Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Sprint Cup at Phoenix

Well here we are. The crapshoot that is the Daytona 500 is over. And what an underwhelming event it was. With little to no passing, there was little to no drama in the Great American Race. Not what NASCAR wanted to see during their flagship race.

That will all change this afternoon. NASCAR makes its way south and west to Phoenix, a track that will definitely feature more racing than Daytona did. And the big story of the day will be the Hendrick cars. With 3 cars qualifying in the top 10, Hendrick looks to power his way to the top of the points standings this week, and move some drivers up significantly with good finishes.

Will anyone be able to stand up to the Hendrick juggernaut? Toyota's seem fast, but their performance at Daytona will leave questions about their durability. It will be up to Gibbs racing and Waltrip racing to try to close the gap and bring some power to the front of the field.

So Phoenix should be a fun and competitive race. And after a snoozefest at Daytona, NASCAR needs a competitive race. And with the big story of Danica Patrick qualifying in 40th position, NASCAR needs some good racing at Phoenix to revive interest in the young season.

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting KC Post Match Wrap-up

For about 41 minutes, Philadelphia Union fans were on top of the world. Their boys in blue(Bethlehem Steel Black yesterday though) were running roughshod over Sporting KC. Sebastian LeToux was being hailed as a returning hero, who opened the entire MLS campaign with a beautiful goal. And beyond that, the Union were attacking and generating chances. And it seemed like only a matter of time before the Union broke through and ran away with the match. And PPL Park was rocking.

Then Zusi tied it up. But still, Union fans had hope. The Union went right back to attacking the goal, and it seemed again that they would be able to pull ahead. This was the team we all wanted to see early last year. A team that didnt sit back and try to bottle people up and come away with a point. This was a team that wanted 3 points.

But then, an Achilles heel from last year came back to bite the Union. Set pieces. Zusi played in a beautiful free kick, and it was headed right by MacMath. This problem plagued the Union last year, and it was hoped that it would be fixed this season. And if not fixed, at least improved upon. But the 2nd goal was scored off a set piece, and it looked easy. And if this is going to be a problem again, the Union can't afford to miss chances like they did in the first half.

So the home opener was really a game of missed chances for the Union. they missed chances to take a multi goal lead in the first half. Up 2-0 or 2-1 going into the second half, and Sporting KC would have had an entirely different plan of attack. And once again, the Union missed chances to properly defend set pieces, and paid dearly for it. Sporting KC was a power in the Eastern Conference last season, and no one is saying the Union were favored. But 40 minutes in to the game, every Union fan watching was thinking the same thing.

This is what I want to see all season.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Line-up Surprises for the Union

Well John Hackworth certainly didn't wait to get a little controversy going this season. The starting lineups for the home opener were announced, and much to my surprise, Conor Casey, Bakary Soumare, and Jack McIrneny were not on the starting 11. Instead, Le Toux starts as the loan forward, and the Farfan brothers and Keon Daniel stake out the attacking midfield. Labour and Carroll play a defensive midfield roles and Gaddis, Parke, Okugo, and Williams man the back line from left to right.

After the high profe acquisitions of this off season, and the goal scoring prowess McIrneny chowder late last season, it's a bit of a shock not to see Casey or Jack Mac on the pitch. Especially since Conor Casey is second among active players for goals against Sporting K.C. So will this 5-2-3-1 lineup work for the Union? If LeToux can get the help he needs on the flanks, this could be a potent offense. But if the attack is weak in the first half, expect to see some combination of Casey, Mcirneney, and Hoppenot coming off the bench.

Opening Day

Welcome to Opening Day Union fans!! It's been a long winter and a lot has happened since the last time the boys in blue stepped onto the pitch for an MLS match. Fan favorite Sebastian LeToux has found his way back to a club that never should have let him go in the first place. Conor Casey brings proven talent and height to the striker position. And a healthy Jeff Parke and Bakary Soumare wi anchor a line that lost stalwart Carlos Valdes. And those are just the new faces the John Hackworth has to work with.

The rest of the team returns, and young faces we came to know and love last year get the chance to prove they are the real deal. Will Jack Mac still be the force close to the net he was last year? Will super sub Chandler Hoffman still have lightning in his boots that seemed to lead to goals any time he stepped on to the pitch?  Can Roger Torres come back to play midfield after a season marred by injuries? Most importantly, can the Union find the back of the net? Goals have been a problem for this team since their inception, but the Union finally have depth at forward, and variety. Casey brings height, Jack brings in innovation, and LeToux is an engine that never stops.

I guess the biggest question in this young season will be how John Hackworth handles his position. Stepping into the role last season, he faced an angry fan base and a team that had been torn apart by the departing Nowak. And though he couldn't lead the Union to a playoff berth, no one can deny that they played better under Hackworth than they did under Nowak. But now the buck stops with Hackworth. It's his team this season, and there will be no excuses. Especially since Hackworth managed to go out and get top tier talent for this years campaign.

So it all starts today. With a Sporting KC team that was a powerhouse in the East last season. But a win against this team would be a statement. That the Union mean to make something of this season. And that Hackworth means to build this team to something that Philadelphia can be proud of. And whether or not that will be the case, the journey starts today.