A View from Afar / Commentary

The Union start finding some answers

Photo: Paul Rudderow

You have a competitive soccer team again.

Philadelphia Union have answered fans’ demands for something better with two consecutive wins over quality clubs, catapulting themselves back to relevance in the Eastern Conference. In the process, Union manager Jim Curtin has likely staved off pressure from club ownership and secured his job some after getting the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this month.

When you look at what’s changed, you can point to all sorts of things, but it’s basically a regression to the mean. Simply put, the Union should not have been as bad as their record indicated, provided that they subtracted some major problems and identified a few solutions. Over the last two games, the Union have done that.

Much like last year, the Union exited training camp unclear on who their best 11 were and where they should play on the pitch, and it took till late May to start figuring it out.

  • In 2014, that was because the Union had signed three new starting midfielders, incorporated a major formation change, and lacked the defensive depth to compensate for back line injuries.
  • In 2015, it’s because the Union failed to replace Amobi Okugo, which has set off a ripple effect at center back and defensive midfield. Likewise, no replacement goalkeeper played as well as Zac MacMath.

But now questions are getting answered.

Richie Marquez is one answer at center back

Richie Marquez has likely locked down one starting center back position. His positioning has been solid, and his athleticism has allowed him to run with any attackers who have come at him. He has outplayed Ethan White and Steven Vitoria, and he should be slotted in as a definite starter until he shows he doesn’t deserve it — and he has shown no sign of that happening. Marquez looks like a potential gem of a player.

Brian Sylvestre has been mistake-free

So this is what happens when your goalkeeper isn’t gifting a goal per game to the opposition. Forgive Union fans if they had forgotten. They hadn’t seen unadventurous goalkeeping since last year.

Carolina loanee Brian Sylvestre hasn’t been spectacular, but he didn’t have to be. He just needs to be solid, reliable, and on the same page as his back line, and he also needs a game-defining save here and there. Sylvestre has done all that. And at age 22, he’s likely to get better.

The Union’s goalkeeping had been anything but dependable this year. Rais Mbolhi was a catastrophe on and off the field, and he’s on his way out of town. Local boy John McCarthy showed some talent and good moments and may develop with time, but his distribution problems and aggressive tendency to come too far off his line made his appearances far too adventurous and unpredictable for anyone’s liking.

Whatever Andre Blake’s future with the club is, Sylvestre is the unquestioned starter for now.

Maidana and Nogueira, together again at last

Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana are finally both healthy and rounding back into form. Sure enough, the Union have regained some creativity in attack. Once deployed in their preferred No. 8 and No. 10 roles last year, they drove the Union offense. Now they’re doing it again.

The Union need both healthy to compete. Zach Pfeffer provides adequate depth for both, but there simply is no replacement on the roster for the unique skills and tendencies that Nogueira and Maidana bring to the field.

Zach Pfeffer makes the leap

At age 20, Pfeffer has made the leap from future prospect to legitimate contributor. His play has been top-shelf this season, whether deployed in center midfield or on the left flank. Pfeffer’s ability to play at least three different midfield positions — the attacking and box to box center midfield roles, along with left mid — is allowing Curtin to treat him as his first substitute off the bench almost regardless of the situation. While Pfeffer may still adjusting to occasionally playing box to box instead of as a straight attacking midfielder, he could find over time that it’s his best role on the pitch.

Pfeffer is technically proficient, tidy in possession, makes smart and simple passes, and adeptly seizes opportunities for runs on goal from midfield. Further, he has proved far more hard-nosed and aggressive than realized by those of us who still saw him as the fresh-faced teenager we first met in 2010. His goal Sunday may have been disallowed, but it was so close that the call could have gone the other way and you would have been hard pressed to argue with it. Likewise, you wouldn’t have been surprised, because he has become a reliable contributor from whom you expect positive outcomes when he steps onto the field.

C.J. Sapong, center forward

Say it with me:

C.J. Sapong, center forward.

C.J. Sapong, center forward.

C.J. Sapong, center forward.

Not a winger. Not a second striker. Center forward.

That is all.

Brian Carroll is not washed up

Anyone who has a problem with Brian Carroll after a performance like Sunday’s isn’t paying close enough attention.

Critics like to turn Carroll into a punching bag because of what he isn’t. He isn’t a visionary passer, he isn’t the most athletic player on the field, and he isn’t going to score you goals.

At 33, he remains what he always was: A disciplined and often very effective defensive shield for the back line. He may not create a dozen counterattacks or rampage into the box for shots on goal, but the presence of a disciplined defensive midfielder like Carroll allows Nogueira to play at his best. On Sunday against New York, Carroll was everywhere he needed to be, and it let Nogueira be Nogueira.

Carroll may not be the long-term answer, and he isn’t going to make anyone forget that Amobi Okugo was. But unless Maurice Edu can transform the center midfield version of himself from a roaming No. 8 to a disciplined No. 6, then the Union (under their current roster composition) are probably at their best with Carroll or a healthy Mike Lahoud in the No. 6 role and Edu on the back line next to Marquez.

Last notes on the Union
  • Let’s all agree that Fabinho had the best game of his Union career. Nobody’s firing him into the sun just yet. Can he stay disciplined enough to produce more games like this?
  • Andrew Wenger is showing signs of life. Don’t count him out. Like Adam Cann wrote, Wenger is playing hard, if not well, and that’s a key first step to breaking out of his epic slump.
  • I had expected this week’s column to be titled, “Why the Union should not fire Jim Curtin this season,” and I expected to write it after a loss. It looks like a different column wrote itself today. Either way, here’s the short version of that column: Unless the Union completely implode, lose 10 straight games, or catch their manager torturing players or embezzling transfer fees (we always need that caveat with Philadelphia), Curtin deserves a full season to bring this team together. There is no relegation. He has shown some good qualities. So be patient with him. Little good will likely come from firing a manager mid-season when it’s clear he was sent into the season lacking key pieces required for a good team.
And a final note on today’s FIFA arrests

This is HUGE! Like, Mike Francesa huge! Game-changer. Absolute game-changer.

About damn time.

Some quick thoughts on the arrests:

  • Fascinating cooperation between the U.S. and Swiss authorities.
  • More fascinating is that the new U.S. attorney general supervised the investigation when she was U.S. attorney for Brooklyn. With her taking part in Wednesday’s press conference on the arrests, it looks like she isn’t stepping back from that role. That’s a big deal. She’s now the top law enforcement person in the country.
  • A very significant but easy-to-overlook name on the list of those charged: Aaron Davidson, the head of Traffic Sports in the U.S. and CEO of the NASL. He’s the only American on the list of those arrested, and it’s politically important that there’s at least one.
  • How will Davidson’s arrest affect the NASL? Traffic has played a key role in launching the league, and while it has gradually divested itself of team ownership, it has been a league cornerstone from the beginning. Does Davidson’s arrest taint the league? Considering Traffic’s already shady reputation, the answer is most likely yes.

52 Comments

  1. The connection between all this and NASL trying to find a foothold as a long term viable alternative to the MLS monopoly is a bummer.
    .
    I make no bones about the importance of a relevant second league and hope NASL can withstand the backlash of ‘corruption’ connections.
    .
    Bummer.
    .
    Ultimately, if world wide and much needed change comes of the investigation at the expense of a major setback to a piddling league, then well……. okay…I think.
    .

  2. Firing Curtin is not an acceptable option considering what he has been working with namely a weak ownership an inept CEO and front office. No GM, a goal tending circus and a so, so player pool. The unconditional resignation of Nick Sakiewicz(the perfect FIFA TYPE) and the selling of the team by Jay Sugarman to a competent and financially competitive owner should be the only option.

    FREE THIS FRANCHISE!!!

    • UnionGoal says:

      LCBline—you should really be careful what you wish for–front page of Philly.com today is about troubles of Union with Chester. Enough pressure from the city, and from fair-weather fans like yourself, and they could easily move to another city that offers far more.
      Let’s face it—Chester isn’t just bad spot for stadium it is downright dangerous(30 shots fired a few blocks away?)
      There is no bar/nightclub/restaurant fans can exit to after the game, public transportation is not easy, and Chester is broke and will eventually raise parking/taxes/ticket fees to point where attendance will subsequently fall. I mean you are talking 16-18 home games so unreal to expect this stadium to be economic savior.
      But yes, LCBLine you are absolutely right–tar and feather the front office for struggling team, and keep up your rants because eventually they will listen to you, sell the team to “responsible” owners who will have business smarts to move the team FAR from Chester, and the ungrateful fair-weather fans such as yourself. Perhaps to Landover, MD, or maybe Virginia.
      You Keep on preaching, LcBline–you are doing wonderful.

  3. So with Edu back, should we expect him to pair up with Marquez at CB? Or spell Carroll at MF? And I agree with Sapong being best as a center forward, but how does that work with Aristiguieta? Do you try a 4-4-2? Don’t think you can.

    • If Curtin puts Edu at DM it is at his peril…to whatever cohesion has been developed these last 2 games.
      .
      Edu replaces White and you don’t touch a thing, save The Striker starting for Casey and being subbed for Sapong if you need. Turthfully, I’d prefer Sapong as the starter and The Striker as the back up.
      .
      All this obviously with the only natural benching of Andrew Wenger cause at this point Wenger and Le Toux on the field at same time is maddening to me.
      .

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The Behind the Crest column/blog/whatever listed McGlaughlin as questionable with an ankle sprain.

    • pragmatist says:

      You keep Edu at CB with Marquez. Jim’s a defense-first guy, and he knows that is his most solid pairing. He’s also a Carrol Loyalist (justifiable at the moment), so he’s not in a hurry to yank him.

      That said, we have 3 games in 7 days. There will be shuffling. But expect Mo in the back until Jim is forced to do otherwise.
      But by the 20th (after a nice layoff), both Carrol and Lahoud will be back and rested and ready to play the CDM role.

    • alicat215 says:

      Just slot Edu back in for White………THATS ALL! No coach is going to screw with their line-up after you just beat two of the East’s big hitters….your on a roll…..don’t f#$k with anything! I would even start Casey again, and bring CJ on in the 60th….to really screw with DC’s back four….like he did with RBNY!

    • alicat215 says:

      besides Edu for White…..you just won two matches…..don’t touch a thing…….

      • Dan Walsh says:

        This.

        Maybe start Sapong. Maybe. (Casey has still been good, but if he’s carrying an injury, the decision gets simpler.)

    • You’re gonna see Mo at CDM at least once next week, because the U have 3 games in 7 days. Ain’t no way BC is starting all 3 of those games.

      As for the solution for the rest of the season, it partially depends on Michael Lahoud’s recovery. If he gets well soon(-ish) and plays the way he was playing before, then he can be the CDM, with Carroll as his sub. If not, and until he recovers in any case, it essentially comes down to Carroll vs. Vitoria in the starting XI. And that will depend not only on the consistency of both players’ performances, but also on the chemistry in the back line / midfield.

    • DarthLos117 says:

      I’m in the minority but…
      .
      Edu for Carroll, keep White in CB. Edu off a suspension with Chaco and Nogs is just too mouth watering…Edu just needs to stay home in front of back four.
      .
      Start Sapong at CF, Nando off the bench if needed.
      .
      Casey third option.

      • Dr. Union says:

        DarthLos117 at this point I don’t think you can put in Edu for Carroll yeah you said he needs to stay home in front of the back four, but he never does. Leave him at CB he has troubles even staying there sometime.
        scottso as far as Vitoria vs. Carroll at this point Vitoria rides the bench to me Carroll clearly allows Nogs to do what Nogs does best. Vitoria does not equal Marquez. Vitoria was getting beat for speed time after time in this league and whether you start Fabinho or Williams on the left you can’t pair either of them with Vitoria and not have giant holes in the backline.

      • Couldn’t agree more…Carroll is like the backup NFL QB who you expect nothing from but surprises you for a game or two…and then reverts back to his below-average self. Mo / Nogs at CDM. I’d move CJ to RM and Pfeffer to LM. Chaco in the middle. Nogs up front. If Steven is ready, it’s he and Richie as the central defenders with Ray and Sheanon on the outside. If Steven isn’t ready…roll with Ethan. Two posts ain’t gonna happen every week. We need to score goals, maintain possession, and complete more than 3 passes in a row.

    • Edu for White – better distribution and organization at the back.
      .
      Nando for Casey – Nando is coming back more fit then at any point this year after being at a fitness heavy national team camp (Curtin said as much at his presser) and is likely pissed at getting cut. Just stay out of his way.
      .
      Everything else the same, even Wenger because of the signs of life he showed against the cows.

    • I think instead of sticking with one person always at CF you rotate Sapong, Casey and Aristeguieta. Always having fresh legs matters. Always having a different sub come off the bench for extra goals matters. Predictability has been a problem late-season for the Union in the past, time and time again. Now that we have the depth, get a squad rotation going and throw opposing teams for a loop – make them plan for several options intead of just one.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Carroll has adjusted his game to a much simpler version. He is sticking to the his area and playing fundamental football…and that makes him a better player. This is not the norm from Carroll. He, quite simply, hasn’t played like this for the past few years, leading to a fair judgement of his value… or lack thereof. He has shown 120 minutes of quality play.

    • pragmatist says:

      Agreed. We were harsh on him for the past 12 months because of sloppy and undisciplined play. He has eliminated that in the past two games. If he keeps that up, he’s perfectly acceptable splitting minutes with Lahoud in the CDM spot.

    • DarthLos117 says:

      This is a poor assessment.
      .
      His play now is reflective of a coaching adjustment not a Carroll adjustment.
      .
      The coach is playing tactics to player’s strengths and not asking them to do anything more.
      .
      Carroll’s problems stemmed from unrealistically adding offensive responsibilities to a player that was never known for offense…coaching error.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I can always count on Carroll to bring us together, Los.
        .
        Is it poor coaching? Or has the league evolved, to a point where it is no longer acceptable to be a midfielder that cannot pass?
        .
        Carroll’s adjustment has been welcomed but I am stopping short of calling it reliable.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        It WAS poor coaching in the past.
        .
        What I’m saying is that Curtin is NOW playing tactics to Carroll’s strengths.
        .
        He is no better now than he was last year, he is now being asked to play to his strengths.
        .
        Has nothing to do with the league evolving. Clearly a 6 like Carroll can be effective in the league…see our last two games…it’s the same thing that made Lahoud (NYFC)look good too. Simplifying the role DMid has.
        .
        Your assessment is poor in that your saying Carroll changed his game when in fact the coach change Carroll’s expectations to play to his strengths.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I don’t see the same Carroll. THIS Carroll seems far more aware of Noguiera’s space; giving our playmaker room to operate. He isn’t trying to do anything, aside from shield the back line and take away passing lanes. In the past, Carroll would drift out of position and focus on completing passes to the other team…as he did up until the second half against DC.
        .
        We will not be able to sustain our winning ways, if we continue giving away 65+% possession. Carroll factors in that number.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Your right, some how Carroll at age 77 is now better.
        .
        It has nothing to do with coaching or tactics.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He’s 76.
        .
        We will never agree on this guy…
        .
        It’s not that he is better…he isn’t. It’s that he is staying out of the way. That’s what makes him more effective…in my opinion.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        My argument has never been about Carroll…you can’t seem to see that.
        .
        It’s been about the coaching staff’s change in putting a player in a system that will succeed.
        .
        Also your comments come off elementary and unoriginal.
        .
        Fundamental soccer.
        .
        League evolved.
        .
        Staying out of the way…makes him more effective…what does that even mean?
        .
        Wouldnt you think an effective Dmid gets in the way? Ya know of passing lanes and maybe a tackle here and a tackle there?

      • The Black Hand says:

        “Staying out of the way” was referring to his offensive play. I had already stated his two defensive contributions…though, tackling was definitely NOT one of them. His job is to shut down lanes and cover the back line. Keep it simple (fundamental) and safe.
        .
        Brian Carroll has played his career as a one dimensional Defensive Midfielder…and that suited the one-dimensional MLS…but times have changed. The skill level of the league has developed (Evolved). Defensive midfielders have two-way vision now, thus the transition game has become much quicker. (We are a counter-attacking team…maybe. Imagine how much better our counter would be with a 6 that could link the pitch). That type of game is above Brian Carroll.
        .
        As for the ‘tactical change’ from our coach. What exactly was that? How did Curtin adjust the Philadelphia Unon’s ‘Duck, Cover and Pray’ tactic, to benefit Brian Carroll? Did the coaching staff decide that Carroll was the club’s best option? Or did they…not have another option?? How have they adjusted to his strengths?
        .
        Carroll has stuck to the center of the pitch (stopped getting spread wide) and yielded to Noguiera (in transition). That has been the adjustment. If Curtin made that adjustment, than good on him. I had assumed that Carroll realized the adjustments needed to be an effective member of this XI.
        .
        My apologies for coming off as an unoriginal schoolchild. We cannot all be of a great jedi-mind, such as yourself.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Brian Carroll is a fundamentally safe and effective one dimensional Dmid who does his job in a new evolving MLS where only two dimensional Dmid thrive. Is that what you said?
        .
        Who do you think Brian Carroll passes the ball to.
        .
        You don’t give the coaching staff the credit they deserve for tactics and team selection past two weeks.
        .
        Curtin could have started Nogs (6), Zach and Chaco…was not only option to start Carroll.
        .
        It kinda funny that you assume, Carroll decided all on his own to stop playing offense…also check out his heat map…check successful passes, unsuccessful passes before you make baseless, unoriginal statements.
        .
        Your problem with watching the Union has always been the same. You have your favorites (Gaddis) and those favorites can do no wrong…while you hate on others Carroll, Williams, Curtin and others and generally can’t give them their do when its deserved.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Damn, Los…I actually like your summary in your first statement. That’s not really what I was saying, but I like the way that one rolled off. Credit to you, sir.
        .
        Carroll had 19 attempted passes, 7 of which were unsuccessful and 5 in the forward direction. The majority went to his closest midfielder, with exception to two lofted balls towards the corner. The others were played to his back line. These are not tidy numbers, but they are safe in limitation. Positionally, it appeared that he stuck mostly to his central defensive midfield (this is one of the things that I had mentioned, that made Carroll effective). I like to peek at these things, before I make my baseless, unoriginal statements.
        .
        I would still love to hear your examples of Curtin and the other tactician’s adjustments, that have led us to be the leagues hottest team.
        .
        Nogs as your 6…against DC and NYRB??? Carroll got the call by default (Fabinho, as well)…not tactics.
        .
        Curtin nailed his subs, last week. Credit to him for that.
        .
        I eat my share of crow, Los. Gave credit to Williams last week. My original statement above was the best I can give Carroll, as I have soured beyond return on the guy.
        .
        Gaddis rules!
        .
        Debates can be free of condescension, my friend.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Gaddis is overrated, dare I say he sucks.
        .
        Talk about one dimensional?
        .
        Hasn’t the league evolved to where left and right defenders need to contribute offensively? Have confidence on the ball?

      • gaddis definitely does not suck. that is a huge huge overstatement

      • The Black Hand says:

        That’s what you got? Weak.
        .
        Gaddis hasn’t been superb this year. I don’t see him as one dimensional, as in the past. The only back line has struggled, as a whole.

      • The Black Hand says:

        That was some solid back and forth, Los. It had been a while.

  5. By the way, it will be truly amazing if, after getting a CB from the top team in a respected European league, the guy comes here and can’t crack the starting lineup on a weak defensive team. Maybe a statement about the quality of players in MLS now?

  6. Imagine for a moment, as God Awful bad as this team has been, they are 1 stinking point out of a playoff spot. How many games? 13 or so. 3 wins – and one point away from the postseason. E-gads. Ugh. Uffa. Phew. Wow.
    .
    Please, let’s go back to the other way- where good teams qualified for a chance to play for the championship – cause, see, certain figureheads in certain front offices will sing, ‘we are a playoff team must be doing something right, slap slap slap ourselves on the back.’
    .
    Please keep your self aggrandizing to yourselves if/when the time comes. You’re not fooling me.
    .
    What’s that? Right… FREE THIS FRANCHISE.

    • The playoff system is pretty ridiculous. I think they should call the playoffs a separate MLS cup tournament after the season ends. The top point winners in each conference should be the conference champs. One of hose teams with the most gets the supporters shield. The cup should then just be the cup. The change would mean that last year, DC would have been Eastern conference champs, not New England. It would give teams more to play for during the season. I think….

      • A trophy for each conference winner and then the Cup trophy….especially if MLS thinks expanding to 40ish teams is a good idea without any pro/rel.
        .
        There will need to be more than just the Supporter’s Shield and an MLS Champion.
        .
        These changes should be made already IMO.
        .
        “When I am king….”

      • alicat215 says:

        Need MLS 1 and MLS 2……….

      • Are they two independent leagues with a champion in each league?
        .
        that would be kinda cool.
        .
        Winner of each league could have a SuperCopa for ultimate Champion of MLS.
        .
        Supporter’s Shield in each league.
        .
        Champion of each league.
        .
        Super Cup.
        .
        Now we are getting somewhere. Somewhere that is unique to MLS with multiple opportunities for many teams.
        .
        If only you had royalty in your blood line too…If you were King and I were King- we would either put a hit out on each other or reign supreme in harmony for all the world to see.
        .
        My Coat of Arms would have a Hang Loose sign in it – so as to show I come in Peace.
        .
        Truly, I think this should be sent to MLS headquarters. I don’t trust them to figure it out.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Nigeria (Zamunda) will back both of your Kingdoms. Our Special Agents of Kindness are loyal to the death..

      • alicat215 says:

        Haha….nice. I think my coat-of-arms would also have a peace symbol….but with a hammer through it…..saying: “I come in peace, but if you don’t, f#$K you!” Judging by our dialogue over the past year or two…..I think we would rule in the latter……but we are human…..and absolute power corrupts absolutely! I’m glad we have Zamunda as a consigliere!

  7. “So be patient with him. Little good will likely come from firing a manager mid-season when it’s clear he was sent into the season lacking key pieces required for a good team.”

    IMO, same statement should have been applied to last season. We give coaches too much credit and too much blame. the team that won the last two was based on the midfield that Hack envisioned and wanted to build around. Wether it continues to do well, that vision deserves to be remembered better.

  8. Did anybody notice the little win streak the Phillies put together a week or so ago- 5 or 6 straight I believe. 7 out of 8 if I dare say……..Well they still stink. They are a 65 to 72 win team at best.
    .
    Moral of the story?
    .
    Even poor teams can win a few here or there.
    .
    If after 10 games, this team has conjured, say 15 points….. then we can talk about them having figured some stuff out. Injuries, Cards, DUIs. whatever.
    .
    Let us not forget, they have an epic inability to score routinely.
    .
    They now have 6 of those points in 2 games. Let’s see how long it takes to garner the next 9.
    .
    “Mid table looking to punch above their weight.” They did that the last 2 games. Now let’s see if they can box alittle.

    • alicat215 says:

      With this club….there are some we’re going to steal….and there are still going to be “those days” as well. Especially with our lack of depth……..

    • The Black Hand says:

      A broken clock is right twice a day.

    • Scottymac says:

      Two wins are great. DC was pretty lucky since they sat back and were happy to play for a road point as a tired team. Down to 10 men last 10 mins or so was a rough break too. The U looked lively for the RBNY match and caught a double post break too.

      The fundamentals haven’t changed though. They’re 19th in PPG with seven teams in the East with games in hand. They are 20th in goal differential.

      What happens when Sylvestre’s loan ends? Back to relying on the local kid who face planted and concussed himself throwing a ball? The traded-up-for #1 with shaky knees? The all too thin roster that’s rarely together.

      The last two weeks are not this team’s baseline. This is as good as they get. They’ve got 21 matches left.At this pace, that means they finish at 31 points (same as 2010 with 4 fewer matches). At 7-7-7, that’s 28 points to finish at 38. Looks outside of expanded playoffs. Let’s say they’re fo’ real and go 10-4-7 and grab 37 more to finish at 49. That may be good enough for 6th. It just requires this team to grab 1.76 PPG instead of their 0.92PPG.

      Talkin’ playoffs ya’ll.

  9. Eoin Boyle says:

    JC has to show some balls. He has finally got himself and the club a couple of results. He has to think of the whole picture, and that means regardless of salary and reputation, Edu can’t start. He has no discipline and in my view plays for himself.
    This last couple of games hasn’t been great, but, we won. Don’t change a winning team, and certainly not to bring an individual into the mix, one who it seems no one has a clue what his best position is. He hasn’t been great at CM or CB
    Leave it alone Jim

  10. The Little Fish says:

    I think (and hope) that Jimmy will stick mostly with last weeks lineup. Nando will replace Casey. Fabinho will remain at LB after his stellar performance. BC will continue shielding the defenders including Mo who will be in the back. My only question is whether Sapong is in the starting eleven?!?!? He was totally DOMINANT last week. Best I’ve ever seen him play. I’m singing Sapong Sapong…doing it all night long! (not just 30 min.)

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