In our continued quest to give you great pretty good adequate soccer coverage here at The 700 Level, we’ll be launching a new feature where Philadelphia Union writers and old newspaper buddies Steve Moore and Dave Zeitlin discuss (read: argue about) a Union-related topic every week until the end of time. We'll call it "Second Level" until we come up with something better.
As someone who covers the team for MLSsoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com, Dave will bring you the perspective of a seasoned, award-winning journalist. And as someone who watches games from the River End while drinking a beer, Steve will give you the perspective of an occasionally sober fan.
This week’s question: between zero and one zillion, how many goals will red-hot striker Clint Dempsey score against the Union on Saturday in Seattle (10 p.m., The Comcast Network).
Dave: I really just picked this topic so we can show you some videos of Dempsey, who’s been LIGHTING IT UP for the Sounders of late.
After mostly struggling at the end of last season (and drawing unjust criticism from a sector of jump-off-the-cliff-at-the-sign-of-any-trouble fans), Dempsey is now hitting his stride in MLS.
The 31-year-old star currently has more goals (eight) than anyone else in the league – and just one fewer than the Union have scored all season. Here’s one of them in which he makes a ridiculous pass before finishing the job himself on a rebound.
[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/9F7PQvSy87o width=620 height=349]
It’s nice to see one of the best American soccer players playing so well leading into next month’s World Cup (holy crap, is the World Cup really next month?!?). And that extends to Union manager John Hackworth, who used to coach Dempsey on the national team and gave the old I’m-happy-for-him-but-this-weekend-he-is-the-enemy routine before leaving for Seattle.
The big question is whether a Union backline that features a converted midfielder (Amobi Okugo) and converted striker (Aaron Wheeler) at center back slow him down.
When asked about Dempsey this week, most Union players said they have to pay close attention to him but not at the expense of forgetting about other players on the first-place Sounders, especially his partner-in-crime, Obafemi Martins. In other words, they didn’t reveal any sort of gameplan about how they plan on stopping the leading MVP candidate, on the road, in perhaps the toughest place to play in the country.
Dave's Prediction: since the Union seem to be better in an “underdog” rule than when they play winless or slumping teams, I’ll say Dempsey finishes with zero goals and one assist while the Union manage to escape Seattle with a 1-1 draw.
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Steve: So the underachieving Union are going on the road, to play the best team in MLS, in front of the biggest crowd in the league, on crappy artificial turf, against the best American goal-scorer there is.
That probably means a 4-0 Union win.
Seriously though, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from the Union Saturday night. Hackworth might start Austin Berry at striker and Antoine Hoppenot at goalkeeper. I don't know which way is up anymore.
One thing I do know is that Dempsey is going to be a nightmare for the Union back line. Whether it's Berry or Wheeler (it'll be Wheeler, and I'll be upset), Dempsey will get loose and create problems.
As an aside, my favorite Dempsey goal of the year so far:
[nbcsports_video src=http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.js#ec=AzNjgxbToagDg1OdTT2xua8MPmQMderw&pbid=4bfc225f82bf46c48dfb065eda97f74f width=620 height=349]
As much as the "we need to watch him but not at the expense of others blah blah blah" is just coach speak, it's the truth in this case. I have a feeling it'll be other Sounders players who burn the Union Saturday night. Wheeler and Okugo will need to be on their game, but the responsibility will also fall on Brian Carroll to track back with Dempsey and Martins.
And as much as Maurice Edu wants to push forward more often, he'll really need to pay attention to Dempsey and Martins, too.
Hackworth's seat is absolutely heating up in recent weeks, but this is not really a game that will make or break him. The Union are expected to lose this one.
Unfortunately, I think they will.
Steve's Prediction: Dempsey gets on the end of a rebound for a goal, Martins gets another, and the Union give up a header from a defender on a set piece. Conor Casey gets one for the Union. Sounders 3, Union 1.