1) With the Union needing all three points to give themselves a shot at the playoffs, what kind of style should Sporting expect to play against?
Union manager John Hackworth is normally very rigid in his tactics and lately he has been running out 4-2-3-1s, so I would not be surprised if we see that again. That said, the absence of Brian Carroll which we will get through below does complicate things and it may cause Hackworth to go back to a 4-4-2 formation he used earlier in the season. I'd like to say that I would expect the Union to really attack because their slim playoff hopes depend on getting all three points; a draw or a tie and the Union are done before New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo ever take the field on Sunday. But Hackworth has notoriously played conservative and try and settled for a point when he could have easily gone after the game more.
2) Even if the Union do not make the playoffs, how would you grade their season? Did the return of Sebastian Le Toux and the additions of Connor Casey and Jeff Parke live up to expectations?
C. I'd grade it as average. They were a mediocre team who over-achieved for the early part of the season. The return of Sebastien Le Toux was simply a PR move due to the bitter feelings that resulted from the way former Union manager Piotr Nowak unceremoniously dumped him. Tragically, PR moves are not the best tactical moves, and despite Le Toux recording a bunch of assists, he has struggled in many areas of the pitch and any finishing touch he had in 2010 and 2011 has all but vanished.
Conor Casey has been a pleasant addition to the squad and picked up some of the goal-scoring when Jack McInerney went on his four-month goal draught. Jeff Parke has been a real solid addition to the Union backline, arguably the biggest strength of this year's squad.
3) How will the absence of captain Brain Carroll impact the match and who is poised to replace him in the midfield?
Brian Carroll has not always been that good of a player this season, but he has had a consistent presence as a defensive midfielder for the entire season and Hackworth will definitely be forced to shift things around. It is possible Michael Lahoud takes his place (in which case, congratulations on your impending victory), or that Hackworth shifts his defense around, putting Amobi Okugo in the midfield, slotting Sheanon Williams to center back, moving Raymon Gaddis over to his more natural position of right back, and slotting Fabinho from the wing back to left back where he played when Gaddis was injured. It's the absolute definition of makeshift, but Hackworth likes make-shifting when players are injured/suspended and any line-up that starts Michael Lahoud is usually an automatic death-knell, especially when Lahoud is placed with all the responsibilities of defensive midfield.