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Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union — three questions with Brotherly Game

RSL host a very good Union team & we get some insight on the Union ahead of the match

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union are top of the east and looking very strong. Real Salt Lake suffered another road loss, this time at the death in San Jose. We spoke to Phil Moore of Brotherly Game to get a little information on the team ahead of this weekend’s game.

The Union have really impressed everyone in the league with how well they’ve done this season. They’re on top of the eastern conference and are only behind LAFC in the Supporters Shield race. What has the club done to be so successful in 2019?

This season has been a radical shift for the entire organization compared to years past, and it all starts with their new sporting director Ernst Tanner. In past years, the team hasn’t been able to bring in multiple quality players within the teams slightly below league average budget constraints. This year Ernst has scouted and brought in key players like Marco Fabián (Frankfurt) left back Kai Wagner (German 3rd division) Midfielder Jamiro Monteiro (French 2nd division) and most recently striker Andrew Wooten (German 2nd Division) as well as his first signing on a free transfer towards the end of last season in striker Kacper Przybyłko. These key additions as well as a big tactical switch to a 4-4-2 diamond high pressure system and giving Jim Curtin more tactical flexibility has resulted in a whole new style of soccer top to bottom. None of those changes happen without Ernst, and hiring him at the end of last season to replace Earnie Stewart is the biggest reason the Union are having their best season in franchise history.

Last season the team signed Kacper Przybyłko, who did not play in the short time he was available in 2018 and was even loaned to Bethlehem Steel FC in 2019, yet he’s the teams top goal scorer. Can you speak to how he’s found so much success and what he brings on the field?

Kacper is a huge surprise coming into this season. He had bounced around and dealt with injuries for most of his career, but the 26 year old striker has really had a breakout year. He comes into the game against RSL scoring in 4 straight games, and is tied for 6th in the golden boot race with 9 goals so far this season. No one predicted this kind of output for him when the season started, but being one of the only true strikers on the roster, the Union switching this year to a 2 striker system has afforded him more opportunities. The new signing Andrew Wooten may end up taking some of his playing time for the rest of the season, but Kacper has consistently made the right runs into the box, and puts his chances on frame. Coach Jim Curtin called him one of the most accurate finishers they have in the box, and he’s shown that. He always plays hard, and gives the team everything all 90 minutes he’s in the game.

The Union played Orlando City back to back on July 3rd and 7th. They won away to Orlando 3-1, but drew 2-2 at home. What were the successes in those games and are you happy with the home draw given the late Union goal?

To be perfectly candid, the 2-2 home draw this past week was awful. Orlando was missing two starters due to red cards from the July 3rd game, and brought their starting striker and Nani off the bench. I don’t think anyone in the organization was happy with the draw, and Kacper, even though he scored the 90th minute equalizer, said that the game felt like a loss. Orlando scored on what seemed like their only two set pieces, and only had a single real attacking chance in the run of play. To draw a game like that at home was quite disappointing. The successes from the home draw would be that Marco Fabián is healthy again and scored in his first start since May 11th, and that we were able to pull off a gritty result in the end. The Union have done very well on the road this season and the 3-1 away win was dominant. They weren’t as clinical with their chances as they should’ve been, but they created quality looks the entire game, and didn’t sit back on the road.

My biased prediction would probably be a 2-0 Union win, as they will probably come out hard and fast, looking to redeem their disappointing home draw on Sunday.

You can read our responses to Phil’s questions at Brother Game.