We ask them...
1. Eddie Johnson and Markus Halsti have not played a single minute, and Fabian Espindola was suspended the first 6 games. How is DC United sitting so pretty right now in the East missing such big players?
BRU: They have continued to rely on what made them so good last year: Bill Hamid and a great defense. Bobby Boswell was played all of D.C. United's games so far this season and he has remained excellent. Steve Birnbaum, who went from Cal to the USMNT in the course of a year, played well and then Kofi Opare played well in his absence. They have also developed a depth at every position that they didn't necessarily have last year, with players like Kofi Opare, Michael Farfan, and Jairo Arrieta already making key contributions this season. The return of Halsti and Espindola only adds to a crowded field, and with approximately 780 games coming up in May, they will all be needed.
2. I was interested to see Markus Halsti this season, when is he due to recover the knee injury? And on that same note.. Is there any update on the incredibly unfortunate Eddie Johnson situation? Could he come back this year? Might come back ever?
BRU: Markus Halsti will actually make the bench for the first time this season as he recovers from a sprained knee. Depending on how the game is going, you could see him as a late game sub so that he can build back up some game fitness on the road to challenging for a starting spot.
Eddie Johnson will never take the field again for D.C. United, and probably will never take the field again for anyone. According to the latest news from Steve Goff of the Washington Post, MLS has voided his contract due to his preexisting condition and the lawyers, medical experts, agents, and players union are all hammering out the details on how he will retire from the game. Though he was controversial last year, he was an important player down the stretch for the team, and so his loss will be felt; however, the key thing is that he get healthy and is able to live the life that he wants to live.
3. DC had a complete turnaround from 2013 and finished 1st in East last year. At this point in the season, is the winning some silverware the expectation among the Black and Red faithful?
BRU: I think that fans definitely want to see the team back in the Concacaf Champions League in 2016-2017, and winning the US Open Cup, the Eastern Conference, the Supporter's Shield, or MLS Cup is the way to get there. Ben Olsen already has an Open Cup under his belt, and so those latter three options are really the goal. After winning the Eastern Conference last season, and better performance in the playoffs would be appreciated by all of the fans; once you get there, who knows what can happen?
D.C. United lineup and prediction:
Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius; Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe
United are strong at home, so let's go with a 2-1 victory.
They ask us...
1. How has the transition to the Western Conference treated Sporting Kansas City?
TBT: SKC have actually played 4 of the 9 games against the East, and Houston came over with them; so it hasn't felt all that different. I should also note (with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek), domination of the old division has continued as KC has 10 points from just those 4 games which would put them in 5th place in the East. After dealing with new players adjusting and some injuries thus far, it will indeed be very nice to get another crack at RSL and the Galaxy this year!
2. Roger Espinoza was a key piece for SKC a couple years ago; how has he re-integrated into the team?
TBT: Espinoza has absolutely returned as a key part of the squad. His ferociousness and of course, The Roger Face, were missed. He has returned from Wigan a more mature player as he promised. With the injuries on the backline and a lack of Uri Rosell, he cannot necessarily roam forward too often, but he has shown the ability to connect beautiful long passes. Roger has an assist and a goal so far. That goal in the 2nd game has given him some confidence and now if he gets an inch he will rip a shot from anywhere. His veteran presence in dealing with injuries and new players has been very important in keeping Sporting within striking distance of the top of the league.
3. After a slow start to the season, Sporting has gained some consistency throughout April; how are you feeling about the team right now?
TBT: There were several changes from the team last year, whether it was new signings or players returning from injuries and abroad. So an adjustment period was to be expected. Injuries to Opara, Sinovic, and Nemeth also slowed the process down. Dom Dwyer has missed some key chances that led to some missing points as well. It has always taken him a while to get going, but it might be time to worry about him. Two games ago Vermes had someone else take a penalty, and then last game Dom missed a header that his grandmother could have slotted home. But yes, the team has been looking better. Everyone has had a chance to get acclimated to league and/or the team. Krisztian Nemeth has 3 goals and only just getting warmed up. Benny Feilhaber not only has the best hair of his career, but he is helping the children of KC and playing the best soccer of his career. Plus, Chance Myers is due back in June which should give some stability to the back line. Although Dom's form has been troubling there is less pressure on him to score this season and I believe he will come around. While things haven't gone exactly according to plan, Sporting KC is in a good position and will look to keep climbing the ranks.
Sporting KC Lineup and prediction:
(4-3-3) Luis Marin, Jalil Anibaba, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Nemeth and Dwyer put the away side ahead until a late defensive mishap leads to an Espindola equalizer. I say 2-2!