RSL Soapbox) Tell me about the new additions to the Union and what they bring, specifically, Fernando Aristeguieta and Cristian Maidana.
Brotherly Game) Aristeguieta is a guy with a huge upside. At only 22 he is just coming into his prime, and the Union feel like he's a guy that is going to score goals in MLS. He's got the pedigree - Venezuela National Team regular and was with FC Nantes prior to coming to the Union. There are some questions on whether or not he can excel when he's the number one guy, but he has four goals in four games (while three were preseason matches, two were against MLS teams).
Maidana was here last year and was critical to any successes the Union had. The Argentine's vision and passing aren't something seen often in MLS, and his dribbling and ability to get himself out of situations is something to behold. Once he and Aristeguieta get onto the same page, the Union could be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in MLS.
RSL Soapbox) How would you assess Maurice Edu as a leader of the team and can he lead the Union to the Playoffs?
Brotherly Game) Maurice has been a great player to have not only on the field but off as well. He brings an air of professionalism with him, however he's also a guy that knows how to enjoy the ride and have fun. (http://www.brotherlygame.com/2015/2/24/8105759/maurice-edu-snapchat-mls)
RSL Soapbox) What do Union fans think of when the team meets Real Salt Lake? What players stick out and why?
Brotherly Game) When I think of Real Salt Lake, I think of a club who my club is trying to emulate. The Union have said they're not going to try and outspend teams like the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls, instead looking to groom academy players and spend smart, and RSL is the model for that. They've spent responsibly and won trophies doing it.
As far as the players go, I think most Union fans are familiar with Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman due to their USMNT play. Other names we recognize are Jamison Olave for his time with the Red Bulls, and Joao Plata for his stellar play in MLS. I also recognize Jeff Attinella and Luke Mulholland from their time with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in NASL.
Predicted Lineup: Rais M'Bolhi; Raymon Gaddis, Steven Vitoria, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams; Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira; Andrew Wenger, Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux; Fernando Aristeguieta
Predicted Score: Salt Lake is a tough place to play, but I think RSL is working the bugs out of their new system as much as the Union are. 2-2 draw
*Questions from Brotherly Game to RSL Soapbox*
Brotherly Game) Jason Kreis was a legend with Real Salt Lake. How has Jeff Cassar done stepping into what must be very difficult shoes to fill, and what's it like seeing Kreis with New York City FC?
RSL Soapbox) For me, it has been a pretty seamless transition. In his first year, Cassar did not rock the boat. Part of why he got the head coaching job is because he argued that he would be the most logical choice given how long he was under the tutelage of Jason Kreis. Cassar knew that the RSL system was not broken and had no intention of fixing it, rather, he knew that the best was yet to come as evidenced by a lot of the young players just coming into their own over the 2013 season and the beginning of the 2014. This season, he has decided to adapt the RSL formation to a 4-3-3 which is probably a good weapon to have since a lot of teams have figured out how to shut down the diamond. So Cassar is starting to put his stamp on the club now.
I asked Luis Gil about the difference between Cassar and Kreis and he said, "It's not much of a difference between the two. They've worked with each other for years and it's been a blessing to be able to have them both in the beginning of my career."
Seeing Kreis in New York is sort of strange. I think he is under a lot of pressure to succeed right now and do it in style. We'll see if he can live up to expectations.
Brotherly Game) How will the new CBA rules effect a team like RSL that has always made a point to not overspend on talent?
RSL Soapbox) This is a tough question to answer with so few details to glean from, but I would be shocked if RSL decided to do anything besides spend wisely on their players as they have for the past six or seven years. The prime example of this is that Kyle Beckerman is not a Designated Player. Neither is Nick Rimando. Salt Lake is able to get very valuable pieces up and down the lineup that are willing to be here for the good of the team. That said, owner Dell Loy Hansen has been clear that he would like a big name player if they fit the RSL mold.
Brotherly Game) To mirror your question, what do RSL fans think of when the team meets the Union? What players stick out and why?
RSL Soapbox) I think RSL fans see the Union as still trying to find their way a bit but with a lot of good pieces in place. They are on the brink of breaking through and really having some sustained success in the league. The fans are passionate and some of the best in the league. I thought that Maurice Edu could have propelled Philadelphia to a successful run in the MLS Playoffs, but it typically takes a year or two for that to happen after the acquisition of a bigger name based on what other teams have done. The players that stick out are Maurice Edu, Connor Casey, and Sebastian Le Toux. Connor Casey takes RSL fans back to the best days of the Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids rivalry.
Predicted lineup: Rimando, Phillips, Schuler, Olave, Beltran, Beckerman, Morales, Gil, Jaime, Saborio, Garcia
Predicted score: 2-2