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Behind Enemy Lines: Three Questions with Brotherly Game

We talked with Eugene Rupinski about the Philadelphia Union squad that hosts Sporting Kansas City.

Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Testament asks Brotherly Game...

1) With the Union out of the playoffs, what are you looking for from the club going into the final matches of the year?

I honestly don't know. My feeling is that the club should play young players like Zach Pfeffer, Cristhian Hernandez, and Jimmy McLaughlin as well as guys whose contracts are ending like Maurice Edu, Amobi Okugo, and Conor Casey. But Jim Curtin said in his press conference that he was looking to field the best team he could. That means the kids most likely won't play, although we'll still get to see guys like Edu, Okugo, and Casey get a shot at showing they should be returning in 2015. It'll be interesting to say the least.

2) How do you feel about Jim Curtin's performance as Interim head coach and would you be willing to give him the full-time job?

I keep vacillating on the issue. Curtin has impressed in his run of form, however since the loss to the Seattle Sounders in the US Open Cup Final he has come under fire for being (much like his predecessor) too predictable with his tactics, formation, and substitutions. That however begs the question "How much of that is inexperience, and how much of that is the absolute lack of depth on the Union?" I don't know. I think there are a lot of positives that come with Jim Curtin, however he is inexperienced - and Union fans are very wary of that thanks to how badly the John Hackworth experiment failed.

That all being said, CEO Nick Sakiewicz has all but said Curtin will be the manager next year, so that might be a moot point. With this club though, you never know.

3) Philadelphia has come into Sporting Park this year and taken four points from Sporting KC. How have they been able to do that and will they be able to continue that success at PPL Park?

I think part of it was Sporting not being at their best due to injury, international duty, and suspension, and the other was possibly SKC overlooking the Union. When the club is as terrible as it was earlier in the year, it's very easy for an opposing club to look past them to an opponent with a better record. Aurelien Collin wasn't 100% in the first match and had to sub himself out in the 62nd minute, and in the second match Matt Besler was suspended, Seth Sinovic was out injured, and Lawrence Olum was away with his national team. With the odds stacked up so high and the Union not really having much to lose at that point, the stage was set for them to steal points. That being said, I don't know if the trend will continue. SKC is playing for the highest playoff berth possible, while the Union are playing for pride - and haven't won in their last five.

Brotherly Game asks The Blue Testament...

1.) Sporting Kansas City has sputtered a bit heading into the playoffs, losing soundly to New England twice and D.C. United once. What went wrong there, an what's been done since to fix the issues?

A lot of it has been the defense has not been as consistent as it once was. Some of this can be attributed to exhaustion, given that two of the stalwarts of the defense have had about three weeks total off of soccer since MLS Cup 2013. Besler and Sinovic were both called into January USMNT camp and have been playing ever since, leading to exhaustion, injuries and poor defensive play. Losing Chance Myers for the year has been a big blow and, even though Igor Juliao has been improving on the right side throughout the year, he's not the defender Myers is. The offense has been fine with normal production over the past few weeks, it's just that the production they're giving used to be enough to win and now it isn't. I'm not worried long term as long as the players get some rest this offseason but I am worried going into the playoffs since there really isn't much they can do.

2.) With the Philadelphia Union being eliminated from playoff contention last week, do you think there's a chance SKC may overlook them and look to the match against the New York Red Bulls?

I don't think so. There's still a very small chance Sporting KC can take the Eastern Conference top seed and a CCL spot but, more importantly, the two seed is still up for grabs. The difference in being home for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals and going on the road can be huge, especially looking at the 2013 playoffs for evidence. Sporting also wants to avoid the play-in game between the four and the five seeds so they'll be looking to pick up as many points as possible. Philadelphia has had Sporting's number this year, which is another reason why I don't think Sporting will blow this game off.

3.) Between 2004 and 2011, SKC had a rough run, failing to qualify for the playoffs. What was done to turn the franchise from what it was to what it is? Was the rebranding that critical of an element, or were the pieces starting to fall into place as the Wiz?

It all started when OnGoal took over ownership from the Hunt family in 2005. Once relocation rumors were able to stop, they started to build the club from the ground up, drafting strong players and putting an emphasis on building the academy and the youth system. Once they had the pieces in place of Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi, they were able to spend some money and build the team around the core players, bringing in Aurelien Collin, Jimmy Nielsen, Benny Feilhaber etc...The rebranding brought a whole new energy to the club, expanding the fan base and completely changing the face of the team. So the pieces were starting to be put in place but the rebrand can be looked at the turning point since it coincided with the team finally having success.