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The MLS season is fast approaching so let’s break down some of the Philadelphia Union’s preseason battles

The MLS season is fast approaching so let’s break down some of the Philadelphia Union’s preseason battles

It might be snowing nonstop in Philly, but in three weeks the Philadelphia Union will go outside and start playing soccer games for real.

And with the Union’s March 8th regular-season opener looming, their lineup and formation is starting to take shape.

Last night, in a 2-1 preseason loss to the New York Red Bulls at Jacksonville’s EverBank Stadium, prized new acquisitions Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira all started together in the midfield. Along with captain Brian Carroll, those three players will make up the spine of the midfield and provide some muscle to a team that already features rising stars Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams.

But with a few more preseason games still on the docket, there will likely be some battles for starting spots heading into March. Here are five of them:

Jack McInerney vs. Conor Casey

With manager John Hackworth planning to start two attacking wingers and three central midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation, there doesn’t appear to be room on the field for McInerney and Casey at the same time. Considering both players were double-digit goal-scorers last season, this might be hard for some fans to accept. But at the same time, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which both players don’t rack up a significant number of minutes, whether starting or coming off the bench (or if the Union switch up their formation during certain games). Besides, there’s no way the 32-year-old Casey can play as many minutes as he did last season, so this situation could end up working out for the best

Who should start? McInerney

Who will likely start? Casey

Sebastien Le Toux vs. Danny Cruz

Despite starting 32 games last season, Cruz will probably have a hard time cracking the starting lineup again this year with the Union adding so many new midfield pieces. Or will he? Against the Red Bulls, Cruz started on the right wing along with the rest of the first team while Le Toux played with the subs in the second half. Cruz could certainly have an important role on the team this season but his speed and hustle seem like they would be better served late in games. If healthy, Le Toux should be able provide the team with kind of service they need from the right side. And like Cruz, he is a tireless worker.

Who should start? Le Toux

Who will likely start? Cruz

Fabinho vs. Ray Gaddis

With the team shorthanded at the position last season, the right-footed Gaddis was the team’s primary left back. But Hackworth has opted to move him back to his natural position during the preseason (behind starter Sheanon Williams), while slotting in Fabinho and rookie draft pick Robbie Derschang on the left back depth chart. Derschang still needs to earn a contract, and even if he does make the team, he probably won’t make much of an impact this season (barring an injury). That leaves the Brazilian Fabinho – a good attacker who played part of last season as a left midfielder – as the likely starter. But will the Union miss the insane speed and 1-v-1 defensive skills that Gaddis brings?

Who should start? Gaddis

Who will likely start? Fabinho

Richard Marquez vs. Ethan White vs. Kevin Cope vs. TBD

Of all of the spots up for grabs, the center back position is probably the most uncertain. Richard Marquez – a rookie draft pick out of Division III Redlands – got the surprise starting nod alongside Okugo last night and, by all accounts, has impressed the coaches in camp. Cope, meanwhile, didn’t see the field at all, which might not bode well for the second-round pick out of Michigan State. And White, who came over from D.C. United in the Jeff Parke trade, doesn’t seem to have as much of a leg up on the starting spot as some initially thought. It seems likely that the Union will bring in a veteran (perhaps Bolton captain Zat Knight?), rendering this current battle not as significant as some of the others.

Who should start? The yet-to-be-signed guy

Who will likely start? The yet-to-be-signed guy

Andre Blake walks on stage after being selected by the Philadelphia Union Thursday.

Zac MacMath vs. Andre Blake

It’s very likely that MacMath will remain the starter in goal for the third straight season. But the 22-year-old did himself no favors last night, giving up a pair of first-half goals, including one that could have been stopped. Meanwhile, Blake – who the Union traded up to take first in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft – made a couple of nice saves, including one on a close-range rebound (to be fair though, he scuffed the first save to give up the rebound). Even with his considerable shot-stopping skills, Blake would be best served spending his rookie season learning how to be a pro. And despite some of his shortcomings, MacMath should continue to mature in his fourth MLS season.

Who should start? MacMath

Who will likely start? MacMath

CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

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CSNPhilly Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles-Giants thoughts: Injury-plagued secondary key to gaining NFC East edge

Eagles (1-1) vs. Giants (0-2)
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles -6


The Eagles try to jump out to a 2-0 start in NFC East play Sunday but host a desperate Giants squad whose season is already on the line in Week 3.

New York's record is in danger of falling to 0-3, which would seriously cripple whatever playoff hopes the franchise has. This is as close to must-win as an NFL game gets in September. However, the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense will be searching for answers against a hostile Eagles defense at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles enter the week with a 1-1 record after a tough loss in Kansas City. A win would not only push the club back above .500 on the year but also keep them ahead of the sticks so to speak in terms of the division standings.

Eli Manning at the Linc
The Giants' offense was broken long before the 2017 season got underway. New York hasn't eclipsed 19 points in any of the last eight contests, including playoffs — a stretch that runs through last December.

As if the unit didn't have enough problems, their quarterback will be walking into an environment where he's been notoriously awful. Since 2009, Eli Manning has completed 60.0 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Giants are 2-6 in those contests, and 4-14 in their last 18 meetings with the Eagles, period.

In other words, if Manning and his mates are going to get their season turned around, this would not appear to be the matchup to do it. Add in the fact the Eagles' defense looks like it has the potential to be a top-five unit, and New York's offense could be in for another long day.

Key matchup: Giants WR Odell Beckham vs. Eagles secondary
If the Giants get any kind of reprieve at all, it could come in the form of the numerous injuries in the Eagles' secondary. Defensive backs Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins have already been ruled out, and starting free safety Rodney McLeod is questionable. All three are dealing with hamstring injuries.

While this might sound favorable for the Giants' receiving corps, it remains to be seen whether that group will be able to take advantage. Three-time Pro Bowl selection Odell Beckham Jr. missed Week 1 with an ankle injury and was still limited in Week 2, finishing with four receptions for 36 yards against the Lions. Meanwhile, fellow wideouts Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd have been little more than window dressing in his absence, and tight end Evan Engram is a rookie.

It's going to be interesting to see which Beckham shows up, as he has the potential to raise the level of play of Manning's secondary targets as well. In particular, whether Beckham can get over the top of a gimpy McLeod — or whoever winds up in centerfield for the Eagles — could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Balance is important, but avoiding turnovers is essential
For all the talk about the Eagles' run-pass ratio this week, the real reason they failed to pull out a win over the Chiefs came down to something much simpler: turnovers.

The Eagles gave the ball away twice last week, on the road no less, which is a huge no-no. Both plays occurred in enemy territory, too, giving the opponent a short field — a Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return that led to a quick field goal (and cost the Eagles a possession), and a Carson Wentz interception that eventually wound up in a touchdown the other way. Meanwhile, Kansas City did not turn the ball over at all.

Sure, the Eagles need to commit to the ground attack. Even a bad running game has some benefits. But what really cost the team in a seven-point loss last Sunday were the giveaways.

No matter how many times the Eagles run or throw the football against the Giants, there is no excuse for giving a struggling offense more opportunities. Then again, that might mean handing the ball to LeGarrette Blount 20 times for three yards and a cloud of dust and playing the field-position game is the way to go here.

A chance to take a commanding lead
Don't expect anything to come easy. This is a rivalry game, against a team with its share of problems, but a championship-caliber quarterback and respectable defense. If the Giants can't get anything going on offense, the Eagles might be able to run away in this one, but more likely, it will be close.

That being said, if the Eagles can pull off the victory in front of their own crowd, they will be the first NFC East team to 2-0 in the division. The Giants will fall to 0-2, and Washington is sitting at 0-1. Only the Cowboys currently have a win as well and will be 1-0.

A win Sunday moves the Eagles to 2-1 on the season. More importantly, it would put them ahead of the curve in their division, which despite the potential for New York to fall out of the race early, looks like it will be very competitive as usual.