Which Union player will represent the USA next?

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Which Union player will represent the USA next?

Wednesday, June 30, 2011
Posted: 12:56 p.m.
By Dave ZeitlinCSNPhilly.com Contributor

CHESTER, Pa. In the wake of the Philadelphia Unions 3-2 win over Chivas USA on Saturday, Danny Mwanga was gushing about a brilliant goal.

Only, the Unions second-year striker wasnt talking about his own well-struck ball that catapulted the Union to victory minutes earlier. Instead, he was looking up at the television in the home locker room, where Gio Dos Santos had just sealed Mexicos 4-2 win over the United States in the Gold Cup finals with a ridiculous chip shot.

Did you see that goal? Mwanga exclaimed in the direction of teammate Amobi Okugu. Like Mwanga, Okugo was also watching the game. So were other Union players, who, while changing into street clothes and talking to reporters, had their eyes on the TV to watch the U.S. mens national team play their biggest rival with a championship trophy at stake.

Some of those players like Danny Califf, Brian Carroll and Justin Mapp already know what its like to play for the United States Senior Mens National Team (USMNT). Others like Faryd Mondragn, Carlos Valds, Carlos Ruiz, Veljko Paunovi and Keon Daniel have played (or currently play) internationally for their own native countries. And then there are others still that hope to one day be called upon to represent their countries, an ambitious goal that fuels their fire each day in training.

When youve been through the youth teams, you aspire to be at the highest level, said Okugo, a 20-year-old midfielder. A bunch of guys have gone through the same passage we had with residency and youth national teams and starting in MLS and playing abroad, so you know theres incentive to keep working hard because theyre watching us.

One thing is clear: After a disappointing runner-up performance at the Gold Cup, the United States can certainly use a boost of young talent. And while there are many sensational up-and-comers around this league and others, the Union also have their fair share of American-born rising stars.

That said, there is no clear-cut favorite as to which current Union player will get there first, so, with the help of my Twitter followers, Ive put together a list of who on the club has the best chance to join the U.S. senior national team in the coming years. Heres what we came up with:

(Note: These odds arent meant to indicate a players chances of making the national team, but instead who, among only Union players, has the best chance to get there next.)

(Another note: I really dont know how to set odds.)

(The last note: You know what, dont pay very much attention to the odds.)

Sheanon Williams 5:1
The 21-year-old is fast developing into the best right fullback in the league. And luckily for him, the Americans looked vulnerable on the backline during the Gold Cup, especially when aging right back Steve Cherundolo had to come out vs. Mexico with a twisted ankle. Considering Williams wasnt even playing in MLS a year ago at this time, his rise has been meteoric, but its not as if hes completely come out of nowhere, having previously played for the U-17 and U-20 national teams. Twelve different Twitter followers mentioned Williams when I posed the question, receiving more votes than anyone on the team but for one player (more on that one player later).
Amobi Okugo 6:1
The defensive central midfielder, who started for the U-20 team at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship a couple of months ago, is on the right path. His next goal is to play for the U-23 team at the 2012 Summer Olympics. If he makes it there and does well in London the senior national team could be the next rung on the ladder.
Zac MacMath 7:1
Like Okugo, MacMath was a starter at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship team. And even though that squad flamed out and didnt qualify for the U-20 World Cup, the 19-year-old Union rookie was strong in net and is viewed by some as the next great American goalkeeper. The United States are typically loaded at the position, but current starter Tim Howard is 32 and not getting any younger.
Danny Mwanga 8:1
If not for the pesky issue of when he gets his United States citizenship, this 19-year-old phenom would easily top the list, as his 13 Twitter votes indicate. Mwanga, who obtained his green card in 2007 shortly after fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, should be in line to get his citizenship shortly, but even then he still must decide if hed rather suit up for his native Congo or wait for the call from the United States. Another Congolese player in Major League Soccer Seattles Steve Zakuani opted for the former. Union and U.S. fans hope Mwanga chooses differently.

Jack McInerney 10:1
Although not as far along as Mwanga, McInerney is another young striker with big things in front of him. Since being drafted right out of high school last year, the 18-year old has been a solid goal-scoring threat off the bench for Philly, although hes been held in check this season. McInerney is still a long way off from being on the senior national teams radar, but his potential excites Union fans perhaps more than any other players. He got six Twitter votes, just behind MacMaths eight and Okugos seven.
Justin Mapp 12:1
Hes only 26, is in the midst of a strong season and has earned caps in the past with the UMSNT. But the outside midfielder hasnt been called up since 2007, which probably seems like a lifetime ago. Still, if Mapp continues to play as well as hes been playing, he may have a shot to get back into the picture. Plus, he was the Twitter choice of Mondragn, who you dont want to disagree with.
Danny CaliffBrian Carroll 15:1
Califf and Carroll are among the steadiest players in the league and both have fairly recent experience playing for the senior national team. So if the USMNT were looking for a veteran presence for an upcoming camp or qualifying game, theyd be wise to look to either of these two. But at 31 and 29 respectively, Califf and Carrolls days of representing their country may be in the past.
Zach Pfeffer 25:1
The 16-year-old was the fourth-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract, and the Union coaches believe he can one day be a superstar. But that day is a long way off. The crafty, technically sound midfielder was also left off the U-17 World Cup roster, which may slow down his progression. The only way hes the next Union player to play for the USMNT is if his older teammates miss out on getting the call.
Michael FarfanGabriel Farfan 30:1
These twin brothers are not on the USMNT radar right now, but theyre just too skilled and creative to be left off the list. First, the rookies must try to earn consistent playing time for the Union, because when they are healthy and on the field, they can do things with the ball most players cannot.

Well, there it is a list you the fans helped create. (So feel free to blame yourselves if you think someone is in the wrong spot). While its certainly fun to think about this stuff, it should be noted there are many other factors at play and, lets be honest, some luck when it comes to who makes it to the highest level.

It should also be noted that I listed all but three of the Unions American-born players above, and two of the others midfielder Kyle Nakazawa and defender Jordan Harvey have represented the U.S. for youth national teams in the past.

So if theres one conclusion we can draw from this whole exercise, its this: the Union are blessed with a lot of young talent. How and where that young talent develops, of course, remains to be seen.
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.

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH -- To their credit, the Sharks regrouped after a miserable first period at Consol Energy Center in which it looked like they might get run out of the building.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Nick Bonino’s late third period goal pushed the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On the game-winner, Brent Burns lost his stick and couldn’t prevent Kris Letang from finding Bonino in front of the net with Paul Martin defending the slot. Bonino flipped it through Martin Jones at 17:27 of the final frame.

The Sharks went to the power play with 2:09 to go, but couldn’t tie it up.

Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Penguins dominated the first period, only to have the Sharks completely turn the tables in the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.

The Penguins had the Sharks on their heels for virtually the entire opening frame, outshooting San Jose 15-4 and scoring a pair.

The first came at 12:46 of the first. On a rush, Justin Schultz’s shot from the high slot hit the glove of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and rookie Bryan Rust was there to smack in the loose puck.

Just one minute and two seconds later, the Penguins upped their cushion. Sidney Crosby tracked down a loose puck in the corner ahead of Justin Braun, calmly played the puck off his backhand and whipped a cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary. Another rookie, Sheary whizzed a wrist shot past Jones’ far shoulder.

It was evident early in the second, though, that San Jose had regrouped, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski both had good looks at the net. They broke through on an early power play courtesy of Tomas Hertl, who curled in a pass from down low off of Olli Maatta at 3:02.

Pittsburgh withstood a continual push from the Sharks for much of the period until Marleau’s late score. After Couture outworked Maatta deep in the offensive zone and pushed the puck to the point to Burns, Marleau secured Burns’ rebound and wrapped it around at 18:12.

Burns had two assists, and made a strong defensive play with about three minutes left in the first, backchecking hard and lifting up Carl Hagelin’s stick on a breakaway.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-2 on the power play, on Hertl’s second man advantage goal of the playoffs. They are 18-for-65 in the postseason (27.6 percent).

Pittsburgh went 0-for-3, generating five shots on goal. The Pens are 15-for-67 overall (22.3 percent).

Marleau was whistled for an illegal check to the head of Rust in the third period, sending the 24-year-old to the dressing room for a brief stretch.

In goal

Jones and Murray were each making their first career starts in the Stanley Cup Final. Jones took the loss with 38 saves, while Murray stopped 24 San Jose shots.

Lineup

Sharks forward Matt Nieto remained out with an upper body injury.

Pavelski saw his seven-game point streak (5g, 5a) come to an end. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz increased his point streak to six games (3g, 4a).

Up next

The Sharks are 5-11 all-time when losing Game 1 of a playoff series, but 1-0 this year as they came back to defeat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the championship 78 percent of the time (59-18). The last team to win the Cup after losing Game 1 was the 2011 Bruins.

Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

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Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

A day after he made comments in Chicago that alluded to the trimming of Ryan Howard’s playing time against right-handed pitchers, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin sat at his desk, surrounded by reporters, and was pressed for 10 minutes on the issue of his declining, expensive and struggling first baseman and franchise icon.

Howard, of course, was penciled into the lineup in the cleanup spot against righty Tanner Roark for Monday’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Washington Nationals (see game recap).

A question of was barely out of a reporter’s mouth when Mackanin quickly interjected a “hell yes.”

It’s the hardest decision - what to do with the struggling Howard - he’s had to make in his brief time managing the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I think about it all the time,” Mackanin said.

“That’s the hard part of this job. It’s not just running the game, it’s handling the players.”

For now, Mackanin said, he hasn’t felt the need to talk to Howard about it. Howard, who sat Sunday for the second time in eight days against a righty, said Sunday he was unaware his manager was intending on reducing his playing time against righties (see story).

Once a platoon situation at first base, it appears the Phillies are going to take a longer look at rookie Tommy Joseph against right-handed pitchers in the near future.

“If I was going to sit (Howard) on the bench and he wasn’t going to play anymore, I’d have that conversation,” Mackanin said. “I think what I said was pretty obvious.”

“I didn’t say I was going to bench Howard.”

He didn’t Monday. Howard had good numbers against Roark, something he didn’t have against Sunday’s starter for the Cubs, John Lackey. So it looks like Mackanin’s decision will be based on matchups.

In his second at-bat Monday, a second straight strikeout on the night and 12th in his last 22 at-bats, Howard was way late on a 93-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate.

But he looked much better in his final two at-bats of the night.

In the bottom of the sixth, he drove a Roark changeup to the warning track deep in right-center, but Ben Revere closed quickly and made the catch.

In his last at-bat, after Maikel Franco led off the ninth inning with a double, Howard jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Jonathan Papelbon and drove a double to the gap in left-centerfield, scoring Franco and putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs.

Those two swings were the ones Mackanin said Monday afternoon he “knew” were there. He later corrected himself and said it was more of a situation of “hope.”

Howard went 1 for 4 on the night. His May average is now .106.

“He needed to come through with a big hit and that was a huge hit, put the tying run at second base,” Mackanin said. “It was good to see.”

The Phillies are slated to face a righty in their next six games before facing Jon Lester and the Cubs at home next Monday. Joseph, who is hitting .278 with three home runs in his first 36 Major League at-bats, figures to get the start in the majority of those.

It’s a decision Mackanin says he’s going to make on a day-by-day basis.

He was asked if the front office, which is also in a tough spot and may have to do something soon, gave him any input on what to do.

“They don’t tell me who to play and when to play them,” Mackanin said. “I know that they want me to mix in Joseph against right-handers so that he doesn’t stagnate. That’s pretty much all I go by right now.”

A suggestion from upstairs isn’t unprecedented. It has already happened before during the young 2016 season.

“They asked me to - as bad as (Tyler) Goeddel looked early in the season - they asked me if I could try to mix him in a little more,” Mackanin said. “I said sure. I did, and he started hitting better. So now he’s playing more. Here we go, if you want to play more than you gotta hit.

“There’s nothing set in stone.”

NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000 (see full recap).