Thursday, December 13, 2012

Begin Again

And so the posts begin again. I realize I haven't posted in quite some time. But I thought I'd post again, just to see if anyone still wanted to read my ramblings about sports. But now, on to what really matters. The sports.

Tonight, I have 2 tickets to the Eagles game. The Eagles will be hosting the 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. What does this mean for the Eagles? Well, in the end, not much. The writing appears to be on the wall for Andy Reid. at 4-9, the Eagles sit in the basement of the NFC East, and appear poised to stay there for the remainder of the season. The one bright spot tonight will be the play of young players, particularly Nick Foles.

Can he be the quarterback the Eagles need? Last week showed some flashes of brilliance, and a last minute drive. Both of which Eagles fans haven't seen for a while. And that will hopefully bring some energy to the home crowd tonight.  Because last week was his audition for whoever his new coach will be. But this week could be considered his audition for Eagles fans. Have we seen him play before? Yes. But have we seen him play after a victory like their win over Tampa Bay? No. But Foles won't be alone tonight

Playing behind Foles, but working equally as hard to guarantee a roster spot under a new coach will be Bryce Brown.

Brown has also shown flashes of ability in his games since LeSean McCoy went down with a concussion. Flashes that have left Philadelphia fans drooling. Imagine, a team with a competent head coach and a healthy offense line, directed by Nick Foles, with the tandem of McCoy and Brown in the backfield.? That sounds  like a  team Philly fans want to see. But until next season, all we have are games like tonight. A game with a bad offensive line. A game where the best thing we can do is play spoiler. But hell, its still a game, and the Eagles still want to win.

And I think they will.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Trade Deadline

The Phillies made a lot of noise at the the trade deadline this season. And for the first time in a long time, it wasn't the Phillies signing a big name. It was the Phillies trading big names. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino are gone. And with them, quite a bit of salary.

So where do the Phillies go from here? It's a tough question. with these trades the Phillies have clearly given up on the 2012 season, and also at any chance of the playoffs. And freeing up salary will let them sign players in the offseason that will help in a playoff run in 2013. But those hoping for a World Series in 2012 are out of luck.

And those who liked Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are out of luck. Victorino was certainly a fan favorite, and though Pence hasn't played for the Phillies long, he's quickly become a fan favorite. So how will the Phillies replace these 2 players?

With wins, that's how.

Wins are what really matters. And with Hamels, Halladay, Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Lee still on the roster, plenty of fan favorites still exist. And plenty of players who can win are still on this roster. All the Phillies need are some every day players who can play up to expectations, and not give up bad defensive plays while batting poorly.

Does that mean Mayberry and Brown need to step up? Yes. It does. But with this season a lost cause, it gives the Phillies 40 or so games to see what they have. Will Brow or Mayberry step up? Int he end who cares? If they do, great! the Phillies have two outfielders they need. If they don't, then the Phillies know what they need to do in the offseason. Either way, these trades will let the Phillies better prepare for next season, and hopefully another playoff run.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Decision

Silas Redd has made his decision. And for PSU fans, its not the decision that we wanted to hear. Silas Redd will be a Trojan in the 2012 college football season. Is this what PSU fans wanted? no. But should PSU fans be mad at Silas Redd? NO!

Redd committed to Penn State to play for Joe Paterno, and to play for bowl games and national championships. And despite the obvious irony of transferring from one school facing sanctions to another, I can't blame Redd for switching schools.

let's looka t facts. at PSU, Redd has 2 seasons of eligibility left. But after a stellar sophmore season, with over 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns, he faces no bowls or postseason for the rest of his career. At USC, despite sanctions, its a different case. He faces one year of postseason sanctions, then the trojans are free to compete for postseason glory. So after what will essentially be a warmup year, Redd will be able to lead the Trojans to glory in the weakest conference iin college football. In terms of a post college career, Redd probably made the right choice.

But it's not the choice PSU fans wanted to see. We wanted to see Redd stick by his word, and play for PSU despite sanctions. we wanted to see Redd lead this team to a winning record, and fight against what many view as unjust NCAA sanctions. But alas, it's not to be.

Instead, Redd joins Lane Kiffin at USC. A school that most PSU fans, myself included, detest. But we can't hate Redd for his decision. And we can't blame him for leaving. he made the decision that was the best for him and his future. Instead, PSU fans need to face this season with the team we have. And with the commits we have. and we have a strong team left, and strong commitments from high school players. The future of PSU players did not depend on Silas Redd. But he sure would have helped.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Today is the day of reckoning for Penn State fans. Penn State has had sanctions levied on them. But most of the players have reaffirmed their commitment to stay. Most of the recruits have also committed to Penn State. But there are still a few players who haven't made a commitment. And the most important of those players is Silas Redd.

Redd is expected to make an announcement concerning his decision to stay or go. And the school he's considering is USC. And can you blame Redd? He's a star and a stud running back. With a couple more seasons of good football, Redd has a solid chance to be high draft pick. The problem he faces is a matter of publicity. where will he get more? Succeeding at USC, and succeeding in bowl games? Or leading a Penn State team facing crippling sanctions?

It's a tough choice. USC not only means press and bowl games, it also means a probable chance at a national championship. The PAC-12 has been a playground for USC over the last 10 years. And with Matt Barkley leading the charge, and Silas Redd in the backfield, the Trojans would a force in the PAC-10. And for a young college athlete, this has to be an alluring offer.

But to stay at Penn State? That would take guts. leading a team for two seasons with no shot at a bowl. No shot at a Big 10 championship. And a virtual guarantee that each season will be worse than the last. But the respect and admiration that he would gain by staying? Unmeasurable. He would be a hero to the Penn State nation. And he would also be an example for his fellow players who are looking at other teams.

So Penn Staters are holding their collective breath. And praying that Redd chooses to stay. It's not that the season hangs on Redd one way or the other. But he will be a huge help to an offense that hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard in recent seasos. So Redd would be a big help.

So all Penn State fans can do now is wait. And hope that the good qualities o Penn State, and the culture of the University can help convince Redd to stay. Because it wouldn't just be a big statement for the season, it would be a big statement for the University. It would show that despite the crippling NCAA sanctions, Penn State is going to fight hard on and off te field.

Friday, July 27, 2012

MLS All Stars vs. Chelsea FC

The MLS All Stars won the match 3-2. A fantastic result for MLS, especially considering their opponents were the Champions Leaague winners. So what does this victory mean for the league, and more importantly your Philadelphia Union?

Well, short term, it means nothing. But in the eyes of the world, I think it shows a of of growth for the league. let's face it, the MLS is often maligned as a league of weak players, and semi retired European players looking for some easy money. I think this year's friendlies, and the match between the AllStars and Chelsea, are starting to show the world what the MLS is made of.

Granted, the MLS is not up to par with European sides yet. premier League teams they are not. But they are  getting better. And the world would do well to recognize it. Not only do stars like Landon Donovan and David Beckham play in the MLS. But stars like Freddy Montero and Michael Farfan make their home here too. And as the talent level continues to rise, respect for league should grow as well.

But one All Star game does not mean instant respect. other MLS clubs need to step up to the plate. An All Star win is nice. But the MLS clubs in the Conacaf Champions League need to start winning too. International wins are what bring respect, and the MLS needs to step up to the plate and win some matches in international play.

But until that happens, I'll take a win over Chelsea any day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moving On

The next era of Penn State football is beginning. And while it appears to be a foregone conclusion the team will be mediocre at best, thanks to incredibly strong NCAA sanctions. But Bill O'Brien isn't going to let that stop him. As he made the rounds today, he outlined the reasons Penn State will continue to be a successful institution.

And what he mentioned are strong reasons for new recruits to come to Penn State.  Where else can you play 6 or 7 home games a season in front of 108,000 screaming fans? Despite the sanctions, Penn State will still be a nationally broadcasted team. And Bill O'Brien has coached teams in the Super Bowl. So there are still reasons to come to Penn State. Good reasons.

Unfortunately, that won't be enough. The current players have expressed their commitment to Penn State. Maybe they'll all stay. Some players will leave. Who will leave remains to be seen. And certain players can't be blamed for leaving. Silas Redd for example. He's a fantastic player, with a real chance to get drafted and play in the NFL. And on a Penn State team that could recruit normally and play in Bowl games, Redd may have had a chance to do something wonderful. But rumors have him talking to USC.

So all that's left now is to play some football, and let the chips fall where they may. The NCAA has seen to it that Penn State will be a sub par program for the foreseeable future. Once the current crop of players leave, Penn State will be a broken and battered program. Instead of scheduling small weak programs for us to beat up on in the opening weeks of the season, we will be that team. And that's not what PSU fans are used to.

But it will end. The sanctions will end, and when O'Brien gets a chance to recruit with the promise of bowl games and scholarships, the ship will right itself.

In the meantime, only 38 days until we play Ohio. And I can't wait.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sanctions and Their Repercussions

Well, there you go. Joe Pa's wins are gone. 4 year bowl ban. And Penn State football is now being run by the NCAA. And what for? For a man who committed horrible atrocities and was not an employee of the University? Because criminal courts can't adequately punish those who committed the crimes? No, they are punishing a program because they feel they need to act.

And my problem with the punishments is just that. Sandusky is a monster. Who committed awful crimes. But he was not an employee. I can't stress that enough. He was not an employee. Did Sandusky's actions give Penn State a competitive advantage? Were their players committing crimes? Their coaches giving an advantage? No. None of the above.

So my question is, where does the NCAA get this power? It's an organization that was founded to promote fairness among athletic programs. And that is an admirable thing. Fairness is important. But this is so far outside of the NCAA's jurisdiction it's scary. There was no question of fairness, no question of on the field problems or infractions.

So now Penn State faces a 4 year bowl ban. And loses their win records. And all of these things may have been warranted. But the circumstances just seem a little off. Yes it was a horrible thing that occurred. But the NCAA didn't commission an investigation. They gave their president dictatorial power to lord his will over the Penn State football program. So where do we go from here?

Bill O'Brien had a nearly impossible job. Now it's even harder. His program has literally no incentive to bring players into the program now. you won't see a powerful Penn State football team for a decade or maybe more now. And that will have repercussions beyond just the football field. A bad football team will lead to a lack of fans attending the game. A lack of fans will hurt central Pennsylvania in a way the NCAA can't quite see. Central PA depends quite a bit on PSU football for economic prosperity. That will go away.

So was this the right thing to do? No. The people who committed these crimes are being punished criminally. Or they are dead. Vacating the wins? That I have no problems with. But the bowl ban? And the financial penalties? These are leveled by an organization far overstepping their bounds.  Penalties for a crime that had nothing to do with the football program.

And people will say hero worship. People will say it's a cult. And they can. But that's not what it is on my end. I'm completely fine with the loss of the wins. Take JoePa's wins. if he did everything they claim in the Freeh Report, that is a viable punishment. But to punish a program, when in reality it as the action s of a select few, all of whom are dead or being punished criminally, I think these are inappropriate punishments.

In Anticipation of Penalties...

The one thing I find strange is how excited people are for the Penn State penalties to be handed down. Penalties that will not just effect the football program, but the town, and the economy of the region beyond.  Penalties that will are being handed down for actions committed by a man who was not an employee of Penn State, and for the actions taken by members not a part of the football team.

But regardless of why, the thing that scares me is the fervor of people waiting for the penalties. ESPN couldn't be more excited about these penalties. People can't wait to see just how much the pound of flesh will weigh. Will it be multiple bowl games? Will it be financial penalties? Will it be loss of scholarships?

They really don't care. All they care about is the show. And being able to villify and destroy a man and a program who had been held for so long as the gold standard of college football, this is what they wanted. The media is thriving off of this scandal, and loving every minute of it. Because if there is one thing the media loves more than success, it's watching a fall from grace.

And this is the biggest fall from grace sports media has had in a long time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Legacy of Joe Paterno

I've been debating what to write on the legacy of Joe Paterno.  What he means to the community of Penn State, and what he means to the world are two wholly different things. To an outsider, he's the coach of a crippled and rotten institution. To many he is just as guilty as Sandusky, if not more so. And one can debate the question of what he should have done and what he did. You can debate media bias. You can debate the fanatical defense you see from Penn State students and alumni.

But you can't debate that what Joe attempted to portray his whole life is not all that he was. Viewed through the rose colored glasses of Happy Valley, Joe Paterno was a hero. he was a man who stood above the greed and corruption of college football. he cared about his players, and not just their stats. he wanted to see them graduate, and graduate they did. And he wanted to win. and win they did. And in doing so, Joe became a legend almost as big as Penn State itself.

And in doing so, he became unassailable. How many comparisons of coaches involved good old JoePa? When you looked at scandals in big football programs like USC, Ohio State, Miami, and others, invariably Paterno's name would come up. because Paterno was the proof that you could do it the right way. you could work hard, and be rewarded for it. And it seemed paterno would coach to the bitter end, just trying to make sure that the program he came to represent would always be known for the morals he showed to the world.

And then November of 2011 happened. The scandal that rocked a man who seemed so untouchable, that scandal would never reach him. Remember all those scandals that he was compared to in the past? Those all paled in comparison to what they were accusing Joe of. Add them together and they weren't 1/100th of what Joe had been a part of. So they took his team away. And he lost what he had worked so hard for. And he died.

And the Penn State family mourned his passing. And we all hoped that what we feared wasn't true. That he did the right thing. That others covered it up. That it wasn't Joe. then the Freeh report came out. And every Penn Stater's worst fear was confirmed.

He knew.

He could have stopped it.

He didn't.

So what are we left with now? How do you reconcile the image of a man who meant so much to so many, with the image of a man who now represents the face of a monster. The man who covered for Jerry Sandusky?

Will supporters of JoePa attempt to explain away the wrong he did? Of course. And will people vilify him to an extent he doesn't deserve? Of course. And far be it from me to determine the proper way to remember JoePa. All I can tell you is what i feel.

JoePa was a legend in my family. he was a hero to me. i listened and watched to Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions for as long as I can remember. I've bled blue and white my whole life. And when everything broke, I was in denial at first. But then, as I watched how Joe handled the situation, my view began to change. Joe was not the face I saw on TV. He was an old, tired man who had made a mistake. And he refused to admit to it.

Then he died.

Then the Freeh report came out. And I founf out Joe knew more than anyone could have imagined. How could Joe Paterno, the man who always did the right thing, not call the cops, or the governor, or the President? he was Joe freaking Paterno!! Someone, anyone would have listened. And it hurt. Even though I never met Joe Paterno, to imagine someone I had looked up to my whole life could act in such a disgusting manner, it hurt me.

So take down the statue. I think it should come down. What did Joe always say? it isn't the name on the back of the jersey that matters, its the name on the front. So bring down the statue.

And lets do what Joe would have wanted. The Joe we all knew and loved. The Joe who cared about Penn State, and doing the right thing. Let's move past this horrible tragedy as a family. And let's make it about Penn State. No tributes to Joe Paterno. No statues. No names. Just Penn State. The Nittany Lions. And if they suspend football for a year or two, and give us the death penalty, no complaining. And when the Lions come back on the field, we'll be right back where we should be, in Happy Valley, supporting them.

And as for Joe Paterno? Who can say what we'll think of him in the future. 10 or 15 years from now, we might look at him differently. But for right now, Joe has to go.

In every way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Philadelphia Union vs. L.A. Galaxy Postgame

What a game. What else to say? What a game. The Union played out of their minds. The L.A. Galaxy should be going out of theirs. The Galaxy had so many unfinished chances it hurt. But they couldn't finish. Despite the star power. Despite Keane and Donovan, and all the dives Donovan could bring to the table.

Now I won't say this was a match the refs controlled. Because the Union won. But Landon Donovan did get the benefit of the doubt a few times when the call could have gone either way. Or one time when Donovan should have gotten a card(ask Gabe Farfan) but he didn't. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. The Union show their grit and score 2 goals, both in stoppage time, to win the match.

So the Union win. And it's thanks to a full team effort. Hooray to the strikers and midfield for scoring. And hooray to the defense and MacMath for not allowing more goals. But in the end, what really won this match? Any guesses? If you said the following, you're right!!!


Hackworth let the Union play their own game. And when they needed firepower, in came Hoppenot, Gomez, and Pajoy. Exactly what they needed to score. And exactly what Nowak would not have done.

So enjoy your July 4th aftermath. Because the Union sure will!!!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Philadelphia Union vs. L.A. Galaxy at the Half

Wow. What a game. And the Union manage to bring a 1-0 lead into the locker rooms at halftime. Who saw that coming? Certainly not me, especially after the 1st half the Union played. The 1st half hinged on 3 players, and we'll take a look at how each player performed this half. We'll start things off with a man who knows how to get things done.

1. Robbie Keane
Unfortunately for L.A., Keane can't seem to close the deal tonight. He should have a hat trick, and the Union should be sitting dejected in the locker room, ruing another West Coast loss. But Keane has had the uncanny ability tonight to completely miss the net. His chances have been golden, and any other night this game would have been out of reach. But how can a Mick be the hero on July 4th when you have a player on the field named...

Jack McInerney
That's right! Union Jack scores the goal that puts the Union ahead. Was it a pretty goal? No. Was it a typical Jack goal? Yes. Be in the right place, at the right time, and reap the benefits. Jack collects another goal since Nowak left, and yet more proof as to why he deserves to start every game. It's plays like Jack's goal that will help the Union pull themselves out of the hole that Nowak put them in. But the real hero tonight? I think we all know who that is.

Zack MacMath
It's hard to judge how important he's been in this match. The most important player on the field? Or the player the game hinges on? To take a page out of a hockey game, the 1st star? All of the above is the answer. MacMath has stopped Keane more than once, and punched out, grabbed, or backpedaled to save multiple shots. It's nights like tonight that make a Union fan say Mondragon who?

So what does the 2nd half have in score? Who knows. But my heart can't take too many more Robbie Keane chances. He's been all over the field, and has sliced through the Union defense like butter. Another goal from the Union would certainly make this game easier to watch. I see more scoring this half.

Final Score Union :3 Galaxy:2

Philadelphia Union vs. L.A. Galaxy Preview.

Tonight, on July 4th, the city where the United States was founded will face off against the L.A. Galaxy in a battle for Independence Day supremacy. And I can't wait. This is a battle between the the MLS Cup winners from last season, and a team that appears to be on the rebound since a managerial change. So who will win?

It's going to be a tough match, there is no question about that. The L.A. Galaxy have found their stride. They've put together a good run the last couple of games, and have been scoring goals at a pace that even the Union over the past couple of games have had a tough time keeping up with. But the Union do have a few advantages going into tonight's game.


One would be the loss of David Beckham for tonight's match. Due to yellow card accumulation the popular midfielder is out of tonight's match. But that doesn't mean that the Galaxy are without dangerous pieces. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane still lead a potent L.A. attack.

But it's precisely those players that give the Union their advantage. No one can deny their skill. But no can deny their age either. The Union have youth on their side. And in a midweek game, youth is something you need. The Union legs should stay fresher than the Galaxy, a factor which will be important in the second half especially.

But unfortunately, I think legs will be a factor for both teams, so don't look for MacMath to post another shutout. Both defenses will be tired, and I think both will let in bad goals. Look for a high scoring game, and look for the team that scores first to win.

So now here's my prediction. Short and sweet and nothing else. 4-3 Union.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Philadelphia Union vs. the Houston Dynamo

The Philadelphia Union are playing the Houston Dynamo this weekend. And looking at the schedule a month ago, this game scared me.  A match, on the road against an upper level team meant certain defeat for the Union. Cue the music, lets move on and hope we play Toronto F.C. soon so we have a shot at a win. Then John Hackworth took over. And Jack Mac started scoring. And the Union started clicking.

And now the Union are rolling. 9 goals in their last two matches. And the attacking players who couldn't finish to save their lives just weeks ago now can't seem to miss. This was the Union that Nowak promised us, the Union that we knew was somewhere on the roster. And now the team has a coach that is willing to let it run wild.

And that's what we like to see. The Union are clicking and the are scoring. There is no denying that. And the Dynamo haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in their last few matches.(The same could be said about the Union all season, but let's not worry about that right now.) And up until the playoffs last season, the Union had a fairly solid record against the Dynamo.

So what happens when a high flying team with nothing to lose meets a team who needs a win to get themselves out of a slump? For one thing, a good match. For another, a win for the Union. Yes they will be a little tired from the U.S.O.C. match. But with the offense clicking the way it is, Houston is going to have to outscore the Union to win. And if we take the last 2 matches into account, the Dynamo will need 5 goals to come away with the win.

And I don't see that happening. The Union will continue their streak tonight. They'll continue to dominate their competition. The only worry for the Union will the suspension of Ray Gaddis, but as long as Porfirio Lopez doesn't make an appearance, I think the backline and MacMath will be just fine.

So what will the final score be you ask? Another drubbing by the Union, but no shutout this time. 4-1 Philadelphia Union will take the full 3 points from Houston. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Philadelphia Advances to U.S.O.C. Semifinals

The Philadelphia Union blew past the Harrisburg City Islanders last night. I mean just put on a clinic. Especially in the 1st half. The Union were up 3-nil at the break. Adu, Mcirnerney, and Pajoy had scored, and the Union were rolling. Nothing was going to stop them.

Cue the Harrisburg City Islanders, who came back from 3-0 in their last match to win in PK's. But come on, they can't do that again? Can they?

The City Islanders came out of the break ready to play. They wanted to advance, and they wanted to prove last round wasn't a fluke. So what did they do? They scored 2 goals in rapid succession, and they struck fear into the hearts of fans and players alike.

But did the Union give in? No. They brought the game back under control, scored 2 more goals to put the game out of reach, and cruised past the City Islanders with a final score of 5-2. And with their 5 goals, they have now scored more goals than they did in their first 12 league matches. And they advanced to their first U.S.O.C. semifinal in team history. They'll be playing a Sporting K.C. team in PPL Park. A team they handled easily, 4-0, just this past weekend.

So what does this mean for the Union? Well they finally have a shot at some silverware. But more importantly, they seem to be showing life. They are enjoying themselves. And they are letting fans enjoy the game again for the first time all season. Nowak is gone, Hackworth is in, and this team is flying around the field.

Can they win the U.S.O.C.? Who knows. Will they make a run now to try to get back in the playoff hunt? Who cares!! This team is fun to watch again, and I'm just going to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm Back From Vacation, and a Familiar Face is Gone!!

So I go away for a little while and Peter Nowak is shown the door. Quite frankly, i couldn't be happier. It's about time Nowak left the team. Now I could do a perspective and talk about the Nowak era. Or I could look at John Hackworth and try to guess at how his tenure with the Union will go, and how long he will last as head coach with the Union.

Instead I'll just look at the product we've seen on the field since Nowak departed. And boy do we see a different team. First of all Jack McInerney, where have you been? Now that he is out of Peter Nowak's doghouse, and in John hackworth's good graces, McInerney has exploded in the last two MLS matches. He had numerous chances and did everything but finish against D.C. United. And last weekend against K.C., he finished up the night with a brace.

And we saw Hoppenot contribute in the rout against K.C. as well. And Pajoy netted a P.K. Overall, it was a weekend that let Union fans see that their is still hope for this team. And it also showed that the Union is not the defensive possession team that Nowak wanted them to be. They can be a flashy, offensive club. And they can compete with the best teams in the MLS.

And that's all i really wanted to see. Let the chips fall where they may, but at least compete. And under Nowak, he took away the team's ability to compete. And Hackworth is giving it back. Hackworth is putting his best 11 on the field and letting them do what they do best.

That's all we wanted to see.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Tale of Two Adus

The past week has shown us the best and worst of Freddy Adu. From the lows of a defeat at the hands of one of the worst clubs in the MLS, to a pair of goals in the USOC match over the Rochester Rhinos. Now the question one has to ask is, why do the Union play so poorly on Saturday, and so well just a few days later?

Lets examine the Toronto FC game first. Did anyone on the Union play well? No, not really. True some people did play better than others. Michael Farfan is one player who come to mind. Chris Konopka is another. But no one played well enough to win, and for Union, a win is the only thing they need right now. And Adu is a player who needs to step up.

Adu has a hefty price tag. And he has a lot of expectations on his shoulders. I'm willing to give him a pass for last season. Coming to a team in the middle of a season, and needing to get into match shape and learn the offense is no easy thing. But he's here now. He's has an off season to learn what he needs to know. He's had a preseason to get into match shape, and has played most of the Union's matches this season, when he isn't on  international duty.

So I have a real problem when the best we get from Adu is a pair of goals in a USOC match, and 1 good half against the New York Red Bulls before he commits two stupid fouls and gets himself a red. How much longer do we have to wait before Adu lives up to the expectations? Will he ever do it?

The problem is, i can't place all the blame on Adu. Nowak constantly plays new formations, new lineups, and ships off his best players. But Adu needs to be the professional and fight through that. And I want to see the brilliant play we saw against Rochester and in the Olympic qualifiers for more than just 40 minutes for the Union.

The question is, will it ever happen?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Rare Phillies Post

That's right readers, it's a rare Phillies post. I feel a post is in order, since the team is literally falling apart. Not in the way the Union are, from the coach on down. No, this is a much more literal breakdown. The Phillies are falling apart physically. A quick glance at the roster tells the story. Halladay, Worley, Utley, Howard. All big names, and names Phillies fans expected to make a splash this season. What do they have in common? They're all on the DL right now.

By far, the biggest letdown so far is Roy Halladay. Halladay has been a proven commodity for years now, both as a Blue Jay and Phillie. He's pitches deep into games, throws complete game shutouts. And he NEVER. EVER. misses a start. But that will change now with a strain in his shoulder. 6-8 weeks without the Doc, the Phillies ace and leader.

Vance Worley is due to come back to the lineup soon. So the Phillies will put a proven ace on the DL, and depend on Vance Worley to play the way he did in his rookie season. If he can do that, the Phillies will be able to survive in the absence of Halladay. Will they be in first place? No, probably not. But they can stay within striking distance.

And as for the field players? Utley and Howard? Who knows what we'll get? Utley is a Phillies player through and through. He works his butt off, and doesn't complain. But his knees just can't keep up with his spirit anymore. So Utley will be back. That much we know. But how long will we have Utley? no one knows. And how good will his play be? Again, there is no way to know. It's a gamble, but one the Phillies are stuck taking.

And Ryan Howard is much the same way. Yes, a player can come back from an Achilles injury. But as this season has shown, Ryan Howard has been the keystone for the Phillies offense for th past half decade. And the offense is struggling without him. So will he be back this season? Yes. Will he be the player he's been in the past? All Phillies fans can do is hope.

Any sports season can be destroyed by injury. Rarely does a team have to deal with this much. The Phillies have the potential to be a good team, even a team who can make deep playoff run. But Phillies fans need to hope that the team is still in the playoff hunt once everyone gets healthy again. Because this is an aging team, and they are running out of chances.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Last Straw?

So was this the last straw for Nowak? The Philadelphia Union were beaten by a team that started this season with the worst record in MLS history.  And they are running out of excuses. In fact, they are completely out of excuses. Let's take a look at the timeline from the past year.

Fall 2011
At this point, Union fans were on top of the world. Their team was fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They were playing well, scoring goals behind the power of their sure footed striker, Sebastian LeToux. And they were the MLS' 2nd stingiest defense, with Faryd Mondragon between the pipes, and Danny Califf leading the back line. Things were looking good for the Union.

Then the team lost in the playoffs. Union fans were disappointed, but happy. A playoff berth and a home game in their sophomore season? Any Union fan would be happy with that. So despite the loss, Union fans looked to the 2012 season with excitement. They were a club on the rise, with a legitimate star in Sebastian LeToux, a potential star in Freddy Adu, and a rising star in Michael Farfan.

So where are we now? Well let's take a look. Are the Union fighting for 1st place like they were last year? Hmmm, quick check, no. They're fighting for their lives to stay out of the basement. Is the problem LeToux and Mondragon and Califf not living up to their potential? Another quick check, and no. Since Nowak shipped them out, they are all playing well for their new clubs.And the players the Union picked up in their absence?

Well let's see. First you have Lionard Pajoy. Now granted, Nowak has played him as a single striker for much of the season, and that isn't Pajoy's game. But this past weekend, against the worst team in the league, Pajoy was invisible even though he had a partner up top. Gabriel Gomez? I have no complaints about Gomez. he's played well so far, the best of the off season pickups. And Pofirio Lopez? His hair his amazing, his play is not. And that't the nicest thing I can say about him.

The Union have picked up other players this season. But with the lack of playing time for Herdling and 1st round draft pick Chandler Hoffman, I can't make an accurate assessment of how well they'll fit in Nowak's "system"

So where does that leave us? A terrible team. And who can we blame? The constant throughout all of this. Peter Nowak. So what can the Union do? They have two options. Fire Nowak. To me this is the best option. Rip off the Band-Aid instead of peeling it off. Besides, if you fire Nowak now, he can't do any more damage to a team that is already reeling.

The other option is to wait until after the season to fire Nowak. This would be a terrible move. The Union fan base is fed up with Nowak, and waiting any longer will drive fans away. Fans are fed up with Nowak and the Union for the same reason they get fed up with the Eagles and Andy Reid. A coach who seems to wield all the power who refuses to tell his fan base anything. The difference between the Eagles and the Union? The Eagles are an established NFL team with a fan base that will complain but not leave. 50 years of rooting is a hard habit to break.

The Union have no such ties with a fan base. 2 full seasons is all the Union have. That's not much time to build up fan dedication. Granted, the Union still have the River End, and they are still selling out the stadium. But if the season continues the way it is now, that stadium wont be full on a hot and humid July night. So when it really boils down to it, fans need to ask themselves one question.

Who are the Union more loyal to? Nowak or the fans?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Coca Cola 600

It's time to bring a new sport into the game. That sport? Nascar! Now I will say now that I am a Kasey Kahne fan. So of course I think he'll win every race. But on to what's important, the race this weekend. The longest race of the season, the Coca Cola 600.

So what does this race mean? As points go, it's the same as any other. But it's one of the crown jewels of the season. It's a feather in a team's cap to win the longest endurance race of the season. And it comes on one of the biggest day's in motosports. The day of the Indianapolis 500. So who will win the race? A few years ago, that answer was easy. Lowes Motor Speedway was dominated by the man who drove the Lowes Chevrolet.

But that dominance had fallen off in recent years. Until Johnson won the All-Star race this past weekend. So has Jimmie returned to Lowes form? Is he ready to storm the field at a track he used to treat as his own? In short, no. I don't think Jimmie will do it. Winning back to back races at the same track on consecutive weekends is tough. I'll give you 3 drivers who I think stand a better chance of winning this race than Johnson.

1. Kyle Busch
The driver everyone loves to hate. Myself included. But he always seem to storm through the first half of the season, and this year is no exception. He'll fall off as he usually does in August and September, but this is Kyle's part of the season. And as much as I hate to admit, I think he stands a good chance of making a run at this year's 600.

2. Greg Biffle
Biffle has had an up and down season, but he's returning to a type of track that Roush cars usually run well at. Cookie cutter ovals have treated Roush cars well, and look for Biffle to return to early season form with a strong run in this year's 600.

3. Kasey Kahne
. Come on, you knew this was coming. But seriously, look at his trends. he's won here before. He's had only top 10's in the last month. And he ran well last weekend in the All Star race. So all trends are pointing to a strong showing from Kasey. And he needs a win to prove that Hendrick made the right call in picking him up this season to replace Mark Martin in the 5 car. And he also needs a win to solidify his chances at making the Chase.

So there you have. My 3 top picks for this weekend. Who do you think will win? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Then and Now: Peter Nowak

What has happened to Peter Nowak? A year ago, fans were in love with the manager. The Union were fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The offense wasn't clicking(like now), but fan favorite Sebastian LeToux was still an integral part of the team. Despite the comparable offense, the team seemed to win the matches they lose this season. And since Nowak sent away most of the players we had last season, we're left to scratch our heads. Why the losses? Is it the players he sent away? Or is it Nowak himself?

First, lets look at who Nowak let go in the off season. The players and positions are varied, but the impact they have on the Union plan of attack is huge. And the two most important are Sebastian LeToux and Faryd Mondragon.

Let's look at goalies first. At first glance, most people would say MacMath is a downgrade from Faryd Mondragon. But I would beg to differ. Modragon finished 2011 with 49 saves. And the Union contended for the Eastern Conference title. That's a tough mantle to live up to. But MacMath already has 26 saves this season. The season isn't even half over, and MacMath has more than half the saves Mondragon had last season. Granted, the team isn't in the same position it was last year, but still. MacMath is playing well.

Now many people will say the defense is a key part to saves. And I would agree. Nowak shipped out captain and stellar defender Danny Califf to Chivas U.S.A. A good move? Only time will tell. But MacMath has been facing offenses without Califf for weeks now. Imagined injuries or not, Califf hasn't played. And MacMath has played well in his absence. So Nowak was right. The youth on the team shines in net. MacMath is at least as good, if not better than Mondragon. Say what you will about experience, I'll take Big Orange in net over Mondragon any day.

So if Nowak made the right call in net, did he go wrong with the rest of the team? Logic would say that if he made one right call, the rest would fall into line. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. And when examining an attack, one also has to look at the formations played, time on the field, etc. But still, logical conclusions can be drawn about players and managers.

So what do I think of the LeToux trade? Complete and utter nonsense. But before we discuss that, let's look at Lionard Pajoy. Pajoy is 2nd on the team in goals, and 1st on the team in shots. Why is this important? Because LeToux led the team in both these categories last year. I'm not here to lament the LeToux trade because of what we got for him. The trade is over and done with. It's time to move on. I'm here to lament what could have been.

LeToux and Pajoy could have been an amazing tandem. LeToux is scrappy player. Fighting for possession, and fighting for goals. He is always around the ball, and always ready to do what it takes to score. And Pajoy wants to score too. But he isn't LeToux. And the two would have complemented each other perfectly. An attacking striker with deft play and the ability to shoot. And a scrappy player who will fight through anything for the ball. Imagine LeToux of late last season with a Ruiz who fought harder. The tandem could have been unstopppable.

But it wasn't to be. And how Nowak handles it is one of the major problems the Union face this season. Without LeToux, the Union face a significant loss at the striker position. Mwanga has played at striker, and Pajoy has played alone. But the goals have been hard to come by. For the entire offense. But the goals must run through the striker, and as a replacement for LeToux, Pajoy has absorbed much of the blame for lack of offense. But he needs a partner up top to function in the role he is equipped for. And Nowak knows this

So enough about moves and trades and acquisitions. What has Nowak done this season? He has become the Andy Reid of the Philadelphia soccer community. Gone is the good will and the wins. Hello awkward press conferences and a season of doubt and loss. So Nowak has a tough season. His response?

Youth is the answer, we have so often heard. But is it? Does youth see the playing time that we expect from a coach who preaches youth? Adu, Okugo, Daniel, and the Farfans see time. But what about the striker position? What Mwanga? McIrnerney? Hoffman? Fans have accepted that youth is the future. Embraced it even. But not seeing a youth movement in attack does not sit well. Especially with the record the Union have.

So what is Nowak's grade so far? Can you grade him? It's a hard thing to do. I believe in the youth movement that Nowak preaches. I think a young team can go far in the MLS, and I think Nowak can coach them there. But when he preaches youth, and practices something else, that's when I get worried. We have promising rookies playing key roles, like Raymon Gaddis. And young players like MacMath playing key roles for the team. But only seeing youth on defense is not what Union fans expected of Nowak.

So I have to give Nowak a C-. And he has the potential to drop from here. Is the team record important? Yes and no. I want to see Nowak play out his grand experiment. Bring out the youth. I want to see the team I saw in the 2nd half against Real Madrid last season. I want to see the youth come out and take it to the MLS. And I want to see the Peter Nowak lead the charge.

The only question left is, will he?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Philadelphia Union vs. Schalke 04 Recap

So they won. And the Union improved to 4-0-0 in friendlies at PPL Park. And we saw something from the Union that we haven't seen in a long time. Attacking soccer. And guess what? It works!! Especially when you play the young guys! I'm not sure if Union fans remember what a goal celebration looks like, but here's a reminder.

So what does this tell us about the Union? Besides the fact that they can score, despite their season thus far? That Nowak is right and wrong. He's right when it comes to youth. For the second time in as many years, the Union faced off against a powerhouse European team, and had their youth do them proud. Last year, the friendly against Real Madrid showcased Union youth. In the second half, against Real's starters, the Union youth held stars like Ronaldo scoreless, and notched a tally of their own. And yesterday, against Schalke, Union youth again showed their quality. Mwanga had a near miss, and Hoffman scored. Keon Daniel played well yesterday. So Nowak is right. Youth is the future for the Union.

So how is Nowak wrong? Because despite the fact that he preaches to the fanbase youth and attacking soccer, he doesn't manage that way. Does youth make a showing? Sure. You have the Farfan brothers, and you see Keon Daniel and Freddy Adu in the midfield. But do you see Hoffman, Mwanga, McInerney  up top? No. You see Lionard Pajoy struggling to figure out which direction is up when he plays lone striker. I know that isn't what he normally plays, but at some point he has to figure out how to create something. Or else Nowak needs to change his strategy.

And one more thing. I know there have been rumors about Raul coming to play for the Union. Would that be a good thing? Of course! The leading scorer in Real Madrid history is always a nice edition to have for a team. But even if the Union do land Raul, will he turn the team around? There's no guarantee. Unless the Union can play a game more like what we saw last night and less like what we've seen all season, it's going to be a long summer. Because even if you lose, if they play like the did yesterday, they'll go down fighting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

If You Could let Bryzgalov go, Would You?

As I was driving home today, I heard this question asked. And most people, including the on air talent, said that they would get out of Ilya Bryzgalov's contract if they could. And that made me think. Would I do the same thing? Could I cut loose Bryzgalov and hope to find something better?

In a word, no. Yes it's true, Bryz had a terrible goals against average in the playoffs. And yes, he let in a choke goal in game 5 against the Devils. But in the Pittsburgh series, the Flyers played out of their minds. I could have played goalie for the Flyers against the Penguins. When it came to the Devils, it was the defense that let the team down, not Bryzgalov.

I think the reason people would let him go is because of his attitude and regular season play. Bryz is a character. I don't think we need to rehash all the universe and bear in the woods quotes here. Suffice to say we all know he's said them. And I have to admit, I kind of like the attitude. He's a character, and after years of Mike Richards interviews, a character is just what this town needs.

So we come down to his regular season play. Streaky, yes. But after he settled down in Philly, and Laviolette stuck with him, Bryz began to play unstoppable hockey. He was the best goalie in the league coming down the stretch, until he broke his foot. And even with that injury, the Flyers won a playoff series. A settled Bryz is the Bryzgalov everyone was hoping for. And what this team needs.

So no, I would sure as hell not trade him. And I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say for years to come.

Philadelphia Union vs. Schalke 04

Now I won't pretend to know all that much about Schalke 04. I know they're a German team, and I know they have a player named Raul who many Union fans want to stay with Philadelphia. I also can safely assume that they are better than the Union, since the Union have not exactly covered themselves in glory this season. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. So what does this game really mean for the Union?

In all seriousness, I would love for Raul to end his career in Philadelphia. As the leading goal scorer for one of the top clubs in the world, Real Madrid(323 in 741 appearances), Raul knows how to score. And he would be a good fit for the Union, because our current striker, Lionard Pajoy, doesn't even know how to take a shot, let alone put the ball in the back of the net. Will the Union court Raul? I hope so. It will be a tough sell, especially since the Union have declined larger contracts before(Le Toux) in favor of staying young. But Raul would be a force in the MLS. I think he could be as productive as Thierry Henry in the scoring column. And with our defense, that could be a potent combination.

But Raul isn't the only reason this is an important match for our boys in blue. They need a pick me up. After a pathetic trip to Seattle, the Union need to turn their play around. They play a style of play that most people would call boring, or perhaps losing soccer. They try to play a possession game, but can't control the ball enough. And their striker can't generate chances when he does see the ball. Which basically leaves macMath and the defenders hanging for a majority of the match. And if the defense and MacMath weren't playing as well as they are, the losses would be much worse.

So this match is a chance for the Union. A chance to ignore the scoreline, because this game means nothing. It's a chance to work on offense! Forget trying play defense and possessing the ball. Let's push forward and try to score some goals. Hell, at least take some shots. If this friendly ends with the Union taking one shot on goal, I will be very disappointed in their efforts for the evening. When the results don't matter, its how you play that is important. And I want to see a lot of aggressive attacking soccer from the Union.

So this game does matter. The Union have fared well against international foes(at least compared to the rest of the MLS), and I hope this game is no difference. At the very least, this game gives the Union 2 important chances. One chance to work on their offense and their attacking soccer. The other is to court a player would immediately increase the offensive firepower of the Union. A player the caliber of Raul would lessen the pressure on the midfield, give Pajoy more room to work, and open the offense up. So Union fans, let's hope for a good match, and a new Union squad member to root for.

The Flyers are Gone...

It was a brilliant opening playoff series. The Flyers dismantled the Cup darling Penguins. And scored 30 goals in the process. And  it looked for all the world as though the Flyers would be an unstoppable force after their opening round. Sadly, this was not the case. And one of the biggest reasons was a player in the same position on both teams. This man let us down.

And this man celebrated his 40th birthday in style.

So what happened? A lot of things happened. The first thing though is goalie play. Bryzgalov allowed 3 or more goals in 10 of 11 playoff starts. That won't win you a playoff series.(Unless you play the Penguins) And Brodeur stood on his head in net, and played like a the goalie he was in 2003. Can we blame the whole series on Bryz?(YES!!) No. Although Bryz let in key goals at stupid times. The turnover goal in game 5 against New Jersey comes to mind. It was a stupid goal, and it never should have gone in. But it did.

But Bryz was not the only problem. The offense did not generate goals at nearly the same rate they did against the Penguins. And tempers flared late in the series, as evidenced by Claude Giroux's hit on Zubrus. But the biggest letdown was the urgency. The Devils appeared to have, and the Flyers appeared to have lost it. What happened after the Penguins series? Did the Flyers think they could coast to an easy win over the Devils? Maybe in the beginning of the series, but after going down 2-1, you would think Laviolette would whip his team into shape.

Regardless, this will  be remembered as a lost opportunity. A chance for the Flyers to get to a another Cup has been squandered. And it's a team loss. Everyone played their best hockey against the Penguins. No player on the Flyers can say it isn't my fault we lost. But everyone in Philadelphia will be talking about one man and his play. Ilya Bryzgalov. And what could have been had he played just a little bit better.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Philadelphia Union: The Season so Far

I realize this is a rather odd time for an article like this. But I've been thinking about how the season has gone thus far, and I wanted to write down my thoughts on the season thus far. And it has been an up and down season! If I don't get to every player on the roster, don't worry, their time is coming.

We'll start off with the most recognizable name on the Union, Freddy Adu.

Freddy Adu
Freddy Adu may be the best known name on the Union outside of Philadelphia, but he is far from a fan favorite. And that is due to his play. He can have games where he shows brilliance, laying balls at the feet of his forwards, or scoring on a nifty backheel. But his game is just like his career, streaky at best. He does have games where he plays well. And then he has games where he doesn't. And that just isn't good enough. last season, Adu had the excuse of not being in shape or knowing the system well enough. This season he missed time due to Olympic qualifying. But now we're in the meat of the MLS schedule. And Adu does not have the luxury of those excuses any more. It's time to see some consistent play from Adu, not just flashes of brilliance. And I think we'll get that play from him.

Lionard Pajoy
The Colombian striker has big shoes to fill. Fan favorite Sebastian Le Toux out, and new and unknown Lionard Pajoy enters. And Pajoy has not played well. 1 goal through 7 games is not what a fan base expects from its best striker. But to be fair, Pajoy is not Le Toux. And perhaps we've been expecting too much. The team has not been playing to Pajoy's strengths, especially when they play him as the lone striker up top. So part of the blame lays on Nowak. But Pajoy needs to adapt. And the time has come to adapt. If we don't see a goal from the run of play from Pajoy by the 10th game, I think it is time to look for someone new up top.

Zac MacMath
It was a shaky start, I'll admit it. But MacMath has stormed back, and is playing the best soccer of anyone on the pitch. He commands his net, and his backline. He set the franchise record for shutout soccer. And yes, his backline has played very well. But MacMath makes the saves when they need to be saved. And that's all you can really ask of him. Does his team score for him in the run of play? No. But without MacMath, the San Jose match would have been over after 15 minutes, and probably would have ended up 5-1. So MacMath gets my man of the season award this far. And if he can keep it up, he'll be the leader of the clubhouse before the end of the season.

Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders Preview

The Philadelphia Union have fared well against Seattle, considering they are a West Coast team. The West Coast typically holds sway over the Union, but with a 2-1-1 record against the Sounders, the Union haven't done all that bad. The real question is, can that good fortune carry over to this season?

The Sounders sit in 3rd place in a strong Western Conference. They have 5 wins so far this season. The Union have 2, and can't score from the run of play. Seattle has scored twice as many goals as the union have so far this season. They have allowed 5 fewer goals than the Union have. This does not bode well for a team that at best, has an awful offense.

The only positive is the goals allowed in the last 4 games. The defense and MacMath have been on top of their game. I would argue MacMath has been one of the strongest, if the not best goalie, in the past 4 weeks in the MLS. Those early season slip ups are gone. And with a lesser goalie, the San Jose match could have been 2-0 in favor of the visitors after 15 minutes. And the back line, with stalwarts Valdes and Williams playing well, and rookie Gaddis playing better than anyone expected, the defense has kept the U in games, and let a 1-0 scoreline be a winning scoreline for your boys in blue.

So what will happen this weekend? Well, the Union still have a couple of suspensions to wait out. Garfan still has a couple games to miss, and Nowak won't be on the sidelines. But the Union will come into the match strong, and ready. And I think the defense will live up to their end of the bargain. The question becomes, can the Union poach a goal or two? Pajoy needs to play better, but he's just the tip of the iceberg.

The whole midfield needs to play better as well. The Union need to possess the ball, and not just in the defensive third. We have been losing time of possession the past few matches, by wide margins. If we stand a chance against the Sounders, we need to hold the ball. And we need to press forward. I know Nowak likes to play defensive soccer, play for ties or 1 goal wins. But I want to see some offense! At least a little bit of creativity and some willingness to take some shots.

If we can see that, we have a chance. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. I see Seattle possessing for long periods of time, and not a lot of attack from the Union. My prediction? Seattle 3-1 Philadelphia.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Phildelphia vs. San Jose Recap

So I had to work during this match. I'm 15 minutes into the 1st half, and I've noticed 2 things. I know the outcome of the match, but without Zack MacMath, the first 15 minutes could have been ugly. He has made some spectacular saves. After his first couple games, he has turned his season around and is on his way to becoming the goalie we need him to be. And Lionard Pajoy looks disinterested. Giving up in balls before they hit the ground, not running towards passes, he just looks bored with the game. He's beginning to look like a certain striker from last season, just minus the scoring.

I'm sorry, wrong picture, my mistake, completely the same, I mean different player.

There's our guy.

This could be a problem. The offense has been anemic, any union fan can admit that. But one thing Philly fans hate is a player who gives up. And that's what I'm seeing from Pajoy. Yes, some of the balls directed his way were way out of reach. But other balls seemed to be 50/50. And any ball that is 50/50, i expect to see some fight for it. And instead, Pajoy would slow up, and just let the Quakes deal with it. And i don't like seeing that.

Now I know the Union tend to leave Pajoy out to dry. He's seems to be the lone striker up top. And that's not easy to do. But he needs to fight a little harder. Or else the fan base is going to turn on him just like they turned on Carlos Ruiz. Quicker even, since at least Ruiz scored every once in a while. Pajoy can't even find a way into the back of the net. But enough of the bad, let's talk about the good.

 This guy has turned into one helluva pic. With the injury to Califf and the suspension of Garfan, Gaddis has seen more playing time early on than most people expected. And he has taken advantage of his time on the field. He has shown a lot of grit playing in the field, and he has played against some top level talent. He faced off against 2nd leading goal scored in the MLS this season, Chris Wonodolowski, and held his own against him. And all this is in his rookie season. He can only go up from here. I know there has been a lot of buzz around the first pick for the Union, Chandler Hoffman, but Gaddis has outshown his fellow draftpick so far this season.

And finally Zac MacMath. Yes he let in 2 goals. But the 'Quakes should have had more, and the reason they didn't is MacMath. He made some superman saves, especially in the first 15 minutes of this game. The goalless streak had to end at some point, and  it ended in a loss. That's unfortunate. But MacMath is the reason it was only a one goal loss, and he is the reason the Union picked up the 2 victories that they have. For the first month of the season, MacMath was a liability for the Union, but for the last 4 games, MacMath has been one of the strongest players on the field for the Union.

On the whole, this is a fixable team. The defense and goal tending are playing well right now. The midfield has flashes of brilliance, but can't play consistently well. And the strikers? They need work. A lot of work. And just a little bit more hustle.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes Preview

This match scares me. I can admit it. When I looked at the schedule before the season started, and I looked at records from 2011, I penciled this in as a 3 point match. But now, a month and a half into the schedule, this is anything but an easy 3 points.

The Earthquakes bring a lot to the table. San Jose leads the Western Conference right now, and they have beaten some quality opponents. Granted this match is on the East coast, which should help the Union, but still, the Earthquakes present a unique challenge. And the biggest challenge will be their emotional and scoring leader, Chris Wondolowski.

Wondo has been a wonder this season. An ball hawk, and a player who can turn a touch into a goal, he has scored more goals this season than the whole Union team have. Even if you multiply their goal total by 2. So San Jose has something the Union do not. An offense. But that offense, prolific though it is compared to the U's, is facing a defense that has not allowed a goal in over 300 minutes.

So that becomes the main focus of this matchup. Can Chris Wondolowski beat Zac Macmath and company? maybe its the homer in me, but I still see 3 points here. And not only do I see 3 points, but I see a statement game for the Union. After a tumultuous match against Chivas U.S.A., the Union will come out full of fire and brimstone, and they will play like we haven't seen them play all season. I see a game where the Union offense finally clicks, and a game where the defense continues their dominance. My prediction? Hold on to your hats...

Union 3- Earthquakes 0

Post Chivas U.S.A. Fallout

Well that was one helluva match on Saturday. We finally scored a goal from the run of play. That was good. But we had two reckless tackles at the end of the match that resulted in reds. That's bad. And oh yeah, Nowak ran onto the field during the ensuing scuffle over Gabe Farfan's red. That was really bad. Sure we go 3 points in a critical road match. But there is still a lot to fix.

First on the list is discipline. Normally I would say offense needs work, because the offense has struggled since I've been following the Union. But discipline, or lack there of, was the name of the game this past weekend. I think most Union fans would agree that there was quite a bit of extracurricular shoving on the part of Chivas U.S.A. And also a few dives here or there. But they had exactly the effect that Chivas wanted. They got the better of us and got us off of our game.

Keon Daniel had a challenge that was completely unnecessary. But at least he appeared to initially be going for the ball. And this is very unlike Daniel, so as frustrating as it might be to lose him for a match, history says that he won't make the same mistake twice, at least not quickly. So despite the annoyance of losing him for a match, I'll give him a pass for this one. But just this one.

Gabe Farfan does not get the same pass. A two footed cleats up tackle. Blatantly unnecessary, especially with the Union already down to 10 men. And Gabe Farfan is a little bit more, shall we say prone to outbursts? I like having a player who can intimidate the opposition, don't get me wrong. But this isn't hockey. It's not 5 minutes in the sin bin and then everything is ok. It's down a man and losing a match. And we were already down a man.

But the impact is greater than just time spent down two men. Losing Nowak for this match is vital. We're facing a Western Conference leading San Jose, and we lost one of the key players on a backline that hasn't allowed a goal in 332 minutes. When you are clicking like that, keeping the same players on the pitch match in and match out is important. And Gabe Farfan threw that away for a stupid tackle. And now we are absent Nowak against the strongest opponent we've faced all season.

So it will be an interesting match this weekend. And the Union have a tough test to face. Chris Wondolowski is tied with Thierry Henry for the most goals scored so far this season. And San Jose will be looking to take 3 points from the Union, especially since they will be missing a key component of their backline. And the Union will most likely bunker down, and just look for chances on the counter. And this works fine against a team like Chivas, but it will be a tough sell against a team like San Jose. Can they win? Sure. Philadelphia is a tough place to play, and the Union defense and goalie are playing as good as anyone in the league. The question is not can the defense keep us in the match, the question is can the offense produce for us this weekend.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Flyers Blow Past the Penguins.

The Flyers did it! They triumphed over the Penguins in one of the fiercest rivalries in the NHL. And in doing so, they closed the books on one of the oddest playoff series in recent memory. Everyone has seen sweeps. Everyone has seen comebacks. You even occasionally see a high scoring game. But 3 games where a team scores 8 or more? And a game with 10 goals scored by one team? It's practically unheard of. The question is, was it a tough enough test to prepare the Flyers for the 2nd round?

For one man it was. Claude Giroux made his mark on the NHL this season with an astonishing performance in this series. Coming in, this series was about 2 players, and how they would simply dominate the opposition. Those two players? Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And what did those two players do in this series? Well, Evgeni Malkin was completely overshadowed by rookie Sean Coturier. The rookie didn't care about how many goals or points Malkin had collected during the regular season. He simply shut Malkin down, and scored himself. Notably his first career hat trick.

And Sidney Crosby? Well, I won't go too deeply into how Sidney Crosby comported himself on the ice. True, he did score. But he behaved the way a 4 year old does when he doesn't get his way. And for the leading star, supposedly, in the NHL, this is not what they needed. Did Wayne Gretzky ever shove away a players glove? Or pull a player down by his hair? No. And Sidney Crosby did just that.

But let's look at what's really important. Giroux had a break out series. And not just as a player, but as a leader. He had goals, he had assists, he stood up for his team mates. He did everything Flyers fans wanted Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to do. And most importantly, when the team needed a lift after 2 straight losses, he asked for the spotlight. He asked for the first shift, he wanted to make something happen. And he did. 32 second into game 6, Giroux, scored a goal. And the Flyers never looked back.

So are they ready for the rest of the playoffs? I think so. They have a proven leader in Claude Giroux. They have veteran talent in Talbot, Jagr, and Timmonen. And they have rising young stars like Sean Coturier, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds to provide that youthful energy. And now that they have beaten a team loaded with stars, the have the confidence they need to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas U.S.A. Recap

So they've won two straight. It's a 3 game undefeated streak. And Union fans can now see a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Not only is it 2 wins in a row, its 3 straight shutouts. Zac MacMath has been stellar in net. And the Union backline, even without Captain Danny Califf, has returned to its 2011 form. A fearsome foursome that offenses need to respect. And speaking of offenses...

The Union have finally scored another goal from the run of play. And it was a beauty. Michael Farfan had some of the best footwork I've seen from a Union player all year to set up Freddy Adu's nifty backheel goal. And what a relief it was. The Union have really needed 2 things. A goal from the run of play, and for Freddy Adu to step up and play like the player we've expected him to become.

The only problem for the Union was possession. Part of that could be due to the 2 men the Union had sent off. Gabe Farfan and Keon Daniel were both shown red. And Peter Nowak was ejected for entering the field of play. Both cards were easily avoidable, and both cards were deserved. But it brought the Union down to 9 men, and that seriously hampered the Union ability to hold on to the ball. But again, the defense stepped it up, and MacMath stopped shots, and kept the Union in the lead.

This victory was important for a number of reasons. The Union have not been able to reliably pick up points on the West Coast, and 3 points from Chivas is exactly what the Union needed. It also allowed them to move up in the standings, picking us up out of the basement. Are the Union a top team in the East? They are no match for Kansas City, that's for sure, but they are not a cellar dweller either. And if they continue to gel as a team, they can continue to climb in the standings. And finally, it let the offense know that they can score through the run of play. And if they weren't down men in the second half, who knows what could have happened. All I know, is I'm a lot more excited for the coming matches than I have been in a long time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas U.S.A.

So we have a match against Chivas U.S.A. this weekend. This is a big game for the Union. Especially because we need to score a goal in the run of play. I think every Union fan was relieved to see a goal from Gomez, even if it was from the penalty spot. And the offense had chances, they just couldn't finish again. So now is your chance to do what the Union can't. Pick the player who will score the first goal this weekend against Chivas U.S.A., and you'll win a brand new white Philadelphia Union hat. Or blue if that's you style. Leave your guess in the comments, and your color preference, and after Saturday's match, the hat will be yours if you can guess correctly.

Or if you prefer...
Leave you guess in the comment below, and good luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Keys to Game 4

Let's face it. Tonight is a decisive game for the Flyers. They can close out the series in 4 games tonight. They can eliminate the odds on cup favorite tonight. But the Penguins aren't going to go down without a fight. Literally and figuratively. So here are the 5 players the game hinges on.

1. Marc-Andre Fleury
The Penguins has played terribly for the first 3 games in this series. And if the Penguins expect to extend their season by even a game, Fleury needs to turn his play around. Fleury is a Stanley Cup winner, so he knows what it takes to get there. But his play has not been up to par. In fact, his play has been some of the worst in recent Cup playoff memory. And I don't think that terrible play will extend to 4 games. I don't think he'll be perfect, but I also don't foresee another 8 goal game for the Flyers. Which brings us to important player number 2.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov
Bryzgalov has played well enough to win in this series. But that won't be good enough tonight. Bryzgalov and the Flyers have allowed the first goal in every game this series. That also won't be good enough tonight. Tonight the Flyers need a game from the Bryzgalov we were seeing a month ago. A shutout would be nice, but I would settle for only allowing a goal or two. Regardless, i don't think the 4th game will be the goal fest that the first 3 have been. So a good game in net is imperative for Bryz.

3. Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux has been a dominant force in this series. He has a hat trick. He also has a Gordie Howe hat trick. But more importantly, he has been unstoppable in this series. He is racking up the playoff points and goals. And he is establishing himself as a true force in the NHL. A player who can take a hit, get back up, and take it to the opponent. It's time for the Penguins to wake up and realize that Giroux is coming. And a goal or two tonight will go a long way in deciding this series.

4. Sidney Crosby

You can admire his fine ability to grow a playoff beard in the picture above. But regardless of facial hair prowess, when Crosby isn't acting like a child who can hide behind Mommy's, I mean the refs legs, Crosby is a scoring force on the ice. And if he realizes that he can do his team more good scoring than he can trying to start a fight, this could be a long game for the Flyers. The Penguins offense shows up for the 1st period of every game, then strangely disappears. If Crosby decides to play a whole game, and can convince a couple of other Penguins to do the same, they can make this a tough go for the Flyers.

5. Malkin vs. Coturier
 Evgeni Malkin was unstoppable in the regular season. No one scored more goals than he did. And coming into this playoff series, the biggest worry among many for the Flyers was how to stop him. In stepped Sean Coturier, a 19 year old rookie. Most people would have hoped for a goal a game with a rookie sticking to Malkin. But he has been stymied by Coturier. A couple of assists is all he's shown in this series. In fact, Coturier has been the better player in this series. He's notched his first career hat trick in this series, and held the NHL's top scorer to practically nothing. If he can keep this up, The Flyers should be in good shape tonight.
So there you have it. The Flyers have a chance to close out the series, and give themselves a little rest. Thoroughly deserved rest. With how physical the playoffs have been so far, rest could give the Flyers a decisive advantage in the 2nd round of the playoffs. So here's my prediction, 3-2 Flyers. Get out the brooms Philly, we're going to the 2nd round.