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Fans New and Old, James van Riemsdyk, Excited to See Freddy Adu and the Union in Action

Fans New and Old, James van Riemsdyk, Excited to See Freddy Adu and the Union in Action

A look at Freddy Adu's first match with the Union, his potential impact on and off the field, and Union fan James van Riemsdyk's perspectives on soccer and his own new teammates.

PPL Park was packed and loud for opening night of Freddy Adu's career in signal blue, seemingly even more electric that Adu was in the starting 11. On paper, Adu's addition to the Philadelphia Union fills a significant need. He is a talented young player who immediately improves them on the field at a position and skill set they lacked. the Union needed a playmaking, attacking midfielder, and Adu should bring that and more to the lineup.

He also brings something the U haven't really had before now—name recognition that wasn't earned in Philadelphia. While that doesn't necessarily translate to goals on the scoreboard and points in the standings, it means a lot for a young franchise to add a player who capped with the US Mens National Team just last month and still has a promising career ahead of him. Amidst a summer filled with headline-grabbing player acquisitions for three of Philadelphia's major sports teams, the Union joined the party when they signed Adu, the 22-year-old one-time phenom who joined the MLS at age 14.

The Union have hit a sluggish patch in what has still been an outstanding second season of existence, and they're in need of a spark on the field. Adu's addition could bring that, but it also got a new group of people talking about the team in Philadelphia in a way that other additions, even outstanding players like Faryd Mondragon and Carlos Valdes, could not.

We need look no further than the twitter timeline of Flyers rising star James van Riemsdyk to see that:
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done with
workouts for the week, cant wait to see the @PhilaUnion game tomorrow. will freddy adu be
in the lineup?less
than a minute ago
via web Favorite Retweet
Reply
James van
Riemsdyk

JVReemer21

Pic of JVR in the River End at the game, thoughts on Adu's addition and the new look Flyers, plus video highlights and game discussion below.

It's not as though PPL Park hasn't welcomed stars to the house before, with several other Philadelphia Flyers (at least, they were Flyers at the time) visiting already this season. But the sentiments of Riemer's statement were echoing around Philly in the wake of the Adu announcement.

My brother, a lifelong soccer hater, said to me, "Hey, even I know who that is," before asking a questions about what Adu has been up to since he was last in headlines. My dad, mostly indifferent to soccer but somewhat interested in the Union, asked me Saturday morning the same question JVR asked the masses, whether Freddy Adu would be starting that night. It is, without a doubt, the first time my dad has known the name of a Union player, and he hadn't even played for the side yet.

The reactions of JVR, my brother and dad, and the portion of the greater Philadelphia sports community they represent  to me are all well and good for adding new casual fans, some of whom could likely become blue-clad ticket holders in coming games. But what about the results on the field?

Obviously, it's a bit early to read too much into Adu's first game with the Union. Despite having only trained with the team once, I think it was the right idea to start Adu and get the building in a frenzy early. It was also a signal to the team that Nowak wants change in the somewhat listless action we've seen in recent games.

Nowak started Jack McInerney, who's shown great spark for the team lately, Sebastien Le Toux, and Veljko Paunovic up front, with Freddy Adu just behind them leading the midfield of Brian Carroll and Justin Mapp. The group will take some time to gel, but there's a lot of talent there for defenses to manage, as we saw with FC Dallas' need to take two penalties to stop them. Adu came off after a mostly uneventful 62 minutes, replaced with Danny Mwanga. I wouldn't mind seeing those guys share the field in the future, but at least for the first night, Nowak wanted to use Mwanga as his game-changer in the second half. More on that in a minute.

The PK Unit
Even with Adu on the field now, the penalties were Le Toux's to take. Seba has had a rough scoring season, having only potted one so far, also coming on the penalty kick. After scoring on the PK in the 35 minute to tie the match, Le Toux would do so again in the 84th.

The Union needed the pair of goals against the run of play, which was controlled by Dallas for most of the match. Maicon Santos buried an opportunistic volley on a terribly played ball by Valdes on a long throw in the 16th minute to give Dallas their first lead, and Brek Shea closed out the first half scoring by running toward a rebound in extra time. Shea's 10th goal of the season was deflating in a similar fashion to Geoff Cameron's equalizer last week against Houston.

Dallas held that lead for better than a half hour before the Union were once again awarded a penalty. And, once again, Le Toux lined up for it and buried it. After the second, which looked the same as the first but with more authority and a better fake, Le Toux skipped the celebration and ran into the net to get the ball to set it at midfield in the hopes of maybe seeing another goal for the Union. Dallas were down a man late in the game, but it would end in a 2-2 tie.

The Union have been awarded six penalty kicks in their season and a half of action, and Le Toux has taken and converted each of them. Hopefully the pair on Saturday night and the addition of Adu, possibly using him as the corner and set piece taker more often, will get last year's leading goal scorer back on the sheet with greater frequency.

Super Subs
Mwanga almost put the Union ahead in extra time, when he received a
gorgeous pass from Roger Torres and rocketed on Dallas goalie Kevin
Hartman. Hartman stopped it and was stung by the play, taking the
opportunity to sneak a few seconds off the clock with the Union suddenly
attacking with their best efforts of the match. On the ensuing corner,
Keon Daniel almost opened it up with a brilliant header that was stopped
by another amazing Hartman save. Mwanga, Torres, and Daniel all came on as second half subs, an energy infusion that helped see the run of play shift in favor of the Union, albeit without a full result.

JVR, Footie Fan
van Riemsdyk, in a halftime interview with 6ABC's Jamie Apody, talked about the excitement in the building last night, which didn't surprise him because "It's Philly." He tweeted the same during the match:
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Pretty
sick atmosphere at the @PhilaUnion , then again I'm not surprised
#phillyless
than a minute ago
via Echofon Favorite Retweet
Reply
James van
Riemsdyk

JVReemer21

JVR, a soccer fan for most of his life, said he remembered reading about Adu in Sports Illustrated for Kids when he was growing up. Apody also asked him about all the new faces on the Flyers and which player he was most excited to play with. His answer? Jaromir Jagr.

Up Next
Again, while it was an exciting night for the Union and their fans, the team was outplayed by Dallas and fortunate to go home with a point. Hopefully more training time with Adu will be the difference that gets them back to the crowded top of a Eastern Conference table. Next Saturday, the Union travel to Columbus to play the Crew, who are currently riding that top spot.

Video Highlights

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Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Eagles rookie CB Rasul Douglas impresses in NFL debut

Rasul Douglas was walking out of the visiting locker room at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday and Mychal Kendricks jumped up from his locker and started walking with the 22-year-old rookie.

"You were great out there, man," the sixth-year linebacker said . "Like, dude. You played really, really well. You were ballin' out there."

Douglas looked stone-faced but Kendricks kept it up.

"I LIKE the way you played. You got after it, bro. Liked it. Liked it, man."

Finally Douglas cracked a huge smile. Yeah, the Eagles lost, but Douglas enjoyed an auspicious NFL debut Sunday when forced into action after Jaylen Watkins left the Eagles-Chiefs game with a hamstring injury.

He played 39 of 53 defensive snaps, and according to Pro Football Focus graded out as the ninth-highest cornerback in the league on Sunday.

“I was more anxious than nervous. Just some butterflies," Douglas said. "After the first couple series, I was like, 'Man, this is where I’m supposed to be.'"

Matched up much of the afternoon with explosive Tyreek Hill, he allowed four catches but for only 22 yards with only five yards after the catch, according to PFF. 

He was physical and tackled very well and didn't seem to have any significant breakdowns. Hill, who had a 7-for-133 line in the opener vs. the Patriots, finished Sunday with four catches for 43 yards.

"I felt like I played OK," Douglas said. "It’s never as good as you think, it’s never as bad as you think. Just have to watch film and get better."

The Eagles played most of the game Sunday down three defensive backs, with Ronald Darby out indefinitely with an ankle injury and Watkins and safety Rodney McLeod both out for at least the day with hamstrings.

But the patchwork secondary, with Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham at safety and Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Douglas at corner, played tough. 

Considering it was his first career game, Douglas's performance was impressive.

"Rasul stepped in and I thought he did a good job," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He tackled well and made no mental mistakes and that’s a tough duty against what they do offensively, from read option to reverses to shovel passes to jet sweeps to all the different stuff, and it’s a lot of moving parts, and I was proud of him for that part of it."

The Eagles only allowed two pass plays over 20 yards, but both were damaging - Alex Smith's 44-yarder to tight end Travis Kelce on the opening drive to set up a field goal (that was before Douglas entered the game) and Smith's 35-yarder to Chris Conley, who beat Mills, on the Chiefs' final touchdown drive.

Considering the state of the Eagles' secondary, it was a welcome performance.

"That’s the game," Jenkins said. "We understand that injuries happen, that’s why (other) guys prepare. 

"Honestly, we didn’t feel like we missed a step. Obviously, to lose a Rodney McLeod is tough, same thing with  Jaylen Watkins, he’s our guy we can move around, but Rasul Douglas came in and played well, Corey Graham came in and gave us consistent snaps, he’s a veteran. So I don’t think we missed a beat on the back end."

Douglas was credited with four solo tackles, sharing the team lead with Vinny Curry and Jenkins, and he was credited with one pass breakup.

His tackling was exceptional. Five yards after the catch on four receptions means an average of 45 inches of YAC per reception.

"The way we played that game plan, we played off an awful lot against their receivers," Schwartz said. "It seemed every time we did get close to them we had a ball go over our heads, so we had a very concerted effort to keep them in front. That only works if you make tackles and I thought that Rasul, Jalen Mills and Jaylen Watkins when he was in the game, those guys did a good job of getting things tackled. 

"You can go and play 2nd-and-3, it’s hard when it’s a 40-yard chunk or a 50-yard chunk and it’s either a touchdown or the ball’s in the red zone. It only works if you’re making those tackles. 

"I’d say this: Rasul played with good anticipation. He didn’t cheat, he didn’t run down and guess. He played good technique and I was happy to see that.”

What will Douglas's role be moving forward? Tough to say. We don't know if McLeod and/or Watkins will be back for the Giants in the Eagles' home opener Sunday. And then there's Sidney Jones looming in the future as well, and the return of Darby later this fall.

But whatever the future holds, it was clearly an encouraging debut for the 6-2 rookie from West Virginia.

"Oh, it’s big," he said. "Definitely to see how (the NFL game) is. Especially going against one of the fastest players in football right now. It was definitely big for me."