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

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series' win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James.

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest its starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver all helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for points in a quarter.

Celtics: Injured point guard Isaiah Thomas led his teammates in a pregame huddle before they took the court for warmups. Thomas sat out the rest of the series after aggravating a hip injury in Game 2. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing. ... Were whistled for 16 fouls in the first half.

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

Best of MLB: Solo homers power Cubs to win over Giants

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist hit solo homers, spot starter Eddie Butler pitched five effective innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-1 on Thursday for their third straight win.

Mike Montgomery followed with four scoreless innings and allowed one hit in his first save.

Heyward went deep for the second time in three games and Zobrist added two singles as the Cubs took three of four games in a set with the Giants and finished a homestand at 7-2 (see full recap).

Cruz blast helps Mariners top Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Jacob Turner with a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Thursday to stop a five-game losing streak.

Gio Gonzalez took a 2-0 lead into the sixth, when Jean Segura singled leading off and Guillermo Heredia took a called third strike. That prompted Seattle manager Scott Servais to complain from the dugout, which led to his ejection by plate umpire Adam Hamari.

Robinson Cano singled, and Washington manager Dusty Baker brought in Turner (2-3), despite Cruz having just one hit in 15 at-bats against Gonzalez. Cruz drove a belt-high slider over the fence in left-center for his 12th homer this season and a 3-2 lead. Cruz leads the AL with 40 RBIs.

Cano added an RBI single off Turner in the seventh. Seattle scored multiple runs for the first time since May 18 (see full recap).

Andriese, Rasmus help Rays blank Angels
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Andriese allowed six hits over eight innings, Colby Rasmus drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a split of a four-game series with Los Angeles by beating the Angels 4-0 on Thursday.

Andriese (5-1) improved to 4-0 over his last five starts, holding the Angels to 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Los Angeles threatened in five innings against the right-hander.

Rasmus had a pair of key two-out hits with the bases loaded: a two-run single in the first and a fifth-inning double that made it 4-0.

Tommy Hunter got three outs to complete a six-hitter (see full recap).