Defending Champs In Town As Union Host Rapids

Defending Champs In Town As Union Host Rapids

The defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids face the Union tonight at PPL Park as part of Fox Soccer Night in America (7:30PM/Fox Soccer). The Rapids sit in fifth place in the West, with 31 points from 23 games. The Union, with 31 points, are tied with Columbus at the top of the Eastern Conference table (the Union have two games in hand on Columbus).

It's been 12 days since the Union last played a league match -- a 3-0 dismantling of New England. Sure, the friendlies against Everton and Real Madrid were entertaining, but with the MLS All-Star Game in the rearview mirror it's back to the business of winning MLS games.

The Rapids, who have only dropped one of their last six games, most recently tied New England 2-2 and took apart New York 4-1. Colorado has picked up four points in their last two games despite losing leading scorer Conor Casey for the season with a ruptured achilles. Casey suffered the injury July 16th on the turf in Seattle.

Sanna Nyassi, who is not much of a goal scorer and was ikely was going through an out of body experience at the time, picked up the goal scoring slack with a hat trick in the win over the Red Bulls. Caleb Folan, Omar Cummings, and local product Jeff Larentowicz will also pose danger for the Union back line.

One of the players who will be tasked with shutting down the Rapids offense is Gabriel Farfan. Farfan stepped into the left back void created when Jordan Harvey was shipped to Vancouver.

While I was extremely critical of the move I've come to really appreciate the subtlety of G. Farfan's game. It's plain to see that he possesses a high soccer IQ. He anticipates plays and reads the game incredibly well. He also provides more technical ability to build an attack out of the back.

I would never knock Harvey's effort or willingness to run all day. However, Gabriel Farfan is more suited to the sort of tight passing, work your way out of trouble, combination play Peter Nowak seems to want from his outside backs.

Now, knowing how these things work out watch Farfan have a miserable game.

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Williams, Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Nakazawa, Carroll, Daniel (only because he's a bit more responsible defensively than Torres), Le Toux, and Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: Union stay unbeaten at home with a 2-1 win.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See Red: I am coming awfully close to retiring this award. They've been way too disciplined. At this point I am just randomly picking names. I'll say Ruiz sees red after mixing it up with Pablo Mastroeni.

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring. 

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

About a year ago, while in Indianapolis for the combine, the Eagles cut veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans. 

Ryans has finally found his next job ... as a coach. 

The 32-year-old former linebacker has been named a defensive quality control coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff in San Francisco. Shanahan was on the Texans' staff for the first four years of Ryans' pro career. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was also on that Houston staff. 

After the Eagles cut him last Feb. 24, Ryans was out of the league in 2016 after 10 NFL seasons. He played the first six years of his career in Houston, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler, before joining the Eagles through a trade in 2012. 

While the Eagles cut Ryans after the 2015 season to save $3.5 million in cap space, they made a point to go out of their way to praise him on his way out. He was very well-thought of in the locker room and throughout the building. 

While Ryans played one season under Andy Reid, he quickly became a favorite of Chip Kelly, who frequently called Ryans the "Mufasa" of the Eagles' defense. 

Kelly didn't forget about Ryans when he went to San Francisco to coach the 49ers for the 2016 season. In fact, in Kelly's questionnaire in the NFL's 2016 information guide, Kelly listed Ryans as a player who'd make a great head coach.