The opening day of the MLS season wasn't one to remember for either Columbus Crew SC or the Philadelphia Union. The Black & Gold fell 2-1 at the Portland Timbers in a rematch of last year's MLS Cup Final, while Philly dropped a 2-0 result at FC Dallas.
Both of these teams will look to bounce back in this game, seeking the first points of the 2016 season.
As the year is still in its infancy, there is a lot to learn about teams, We talked with Eugene Rupinski, managing editor of SB Nation's Union site Brotherly Game to get a sense of what fans should expect out of Philadelphia in Saturday's match.
Questions for Brotherly Game
Massive Report: After finishing ninth in the East last year, there have been quite a few changes made by the Union with seven new players featuring in the first game against FC Dallas. Can you tell us about some of the new guys who might have an impact this year and what you expect from them?
Brotherly Game: The Union wound up re-tooling a good part of their roster since last season, jettisoning loan washouts like Fernando Aristeguieta and Steven Vitoria as well as letting go players who were too much of a cap hit for their production or just not quality players. In their places, the Union were able to bring in some good value. Roland Alberg was signed from ADO Den Haag at the beginning of February to be the Union's number 10. Anderson Conceicao was signed from Tombense in Brasil to solidify the back line. Ilsinho was brought in on trial after his contract with Shakhtar Donetsk had expired, and the Union signed him to play on the right. These guys need to be leaders for the club - especially with Maurice Edu being sidelined for the next 3-4 months, however perhaps more importantly they need to hold down their positions. The Union can't really afford for one or more of these guys to turn out to be a dud.
MR: Philadelphia had one of the worst offenses statistically in 2015 and was shutout in the opener. Can the attack be improved this season and where does the club expect goals to come from?
BG: I think the attack has improved significantly over last season, especially in the attacking midfield. A healthy Tranquillo Barnetta on the left, Roland Alberg in the center, and Ilsinho on the right with Chris Pontius and Sebastien Le Toux coming off of the bench will be a force when the unit has had a chance to gel. This is the midfield who will send service in to CJ Sapong, and ultimately the onus is on Sapong to produce. He had a good run in 2015 of five goals in six games, however aside from that he just four goals in 21 appearances. He has the confidence of the front office and manager Jim Curtin.
MR: Two road games to two playoff teams from last year to start the season isn't easy. How important is it for Philly to take something positive from this game, whether that be a result or signs that something good is coming, before heading home next week?
BG: When the schedule came out and people saw that the Union would be at FC Dallas and at the Columbus Crew to open the season, it really tempered expectations. That's a tough assignment for anyone, let alone a team that did as poorly as the Union did last season. Losing to Dallas 2-0 last week wasn't a huge surprise, but it didn't help the team gain any momentum going out to MAPFRE to face the Crew. Saturday will be a tough test for sure, and any points brought back to Philadelphia will be a welcome bonus. If it's a blowout it could destroy any confidence the Union had, and that has historically been the death knell for the club. The Union have never been able to surmount a slow start to a season, and that is a heavy weight for the club and the fans.
Head over to Brotherly Game to see their Three Questions with Massive Report.