PORTLAND, Ore. - It would be easy to call midfielder Brian Carroll one of the Philadelphia Union's unsung heroes.
But it's hard to say that a guy who's about to enter his 10th year in Major League Soccer is unsung. Especially when you consider that he's reached the playoffs in all nine of his previous campaigns.
So let's describe Carroll for what he truly is: one of the best holding midfielders that MLS has ever seen, and a voice of leadership and experience on a Union squad in need of those traits.
I talked with Carroll for a few minutes Sunday evening about how the Union have come together so far in the preseason, and about what his expectations are for 2012.
Talk about playing with Gabriel Gomez in midfield.
He's a fiery competitor, comfortable on the ball, willing to do anything that it takes to win. It's certainly been a good experience getting to know him and play alongside him in the preseason. Hopefully, as a pairing and as an entire group going forward, we'll be able to do good things together and gel with each and every passing week.
Have you seen an established shape to the Union's midfield yet, or is that still a work in progress?
We have a lot of capable midfielders and a lot of capable players. So I think it's a situation where we have an idea of what we want to do, but it's going to continue to grow throughout the entire year. It's going to be a situation where everybody is going to be called upon throughout the entire year.
I think it's an ever-growing situation that is going to do what it needs to do, given the opponent and the situation.
What do you think of Porfirio Lopez so far? It seems that he is really going to lock the left back position down. With all due respect to Gabriel Farfan, left back wasn't really his natural position in the way it is for Lopez.
I think it's a situation where [Lopez] is naturally comfortable in a left back position. Whereas Gabriel can play left back, and did solid things for us last year, but he can really be an asset in other positions as well.
I think it's a situation where Porfirio is comfortable in that role – he's athletic, he's aggressive, and hopefully he'll be the solid performer that we're hoping and expecting from him in that position going forward. We're looking for good things from him, and from Gabriel, no matter what position they are going to be playing.
When you look at Freddy Adu and Roger Torres as being the creative half of the midfield, what are your expectations for the two of them?
I think they're continuing to grow in experience with each and every game going forward, and each and every season they have under their belts. They are becoming more and more confident, and more and more understanding of what they're capable of and what they bring to this game. That's exciting, solid play.
Hopefully they'll be able to do great things for us through general play, but also through goals and assists.
Finally, looking around the league, it seems that the Los Angeles Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake are once again going to be the top teams in MLS this year. Where do you think the Union stand now, what do you think the team is capable of, and what are your expectations?
Our expectations are to compete throughout each and every game, and do the best that we can in each and every practice. Hopefully, over the course of the season, that will put us in a place to compete for a playoff spot come the end of the season, and then anything can happen at that point.
So I'm not really concerned about who's looked upon as being the cream of the crop of the league. Right now, I'm looking at performing each and every week, and being in a position to compete for a championship towards the end of the season.