First Place on the Line as Union Visit Kansas City

First Place on the Line as Union Visit Kansas City

First place in the Eastern Conference is on the line tonight as the Union face Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (8:30PM/Fox Soccer). A lot has happened since these two teams played to a 0-0 draw at PPL Park back on June 22nd.
 
The Union went two months without a win, finally picking up three points thanks to a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kansas City is 7-3-6 since that June 22nd match in Chester. In that time they’ve gone from last place in the conference to second – just a point behind conference-leader Columbus (KC has played one more game than the Union).

 
How have they done it? Well, they’ve gone 7-2-5 at home since opening LIVESTRONG Park on June 9th. They are tied with the LA Galaxy for third in the MLS in goals scored with 43 (Seattle is first with 46, New York is second with 44). They boast one of the most balanced offensive attacks in all of MLS.

Kei Kamara and Designated Player Omar Bravo each have 8 goals. Teal Bunbury has 7, Graham Zusi has five, and C.J. Sapon has four. For comparison sake, consider that Carlos Ruiz, who left the Union on a transfer back in mid-July, is still the Union’s second leading scorer with 6 goals (Sebastien Le Toux leads the way with 7).

Shutting down the Kansas City attack will be all the more difficult considering starting keeper Faryd Mondragon remains sidelined with a broken finger, and right back Sheanon Williams will miss the game because of a concussion.

Perhaps Peter Nowak will feature the Farfan brothers on the outside? Could newcomer Morgan Langley slide back there from his more natural midfield position? Do we see newcomer Joe Tait? I suppose another option is to move Carlos Valdes outside and start Stefani Miglioranzi in the middle alongside Danny Califf. Just pray that Miglioranzi does not end up as the right back.

The fact of the matter is, at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if
Nowak plucked someone out of the crowd and plugged him in at right back.
At this point I know enough that I have no idea what he’s going to do
with his lineup on a game to game basis. I mean, he gave 16 year old
homegrown player Zack Pfeffer his first ever start in Saturday’s
showdown with first place Columbus.

One somewhat odd late development is the news that Freddy Adu is not in K.C. with the team, and will not play tonight. There was no indication leading up to the game that Adu would be unavailable. That was before he tweeted the following:

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@FreddyAdu11
Freddy
Adu
Good luck to the union tonight against kansas city. Wish i could be
there with them. #Doop
Sep
23
via webFavoriteRetweetReply

 
Again, it's unclear why Adu is not with the team. I am sure Nowak will be cooperative and fully forthcoming when the beat writers ask him why Adu did not make the trip .

Whatever he ends up doing, one thing you can be certain of is that Nowak is definitely not scared. Consider - seven of the eleven starters against Columbus were 23 years old or younger. What manager does that in a must-win game, in the midst of a two month winless streak, against the conference leader? Peter Nowak, that’s who.

Lineup I'd like to see tonight: Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabe Farfan, Brian Carroll, Pfeffer, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga

Final Score Prediction: An Eastern Conference team has yet to win a game at LIVESTRONG Park. I don’t think that changes tonight. I see Kansas City winning this one 2-1.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely To See Red: I have no idea, but let’s hope it’s not MacMath, who will be backed-up by the recently signed Chase Harrison. Harrison was playing for USL-Pro affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders. With Mondragon injured, and Thorne Holder out with a concussion the Union needed to sign a backup keeper for this match.

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.