The Copa América is in the rear view mirror, the Olympics are on the horizon and the Union are in strong form heading into this weekend's game against the rival New York Red Bulls.
It's a good time to catch up with JP Dellacamera, the dean of American soccer broadcasters, since he's well-versed in all of those subjects. He'll be on Fox Sports 1's call Sunday night at Talen Energy Stadium, alongside Cobi Jones and Katie Witham.
This is the Union's first nationally-televised regular season game on an English-language TV network this year. As of now, it's scheduled to be the only one. Is that a sign of how few people expected the team to be as good as it is?
I definitely think that's the case, sure. I think that when the networks plan their television schedules, they're looking at a lot of things. Whether it's television markets, whether it's rivalries, who gets the best ratings on television, where the stars are, the Designated Players.
When [David] Beckham was playing with the [Los Angeles] Galaxy, they were on so many times, and with [Landon] Donovan and [Robbie] Keane the same thing. So you can look at it and you can pretty much figure that the marquee teams, the marquee names are going to be on national televsion more than other teams.
Philadelphia is a big market, and I think that they were probably basing it a lot on last year's record more than anything else. I don't know if they'll change things toward the end of this year, either of the networks [Fox and ESPN], but if the Union continue to play the way they are, then I would think that will be reflected in next year's television schedule with more appearances.
It has taken Union midfielders Roland Alberg and Ilsinho some time to adapt to Major League Soccer, but they have really hit their stride in recent weeks. What do you make of how they've come along?
I think we always saw Ilsinho's skill level - his dribbling skills, his attacking skills, we saw them before. The only thing that was missing was that he hadn't scored a goal. You could see how much scoring the goal [on a penalty kick last weekend against D.C. United and then getting a second one really helped his confidence.
He's a terrific player. He's used to winning, with the many titles that he won with Shakhtar Donetsk. He is really an amazing player, and I think the team is just now starting to see the best in him.
Alberg I watched on video when they signed him before the season started, and I could see from the goals that he scored that this was an offensive-minded player. A lot of skill, and I thought he was going to do well in MLS. But at the start of the year, he wasn't getting the playing time.
It takes a while for a lot of these guys to get adjusted, whether it's the physical play of the league, the heat, the altitude in some places, the travel. These are all things that we've heard from even some of the most successful players that have come over here. There is a transition, I think.
Last year with Tranquillo Barnetta, I knew we wouldn't see the best of him, but I felt that this year, the team would see the best of him, just by the way he finished up last year. So last year was Barnetta's adjustment period.
I think the good thing about Barnetta and Ilsinho is that they did have [some] preseason training with the team, so that always helps. When you come in later in the season, I think it's always a bigger adjustment - especially when you come in the summertime. You haven't had the training with the team that everyone else has had, and the heat in places like Houston and Dallas, just to name a couple, in July and August can be tough for a lot of these players.
How do you think Barnetta has done moving back in midfield to a deeper playmaking role? Union manager Jim Curtin was trying for a while to figure out what the best way was to get Barnetta, Alberg and Ilsinho on the field at the same time, and this seems to have done it.
Yeah, it was difficult for sure. I think they had a lot of pieces that they were trying to figure out [and] where each guy could be slotted in with that. Earlier in the season, it was tough - because of injuries too, Barnetta was hurt at one time, Ilsinho was hurt another time. So it was tough to imagine how this was going to be laid out.
In retrospect, the team did not want to lose Vincent Nogueira, that's a big loss. But with Nogueira leaving, that opened up a spot for somebody like Alberg to get more playing time - and he did respond. He has scored a bunch of big goals since coming on.
You've watched Andre Blake with the Union, and this summer with Jamaica in the Copa América Centenario. He has done so well that I'd think suitors for him can't be too far way. Do you think there will be enough of them, and that he's been good enough, that the time might come after the season ends for him to move on?
I can't speak for Union ownership or Union management, but I can say with total confidence that I think Andre Blake is going to get offers from Europe very soon - if they haven't already come in for him. But I have no idea what the Union's thought is in terms of whether or not they would move him, or what the right price is.
He will get offers for sure. He's a talented young player with a huge upside and skill, and there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be a goalkeeper in demand. Then the question always becomes, with star players in MLS: If there are offers made, what is the situation? Do you try to hold on to that player, or do you try to move him for big dollars to make it work on the business side? Those are always tough decisions for management and ownership.
When you covered Union sporting director Earnie Stewart during his years as a player, did you ever see him being the kind of skilled team-builder in a front office that he has become, both in Europe and now clearly in MLS?
I broadcasted many games that Earnie Stewart played in for the U.S., as well as when he played for D.C. United in MLS. I knew him as a terrific player, somebody who I thought gave his heart and soul to the U.S. team., [and] seemed to be a popular player.
But I didn't know at that time anything about Earnie's aspirations. I didn't know him then to know whether or not he wanted to be, let's say, a coach or an administrator. I had no idea back then of what his future might hold.
I think he has done amazingly well in a short time here, because MLS is not an easy league to figure out in terms of salary caps and all of the loopholes that they have. He had to get up to speed on the SuperDraft, discovery players, all kinds of things. It's amazing, I think, how quickly he has come to grasp all the nuances that Major League Soccer has
Back then [during Stewart's playing career] doing games for the U.S. national team, you didn't get to know those players as well. They were coming in and out in short periods of time. If it was a tournament, you didn't have as much access to them. So I would have had no way of even guessing what Earnie's future might be.
As for the Red Bulls, they started the season slowly but have moved up the standings in the last few weeks. When they were struggling, did you think they were going to snap out of it?
When they were struggling, I was telling people, "Don't worry about the Red Bulls, they'll be fine." Because there's a terrific coach there in Jesse Marsch. I think [sporting director] Ali Curtis has done a very good job in his position at the top of the player personnel area. And I think they just have too much talent to fail.
That was a rough start for them. They had injuries, especially in the back. And I think that when you win a Supporters' Shield - especially last year, I think they caught a lot of teams off-guard with their high pressure. I think when you have the kind of success that they had, even though they were not MLS Cup champions, you know that when you play against the top teams, you give it your best.
So, not that there were easy games for the New York Red Bulls, but especially after what they did last year, there was never going to be an easy game for them this year because everyone gives them their very best. Otherwise, they lose.
Were you surprised that they traded Lloyd Sam to D.C. United earlier this month?
No, I wasn't surprised, because of the rumors [about other potential moves]. I know he was a popular player for them, and he has done well for them over the years. But he didn't seem to have as much influence this year, let's say, as he did last year and the year before.
I think that if you believe in the rumors that they're going after certain types of players, and you have a vague idea of what their salary cap might be, then you probably know that in order to get the kind of player or players that they want, they were going to have to move pieces. I think Lloyd still had a market value - they knew they could get something for him, in this case allocation money. So I'm not surprised that he want, because of all of those reasons.
And I think, too, the only reason he went to D.C. United - because a lot of people were questioning why you'd send him to one of your rivals - is they clearly felt that was the best deal out there for him. Otherwise they would have moved him somewhere else.
You talked about the Red Bulls potentially going shopping, and some of those rumors have gotten out by now. I would think, though, that until they do sign someone, there's a lot of pressure on Gonzalo Verón to step up. He hasn't really lived up to the hype yet, especially given all the money New York has spent on him.
They're still trying, I think, to figure him out: which is his best position, how can they give him more playing time? They might be waiting for him to show that he deserves more playing time, and he might be thinking, "I need more quality playing time to show what I can do."
But for whatever reason - I wouldn't give up on him, he's a talented player, and I don't think they are giving up on him. I think it's a case where they have a lot of talent at a lot of positions, and it's their job to figure out where he fits in the best and how they're going to use him.
I think a lot of people expected more from him, especially coming in last year when he did. I think a lot of people, myself included, felt that he was one of those players who was going to take part of last season to get adjusted, and this year was going to be his year.
He did have some injury issues before - I'm not saying that's the only reason, but for probably various reasons he has not played at the level that people have expected him to. But that doesn't mean that he can't or won't in the near future.
You've also watched the U.S. women quite a bit this year. Just how good are they right now?
I think they're still the number one team in the world. They have not done anything to make anyone believe that they are not gold medal favorites, certainly, at the Olympics. Having said that, there are a lot of good teams out there, so there's no guarantee. They're not ready to polish off the gold medals yet. They have to work hard to earn it. But they are the favorites going in. I think everybody knows that.
Jill [Ellis] has done a great job when you consider she had to deal with various retirements of players, various injuries - she had the Carli Lloyd injury, the [Megan] Rapinoe injury. I think what she has done is she's been able to bring in some younger players and give them quality time. The Crystal Dunns, the Mallory Pughs are not pieces now, they're important pieces - and maybe key pieces to try and win the Olympics in August.
So she's done a great job with that, when you consider what she's done over the last two to two-and-a-half years in re-tooling and re-molding this team.
Were you at all surprised that Rapinoe made the Olympics roster, and what do you think she's going to be able to contribute?
I never counted Rapinoe out, only because her history has told us not to do that. She has bounced back from those injuries before. I thought the timeline and the clock were definitely against her. There's no doubt about that. I would not have been surprised had she made it or had she not made it.
My only thought going into [her recovery from tearing the ACL in her right knee last December] was it was going to be tough for Rapinoe because of the timeline. She would have had to beat the timeline in order to be chosen. But I felt that if Jill Ellis thought that at some point during the Olympics, Megan Rapinoe could make a contribution, she would be on the team.
No one ever said, "Yeah, she'll make it, she's going to be a starter, she's going to be the same player that she was before the injury." No one ever said that or expected that. You never count Rapinoe out, but I think the big thing is that Jill must know that Rapinoe can be counted on to make a contribution during the Olympics.
With only 18 [players] on the roster, you're not able to bring passengers. Everyone has to contribute. So there is the sense that if called upon, when called upon, Rapinoe can do something for the U.S.
What do you make of Alex Morgan's evolution into being able to play as a lone striker?, or at least as the central player in a three-player front line? She seems to be much more comfortable in that role now than she has been before.
I think so. I think part of that is her mental maturity as one of the leaders of this team, and one of the faces of this team. I think we've seen her grow over the years in that role. And I think without a player like Abby Wambach there, and when Carli Lloyd was injured, I think Alex knows that she has to be more of a leader. She has to step up and be that person. And she's done that.
But I think the biggest reason why she's looking better in that spot and doing better is that she's the healthiest that she has been in a long, long time. We never saw her at her best even at the last Women's World Cup, or on the victory tour at the start. Slowly but surely, she is much stronger now, because those injuries have healed and she is able to play more freely than she has in the past.
I also think that having offensive players like a Crystal Dunn and a Mallory Pugh - Pugh and Morgan seem to have a very good chemistry when they are out there, despite Mallory's youth. I think that has all helped as well, because opponents can't really key as much on an Alex Morgan if you have Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh also running at you. And Carli Lloyd for that matter.
You talked about the youth on the women's national team. There is a fair amount of young talent in the men's national team pipeline as well that seems primed to break through. Now that the Copa is over, do you think we will start to see a transition where Jurgen Klinsmann brings more young players into the senior level?
I think what we're going to see from Klinsmann and the U.S. men moving forward toward the  World Cup is consistency. I think that Klinsmann did a very good job during the Copa América in terms of keeping a lineup together. He would have started the same lineup for four straight games were it not for injury and suspension.*
[* - Klinsmann started the same lineup in all three Copa group stage games. It was the first time since 1930 and just the second time ever that any U.S. coach started the same lineup in three consecutive games. The streak would likely have have reached four games if not for DeAndre Yedlin's red card in the group stage finale against Paraguay.]
Not only did he not do that in the past, but other U.S. coaches haven't done that either, consistent lineups. I think what we learned from Copa América is that we now most likely know what the team's back four or back five is, and I don't think we could say that for certain before Copa América started.
We also found out that some guys can play for this team in the near future and maybe some guys won't be a part of it. Those are the things that you learn during tournaments. I know that U.S. supporters wanted to see more of Christian Pulisic. It didn't turn out that way. But I do believe that Pulisic is going to be a major player at some point in the not-too-distant future for this team.
I was going to ask you about Pulisic. He's one of a number of young players who are on the verge of breaking through.
There's Darlington Nagbe - who admittedly isn't so young at 25, but he's still new, and a lot of people wanted to see him play more at the Copa América. There's also Emerson Hyndman, who was close to making the roster but came up short. I assume that we'll see more of Jordan Morris going forward.
But when you talk about Klinsmann having consistent lineups, does that make it harder for those guys and some others to break through?
It could, yeah, but you have to earn your spot. You have to earn your playing time. So I guess first things first: they have to quality [for the final round of World Cup qualifying, and then the World Cup]. We all expect them to qualify, but they still have a couple of games left before they get to the Hex. So I think that first things first, you've got to take care of that business, and then I think the rest of it will come.
I think that if Pulisic continues to play the way he has, and if he continues to get valuable minutes with his club team, he'll continue to get called in by Klinsmann. At some point he'll force that decision. The same with guys like Nagbe. If they prove to be good enough, those guys will play.
What do you make of all the chatter about Klinsmann being a candidate to be the next England men's national team head coach?
I always think that where there's smoke, there's fire. I don't know how big this fire is, but anyone who knows the English press knows the way they sensationalize things. So it could be all bogus. There could be very little fact in it, but some. Or it could actually be that there is some discussion that's going on.
But I understand the fascination with him. He played there [for Tottenham Hotspur], he was successful with Germany at the World Cup. He's still a big name across the world. So I understand that. And he is coming off a good Copa América. After the Gold Cup last year there'd be no rumors about England. So this is what's happening now, at the moment. This is why there's an interest - if there is an interest, this is why. It's all in the timing.