Breaking down the play that kept Union in playoff hunt -- no, not the Kleberson goal

Breaking down the play that kept Union in playoff hunt -- no, not the Kleberson goal

Lost in the Kleberson-induced euphoria of last week's win over Toronto FC was a play less than 10 minutes earlier. A play that could be the defining moment of the Union's season, should they find a spot in the playoffs.

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With nine Union players pushed forward for a Sebastien Le Toux corner kick in the 87th minute of a 0-0 game, the ball was quickly cleared to midfield by Toronto. Union fullback Ray Gaddis tried to control the ball and head it to a teammate, but a tough first touch, and no Union players within 30 yards, left him all alone trying to defend a 3-man Toronto rush.

Gaddis' first touch is what ultimately caused the problem, but the second-year player -- who struggled with defensive positioning earlier this season -- immediately backed up and surveyed his options.

If you watch it again, Gaddis no sooner begins backpedaling when he perfectly reads the eyes of Alvaro Rey, realizing Rey is going to slide an early pass forward to Robert Earnshaw. If Gaddis stays with Rey for one more stride, there's no way he keeps up with Earnshaw seconds later.

Ray Gaddis reads the pass perfectly from Alvaro Rey.

Before Rey delivers the pass, Gaddis is already turned around and sprinting full speed to get alongside Earnshaw -- Toronto's leading scorer.

From there, Gaddis not only uses his blazing speed to stay with Earnshaw, he also perfectly positions himself on Earnshaw's inside shoulder. This forces Earnshaw just a little bit wider, but it also discourages him from trying to slide the ball back to Rey. As Earnshaw approaches the penalty area, Gaddis even slows down, begging Earnshaw to go wider and be selfish. When you're the only defender back, you have to pick your poison, and in this case, Gaddis (rightfully) decides he's better off turning it into a 1-on-1 than allowing Rey to rejoin the play.

Gaddis prevents a pass back and forces Earnshaw wide.

Once inside the area, Gaddis is careful not to dive in for the ball, and he also takes away half the goal for Earnshaw to shoot at. This allows goalie Zac MacMath to take a step toward Earnshaw, and forces the Toronto forward to hesitate for an instant. It is then that Gaddis picks his spot and pokes the ball away.

Gaddis finishes the play perfectly, poking the ball away.

To top it all off, Gaddis even keeps the ball in play and regains possession instead of kicking it out of play. Which leads almost immediately to a Union free kick at the other end.

Gaddis will have another big challenge Saturday night, despite D.C. United's horrendous record. The Union will be without starting right back Sheanon Williams (yellow card accumulation) and his most likely replacement, Fabinho (red card vs. Toronto). So don't be surprised to see seldom-used players like Chris Albright or Matt Kassel playing center back (with Amobi Okogu on the right), or even someone like Le Toux or Michael Lahoud starting at right back.

The Union absolutely, positively, no questions asked, need a win against lowly D.C. (7 p.m. - Comcast Network). If that happens, and the Union do make the playoffs, remember Ray Gaddis' heroics last Saturday night.

PREDICTION SURE TO BE WRONG

The Union have struggled to score in open play lately. And even usually stubborn manager John Hackworth (the longest-tenured coach in Philly sports) might have to put Kleberson in the starting lineup to avoid an absolutely all-out fan mutiny. Whether that leads to more attacking play, we shall see.

Ironically, I think Saturday's game will come down to something the Union haven't seen all season: a penalty kick. Games at RFK are often wild and out of control, and I have a feeling the Union will draw their FIRST PENALTY of the entire season, then tack on another one late to secure the win.

UNION 2, D.C. UNITED 0

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star last season for Toronto when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineup can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

St. Joe's to meet St. John's in 2017 Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase

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St. Joe's to meet St. John's in 2017 Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase

With the matchups for Saint Joseph's men's basketball's conference slate already set, the Hawks have now added an old northeast corridor rival to the nonconference portion of their schedule.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Monday afternoon that St. Joe's and St. John's will meet on Dec. 20 during of the seventh annual Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Providence and Houston will play in the other contest of the two-game event.

“We are honored to be associated with the Basketball Hall of Fame, an organization that promotes all levels of the game," Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli said in a statement released Monday. "We're delighted for our players to have the opportunity to compete against the legendary St. John's program and are looking forward to an old-fashioned Philly vs. New York matchup.” 

The two schools have played just once in the past 37 years—when the sides met at Hagan Arena in 2013, the Red Storm pulled out a narrow victory to advance to the second round of the NIT. But December's matchup will be the 58th all-time meeting between the programs.

Saint Joseph's last played at the Mohegan Sun Arena back in the 2015 Hall of Fame Showcase, losing to Florida before knocking off Old Dominion in the consolation game. The Hawks return nearly their entire roster for the 2017-18 season, including all five starters, led by the backcourt duo of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble.