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Down the Stretch They Come: What the Union Need to Do to Make Waves in MLS

Down the Stretch They Come: What the Union Need to Do to Make Waves in MLS

With just one game a week (usually) and 34 games to play, it seems like the Major League Soccer season goes on forever. But, if you can believe it, the Union have just nine games left before playoff positioning is decided.

And the Union are right in the thick of that chase, and are even in the discussion for the Supporters Shield, an absolutely massive trophy given to the team with the most regular season points. In case you were curious how much one bounce or one mistake can make a difference in a long season, I present this tweet that caught my attention from last week from Union writer Kevin Kinkead:

That free kick came back on July 3 while you were out watching fireworks, when the Union watched a  sure three points slip away in Salt Lake City.

[nbcsports_video src=http://p.mlssoccer.com/SAu5a/video/1797014/mls_2013-07-04-001114.640hq.mp4 service=mlssoccer width=590 height=332]

Since that tweet from Kinkead, Real Salt Lake picked up another point with a draw against Portland, but the discussion remains the same. Your Philadelphia Union, with all their flaws, hiccups and bumps in the road, are -- at least right now -- part of MLS's elite tier.

The Union begin the final stretch on the road Sunday night in New England before returning home next Saturday for a critical home game against Montreal.

The way I see it, there are three realistic scenarios for the Union: Get hot and stay in the hunt for the Supporters Shield, play solidly and secure a playoff berth, or fall apart and watch the postseason from home.

Here's what the Union will need for each scenario:

To Win the Supporters Shield (or at least be there at the end):

As optimistic as I'd like to be, this seems somewhat unlikely. But it's not impossible.

In the last three years, the Supporters Shield winner had 66 (San Jose), 67 (LA Galaxy) and 59 points (LA Galaxy). The total this year is more likely to be in the 50s than the 60s, considering the parity in the league right now -- Real Salt Lake has 42 points while four teams have 39 (Sporting KC, New York, Colorado and Portland). The Union and Montreal are on 38 points, while EIGHT other teams have over 30.

With nine games left, that means there are 27 points on the table. To stay in the race or win the Shield, the Union likely need at least 20 of those (likely more). Here's how to get there:

  • WIN ALL 4 HOME GAMES (12 points): This is much easier said than done, with Montreal coming next week and Sporting Kansas City to end the year (Houston and Toronto are the other two). But top teams win their home games. End of story.
  • 2 WINS, 2 DRAWS AND 1 LOSS AWAY (8 points): This could actually prove easier than Step 1. Road games at New England and DC United are must-wins, while the game against a disappointing San Jose team needs to be at least a draw. A win at Sporting KC might be too much to ask for, but draws in Montreal and San Jose could be enough.

To Finish Top 3 in the East (and earn a first-round bye):

This is more realistic -- and more important -- than winning the Shield. To get there, the Union likely need 16-18 points.

  • WIN 3 HOME GAMES AND LOSE 1 (9 points): Ideally, the fourth one would be a draw, but let's say the Union lay an egg against KC or Montreal. If they can get wins over Houston, Toronto and KC or Montreal, that would still be a strong finish.
  • 2 WINS, 1 DRAW AND 2 LOSSES AWAY (7 points): Beating DC United is a must, plus a win over either San Jose or New England. Draw the other one and lose to Montreal and KC, and the Union would still have 54 points. That should be enough for a top-three finish.

To Miss the Playoffs or Be on the Bubble come late-October:

With the way this team has played -- especially on the road -- I don't see this happening. We've officially reached the point of the season where this would be a MASSIVE disappointment (10 points or fewer).

  • WIN JUST TWICE AT HOME (6 points): With Montreal and KC coming in, this is still possible. But it would make things quite difficult for the Union.
  • WIN 1, DRAW 1, LOSE 3 AWAY (4 points): OK, the Union beat DC United. But they only draw on Sunday in New England and then lose to Montreal, San Jose and KC. On their own, those are all very possible. But as a whole, this would be a huge collapse.

As it stands now, the second scenario is the most realistic and would be a great result. A Supporters Shield would be an enormous shock, but so would missing out on a top-three finish.

We'll have a much clearer picture in nine days time, after Sunday's trip to Foxboro and next week's home date with Montreal. As for Sunday...

PREDICTION SURE TO GO WRONG:

UNION 2, REVOLUTION 0

The Revs are much better than they have been in recent years, with Juan Agudelo (please watch the video below for the goal of the year) and the world's second-most-famous Boston College product (Doug Flutie, of course) -- Charlie Davies -- on the roster.

But, I'm loving Fabinho at left back and Zac MacMath is playing like a man possessed of late. Jack McInerney breaks out of his slump and Conor Casey ices the game with a second-half goal.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/jhUJHKix070 service=youtube width=590 height=443]

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

5 Minutes with Roob: Mitchell White talks about his time in Canada

5 Minutes with Roob: Mitchell White talks about his time in Canada

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles cornerback Mitchell White:
 
Roob: Hey everybody, welcome to today’s edition of Camp Central here with cornerback Mitchell White. Welcome to Philly! Let’s go back in time — now, you were as much of a track prospect in high school as a football prospect, right? What led you to football as opposed to the high jump? You were a 6-foot-10 high-jumper, which is pretty good.
 
White: I don’t know, I was just always drawn to football in general. I like the team and camaraderie of it. Track was kind of more natural, and I don’t want to brag about it or anything, but it was easy. It came very easy to me, very natural. Football I enjoyed working for a goal and achieving success in that sport. So just more of a thrill and more of a satisfaction out of it.
 
Roob: Now you go to Michigan State as a walk-on. What were the challenges of that, and how tough was it to earn a scholarship as a walk-on there?
 
White: The challenges are pretty similar to being an undrafted free agent here. Every year, you start at the bottom of the depth chart and they bring guys in for that specific position every year. And you have to hustle — you kind of take the back door every single year, so you have to re-earn that scholarship every single year. It just gets you in that mindset of just always working and never taking for granted a play or a rep. Always hustling, being the first guy to do something. Obviously, it benefits me now in the long run, but it was definitely a challenge. I had a twin brother who was on scholarship, I had a younger brother who was on scholarship, so definitely being in that household it felt like I had to get on scholarship.
 
Roob: They’d just walk around calling you walk-on?
 
White: Yeah, yeah.
 
Roob: ‘Come to dinner, walk-on!’
 
White: Right.
 
Roob: You go to Oakland after school finished, you sign with the Raiders and I believe you were there with Matt McGloin if I have my dates right. You were there for that whole first training camp. What was that experience like?  
 
White: Again, I would say looking back to that time, I was just trying to hold my head above water. I was a rookie fresh out of college, so everything was really fast for me and I hadn’t played much at the defensive back position in college in terms of game experience. But yeah, looking back, it’s helped me this time around because I have a little bit more seasoning of what to expect at training camp, how you need to take care of your body, things you need to pay attention to and how you need to get into the swing of things.
 
Roob: What about the decision to go to Canada? You were just talking to Aaron Grymes here, who’s a CFL vet like you. You both did three years up there, you both won a Grey Cup. What was that experience like and was that a tough call going up there?
 
White: I think if you’re born in America and the United States, you want to play in the NFL. I think you’ve got to understand that it comes down to realities, like, ‘Look, I want to keep playing football.’ I didn’t want to spend a year out of football. I wanted to get better, to play to get better. It’s a humbling experience, but then your options get fewer. It’s definitely professional football up there and it teaches you how to play and you’ve got to play every week.
 d up going up there and finding wow, there are some good players up here and there’s some good football and I’ve got to bring my game. You don’t have a lot of options once you go up there and if you get cut, then your options get fewer. It’s definitely professional football up there and it teaches you how to play and you’ve got to play every week.

Roob: Now, a crazy thing happened after your second year with Montreal and this story blows my mind. They asked you to take a pay cut even though you were a starter, you were an established player. And you’re a prideful guy. Tell everyone what happened when they asked you to take a pay cut.
 
White: I don’t want to bring a negative light on that. It’s a business side of football and unfortunately, it came to me. I had a great experience in Montreal all the way up to that point, but yeah, we had a camp and I had moved to a new position that year. I thought I had a good camp but they asked me to take a pay cut and that was a really big moment for me because I trusted myself as a player and I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to take a pay cut and I’ll take my chances somewhere else in this league. I think somebody else is going to pick me up.’ And sure enough, they did. I had to wait four weeks for it, but Ottawa picked me up and I ended up having my best season up there.
 
Roob: So you sign with the Redblacks and you guys go 9-9-1 but you get to the Grey Cup and you’re 10-point underdogs to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup, which is the Super Bowl of Canada. Oh, by the way, Montreal? Who cut you? You had an interception against them in the regular season to seal the game, so you get a little revenge. But what do you remember about the Grey Cup? And what an accomplishment, I think they were 16-2-1, you guys were 9-9-1. They were heavy favorites and you guys won it all.
 
White: The one thing I remember about that week was how confident as a unit we were. We were just like, ‘We know what to do. It’s game time.’ One of the better feelings is playing championship-level football and playing for your team and that, to me, was one of the best parts of that experience. Really giving it up for your team and your teammates because I just want to win that game. I don’t care about anything else, I just want to win and when you accomplish that, it’s a real feeling. There’s nothing like winning the championship and that’s what I hope we can do here.
 
Roob: Now how do you feel like you fit in? It’s a very young group of corners and everyone’s getting a good, long look. Jim Schwartz talked about, ‘I don’t know who the starters are. I don’t know who the backups are.’ Everything’s up for grabs. You feel like it’s a good spot for you from that aspect?
 
White: One thing that I’m best at is when I have an opportunity to compete. And I think everybody here at the professional level wants to be able to compete and get their fair shake at a chance. Obviously, I came from a household where we’re all athletes and we were taught that the cream rises to the top. And it’s long camp and it’s going to play itself out.
 
Roob: We appreciate a few minutes. Eagles cornerback Mitchell White, good luck. Thank you.