Monday, January 30, 2012

The 2nd Half

The Flyers.

What can they do after the All-Star break?

It's all up to the goalies. And the offense. But mostly the goalies. Let's face it, Flyers fans, The Flyers have a B battle on their hands.

In this corner, the veteran with the big contract, BYZGALOV!!!!!

And in this corner, the young upstart, BOBROVSKY!!!!

So yes, it will  be a fun second half. And yes, both goalies will be fighting for their playoff lives. Because the Flyers will make the playoffs. Their offense is too good not to make the playoffs. But their goalies need to pick their game up.

And the infighting is exactly what they need.

It will drive each goalie to succeed. To win. And that is what the Flyers need. Because after the All Star break, the Flyers need to come out hot. And they will. They will score. But more importantly, the Flyers need to decide on a goalie. And the next few games will decide who the Flyers go with. Despite my criticisms, I hope Bryzgalov comes out on top. Not only is he getting the money, he has the skill. He just needs to live up to the expectations.

And he will.

Or else Bobrovsky will take his place.

Another Goodbye:Goalie Edition

I feel like I have been writing a lot of goodbye editions lately. This time it is for Union starting goalie, Faryd Mondragon. Mondragon and the Union part ways after a succesful single season stint. Mondragon was the anchor behind a stellar defensive back four in the Union's second season. And he was a veteran leader, who captained the team to a playoff berth in their second season.

So where do we go from here? Zac MacMath will assume the starting role. And after what we saw last season, I'm excited for MacMath to be in net. He has a net presence, and talent in skill to be a quality goalie for the Union for years to come. The only problem is that the Union aren't the only team utilizing MacMath's skill. The U-23 team for the U.S.A. have also called him up, and if he is on the Olympic team, Macmath will miss a sizable portion of the Union season.

So that means that we have to rely on MacMath's backup. Which right now is..... No one. That's right, no one. The Union only have a single goalie currently on the roster. Which means the Union will have to pick up at least one other option in net.

So Mondragon is gone. He was a fan favorite. He was a great player, and a great leader. And Union fans will miss his presence in net. He interacted with fans, and fit well into the fabric of a Philly team. I, for one, hope that Mondragon can end his career on a high note, and end it where it began for him. At home.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Tribute to Joe, Part II

The following is a tribute to Joe Paterno from a good friend of mine, Meghan Gaffney. Even though I only knew her on campus my freshman year, which was her senior year, we still stayed in touch. After all, the only other person who believes me when I tell people i petted a cougar in the back seat of car is a valuable friend. And she believes me because she was there, and she pet it too. Unlike myself, and my friend Dan, Meg did not grow up in a Penn State household. The following is her reflection.

When I arrived on campus in August 2002, I didn’t know a thing about football or Penn State. Being a first generation college student, I did not grow up surrounded by Joe’s legacy. In fact, I confused the Palmer Art Museum for the Lion Shrine and could not identify Old Main in my first few weeks here. I did know that Penn State had an undeniable school spirit and a prestigious academic reputation. When my parents asked me to choose a state school, I wanted the best. My acceptance arrived without a campus tour or any knowledge of the fight songs. My first visit was for FTCAP in July 2002. I could not believe the size of the stadium, and I thought the Nittany Lion mascot was hideous. I had a lot to learn.
As Penn Staters, we often say that the experience is about, “becoming part of a place that becomes a part of us.” My shift into a blue-and-white-bleeding, Nittany-Lion-loving, JoePa-admiring person was a slow one. I must have missed the signs and symbols during FTCAP, and was largely unfamiliar with the people and things that are important to the Penn State community. I felt overwhelmed in the first semester.
My first football season at Beaver Stadium was interesting. Without any knowledge of the sport, I spent most of my time in the stands chanting for the Nittany Lion, perfecting my own touchdown roar, asking questions of my knowledgeable friends, and marveling over the way Joe always led the pack of players as they took the field. In the meantime, I visited a luau-themed library event and learned that our football coach had also funding the beautiful Paterno Library. I attended masses on campus and heard about the donation Joe and Sue Paterno made to the construction of the in-progress Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. I recounted my experiences on campus to my parents and grandparents, who were excited to hear about the far-reaching impact of the Paterno family’s contributions at Penn State. As it turns out, they knew who he was, but they thought he was “just a football coach.” I felt proud to change their perspective. I also felt honored to be one of the benefactors of the Paterno family’s influence, as we all were.
I saw Joe everywhere- not physically, but in the fabric of my new home. His image was on shirts, in store fronts, and in cardboard cutouts (both life size and desk size.) I heard the way my peers spoke of him with respect and admiration, even though the team slumped during my first few years here. I sampled his ice cream flavor in the dining commons and hoped for a glimpse of him in his simple home when I visited Sunset Park for events with my sorority.
In February 2003, I was a moraler  for THON and in the middle of a shift when Joe surprised the crowd by showing up in Rec Hall. It took him forever to make his way through the crowd to the stage. People wanted to touch him, take pictures with him, or simply exchange hellos. He was patient, smiling, and approachable as he wove through the dance floor. When he got to the stage, the crowd fell silent. Even now, I get goosebumps thinking of the many experiences I had in Joe’s presence where literally thousands of people stood still in absolute silence listened. At pep rallies, THON, first-year programs, Football Eve… somehow everyone knew to listen when JoePa spoke. And he never let us down. He united us and inspired us. He shared wisdom gained through lived experience- a truly amazing gift.
When Joe spoke to us as a community, we felt the love he had for the things we all have in common. Somehow, we felt his love for each of us. He encouraged us to be excellent people. He emphasized his love for our great university. He made us all feel proud of the experiences we shared. Hearing those sentiments from Joe Paterno was special, because he chose us. Generations of living and working here, falling in love with this institution as we all had, and he stayed. He chose to share in our lives and to educate us. In his humility, he never would have believed how much we all learned from him. Time and time again, though, hearing him share his joy and pride in us was like gaining the approval of a beloved grandfather. He was larger than life.
My senior fall felt electric on campus. The team had lived up to expectations and JoePa was restored to glory with the successful season. Everywhere I went, the campus was emblazoned with the message, “WE ARE BACK.” Joe’s joyful expression accompanied those words all over town. I lived among the athletes and felt the palpable excitement every single day. One afternoon, I walked from Nittany Apartments across Hastings, and a car pulled up to the stop sign. I looked up and froze. Smiling like a child and waving my hands in a way that probably looked the opposite of casual, I stood in the middle of the crosswalk blocking the driver’s way. The driver was Joe Paterno. He smiled, in a way that said he was appreciative of my nerdiness, and he waved back- one full, strong hand in the air to me. I smiled for the rest of the day. I told everyone I knew. I smile even now and how exciting that simple moment was in my life as a Penn Stater.
I saw him at the Rose Bowl pep rally. I saw him at Football Eve when I made my joyful return to Penn State as a staff member in 2008. I saw him at countless Rallies in the Valley, at Be A Part From the Start, and walking along Curtain in June 2011 eating an ice cream cone for breakfast. I never met him personally. Given that fact, my emotions hardly make sense.
So what does losing him mean to me? To us, as a collective Penn State family? The loss is immeasurable. Even in his absence, he remains. He is the symbol of our spirit. He is the man who could so eloquently express what we feel about Penn State. He is the educator who remained because his loyalty won out over “greater” opportunities. He is a faithful father, grandfather and coach to our community. He is a role model of what so many of us want to find in love. And in all his greatness, he is human. In his final weeks with us, he taught us about humility, and apologizing for mistakes. He asked us to continue to work hard.
We mourned this week for ourselves, for the only thing we’ve ever known, and for the Paterno family. As it has been said so many times before, I want to say it once more, from me. Thank you, Sue, and the rest of the Paternos, for giving each of us time with a man who has helped to shape our values and unite us as a Penn State family. You must be so proud of the legacy he leaves us. I promise we’ll tell everyone about him. We will make sure his legacy lives on.
The lights of Beaver Stadium do not shine into the sky tonight, but the unity and beauty that surrounded us this week as we grieved will remain for a long, long time. What an appropriate final act, JoePa. Thanks for reminding us that together, we care about our community. Together, no matter what, WE ARE…PENN STATE.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Big Day for the Philadelphia Union

It's a big day for the Union. Lets start the day off with who is staying.

Sebastian Le Toux

That's right, Sebastian Le Toux is coming back. Apparently, Owen Coyle was not impressed by Le Toux's training. Coyle said, "Sebastien came in for a couple of days, and to be fair to him he hadn't trained for four or five weeks. He did fine and that's where it is. We'd have probably needed a longer look." So Coyle was not impressed by Le Toux. And that's fine with me.

Keeping Le Toux means we keep a key piece of our leadership. And a key piece of our offense. And we also keep a fan favorite. And as a fan I'm glad he's staying. I feel badly for Le Toux that he was denied a shot in Europe. He's been one of the top players in the MLS the last two seasons. And every player in the world wants to play for a top tier European team. Philly fans just have to hope that Le Toux takes the snub as a personal insult and storms through MLS competition this season.

And now on to new and exciting things for the Union.

Philadelphia Union and Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa today announced the formation of a strategic partnership that will focus on player development and training methodology, as well as best practices in commercial, stadium and financial operations.(

I'm excited. The first Union match I saw was against Chivas De Regal. And it was a blast. Not that I don't enjoy MLS matches, I do. But international friendlies are fun. A lot of fun. No points are on the line, everyone gets to play. It's a fun atmosphere for the fans.  I can't wait for the first friendly.

So it was a good day for the Union. We keep Le Toux. We gain a friendly.

It's going to be a fun season.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heading into the All Star Break

So how have the Flyers done so far? Lets look at the season so far. The Flyers sit at 29-14-5. They have 63 points. They are 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. They score at a torrid pace, they have the 2nd most goals in the league.

And that's damn good. They lost two players in the offseason, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who scored a lot of goals for the Flyers last season. They have a goalie who, despite his big contract, has been off and on this season. And they have a goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky who is taking every chance he gets to show that he can be a big time goalie.

So where do the Flyers go from here? The sky is the limit. The Flyers are a young team, who can score. If Bryzgalov can stabilize his play in net, the Flyers will be primed for a deep playoff run. No team has the depth at scoring the Flyers can boast. Every line for the Flyers is a scoring threat. And once the goalie play is stabilized, there isn't a team in the East that won't be afraid of the Flyers.

So what's next for the Flyers? Here's hoping for a Stanley Cup.

And congrats to Scott Hartnell on his AllStar game selection.

U.S.A. vs. Panama

How did the U.S. do in their first match against the team that beat them in the Gold Cup? A gritty 1-0 win is how they responded. And they did it down a man for most of the second half. It was a gritty win for a team that needed a win on the road. It also showed that young players for the U.S. could go on the road, score, and then defend a paper thin lead against a tough, attacking opponent.

The U.S. opened the scoring with Graham Zusi's first international goal in the 8th minute. And that goal was all the U.S. needed to win. Panama and the U.S. see sawed back and forth in the first half, neither side scoring, but still threatening.

That changed in the second half. in the 52nd minute, Geoff Cameron drew a red card for the U.S. for pushing Blas Perez just outside the penalty box. Down a man, the U.S. clamped down defensively. Goalie Nick Rimando had a stellar game in net, making impressive saves in the first half to keep Panama scoreless.

The bright side for the low scoreline for the U.S.? Most of their 1st team players remained with their European teams for this trip. which means that the U.S. has reliable players to fill in should someone get hurt. It also means that the U.S. attacking power will increase when the U.S. gets their first team players back.

And one more thing. Congratulations to Graham Zusi on his first international goal.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Tribute

I put the offer out to some of my Penn State friends, asking them to write a tribute to Joe Paterno. I'll be posting them as I receive them. If anyone reading this would like to post a tribute, send it to

The following is a tribute from Dan Kennedy, and he says it better than I ever could.

The Greatest Penn State Fan

I thought I was the biggest Penn State fan in the world.

I could name high school stats and  40-yard dash times of incoming
recruits.  If you gave me a jersey number, I could name the
corresponding player.  I had been to almost every home game from 1991
to 2010, to include Joe Paterno’s 300th win, record breaking 324th win
and his 400th win.  I rushed the field in 2005 when we beat Ohio State
at home.  I watched as Adam Taliaferro, less than a year after being
paralyzed by a hit lead the team out of the tunnel to a roaring crowd
against Miami in 2001.

All of these reasons, I thought, was why in November of 2011, my world
was turned upside down.  Penn State was rocked with allegations, Jerry
Sandusky, a man I grew up thinking of as a coaching giant was arrested
and accused of unspeakable things and Joe Paterno was suddenly and
disrespectfully dismissed by the Board of Trustees.  Joe was then
diagnosed with cancer a week later.  As anyone who has seen the
effects of cancer and its treatment knows, an 85 year old with lung
cancer doesn’t have much hope, regardless of how high their spirits

On January 22nd, 2012, Joe Paterno died and my heart was broken.

I made the drive to State college to wait in line and pay my respects
to Coach Paterno during one of the public viewings.  As I walked past
the fields near the Intramural Building, past the stadium and Paterno
statue and came towards the Spiritual Center, the sight I saw was
incredible.  Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, were gathered to pay
their respects.  People young and old, every color, every size were
lined up zigging and zagging through the courtyard of Eisenhower
Chapel, stretching past the Forum, the Art
Museum, the Old Creamery and turning the corner, extending toward North Halls.

It didn’t take long to realize that I had been wrong all along about everything.

My favorite memories of Penn State were of tailgating in the fields
with my father and grandfather, my brother and eventually, all of the
close friends I had made during my time in Happy Valley.  Every
Saturday morning, my family multiplied from 4 to sometimes as many as
30.  These are friendships I still have and cherish today.  Looking
around at the fathers and sons, mothers and daughters in line to pay
their respects, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had made
these bonds.  The program that Joe Paterno built didn’t just give me
my sense of family, he gave it to us all.

The more I read about the man I looked forward to seeing prowling the
sidelines, the more the greatest revelation I’ve had cements itself
into my mind.  Joe himself, as well as his children insisted until the
very end that he had no bitterness.  He was dismissed, slapped with a
gag order and his name stricken from conference and national awards.
Yet a few days after being dismissed with a cell phone call which he
had to initiate, he and his wife Sue donated $100,000 to Penn State.
He entertained his visitors, to include many former and current
players.  He took the time, although bedridden, to meet with and wish
luck to the incoming coach, Bill O’Brien.  He died surrounded by his
family, but off to the side of the room was his favorite Penn State
sweatshirt hanging on a chair.

I thought I was the biggest Penn State fan in the world. But I was wrong.

That title went to Joe Paterno.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Future for Philly is Now

The Philadelphia Union have excelled in their first 2 seasons of MLS play. An opening season saw exciting moments for the franchise, and showed promise. Promise they lived up to in their second season. With some key offseason pickups, and building on the success of the previous season, the Union fought at the top of the Eastern conference all season. And now, their 3rd season looms.

And expectations are high. And apparently not just in Philadelphia. The MLS expects big things out of Philadelphia too. Philadelphia has been chosen to host the MLS All-Star game. The game will be July 25th, and will be held at the most picturesque park in the MLS, PPL Park. The game will be televised live on ESPN2. No opponent has been set yet, but if trends follow, PPL Park will play host to a team the likes of Macnhester United.

So season expectations are high. The fate of Sebastian Le Toux still hangs in the air with Bolton. But regardless of Le Toux's fate, the Union have added attacking power. A lot of attacking power. And the defense has been bolstered too. The Union are preparing for a 3rd season and for a deep run in the playoffs. And the MLS plans on putting them in the spotlight.

I, for one, can't wait for the season to start. The additions to our roster, especially on the attack, show offensive promise the Union did not have last season. And knowing that the MLS is bringing one of it's marquee events to Philadelphia shows the MLS is expecting big things out of the Union too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Penn State community is a community in mourning. And rightly so. A legend has passed from their midst. But the school, the program, and the fans must go on. But how do you face a season without a man who has become the face and identity of Penn State?

Simple. You cheer. You support. You watch. Regardless of what happened this past fall, a scandal that would rock any institution, Penn State kept playing. We held our heads high, and played games that Joe would have been proud of. And Penn State won some and lost some. And what could you expect of a group of players who had their leader ripped from their ranks?

But now it will be tougher. Joe isn't just gone from the sidelines. He's gone. For the first time in over 60 years, Paterno will not be on the sidelines. It will be a new face, Bill O'Brien of the New England Patriots, at the helm. A new era at Penn State. A new era at a place that seemed stuck in time. Some people think that this is exactly what Penn State needs right now.

And I can't argue with that. After the scandal this fall, PSU needs a new face, and they need new life in the program. But make no mistake, tough years face PSU fans. Penn State will suffer in recruiting because of the scandal. People will ridicule fans because of the scandal. But Penn State fans need to take the lesson Joe taught us so well, and take it to heart.

Loyalty. Paterno stuck to Penn State though thick and thin. He turned down NFL offers to stay in the place he loved. And even though the next couple of years will be tough, Penn State fans need to stay loyal. O'Brien is the right man for the job. Or he isn't. It doesn't matter. What matters now is that he is part of the Penn State family. And we need to be loyal to him. Comparisons to Paterno will be inevitable, but flawed. How can anyone be compared to someone who had the impact on the game and life at Penn State Paterno had? In the end we all need to remember O'Brien is now a part of Penn State.


Goodbye to a Legend

I honestly never thought I would have to write about this. Joe Paterno, the greatest college football coach of all time has died. He passed away Sunday morning.  And the last months of his life were embroiled with scandal. But I don't want to talk or write about that right now. Instead, I'm going to write about the Joe I remember, the Joe I saw.

Joe Paterno has had an impact on my life for as long as I can remember. When I was little, very little, Joe Paterno was taking his Nittany Lions, my favorite team, into a tough game against the Miami Hurricanes. And all week, I had heard my Dad talking about Miami Penn State, Miami Penn State. So being the logical 4 year old that I was, I went around asking people who their ami was, since Miami was Penn State. And that's just the first thing I remember about Joe Pa and Penn State.

As I grew up, Penn State football became something that brought my family together. We would all go to my Uncle Ned's house on New Year's day to watch Penn State crush their opponents in their Bowl game. And Joe Pa always delivered. His teams played well, and we would sit around the TV and watch my childhood idol take yet another team to victory.

Then I went to Penn State. And the family closeness didn't end there. Every Penn State game I went to had 2 things in common. A tailgate with my roommate's dad, brother and grandfather, and Joe Paterno. And it had been the same way for my roommate's Dad. We would pass the time before the game eating, and telling stories about games we had been to or watched before. Then we would all go inside the Beaver Stadium, and watch Joe Paterno work his magic on the football field.

And Joe made college football a game unlike any other school. Everyone knows about Joe. About his famous edicts. Black shoes makes it harder to scout your teams speed. So Joe's players all wore black shoes. No exceptions. Joe's players were dressed well, they spoke well to the media. Coming to Penn State meant you were coming to a team, not a place to show off your skills. There was no name on a Penn State jersey. There never has been, and there never will be.

As much we found out Joe had his faults at the end of his life, the example that he tried to show to his players and to the students at his school was important. Work hard, be loyal, give back to your community. Don't take all the accolades for yourself, because your success is due to the hard work of everyone else on your team.

And with the passing of Joe, it is the end of a great era of football. Joe Paterno will be the last legendary coach. There will be coaches who win national championships, and win lots of games. But no coach will have the charisma, the aura of Joe Paterno.

So goodbye Joe. I'll miss you. And Joe, never forget...


Friday, January 20, 2012

A Goodbye to Veljko Paunović

Say goodbye to this man, Union fans.

Veljko Paunović played one season in the MLS, and he played it for the Union.   Paunović has played 18 seasons in professional soccer. Over 400 games.  He played in 17 games for Union, and scored 3 goals and had 3 assists with the Union. But more importantly, he was a veteran leader on a team with young talent. Paunović, Le Toux, and Mondragon helped keep the balance on a team that far exceeded expectations in their second year in existence.

Paunović also became a fan favorite.  in an interview with, Paunović said, "I want to thank the great Union family for welcoming me from the very first day that I came here. I've been so many places around the world and I have never felt as happy as I have been here. It is with great sadness that I announce my retirement from soccer due to family reasons but I will never forget the Union fans and the atmosphere at PPL Park every game. I have proudly worn the Union jersey wherever we have played throughout the country and I will always feel like a Union "soldier" wherever I am in the world."

Not to brag, but it is nice to here that from a player who has played all throughout Europe in his career. A player who has been around the world, and loved playing for the Union. With the trade rumors concerning Sebastian Le Toux, and Paunović's retirement, the Union stand to lose quite a bit of veteran skill and leadership. But hopefully statements like the one Paunović made will help bring in talent to replace the players we've lost.

I'd like to end with a thank you for your time here, Veljko Paunović. It was a blast watching you play in the Union colors.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flyers vs. Islanders Recap

I never thought I would say this.

Where was Bryzgalov?

I know I've been a critic of Bryzgalov. Some might even say harsh. But i admitted after the last game against the Wild that Bryzgalov got just what he needed. A solid win, where he played very well, against a team he should have beaten. He did exactly what was expected of him. And after a solid performance, who started?


Now Bob has had a good season. But no matter how you look at it, we need Bryzgalov to perform if the Flyers are going to have a shot at the Cup. And he performed last game. And a start against the lowly Islanders would have been the perfect way to continue to build on what his last win gave him. But instead, Bobrovsky started, and the result was an atrocious performance for the Flyers. The Islanders haven't won in Philadelphia since 2007, but boy did they win tonight. 4-1 in fact.

Matt Read scored the only goal for an awful Flyers attack. The Islanders dominated this game. Yes, you heard right, the Islanders dominated a game. I'm as shocked as you are. And now, I ask only one thing. Put Bryz back in, and let him build on his last win.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sebastian Le Toux

The rumor mill is working its magic, with the newest rumor being Sebastian Le Toux to Bolton. This is a great move for the MLS, it always nice to see top talent going to a better league. It shows how far the MLS has come, with players being sought after for the upper leagues in Europe. But what does it mean for the Union?

It means a lot. Le Toux has notched 25 goals and 20 assists in his time with the Union. He leads the team in both categories. He plays every minute of every game, the Frenchman seems to run forever. He creates plays, assists in plays, helps out on defense. He is a tireless leader. Which is exactly why the Union picked him. And he has lived up to their expectations. Taking the team on his shoulders the second half half of the 2011 season, Le Toux took a second year expansion team to the playoffs. No mean feat.

Le Toux leaving will also mean the end of a brief era. Le Toux is the only member of the original starting 11 left with the Union. He marks the end of the expansion era. The end of a beginning. In his time here, albeit it a very brief time, Le Toux has become a fan favorite. Anyone who has been to a game has heard the crowd cheer "LE TOUXXXXX" when he scores a goal. He has connected with Philly fans in a way I never thought I would see a soccer player do in this town.

But what it really means to Philly is a rude awakening. A welcome to the world of soccer. Most other teams live in fear of their star player being poached by one of the big boys. And for 2 years, the Union have had a leader and game changer in Le Toux. And now we might not. Even if he doesn't leave for Bolton, in his current form of play, it's inevitable that he will be picked up by a larger and better financed team.

So good bye Le Toux. It's been a pleasure watching you play the past two years. And I'll be cheering for you in Bolton(unless they're playing the U). And hello real soccer, I can't say I've been looking forward to the day you would notice the Union, but I guess I knew this day would come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flyers vs. Wild Recap

Told Bryzgalov just needed to shake whatever was bugging him before and now he can play to his true potential.

Truer words have never been spoken. Bryzgalov delivered a gem in net tonight. He saved 25 of 26 shots. Now some might argue that he should have saved this many shots, since the Wild are not the best team in the West. I would be one of those critics. Bryz should have done exactly what he did. And the best part?

He did it.

All season, Bryzgalov has underperformed. He has let in soft goals, let up big leads, and let his team down. He's been a media magnet, mainly because he says crazy things. And now, with this game, he did exactly what he's being paid to do. All he needs to do now is string together some more starts like this, and the 1st half of his 1st year will fade quickly.

And thats not to say the rest of the team didn't play well. The Flyers dominated from end to end. The defense was stellar. They even got in on the scoring, With Kimmo Timmonen scoring in the 1st period, and  Braydon Coburn scoring in the 2nd period, the defense lit up the scoreboard.  And the offense just poured on from there. Couturier scored in his 5th straight game, the second rookie to do so this season for the Flyers. Hartnell scored his 20th goal. And Voracek notched a tally as well.

Overall, this is the most complete game the Flyers have played in a long time. The only question left is can they carry it over to the next game? The next 5 games? Only time will tell.

Through 2 Periods

The Flyers are on a roll. I mean they look unstoppable. Whats that? Oh nothing, just a deflected goal for Hartnell. What was that? Just a nifty pass to Couturier to give him his 5th straight game with a goal. And what's that on the scoreboard? Bryzgalov has only let in one goal? Well, I guess it is only the second period, there's still time for a collapse.

But in all seriousness, this is a Flyers team that I want to see. Tons of pressure in the offensive zone. No one is looking to be a hero. The offense is setting up, and trying for deflected shots. The defense is getting back and making great plays. And even though its only 2 periods in one game, I'll give it to him, Bryzgalov is playing well.

Its working. This team is clicking. And at home, where their record is less than stellar. This is the team we all wanted to see, this is the offense we knew we could have. This is a stout defense. This is a goalie living up to his contract.

The only question is, can they do it for one more period?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goalie Controversy Again...

If you've been reading the Flyers posts on this blog, you know how I feel about Ilya Bryzgalov. If you haven't, here is a brief recap, in fact, it is only 3 words long.

Waste. Of. Money.

Another day, another loss, and this one with 4 goals allowed. To Nashville. Granted, Bryzgalov allowed 3 goals, 1 goal was an empty netter. But come on. That's not what's important. What is important? Well I'll answer that question.

Clutch. Clutch is what the Flyers need, but its what they don't have. On offense, yes, clutch is there. The list of names would make any NHL team see red with envy. Giroux, Briere, Couturier, Simmonds, Hartnell. They can score, and they can score a lot. The problem lately has been the goalie.

Because no matter how much they score, Bryzgalov seems to let in one more goal. And that means losses. And you don't pay a man 51 million dollars to lose games. Not on any team. And especially not on a team with expectations as high as a Philly team. When the Flyers announced the deal, I was initially happy, because the Flyers has finally gone out and gotten a goalie worth paying for, a goalie who could be clutch when it mattered, and win us the big game.

Boy was I wrong.

Let's look at what Bryzgalov has done the last couple of weeks. And tell me if I miss anything, I'm trying to be thorough.

1. Lose a big lead in the 3rd period.
Check. Losing a 4-2 lead against the Senators in the 3rd period, and losing it big, 6-4, is an epic meltdown in terms of goalie performance.

2. Make an announcement you shouldn't
Check again. Bryzgalov announced to the world that he wouldn't be starting the Winter Classic, and he did it before the Flyers or Peter Laviolette did. This is not only unprofessional, but it also undermines the coaches authority. I'm sure Laviolette did not let this little stunt go unnoticed.

3. Not perform when needed.
Duh. Of course this happened. It happened when the Flyers played the Senators. And again when they played the Predators. So it keeps happening. Its a pattern. A bad pattern.

So yes, Bryz has performed terribly and acted petulantly. And what else can we expect? This is all we have seen all season. So I'm asking, no BEGGING!!! Put in BOBROVSKY!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And With the 35th Pick...

The Philadelphia Union take Raymon Gaddis of West Virginia. Gaddis is adding depth to the most fearsome backline in the Eastern Conference.  The Union defence played well throughout the season, often keeping the Union in games when the offense couldn't produce.

So will Gaddis be an instant impact player? Probably not. The Union backline is a formidable foe for any MLS attack, and Gaddis doesn't have a spot at the moment. But he will add depth to a line that needs it. If a player is injured or out because of card accumulation, Gaddis will be able to step in and fill the role on the backline.

Overall? The Union had a successful draft. They added to key pieces to their attacking power, a spot they sorely needed to shore up. And they added some depth to an already ferocious backline.  A draft can never truly be measured on the day players are picked, but this draft shows promise for the future.

And with the 32nd pick...

The Philadelphia Union selected Greg Jordan, midfielder from Creighton.  The Union lost a veteran leader in the MLS Expansion draft, Justin Mapp. Mapp play had fans and critics alike, but no one can deny he could possess the ball in the midfield, and was crucial in controlling play in the offensive third. And now he is gone.

So what remains? A young midfield. Freddy Adu, the heralded young midfield signing who failed to live up to his lofty press coverage. Roger Torres, the speedy midfield threat who has become a fan favorite. Michael Farfan, a rookie of the year candidate. Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll. There is one theme across all of these players. young talent.

And Greg Jordan is no different. He's a talented young player, much in the style of Brian Carroll. A defensive midfielder who will fit nicely between attacking players like Torres and Farfan. And if the playoffs were any indication, The Union need a midfielder who can play a defensive role, but still will be able to help push the ball forward. And Jordan can be that player.

And with the 13th pick...

The Philadelphia Union picked Chandler Hoffman, left footed striker from UCLA. Hoffman had a stellar career at UCLA, ending with 29 goals, 9 assists, and 67 points in 54 games played. A stellar career for a collegiate player. And a steal for the Union at the 13th pick. The union can only hope to duplicate the results of last year's draft, which yielded rookie of the year candidate Michael Farfan.

So what does Hoffman bring to the table? Scoring. The Union stabilized their backline last season, and this offseason, pickups have strengthened that. The Philadelphia defense and goalkeeping would make nearly every club jealous.  Only the reigning champs, the LA Galaxy, have a more formidable backline the Union does. What the Union need most is attacking strength, and Hoffman gives it to them.

"I'm definitely a goal scorer. I create opportunities in and around the 18 and I finish those opportunities when I get them."  And that is what the Union attack lacked last season, minus Le Toux. It lacked confidence, and it lacked finishing. The Union could possess the ball, move it forward, they could even create the plays. What they needed was a finisher. And between off season pickups, and a strong 1st round pick for the Union, their offense appears well on the way towards finishing opportunities they could not finish last season.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Look at the Flyers

One can't help but watch the last few games, and see a Flyers team that is all over the map. Goaltending has been suspect at best. Scoring has been inconsistent. And yet the Flyers record is not terrible. A victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in a squeaker, a split with the Senators that included an epic 3rd period meltdown, and a tight defensive win against the Hurricanes.

So what can we take away from these wins? It's hard to say. The Flyers goaltending still leaves much to be desired. a tight game against Chicago included a late game winning goal that saved the Flyers from overtime. A meltdown against the Senators, a 4 goal 3rd period, that gave up a 2 goal lead. And a tight game against the Hurricanes, a team that doesn't strike fear into the hearts of goalkeepers. The question is, has the money spent on goaltending this season been worth it?

The answer, in short, is no. Byzgalov has been a disappointment. His play has been erratic at best. He has been a distraction out of the locker room. No goalie should announce their starting position for a game, that is a coach's job. And yet Bryzgalov has taken that duty upon himself once already this season. The problem is, his replacement couldn't handle the pressure last season, who is to say he will be able to handle it this season?

In short, no matter how the offense plays, the team still hinges upon goaltending.  No matter how many goals Giroux and company can score, if Bryz lets 4 goals in 1 period, it won't be enough. It comes down to who can handle it in the clutch. And right now, neither goalie on the Flyers roster appears able to do that.

Surprise Surprise!

Which was a bigger surprise to you? A triumphant return for Thierry Henry to Arsenal. Scoring the game winner to push Arsenal through to the 4th round of the FA Cup. Or Lionel Messi winning a 3rd consecutive Ballon d'Or?

Henry was a supposed washed up star. He had his glory days in the EPL, becoming a legend among legends at Arsenal. Leading that club to some of its best days. And then he left, and took his talents to the New York Red Bulls. The MLS is an EPL retirement home. Its where washed up stars go to fade out of sight. No one can come back from the MLS, not to Europe, not to their former glory. Then Arsenal faced Leeds in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. and the scoreline was nil nil in the 78th minute. And Henry worked his magic, driving the game winning goal home. Surprise? Hell Yes!

Lionel Messi is an amazing player. No one will deny that. His play in la Liga, and the Champions League, is legendary, a player you will tell you kids about seeing. I saw Messi play. The only knock against Messi has been his international play, where his resume lacks some of the shine that some other players have. But he deserves the Ballon d'Or. He is the greatest player in the game at this moment. And it's up to someone else to take that title away.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bryz or Bob?

Ahh, the question on every Flyer fan's mind. Bryzgalov or Bobrovsky. The double B's. Which goalie is the goalie to take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup? Can either goalie do it? Or is Philadelphia really just a place promising goalies come to let their careers die?

An enigmatic and amusing figure to be sure. But Cup winning goalie? I'm just not sure right now. Sure he has flashes of brilliance. Bryzgalov has done the one thing this season the Flyers couldn't do last season. Pitch a shutout. But despite this early glimpse at goalie greatness, his recent play show nothing of the promise the early season held. Recent losses, bad losses, have shown that a bad game can get into Bryz's head, and stay there. And that is not a quality you want in a goalie signed to a 9 year deal.

Bob is without doubt a goalie with promise. But the problem with Bob last year was a promising start. Then he collapsed in the stretch run, as did all the other goalies on the Flyer's staff. So yes, Bob looks good so far, and he is playing well in relief. But can he handle the starter duties? Because when it came time for clutch goaltending last year, he couldn't.

So who should be in goal? In one word, Bryzgalov. Bryz was the man the Flyers signed to take them to the next level. And they've made their point, sitting him for the Winter Classic. And now it is time for Bryz to be back between the pipes. It's time for him to earn the money, and the years that the Flyer's have given him.

Looking Ahead for Stoke City

Peter Crouch had a day to remember against Blackburn Rovers Monday. A pair of goals, including his 100th in League play. Stoke stole an important 3 points away from Britannia, and climbed 3 points to be one point behind Newcastle United, who play tomorrow. But what does the rest of the season hold for a Stoke side who seems to have found their form of late?

Their next three matches include an FA Cup match against Gillingham on the 7th. This is followed by 2 League matches away against Liverpool and home to West Brom. The Liverpool  match presents particular difficulty for Stoke. Not only will Liverpool want revenge to the 1-nil loss at Brittania at the ends of Stoke in early September, but Liverpool will also be looking to bounce back from a tough 3-nil loss at the hands of Manchester City.

Then Stoke face a winnable match at home against West Brom. So the road is tough. It always is in the Premier League. But their recent record, despite the loss to Manchester City, shows that Stoke can beat top flight Premier League competition. A victory against Tottenham Hotspur at home shows that Stoke have the stuff to beat the best of the Premier League. Now they need to it. and against a Liverpool side spoiling for a fight.