Houston Visits PPL Park as Union Look to Reclaim First Place

Houston Visits PPL Park as Union Look to Reclaim First Place

The Union, who were fortunate to get out of Chicago with a point
on Wednesday night, return home to PPL Park where they'll face the Houston
Dynamo (8PM/ABC).

With the point on Wednesday the Union, with 32 points from
21 games, remain in second place in the Eastern Conference - two points behind
Columbus, but with two games in hand. Houston sits fifth in the Eastern
Conference table, with 27 points from 22 games.

Sheanon Williams, who missed the Chicago game due to a red
card suspension, will likely return to his familiar right back spot. Michael
Farfan filled in adequately, but as assistant coach John Hackworth pointed out
in this excellent
interview with Adam Cann from The Philly Soccer Page
, the Union struggled with
Chicago’s pace and pressure and had difficulty building out of the back without
Williams.

Williams will rejoin back four mate Carlos Valdes, whose
permanent rights were acquired by the Union from his Colombian club team Independiente Santa Fe. Valdes has been a rock in the middle of the
back line. The decision to lock up his rights could not have been a difficult
one. He’s just 26 years old, and has adjusted to the MLS in a hurry.

The other Carlos – that’d be Ruiz – was officially
transferred to Mexican club Veracruz. Speaking of transfers, Peter Nowak and
the Union front office have just eight days left in the transfer window to
bring in some reinforcements. Inquirer
columnist Marc Narducci
, citing a team source, claims that the Union is
working on acquiring a young international striker.

To date, speculation has centered on 21 year
old Costa Rican international Josue Martinez. However, the price for Martinez,
who plays for Saprissa in Costa Rica, may be too rich for the Union. As
The Brotherly Game points out
his transfer fee is rumored to be as high as
$2 million.

The Dynamo has already dipped into the
transfer market, acquiring Honduran international Carlos Costly. Costly, who is
an incredibly physical and skilled forward, also sports what may be the worst
hair in all of CONCACAF
.

Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear has some
seriously physical options to choose from along his front line. He’s got
Costly, Brian Ching, Cam Weaver, and when healthy rookie Will Bruin. Ching, who
checks in at 6’1”, is the shortest of the bunch.

Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis is the key midfield cog
responsible for providing service to the Dynamo’s stable of forwards. Davis leads
MLS with 10 assists and has also chipped in three goals. Sheanon Williams will
likely be charged with the task of shutting down Davis’ tireless and dangerous
runs down the left flank. Union keeper Faryd Mondragon must also be wary of
Davis’ technical ability in dead ball situations.

On the flipside, the Union looked absolutely punchless in
the offensive third on Wednesday night. Veljko Paunovic bailed the Union out with
a tremendous strike from 25+ yards away
. Beyond that the Union did not have
a whole lot of chances. Their best scoring opportunity, which came in stoppage
time, didn’t even result in a shot on goal. Danny Mwanga was alone in the box
with the ball on his left foot, but curiously opted to play a ball across the
six yard box to an oncoming Brian Carroll. Mwanga needs to know the situation
there and shoot the ball. Ohhhhhhhh, Danny Mwanga….shoot the ball!

A number of you have astutely pointed out that Nowak needs
to inject some more creativity into the center of his midfield. Carroll
provides fantastic defensive cover, but ideally he should be paired with a
string pulling midfielder who controls tempo and pace. Roger Torres may
ultimately develop into that player, but right now he’s too inconsistent. I don’t
know if there’s a guy on the roster capable of filling this much-needed role.
Perhaps there’s someone available through the transfer window who can be that
guy?

Here's the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Williams,
Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan, Mapp, Carroll, Torres (while inconsistent he remains
their most creative midfield option), Daniel, Le Toux, and Mwanga.

Final Score Prediction: I remain doubtful that the Union will be able to get things going
offensively. I think we’re looking at another 1-1 draw.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely to See
Red: Valdes celebrates his permanent transfer by having to deal with the
massive Dynamo frontline. I’ll say he picks up two yellows for persistent
fouling.

Photo Credits: Kyle
Terada-US PRESSWIRE, Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

College Hoops wrap: St. Joe's edged in usual ending at Saint Louis

ap-james-demery-st-joes.jpg
AP Images

College Hoops wrap: St. Joe's edged in usual ending at Saint Louis

No. 2 Villanova bounced back with a win over No. 23 Creighton, clinching the Big East regular-season title outright (see Instant Replay). Meanwhile, Temple was able to clip Tulane in double overtime to end a three-game losing streak (see Instant Replay).

Here's a look at the rest of college hoops in the Philly area. 

Saint Joseph's edged by Saint Louis in unusual ending, 61-60
ST. LOUIS -- Jalen Johnson scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Mike Crawford hit a key 3-pointer, and Saint Louis edged Saint Joseph's 61-60 with an unusual ending on Saturday.

The Billikens were up 61-58 with five seconds left when Crawford missed a pair of free throws. The Hawks' Jai Williams grabbed the rebound and passed to James Demery. Demery dribbled the floor and bypassed Brendan Casper, who was calling for the ball just outside the 3-point arc, and made a layup as time expired, sealing a one-point win for Saint Louis.

Crawford's 3-pointer gave the Billikens a 59-58 lead with 1:15 to play. Johnson forced a turnover on Saint Joseph's next possession, and Aaron Hines made a layup to stretch the lead to 61-58.

Saint Louis (10-19, 5-11 Atlantic 10) snapped a three-game losing skid.

Chris Clover scored 17 points to lead Saint Joseph's (10-18, 3-13), which has lost eight straight (see full recap).

Drexel downed in Charleston, 80-67
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Jarrell Brantley scored 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four steals, Joe Chealey added 16 with three steals, and the College of Charleston beat Drexel 80-67 on Saturday to win its fourth straight.

Cameron Johnson scored 14 for the Cougars (23-8, 14-4), who have a No. 2 seed and first-round bye secured at next week's Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

Chealey's free throw put the Cougars up for good 11-10 en route to a 36-26 halftime lead. Brantley hit three straight free throws and the Cougars led by 18, 70-52, with 6:30 left to play in the second half and were never seriously threatened.

The Cougars shot 27 of 40 free throws and outrebounded the Dragons 39-32, scoring 14 second-chance points off of 13 offensive rebounds.

Kurk Lee scored 13 points for Drexel (9-22, 3-15), which has lost five straight (see full recap).

Penn State allows near triple-double to Mason, loses to Minnesota, 81-71
MINNEAPOLIS -- Nate Mason had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Jordan Murphy added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Minnesota Gophers in an 81-71 win over Penn State on Saturday.

Dupree McBrayer added 15 points off the bench for Minnesota (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten) with Akeem Springs scoring 12. Reggie Lynch had nine points and set a career-high with 11 blocks as the Gophers won their seventh game in a row and avenged an earlier loss at Penn State.

Tony Carr had 20 points and seven assists, while Shep Garner scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Nittany Lions, who have lost three straight. Penn State had just five turnovers, all in the first half, but shot 35.5 percent.

Excluding the vacated season of 1996-97, Minnesota has won seven games in a row for the first time since 1978 (see full recap).