From The Other Side

From The Other Side: Can Seattle Sounders put a stop to the Union's hot streak?

The Seattle Sounders are back in town on Saturday (7 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Univision-Seattle; KIRO 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM) after keeping their unbeaten April alive thanks to a last-second goal by Chad Marshall on the road in Houston. Now the Rave Green readies for a Philadelphia Union team that finds themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference following an offseason overhaul. 


To preview the fixture, SoundersFC.com chatted with Dave Zeitlin, who covers the team for MLSsoccer.com




Ch-ch-changes

Earnie Stewart (who joined the Union as Sporting Director in late 2015) came in and really tried to change the whole mentality of this club. He has built a deeper roster. They've brought in some good players with more technical skills. They've had some injuries, but they're just playing a better brand of soccer.

It's only five games in and you don't want to get carried away, but this team does look better than they have in the last couple of years.


Something to prove?
Last week, both Seattle and Philadelphia had late goals to each pick up important points. In the past, the Union have struggled with that and often gave up goals late. 
Jim Curtin really isn't buying the fact that this is somehow an easier match, since the Union have been playing well and Seattle has struggled to find results. It's still a tough trip and it's a long trip. It's a difficult place to play. It will be a competitive game and it's a hard place for visiting teams, especially with young players.


This team is young, most notably in the back, so it will be interesting to see how they handle that in an environment like CenturyLink Field.
Hot start for Sapong
C.J. Sapong was good last year, but between injuries and off-the-field issues, he didn't see as much playing time as he had hoped. There was a stretch in the summer, though, where he was scoring nearly every match. He signed a big offseason contract and set big goals for himself coming into this year. The staff is really counting on him.
A lot of people really believed this team would go out and sign a big-name striker. Instead, they decided to build up the midfield instead and make him their No. 1 guy up top. He does a lot of dirty work up there, holds the ball ... he's a physical guy. He seems to be in the right place at the right time. He's scored three goals and if he keeps it up, I think he probably should be considered in the U.S. national team picture, but we may be a long way off from that. For the Union, he'll keep getting opportunities to play and if he keeps scoring, I'm sure he'll turn some heads.
Milestones met

It's pretty impressive to hit 350 MLS games. Only a few players have done that, and midfielder Bryan Carroll is one of them. With him, he wasn't really supposed to play any games this year. They slotted in Maurice Edu in that position and following his injury, Carroll was put in there. He's played every minute; he's just one of three to play every minute in the field.



Today, head coach Jim Curtin said he believes Carroll is playing the best soccer of his career which is impressive, given he's been playing since 2003. For someone who's played 350 games, he just knows more about other teams, knows about other players...he does his homework. Curtin has said he has the best soccer IQ of any player in the league. They don't ask him to do that much; he really protects the center backs and connects the back line to the attack. It's not a glamorous role, but it's something he's done for his whole career. He's been somewhat underrated his entire career and that continues now, even as he turns into a veteran and savvy player.


The Union has a young back line and facing a star-studded attack like that of Seattle will be a challenge. A player like Keegan Rosenberry has only played five professional matches and having to defend against Clint Dempsey can be daunting in a place like CenturyLink Field. I'll be interested to see how their defense holds up in Seattle.

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