Crew Thick...Union host Columbus

Crew Thick...Union host Columbus

The Union face Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew
tonight at PPL Park (8PM/ESPN2) in the first ever match
between these two teams. Peter Nowak’s team looks to rebound from a
disappointing 1-1 draw with New England last
Saturday. The Crew, who “boast” one of the more unfortunate logos in American
professional sports, are coming off a 3-1 loss to Chivas.

Columbus arrives in Chester with one the most
productive designated players in league history. In the course of leading the
Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup Guillermo Barros Schelotto was named the 2008 MLS Most
Valuable Player, MLS Cup 2008 MVP and was a member of the 2008 MLS Best XI team.
He brings a wealth of experience, having appeared in 211 games for Boca
Juniors. He also brings a bit of a nasty streak as he was suspended for a game
earlier this season for throwing an elbow at Chivas USA defender Michael Umaña.

The Crew also feature a few players familiar to anyone who’s
followed the USMNT over the years. Although he did not play against Chivas the
ageless and tireless Frankie Hejduk remains a viable option for the Crew as an
outside back. You think Sebastien Le Toux can run all day? Hejduk, who turns 36
today, never stops running. Ever.

Eddie Gaven, who signed with MLS at the age of 16, is in his
eighth year in the league. Despite looking like he should be playing guitar
next to Chris Robinson with the Black Crowes Gaven was once seen as a potential
cornerstone for the USMNT. Although he has not lived up to expectations on the
international level he has found a niche with Columbus as a midfielder who is able to get
forward and flash in the offensive third. He leads the Crew in minutes played.

Finally, Chad
Marshall holds
things down in the middle of the Crew backline. At 6’4” Marshall provides an imposing presence in the
back. He’ll also pose a challenge for the Union
on set pieces.

What did we learn about the Union from their draw against New England? Well, we learned that Le Toux has no
problems cracking bending balls from the top of the eighteen into the back of
the net. We also learned that goalie Chris Seitz did not do such a great job
setting up his wall on New England’s goal off
of a free kick.

I thought newcomer Eduardo Coudet acquitted himself quite
well in his first MLS game. He provided creativity and passing ability from the
center of the park. He often came back into the defensive third to receive the
ball and jumpstart the Union attack. Although he’s not wearing the #10 shirt he
certainly played like a traditional #10 - at least more so than any other Union
midfielder has so far.

Aside from Coudet’s introduction into the lineup I thought
the Union dominated possession for long stretches of the New
England game. Soccer is just a cruel sport in that the Union seem to continually be punished for their mistakes.
Their inability to get out of their own way has really been the story of the
season thus far.

What, if anything, would I change if I was filling out the
lineup card tonight? Well, assuming he’s healthy I would insert Shea Salinas
into the right back spot Cristian Arrieta has been occupying. Nowak’s been
implementing a get-forward-or-get-out-of-the-way-style all season. Why not then
insert Salinas
into the lineup and let him run at people? He certainly has the pace.

One other change I would make would be to sit down Alejandro
Moreno. Yes, he brings veteran savvy to the field. Yes, he has a wonderful
ability to hold up play and draw fouls. However, he’s shown an inability to put
the ball into the net. The Union have a glut
of midfielders. Why not pair Le Toux and Danny Mwanga up top and go with a
midfield of Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi, Coudet, and Justin Mapp (or any other
midfield combination for that matter)? I’d like to see Nowak shake up his
forward pairing.

The Crew present a serious challenge for the Union. While they’ve been tremendous at home this will be
the stiffest home test they’ve faced thus far. They’ve shown they can play with
anyone. They’ll need to keep things tight in the back and stay away from that
one devastating mistake.

One final note before I throw my final score prediction out
there. The Union announced they’ve come to
terms with Colombian defender Juan Diego Gonzalez Alzate. He’s played in Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico.
No word on when he’ll make his debut, but he brings some much needed depth to
the Union’s central defense.

 

Final Score
Prediction:
Schelotto and his Mitch Albom haircut are too much for the Union as the Crew win it 2-1.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).