Recent MLS injuries remind Union of fragile nature

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Recent MLS injuries remind Union of fragile nature

Thursday, April 28, 2011
Posted: 12:42 p.m.

By Dave Zeitlin
CSNPhilly.com Contributor

Because of a scheduling change, the Philadelphia Union did not play a game this past weekend. But there was still a valuable lesson to be learned, one that was both humbling and haunting.

Soccer, Union defender Danny Califf summed it up, can change by the minute.

Over the weekend, two of Major League Soccers biggest stars suffered brutal, possible season-ending injuries. The first came Friday when Seattle Sounders striker Steve Zakuani fractured his tibia and fibula after one blink-of-the-eye-tackle from Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan. A day later, FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira, the reigning MLS MVP, broke his ankle because of another rough challenge.

The devastating injuries to such classy players casted a dark shadow over MLS this week, and served as a cruel reminder just how very delicate soccer careers can be.

Before his broken leg, Zakuani, the top overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, was on his way to becoming perhaps the leagues premier attacking player. Its hard to know for sure if and when he will return to form.

Its precious, Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. Its always precious. You never know when an injurys going to happen. You never know the last time you play, the last time you coach. You try to approach it like youre living the dream and hopefully it will last as long as possible.

Injuries, of course, are not exclusive to soccer. But as Califf pointed out, not many other sports change as quickly as this one.

And if you need any reminders about this, come out to PPL Park on Saturday and look to the visiting side of the field. There in the midfield, starting for the San Jose Earthquakes will be Philadelphia native Bobby Convey.
Remember him?

Once the shining beacon of American soccer, Convey was the youngest player ever signed by MLS in 2000 before becoming one of the faces of the U.S. national team in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup.

But the pride of Philly fell off the map after knee operations derailed his tenure with the English Premier League club Reading F.C. and forced him back to MLS in 2009, where hes been quietly trying to resurrect his career.

With the Quakes last year, a healthy Convey had a team-leading 10 assists.

I think last year was a significant step for him, said Union manager Peter Nowak, who has known Convey since 2004. I hope he continues to do that this season and beyond that, so he can be in the national team picture again.

The fact that Convey is no longer in the national team picture is interesting, considering hes only 27 years old. But much like former phenom Freddy Adu, it feels like hes past his prime because he burst onto the scene at such a young age.

Soccer, to be sure, can be a fickle, cruel business.

It seems like every year somebody new is touted as the next big thing, said Califf, who has been a part of the national team throughout much of his own career. Its rare to have guys that are the real deal for a long time. Its kind of a natural progression. Every time a young guy comes up, they want to put a label on him. I think its hard to do that. It puts a lot of expectations on a kid. You expect them to be able to handle the pressure and grow up, but theres no handbook written on how to deal with that stuff.

I think when a kid has a lot of expectations heaped upon him, even if he has talent, so much can go wrong. There are a lot of things he cant control.

As we were all reminded of this past weekend, when Zakuani and Ferreira crumpled to the ground, injuries are probably the biggest things out of players control. You cant stop them, especially when they come because of fierce tackles. You just have to plan to make speedy recoveries and then hope your career trajectory doesnt change. Too often, though, it does.

Certainly at any point, any kind of freak accident can happen, Califf said. Especially when you get older, you appreciate that time more. When you see things like this happen, you value on your time on the field.

Because who knows when everything will end? And even if it doesnt end, who knows when it will change?

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com and writes a weekly Union column for CSNPhilly.com. You can e-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

Related: Union schedule MLS standings

Watch: The Phillies pulled off the old double steal

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Watch: The Phillies pulled off the old double steal

The Philadelphia Phillies are attempting to salvage something this afternoon in Detroit this as they take on the Tigers. The Fightins got on the board early and hold a 2-0 lead midway through the second.

After a Peter Bourjos single scored Ryan Howard, Odubel Herrera came up to bat and didn't even have to move to get another run in.

The Phillies pulled off a double steal with Bourjos taking second which allowed Andres Blanco to come home easily.

With the Phils showing such little pop at the plate this season, a little hustle and ingenuity is needed.

Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

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Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

The Phillies once again couldn't find much offense and fell to the Tigers in Detroit last night by a final of 3-1.

But at least the pitching showed something.

There was a fun moment between Jeremy Hellickson and Miguel Cabrera after Hellickson threw quite a nice pitch that fooled Miggy.

Here's how Jim Salisbury described the fun battle:

Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.

And here's the thumbs up: