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Thoughts from Philly

Jim Baldwin from the Philadelphia Union’s SB Nation site Brotherly Game answered some questions for us about the team ahead of tonight’s semi-final.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Philadelphia Union Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

How have you felt about this Union team since the MLS is back Tournament began? What were the expectations going into the tournament?

The Union have been impressive since the MLS has restarted.This Union team has shown an ability to grind out results in this tournament. There are always a few things each game that the attack or defense could do better, but they continue to advance. Bedoya has taken a lot of the creative responsibility when this team attacks, and hasn’t disappointed. Our goalkeeper, Andre Blake, has made brick walls look like swiss cheese. Some players on our team have needed more time than others to shake off the rust, but every match they look a little better. Aaronson has justified some of the hype around him, however his youth is apparent when looking at his game. The best answer for that is match time, and the best is yet to come from him.

What strengths should Portland be wary of?

At the end of the day, this team goes as far as GK Blake can take them. The first choice CBs, Elliott and McKenzie, are young and developing a solid partnership. However, right now they are still learning. Unfortunately that leads to a lot of chances for the opposition’s attack. On the other end of the field, Jim Curtin seems to have settled on his preferred starters for attack. Przbylko, Santos, and Aaronson all bring different attributes to the attack that complement each other really well. Like the defense though, they’re still working through the kinks. Currently they are not as prolific as they can be, but the quarterfinals showed what they are capable of doing. Blake is the reason this team has advanced into the Semifinals. His ability to save almost anything means the Union have a chance in every game.

Who has been the Union MVP in the tournament so far? Who is the player to watch out for?

Andre Blake is the easy choice for MVP, and rightfully so. Without him in goal, the Union’s deficiencies are laid bare and probably would be out of the tournament. Another player worthy of consideration for MVP would be José Martinez. He’s exactly what the Union need at the base of the midfield in a CDM role. Martinez’s defensive instincts makes everyone else’s job easier. If he can stop accumulating yellow cards like they’re going out of style, he’ll be a star in no time.

Which Timbers player do you think will give the Union trouble in the semifinals game?

Sebastian Blanco has been on fire, and has the skills that the Union struggle to defend. Every team wants a player like him on their team. Goalscorers get the highlights, but a guy like Blanco makes it possible. His ability to play quality through balls and make key passes will give our defense trouble. He will be one of the toughest tests this defense has faced so far.

Predicted Timbers lineup, and final score...

Jim Curtin has not shown any indication to rotate in this tournament, and it is unlikely that he will in this game. He will roll out his preferred 4-3-3/4-4-2 Diamond lineup of: Blake-Gaddis-Elliott-McKenzie-Wagner-Bedoya-Martinez-Monteiro-Aaronson-Przybylko-Santos. My gut instinct says we are in for a gritty game, but the Union seal a 2-1 win.

Thanks from Portland to Brotherly Game and Jim Baldwin!