early season ankle injury or what seemed to be a lack of confidence around the goal.

While he has yet to get back to his days of scoring whenever he pleased, Le Toux has given the Union many needed assists in big time situations. Mwanga credited Le Toux with drawing the Colorado Rapids defense away on Mwanga's screamer that provided the Union with an 1-1 draw on the road. He's currently leading the team in assists, which shows that Le Toux is still contributing to the Union but last year has put a huge target on his back, not only in terms of opposing teams focusing on him, however, but also in terms of expectations.

Le Toux will score and he will score in buckets, he just needs to keep his confidence and continue to get chances.

3) Mondragon has been a great find of the Union and has helped solidify the defense that struggled in 2010 to the second best defense in the league (10 goals allowed in 12 matches), clearly there has been more than just Faryd behind this great turnaround, who else deserves some credit?

A) Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams all deserved MLS All Star nominations for the Union, despite only Califf finding himself on the list.

Harvey, much derided last season for a lack of speed and acceleration, has yet to disappoint this season. A controversial red card against the San Jose Earthquakes at home is his only true misgiving this season, however it did allow Michael Farfan to see the field for the first time.

That defense that you mentioned is the reason why Faryd and the Union have seen a complete turnaround defensively. Surprisingly enough, Harvey has played in the opponent's area on the attack more often than any other Union defender, including Williams. He's constantly threatening the left side of the field by sitting high up the left side, forcing the opposing right back to pay attention to him while the Union attack through the middle or the right. He's helped to create a goal scoring opportunity on more than one occasion.

Califf appears to have regained his youth this year. 2010 was a season of mixed reviews for the former American international center defender, with as many downs as he had ups, although he was part of the defense that played well during the last third of the year. Valdes provides Califf with peace of mind to his right and Harvey to his left. His confidence in his teammates, especially Mondragon, has allowed Califf to play his own style of play without fearing he will hurt the team while doing it.

Valdes is the signing of the year in MLS without a doubt. He's going to end up on MLS Best XI, and if he doesn't that's a travesty. Valdes is a joy to watch, whether it be while he is one-on-one defending or attempting to clear a pass. The Colombian international has deceptive speed and fantastic strength off, and on, the ball. And he has some flair, with is just fun to see out of a center back.

Williams has managed to up his game to the next level in 2011, to the point where fans are thinking of him as a fringe member of the Best XI. He has the speed and acceleration to not only cause problems when combining with the attack, but also to cover ground on the right side when he does push high up the pitch. Williams has played against some great left sided players and has only encountered a couple of situations that warranted criticism this year.

All four refuse to let players into the box and block the vast majority of the shots that the opposition is able to even take.

4) I know it is 3 but this is my new bonus question: If you could take one player from the RSL roster and put him on the Union roster, who would it be, and why?

A) I would have said Morales, but he's injured. Saborio would have made sense during the Union's offensive slump. I'll take Olave because then the Union would not only have depth in some way at center defender, but also have someone to start if Valdes is called up by Colombia in the coming weeks.

I would like to thank Scott for some great answers, first class guy representing his team very well.  If you want to see my answers to his questions just check out The Brotherly Game.

OFF MY SOAPBOX