Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Plenty of media outlets and Union blogs will offer
their take on games this season immediately after the final whistle.

With that in mind – as well as a job that leaves
me working nights and a 15-month-old baby at home who makes it hard
to do anything not on his schedule – we’re trying something
a little different.

Set the DVR, make a few mental notes from my seat
in Section 138 (too cold this week for any real note-taking) and let
things simmer for a few days – good or bad. Then tackle the replay
from the first minute to added time, and try not to ramble too much.
Might be a running diary like this (sorry, I’m not that creative),
and it might not. We’ll see how it goes.

We also might touch on the TV broadcasts a little
bit. How games reach fans on TV has always interested me, and hopefully
might not be totally boring to you.

And we’re off.

PREGAME: The game was on 6ABC, with usual play-by-play voice
J.P. Dellacamera and new color analyst Alejandro Moreno, who played
for the Union in their first season.

LINEUP: I was WAY off in my pregame post, partially because
Hackworth veered from his expected 4-3-3 for a 4-2-1-2-1. I was very
surprised by it at first, but I really like the formation for this team
(if not the players in it). With Okugo, Lahoud and Carroll on the roster,
you have three holding midfielders, so it makes no sense to play a 4-3-3
where you may not really used one at all. Le Toux has worked well as
a solo striker, but I would still like to see Conor Casey on from the
start, and either pair him with Le Toux up top or let Le Toux play just
off Casey.

1’: The new third jerseys looked great when they were released,
and they look even better in action. The white shorts are great. In
other uniform news, I thought I liked the new two-tone Sporting shirts,
but they look really weird on the field, especially for those wearing
long sleeves.

4’: Gabe Farfan with two golden chances off a good ball from
Michael Farfan. First one right into KC goalie Nielsen, rebound shot
way over the bar. It was a promising start for Gabe Farfan, who was
a very surprising starter up high.

6’: At this point, things are off to a good start. Some decent
possession on the other side of midfield, and two plays where Jack McInerney
would’ve been way offside last year but Le Toux stayed on well.

8’: Le Toux gets a long floating ball from Carroll and can
only muster a lobbed shot way over the bar. He was 1-on-1 with Matt
Besler, and should’ve done better to bring it down. All in all though,
the Union have done more in the first eight minutes in the attacking
half than in entire games last year.

10’: Le Toux tries to cut it back in the box for Daniel but
it’s a nothing pass kicked out for a corner. He sometimes needs to
be more unselfish and have a shot.

11’: Gaddis comes all the way from left to right to cover
for Sheanon Williams, who was way up in the KC 18 on the last attack.
I love the way Williams attacks on the wings, but with the shaky nature
of this defense (more on that later), he and Gaddis need to err on the
side of caution more often.

14’: Le Toux and Gabe Farfan working well together in opening
minutes. Nice balls into space and predicting each other’s movements.
I never liked Gabe as a left back (not sure I like Gaddis, either),
but I could learn to like him playing up higher.

16’: Sloppy pass from Carroll to Michael Farfan, but Carroll
is bailed out by a stupid foul. This will not go down as one of Carroll’s
best games. He seemed out of

17: UNION
GOAL. The move starts with a really bad pass from Gaddis for
Daniel, which is easily intercepted by Chance Myers, but quickly given
away on an even worse turnover. With one quick touch, Daniel sends a
perfect floating ball to the penalty spot, which Le Toux
cradles with his right foot before poking it past Nielsen.

The first touch was amazing, but he got away with a less-than-precise
finish. Still, a just reward for the Union’s strong start.

18’: Le Toux really needs a signature goal celebration. Also,
I predicted something right! (Not that I went out on much of a limb).

20’: Moreno has already provided more solid analysis and
insight than Bob Rigby did all of last season. He doesn’t overtalk
and seems to work well with Dellacamera. Although a screaming
goat
would have been an upgrade over Rigby.

22’: Carroll gets pushed off the ball with ease and it leads
to a half-chance for KC. Like I said, not his best game.

23’: A brilliant outside-of-the-foot ball from Michael Farfan
to Williams sets up a GOLDEN chance for Le Toux just inside the 18.
Looked like he was aiming to curl it far post but flat-out scuffed the
shot and missed the net entirely. The moment that really changed the
game, in my opinon.

24’: Le Toux was solid, but a minute after the missed chance
he fails to put anything on an attempted cross and it is easily cleared
away. Union really possessing the ball well, though.

26’: Gaddis streaks down the middle and draws a promising
free kick on a foul by Aurelien Collin. The kid has unbelievable speed,
and could really develop into a nice left back if given the chance.
But his lack of size means he needs to play smarter in the back, especially
on set pieces and scramble situations.

27’: Michael Farfan puts a free kick on frame (BREAKING NEWS!)
and forces a nice save from Nielsen.

28’: I DESPISE short corners. Just so you know.

31’: It was about this time that we all realized just how
cold it was in the River End. Also when we started to wonder exactly
who the back-breaking end-of-half goal against was going to come from.

32’: Benny Feilhaber commits a foul and then screams at the
ref with a “Who? Me?!?” look. For you soccer newbies, this is what
we call “being Benny Feilhaber.”

36’: Nice job by Gaddis to run at Colin again. He seemed
to know Colin had one yellow card and forced him into another dangerous
tackle. Colin makes a nice play to stop him, but that’s great awareness
from a young player.

37’: Great corner kick from Le Toux and a semi-free header
by Okugo that he can’t get on frame. Solid corner by Le Toux, who
often misses his mark on those.

39’: Moreno (rightfully) harping on Le Toux’s inability
to ease pressure by holding up the ball. He needs to get better at that,
especially if he going to play up top alone.

41’: SPORTING GOAL. Carroll’s biggest mistake of the match
leads to a goal. Okugo misreads a bouncing ball on the wing 40 yards
out and it falls to Convey. At this point, my brother, standing beside
me, says “He should’ve fouled him there.” Carroll can see a teammate
out of position in front of him and needs to go for the ball and take
a “professional” foul, even if it means a yellow card. Instead,
Carroll meekly stabs at the ball and Convey beats him easily before
floating a cross into the box.

Claudio Bieler nods it down nicely to Feilhaber, whose
shot is saved well by Macmath. But Parke and Gaddis are inexplicably
retreating BEHIND their goalie to guard the line, so when the rebound
rolls out to Graham Zusi, there is no one there and he roofs it to tie
the game
. Plenty of blame to go around on this one.
Macmath gets the least, as the shot was ripped and would’ve been hard
to push to catch or push to one side. Carroll needs to do better, and
Gabe Farfan and Michael Lahoud need to do more than watch from the edge
of the 18. A terrible goal to give up when you’ve dominated the half.

HALFTIME: The scoreline is not what the Union deserve for this
possession and passing game, which has been better than at any point
in 2012. Also, I’m super pumped that the creepy Bimbo teddy bear ads
are back this year (sarcasm font). And Peter Pappas is part of the halftime
show on 6ABC. I got his autograph on a Philadelphia Kixx ball after
a game at the Spectrum when I was a kid. That ball would be worth a
pretty penny today. An actual penny.

46’: SO MANY empty seats at the start of the second half
… a PPL Park tradition. For a new stadium, the number and layout of
the bathrooms is embarrassing, especially when men vastly outnumber
women. Not sure I’ve ever seen a second-half kickoff live.

54’: Feilhaber runs over Michael Farfan and gets called for
a foul. Running people over and pretending he did nothing wrong is what
Feilhaber does best.

60’: Sporting really controlling the ball now. Everything
has been different since the Zusi goal. Despite that, the Union have
had one or two forays into the attacking third. Last year when momentum
changed this way, the Union folded up and never pushed forward.

66’: Williams tangles with substitute C.J. Sapong and get
called for a foul. From my seat on Saturday I thought it was a foul
on Sapong if anything. From here it should’ve been a no-call. Both
guys were using their arms.

66’: SPORTING GOAL. Zusi’s free kick is well-placed, but
the Union are just watching. Gaddis
lets Oriol Rosell run free for the header
, so he gets
Blame #1. But Macmath MUST be more assertive there. You know where Zusi
is going to put it, so come to the ball and be aggressive. The goalie
is always going to get the benefit of the doubt in a penalty box pileup,
but Macmath consistently seems unwilling to make the first move. Just
bad all around from the Union, who apparently don’t practice set piece
defending.

70’: McInerney comes in for Gabe Farfan. I thought Farfan
was serviceable enough to deserve another chance in the attack. I’ve
never been the biggest McInerney fan, and would’ve rather seen Hoppenot
or Casey come in here.

75’: Williams trying to beat two men by himself. That tells
you all you need to know about the second half. No poise at all. For
Hackworth’s sake, you hope it’s not tired legs. Let’s also not
forget that Sporting K.C. is one of the top three or four teams in the
league, as well.

79’: Le Toux with a great ball to McInerney, who directs
a great header on goal, but Nielsen is positioned well to make the save.

80’: Roger Torres comes in for Lahoud. I have never liked
Lahoud but thought he played OK in this game. Not sure he needs to be
out there with Carroll and Okugo though.

83’: SPORTING GOAL. Again, this was easy to see a mile away.
Zusi is everywhere on this play, floats a great ball to Myers, who cuts
it back to Bieler, who seemed shocked to be so alone inside the 18. The experienced
forward makes no mistake and slots it home past Macmath.

Why are the Union never linked to designated players like Bieler? (The
$1 million question).

84’: Casey comes in and throws his body into Collin, drawing
a cheer from the Sons of Ben, who were waiting for anything to cheer
about.

89’: Gaddis lucky to not see a red card after a wild tackle
on Peterson Joseph.

90’: Let’s hope the Union are taking notes. This is how
an experienced winning team closes out a game. Sporting putting on a
second-half clinic.

FINAL: SPORTING K.C. 3, UNION 1.

I won’t get too caught up in one game. And there
were plenty of reasons to think this won’t be 2012 revisited. The
offense was MUCH better and there were chances created. There was even
a chance well-finished for a goal.

The problem is the defense was sloppy on all three
goals, while Macmath shares the blame for at least one of them (the
second). I like Gaddis, but he might be a better option as the left
back, especially if Bakary Soumare can play in the middle alongside
Parke.

I won’t fall into the “more of the same” argument. This was not like a 2012 loss, even if it felt like it at
times. There is more talent here and more cohesion, especially in the
midfield. That’s not to say roster moves aren’t needed and lineup
changes shouldn’t come. But let’s wait a few games before we write
off 2013 as a continuation of 2012.

Follow Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.

Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

Phillies Prospect Notebook: Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras anchoring Clearwater's strong rotation

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Prospect Franklyn Kilome is the second-highest rated pitcher in the Phillies' organization, and the right-hander lived up to the billing Sunday, as the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies' Class A Advanced affiliate, closed a three-game series at St. Lucie.

The right-hander twirled seven sparkling innings, shutting down the Mets’ hot bats, as the Threshers blanked St. Lucie 1-0 behind an unearned run at First Data Field to salvage the final game of the series.

Kilome, 21, allowed five hits, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk in winning for the first time since April 27. Only one St. Lucie player managed to reach second base against the 6-foot-6, 175-pound pitcher.

The Dominican pitcher is ranked No. 7 overall by Baseball America among Phillies' prospects. Only 18-year-old Lakewood hurler Sixto Sanchez (fifth overall) is rated above him in the organization.

“He’s got a chance to be a workhorse. Good body, very good arm, but still learning how to pitch a little bit,” pitching coach Aaron Fultz said of Kilome, who improved to 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA.

“He’s up to 97 (mph) with a good curveball and slider. He’s learning a changeup. He’s learning the game, but he’s got a huge upside.”

Jose Taveras (4-2, 2.26) has been another reliable arm on Clearwater’s staff. He led the South Atlantic League in strikeouts last season and has 54 in 55 2/3 innings this year.

Taveras also handled St. Lucie on Saturday, but he was left with a no-decision after the bullpen gave up three runs in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings. The 23-year-old worked six strong innings and yielded just a run on four hits.  

“Taveras is just a very good competitor," Fultz said. "His fastball is average, pretty decent breaking ball and his changeup is good, but the thing that makes him good is he’s just a competitor. He studies the game and the hitters and is very advanced with that.”

Added Threshers manager Shawn Williams: “There are times when he may not have his usual command, and he’ll change an arm angle, which shows he’s got a good feel for what he’s doing. He’ll crossfire, has deception … he’s got something where they don’t pick up his fastball and are always late.”

A third Dominican right-hander, Seranthony Dominguez (3-0, 2.02), has been a big part of the rotation as well and has won three times in six starts but is currently sidelined with shoulder soreness. An MRI returned a clean report.

“The first three or four weeks we were ridiculously good," Fultz said. "We’ve had a few bumps in the road since then, but we’re getting the job done.”

Zach, not Francis Ford
Zach Coppola has a famous Hollywood last name, but the Clearwater corner outfielder has spent 2017 making a name for himself with his defense, at the plate and on the bases.

Coppola, 23, was 5 for 12 with two runs scored in the St. Lucie series, including Sunday’s lone run. He made a pair of outstanding run-saving catches in the outfield over the weekend and raised his average to .346, second to Chris Paul (.351) of Fort Myers.

“Zach has been doing a great job as a leadoff hitter,” Williams said of the Iowa native. “He gets big hits, bunts, but the thing for me is he does something every night to help you win, whether it’s a bunt hit or a great diving play in left-center. He’ll throw a guy out or get a great dirtball read and score the winning run.

“He’s a very good baseball player who does all the little things.”

Good contributors
The Threshers (28-23) have sat atop the FSL’s North Division for most of the first half, but a series loss at St. Lucie over the weekend left them trailing Dunedin by one game after both clubs won Sunday.

Williams said his first season skippering the club has been highlighted by a full-team effort.

“It’s been a little bit of everything,” Williams said. “Early on our pitching was very, very good. Cole (Irvin) was really dealing (see more on Irvin). Dominguez, everybody was. We were getting the big hits, and our defense has been very consistent. Overall, we’ve just played good baseball.”

One standout playing good ball has been 5-foot-5 middle infielder Grenny Cumana, who went 7 for 10 in the series and made a spectacular catch-and-throw on the grass behind the bag while playing second base to rob St. Lucie’s Vinny Siena of an infield hit Sunday.

Tenacious P
Fultz said one immeasurable he likes in his pitchers is a bulldog-like tenacity that has them wanting the ball in key moments, regardless of previous outcomes.

“I don’t have to have the guy who’s always going to succeed in the big situation, but I always want the guy that wants to be out there in that situation. To me, that’s the selling point,” he said. “It’s not always being successful; it’s always wanting to be in that situation, which is a big plus.”

Fultz said his favorite battler was Jamie Brewington, a teammate of his in the San Francisco farm system, who appeared in 40 games over two MLB seasons.

“He went right after hitters, and it was fun to watch,” Fultz said.

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Hidden in the Phillies' sub-par Sunday was one bright spot: Andrew Knapp.

The young backup catcher blasted a long home run into the Phillies' bullpen that gave them an early lead they would soon relinquish in an 8-4 loss to the Reds. The long ball comes on the heels of Knapp's first back-to-back starts earlier in the week.

"The more playing time you get, the better you feel," he said. "That's just the way it goes. I'm just trying to take my opportunities and take advantage of them. Unfortunately, we didn't win today, but the more at-bats I get, the better I feel."

The 25-year-old rookie was handed a prime opportunity in the second inning with two men on and one out. Starter Scott Feldman put him behind 0-2 with consecutive fastballs and tried to put him away upstairs. Knapp stayed poised and laid off both pitches, waiting for a mistake.

And the mistake came with a belt-high curveball that Knapp barreled 434 feet for a three-run homer.

"I wasn't really looking for it," he said. "I knew he liked to throw it with two strikes. It was kind of in the back of my head. But I was just looking for something out over the dish. He was pounding me in, but I was going to make him beat me away. I thankfully got that one out in front a bit."

Knapp is now 53 at-bats into his MLB career and has an impressive .264/.371/.509 batting line with three home runs and seven RBIs. He's played well enough to push starting catcher Cameron Rupp for more playing time and earn himself some extra starts beyond day games after night games.

"I feel good," Knapp said. "I'm learning a lot. Each at-bat in itself is its own thing and you can't really have much rollover. At the same time, the more I get in there, the better I feel and the more experience I get. So I feel good so far."

Rupp has been solid at the plate, although he dealt with some issues defensively last week. As Knapp got consecutive starts, Rupp sat out both Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rockies. He rebounded with a three-walk game Thursday afternoon.

With Knapp swinging the bat well, manager Pete Mackanin hopes it will only push Rupp to level his game up.

"Competition is great for pitchers and for position players and I think it's good," Mackanin said. "Knapp hit that home run today. He's been swinging the bat pretty well, catching pretty well and that's only, in my opinion, going to make Rupp better."

On Friday, Mackanin said he would give Knapp more playing time, looking to possibly split starts between Rupp and Knapp at four and three starts, respectively, per week. That's how it worked out during this past homestand.

The manager was unsure what the upward limit on Knapp's starts could be, but he was pleased about his catching situation despite the team's overall issues.

"Cam hasn't been swinging the bat that well lately, but they're both going to get playing time," Mackanin said. "Cam will get the brunt of the playing time. For me, it's a great situation. Now we have two guys that we think a lot of."