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Show Me Something: After 4 years, Union have 17 home games to convince masses to pay attention

Show Me Something: After 4 years, Union have 17 home games to convince masses to pay attention

Sebastien Le Toux, left, and the Union welcome the New England Revolution to town Saturday afternoon (AP Photo)

Last Saturday night, after the Union's 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers, I got a text from a co-worker friend of mine.

Now, this friend is a huge soccer-head. He not only has multiple Liverpool jerseys and listens to multiple Liverpool podcasts (and somehow understands the ridiculous "Scouser" accent), he manually keeps stats in an Excel spreadsheet for a fantasy English Premier League with some friends.

Despite all of those shortcomings, he has never been to an MLS game, and I'm not sure he had ever watched one from beginning to end on TV. He's not an out-and-out soccer snob, like many who turn their noses up at MLS, but says he's just never felt invested in a team or the league or any players.

His text read: "I watched ... I'm in on the Union finally. I saw enough quality for me to buy in, which is good news for next week."

"Good news" since he's tagging along to PPL Park on Saturday as the Union open their home schedule against the New England Revolution (4 p.m. - Comcast SportsNet).

My friend is a perfect example of MLS's largest target audience. But he's also the reason why this season is so critical for the Union, not so much as it amounts to wins and losses, but as it relates to butts in seats and eyeballs on TV.

While I would put the PPL Park match day experience on par with any team in the city, the "Have you been to a Union game yet?" allure is wearing off after four seasons.

That season ticket waiting list the team loved to tout in 2010 and 2011 has disappeared. There are still (a few) tickets available for Saturday's home opener. Season ticket holders this season were enticed with the offer of free parking for the ENTIRE SEASON, which is not a throwaway promotion by any stretch (a season parking pass has a face value north of $300).

I've met plenty of people in the stands who never watched a soccer game before 2010, and still don't know what color Liverpool wears. They love the tailgate scene, the stadium atmosphere, and the affordable season tickets. They'll likely be back (with their favorite local tailgating brews).

There are plenty of people like me who have jumped in with both feet and will likely hang around no matter what happens (to a fault, if it gets that bad).

But my friend is one of the countless people in the greater Philadelphia area (me included) who wakes up early on weekends to watch games between teams they've never seen in person.  These are the people MLS is now marketing to, and the people the Union may lose forever if they turn in a disappointing season.

Whether these people believe that they can't "dumb-down" to an inferior product, or they already have too much emotionally invested in their favorite EPL team is beside the point. The Union don't need to win the MLS Cup this year (though it'd help). They don't even need to send 5 guys to the All-Star Game or win a trophy.

What they do need to do is play an attractive, entertaining and exciting style. They need to show skill beyond the "MLS Standard" and do more than just hang on for 0-0 home draws. They need character, personality and players who are easy to like (something they're already excelling in, based solely on Maurice Edu's Twitter account and Cristian "Chaco" Maidana's Instagram account).

I'm not saying the Union need to jazz up their play at the expense of wins. Philly loves a winner, and if this team wins, people will pay attention. And you're never ever going to convince the ever-dwindling "Soccer is so stupid, there's no scoring!" crowd. MLS thankfully gave up on that a long time ago.

But my friend -- and many others like him -- may only give the Union one or two chances.  He's remarked to me in the past that he was a little turned off by what he felt was a "Look, we have a team, isn't that great?" attitude from the Union front office. And for most of the Union's four years of existence, he wasn't wrong.

But in the past four moths, the front office has pushed its chips to the center of the table with big names, flashy talents, and a full season to build chemistry. Now it's time to see if the payout comes.

Win some games, entertain the masses, and keep providing the best game day experience in town. Then you'll have people lining up to pay $20/game for parking.

...check back tomorrow for more on the home opener and enjoy a beer while you're waiting

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

Rhys Hoskins' epic at-bat finishes in heroics as Phillies knock off Dodgers again

Rhys Hoskins' epic at-bat finishes in heroics as Phillies knock off Dodgers again

BOX SCORE

The attendance at Citizens Bank Park for Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was just 20,145.

Years from now, it will be quadruple that.

Everyone will say they were there the night Rhys Hoskins went toe-to-toe with Pedro Baez's high-octane fastball and delivered the big hit that helped lift the Phillies to an emotional 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers (see observations).

Hoskins, the Phillies' rookie sensation, had four RBIs in the game, all of them coming on full-count hits in the sixth and seventh innings.

He got the Phillies on the board with an RBI single against Dodgers starter Yu Darvish in sixth inning.

Then, with two outs in the seventh, he lashed a tie-breaking, three-run double to left-center, capping an intense, 10-pitch at-bat in which he saw 10 straight fastballs from Baez. Every pitch in the at-bat ranged from 96 to 98 miles per hour. Hoskins fouled off four straight full-count fastballs before delivering the bases-clearing double.

Hoskins has electrified the Phillies with 18 home runs in a little more than a month, but his reaction to the go-ahead double suggested it might have ranked No. 1 on his personal hit chart. When he reached second base, he raised his arms and pointed euphorically at the dugout, where his teammates were going wild.

"Big situation against a pretty good team," a calmer Hoskins said afterward. "I think the 10-pitch at-bat probably had something to do with it.

"Obviously, the guy throws pretty hard, so he likes his fastball. He made some good pitches, too, with good strikes, not really anything in the middle of the plate. I was just lucky enough to put a good swing on the last one."

The Dodgers aren't just a pretty good team, as Hoskins described them. They are the best team in baseball. The Phillies have the second-worst record in the game. But the Phils have managed to beat the Dodgers two nights in a row — with two of the top pitchers in the game on the mound. The Phils beat three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on Monday night. Darvish took a no-decision in Tuesday night's game.

Hoskins has played a big role in both wins. He drew a two-out walk against Kershaw in the sixth inning of Monday night's win to extend the inning for Aaron Altherr. Altherr clubbed a decisive grand slam.

Tuesday night's four-RBI performance left Hoskins with 43 in 39 games. Only Albert Pujols had more RBIs (44) in the first 39 games of his career. Joe DiMaggio had 42 RBIs in his first 39 games.

Hoskins' plate discipline and selectivity are already stuff of legend. He saw 30 pitches in four trips to the plate.

"The longer I’m in there, the more pitches I see, the more comfortable I start to feel," he said. "I’m kind of able to hone in on the timing, which is pretty important for me. The more you see it, the more you know what it looks like, the more comfortable you get."

Manager Pete Mackanin marveled at Hoskins' ability to work pitchers into fastball counts.

"He’s not going to get himself out," Mackanin said. "He’s not going to expand the strike zone, which makes him a good hitter. I’m glad we have him. I always think he’s going to do something special the deeper he goes into the count."

Aaron Nola was grateful for Hoskins' big hit in the seventh inning. It made him a winner.

"He was fouling balls off at his neck," said Nola, describing Hoskins' showdown with Baez. "So you get a ball a little bit lower, you knew he was going to time it up finally. He saw 30 pitches in the game. It was just a matter of time that he was going to make them pay for it and he did."

The Phillies are 18-14 at home since the All-Star break. They were once on a collision course for 100 losses. Now they need to win just three of their final 11 games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.

The Dodgers came into Tuesday night's game with a magic number of three to wrap up the NL West title. They will be in Philadelphia for two more days. The Phillies will continue to try to prevent champagne from being sprayed in their ballpark.

"Experience-wise for some of us young guys, this is pretty invaluable," Hoskins said of the competitive atmosphere. "They’re still trying to clinch their division, so it’s just good baseball."

So good that more than 20,145 will say they were there someday.