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
James van


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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sick atmosphere at the @PhilaUnion , then again I'm not surprised
than a minute ago
via Echofon Favorite Retweet
James van


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

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we feature the Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick who escaped his motherland of Russia for a better situation — no, not the United States, Canada.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
If there was any doubt as to why it was important for Rubtsov to terminate his KHL contract to relocate to North America, the questions were answered last week. Rubtsov made waves in his QMJHL debut tour for the Chicoutimi, quadrupling his KHL production in just three games for the Saguenéens, registering four points in three games.

It did not take long for the 6-foot forward to make noise for Chicoutimi, which had the center playing on the wing as he gets acclimated to the North American game. In a 4-3 shootout win over Halifax, Rubtsov immediately put his stamp on the Saguenéens with a two-assist, six-shot performance in which he was named the game’s third star.

Both of Rubtsov’s apples were nothing to write home about, though he made strong hockey plays on both, his second assist in particular in which he scooped up the puck along the boards and pushed it to the blue line. In the overtime period, he twice had serious scoring chances on the same shift, displaying his speed and power on one and failing to score on a breakaway the other. It was a quiet night for Rubtsov on Friday in Chicoutimi’s 1-0 loss to Saint John, but the Russian showered the stat sheet Saturday.

In his third contest, Rubtsov registered his first career QMJHL goal, a power-play tally, and another assist in a 6-4 win over Acadie-Bathurst. Outside of the points, there was plenty else to like from Rubtsov from last week. Touted as a 200-foot player, he showcased his defensive prowess Friday against the Sea Dogs, taking away a passing lane that resulted in a Chicoutimi rush.

There was much to like about Rubtsov’s first week in the Q. Considering the frustrating start to this season with HC Vityaz, Rubtsov will finally get a fair shake at playing time.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Stolarz missed both weekend games against Providence and Hershey because of a lower-body injury believed to have been suffered in his 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, which was also his 23rd birthday. Head coach Scott Gordon said Saturday night he was “waiting to hear from the doctor.” Lehigh Valley called up Mark Dekanich from Reading to fill in as Alex Lyon’s backup — Dekanich did see game action Saturday.

It looked like Stolarz was on track to start at least three of the Phantoms’ four games last week before the injury. He stopped 25 of 28 shots in Lehigh Valley’s 4-3 over Springfield on Monday, and followed that outing up with 35 saves in a 5-3 victory to the Penguins on Friday night. It’s unclear if Stolarz will miss any time this week.

Battling for the net with Lyon, Stolarz is 9-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .921 save percentage and one shutout in 12 games this season. His competition, Lyon, has been strong as well, despite a clunker on Saturday night against the Bruins.

Lyon was yanked against Providence after 27:02 and allowing four goals on 16 shots, but rebounded well Sunday night against Hershey. Lyon stopped 25 of 26 shots against the Bears, and lost his shutout bid about seven minutes into the third period.

The crease is crowded at Lehigh Valley, but if Stolarz should miss time, Lyon has shown this season he’s more than capable of handling the workload.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Another strong week for Hart, the Flyers’ top goaltending prospect. The 2016 second-round pick picked up two more wins in four games last week for Everett, stopping 113 of 94 shots he faced. On Friday, Hart picked up his sixth shutout of the season, a 33-save blanking of the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 1-0 victory of the Silvertips. In Everett’s 4-3 shootout loss to Spokane on Sunday night, Hart stopped 16 of 19 shots, but did give up 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the loss. He was beaten just once in the shootout. Hart is now 19-4-5 on the season, with a 1.90 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Scott Laughton, C, 6-1,190 , Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Remember Laughton? The 2012 first-round pick had a huge week for the Phantoms last week, as he’s continuing to work his way back into the Flyers’ future plans. Laughton turned in a five-point week, recording points in all four games and picking up his third multi-point game of the season Sunday. He had a goal in three of those four games, and tallied an assist in the Phantoms’ 9-1 blowout loss to Providence Saturday. He helped the Phantoms to a 5-1 win over Hershey on Sunday with a goal and an assist. He’s now up to eight goals and 18 points in 26 games this season at Lehigh Valley.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski missed both of No. 11 Ohio State’s showdowns with No. 1 Penn State last weekend. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split the weekend series.

• Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen rebounded well after a rough outing last Tuesday in an 8-4 loss to Dartmouth, in which he yielded six goals on 18 shots before being pulled.

Madsen responded with a 26-save shutout in No. 6 Harvard’s 3-0 win over Brown University on Friday, and then stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 1-1 tie with Yale.

• Michigan forward Cooper Marody went pointless in the Wolverines’ weekend home-and-home with Michigan State, but did score the shootout winner Saturday night.

Mark Friedman added two assists in Bowling Green’s 3-2 loss to Alaska on Friday, and was pointless Saturday, as the Falcons split the weekend with the Aces with a 2-1 win. With 19 points, the junior blueliner is third on Bowling Green in points.

• Brynäs IF netminder Felix Sandstrom gave up four goals on 24 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over Orebro on Thursday night in his lone game last week.

• Sandstrom’s teammate, Oskar Lindblom, added another goal last week, also in Thursday’s game against Orebro. Lindblom had three shots on net in 20:52 against Orebro. He now leads Brynäs with 31 points and is tied for third in the SHL.

David Kase found himself playing fourth-line center for Piráti Chomutov on Friday and Sunday, partially because of a team need down the middle. Kase did have an assist Tuesday. Sunday, he played just 3:35 against HC Vítkovice Rider and was 3 for 3 in the faceoff dot. He played more Friday (9:25) and saw some PP time vs. HC Karlovy Vary.

Connor Bunnaman had a productive week for Kitchener, adding two goals and three assists in four games. He had a goal and an assist Tuesday in a 4-3 win over Windsor, and then a goal in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over Ottawa on Sunday.

• Phantoms All-Star Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists Friday vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, an assist Saturday against Providence Saturday and another Sunday against Hershey. He now has 19 assists and 27 points in 31 games.

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

It's time again for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. 

This is the week where the NFL world converges into the smallish Alabama city and takes it over until the game. The North and South squads will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, leading up to the game Saturday. 

This offseason hasn't been as crazy as the last one for the Eagles, but there are still plenty of organizational questions left to be answered. 

Maybe we'll start to get those answers this week: 

Play nice, Howie
Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said at his season-ending press conference that new personnel head Joe Douglas will be the guy who sets the draft board, but Roseman said the responsibility still falls on him. 

That, theoretically, means the Eagles could find themselves in a situation where on draft day, they go against their draft board. 

Douglas came to the Eagles as the result of a long search for a personnel head and comes with an impressive pedigree. But he can only be as successful as Roseman lets him be. Now, we'll have to try to figure out if their relationship is really working. 

Doug's role
The last time Doug Pederson was in Alabama for the Senior Bowl, his full staff was just coming together and he was pretty consumed with trying to learn how to become a head coach and implement his scheme. So he answered a few questions about the players he wanted on the team — and very likely let his opinion be known about the quarterbacks — and went back to his business. 

But as this season wrapped up, Pederson said he'd like to play a bigger role in the entire process. Will the Eagles let him? 

If nothing else, Pederson should at least be more available to give his opinion on players and spend time with them during the pre-draft process. 

Filling the holes 
The Eagles have had decent success finding players at the Senior Bowl. Last year, they got their first extended look at a quarterback from North Dakota State who was soaring up draft boards. 

Aside from Carson Wentz, they've drafted plenty of other Senior Bowl players in recent years: Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe, Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews and Marcus Smith. 

There are plenty of interesting prospects at this year's Senior Bowl, too. Four possible first-round corners will be in attendance: Cordrea Tankersley, Tre’Davious White, Cameron Sutton and Jourdan Lewis. There are also a few wide receivers to keep an eye on: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Taywan Taylor, among them.