First Kick: Philadelphia Union in Seattle for Inaugural Game

First Kick: Philadelphia Union in Seattle for Inaugural Game

Like the rest of you, we really have no idea what to expect when the Union take the pitch for the first time tonight at Qwest Field in Seattle. An expansion franchise in the first game of its inaugural season playing in front of a loud, raucous, packed house, against a team that will contend for the MLS Cup this year.  

Qwest Field is unique in its architecture, like a huge clamshell that captures crowd noise and rains it down on the field. The fans there have set the bar high for new MLS franchises, which is a great thing for the league. Soon it will be our turn here in Delco, and there is a large contingent out in Seattle right now. Make us proud, SoBs & Co.  

Aside from the hoopla of this huge first game, here's what our man Rev will be watching to see:

Formation - Apparently Peter Nowak is going to play a 4-3-3. How does this shape fit the talent on the team? On paper the Union's biggest strength is in the back. So, having Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, Shavar Thomas, and presumably Jordan Harvey in the back four should be their greatest strength. 

  • With Fred unavailable due to picking up a red card in the season finale last year who controls the midfield? It looks like Roger Torres, Amobi Okugu, and Stefani Miglioranzi will patrol the midfield. Torres and Okugu are both 18 years old. How do they hold up playing in a hostile stadium and having to cope with a veteran European star/underwear model like Freddie Ljungberg? 
  • Finishing - They did not score in their final two preseason matches.  Who steps up amongst Alejandro Moreno, Sebastien Le Toux and Nick Zimmerman? Everything written about their training camp and preseason games indicate that Le Toux has been their most dangerous attack option. Le Toux, who is returning to Seattle, where he played last season, would obviously love to return and put one past all-time US great Kasey Keller, who will be between the sticks for Seattle. 
  • Keeper - Chris Seitz will start in goal for the Union. He's a 6'3", 230+ pound 22 year old who has vast international experience at the U-20 level. Nowak coached him in the last Olympics. How does Seitz control his area? Technically, does he set up his walls effectively? It'll be interesting to watch him mature over the course of the season. 
  • Youth - The Union have 9 players on the roster who are 22 or younger - including first overall pick Danny Mwanga, who is 18. How do they acquit themselves in their first professional game/season. I'd be mildly surprised if he sees the field tonight, but I am most looking forward to seeing 17 year old Jack McInerney play. To use a soccer term he seems "cheeky" - having scored a goal from 40+ yards out against UNC in their preseason opener. 
  • Set Pieces vs. Run of Play - It'll be interesting to see whether their presumed defensive posture translates to offensive chances on the counter attack. Can they generate offense from the run of play? How is the service from the flanks? How aggressive will they be in having their outside backs join the attack? In the alternative, how dangerous are their set pieces? Who is going to take corners and free kicks? Does Fred's absence affect their ability to execute on free kicks? For a team that will likely struggle to score goals they'll have to generate quality scoring opportunities on dead ball situations. While with the 76ers Larry Brown was a master at designing inbounds plays out of timeouts. Can Peter Nowak do the same and potentially steal a goal this way?

Here's a look at the roster, if you want to put names to faces. 

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images.

Rev will be along with a post tomorrow looking back on the Union's first game. Good luck to our boys out there tonight! Chances are we'll hear this at some point:

 

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).