Soccer Night in America: Union Travel to Portland to Chop Some Timber

Soccer Night in America: Union Travel to Portland to Chop Some Timber

The Union will be under the bright lights of Fox Soccer's inaugural "Soccer Night in America" tonight as they travel to Portland to play the Timbers (10:30PM/Fox Soccer (obviously)). The Timbers, who are 3-0 at Jeld-Wen Field this season, play in front of what may be the most impressive home crowd in MLS.

Sure, it's only been three MLS games, but the Timbers have some serious soccer history. The Timbers, in one form or another, have been playing soccer in the Pacific Northwest since 1976 back in the North American Soccer League. Check out Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald’s excellent look at the history of soccer in Portland.

In addition to the intimidating atmosphere the Union will also face a Timbers side that has shown an ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Portland has scored ten goals already this season, which is double the Union’s goal total (Portland has played one more game).

Former USMNT forward Kenny Cooper leads the Timbers with three goals. He’s a strong target man who has surprisingly quick feet. Jorge Perlaza, Jack Jewsbury, and Rodney Wallace have each scored two goals thus far. By comparison, Carlos Ruiz is the lone Union player to score more than one goal (he’s got two).

On the flipside, compared to the Union the Timbers are a veritable sieve defensively. Portland’s conceded 13 goals already. The Union? Yeah, they’ve given up just two goals. Clean sheets!

One player the Union will not have is outside back Jordan Harvey, who will be serving his red card suspension. It remains to be seen who will fill that void, but the most likely candidate is Michael Farfan.

Farfan was inserted into the lineup following Harvey’s sending off against San Jose last week. Harvey has been an iron man of sorts, as his streak of 74 consecutive games will come to an end (h/t to Peter Hirdt and the Elias Sports Bureau for that nugget). I’ll miss his “My Name Is Earl”-esque mustache running up and down the flank.

What the rest of the Union lineup will look like remains TBD. Last week Peter Nowak, who obviously has been reading my previews, finally came around and gave Roger Torres a start. It’s tough to fairly assess the lineup change as Torres was subbed off for Farfan after Harvey picked up the red. Stefani Miglioranzi is listed as probable (groin strain), but I’d like to see Nowak go back to Torres.

Danny Mwanga is another player who got a starting nod last week. Mwanga, who settled in Portland with his mother after leaving Democratic Republic of the Congo, is making his homecoming. The second year forward played his college ball at Oregon State before being selected first overall by the Union in the 2010 MLS Super Draft. You know there’s nothing Mwanga would like more than to open his account in his hometown.

Here’s the lineup I hope we see tonight: Mondragon, Farfan, Califf, Valdes, Williams, Okugo, Torres, Daniel, Le Toux, Mwanga, Ruiz.

Final Score Prediction: This is a tough spot for the U. They’re flying cross country, dealing with the time change, playing in a hostile atmosphere, and facing a team who is undefeated at home. With that being said, I think the Union are mentally tough enough to handle all of that. I think they earn a nice road point with a 1-1 draw (which would be the first time a visiting team picked up a point at Jeld-Wen)

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Last week I threaten to get rid of this gimmick and Jordan Harvey goes ahead and sees red. Ok, I won’t get rid of it. Fine. I’ll say Farfan gets sent off tonight. A rookie making his first start in a raucous stadium located in the Pacific Northwest?

Those are the exact circumstances which led me to name this little exercise in ridiculousness after Toni Stahl (who was sent off in the Union’s first ever game, which was played in Seattle). Sorry, Michael. The parallels are just too strong not to go with you.

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

PITTSBURGH – Wayne Simmonds remained defiant.

Yes, the Flyers have lost seven of their last nine games. Yes, they are five points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
But it's not over in terms of the playoffs.

"We played a great game, but unfortunately, it didn't go our way," Simmonds said after the 4-2 loss to the Penguins in the Stadium Series outdoor game at Heinz Field (see game recap).

"It wasn't good enough. I don't know what to say, guys. We have 21 games left and a never-say-die attitude. We're gonna keep pushing, no matter what. We've got to be desperate every game and play it as if it’s our last."

The Flyers had their chances and their moments. When Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal in 34 games early in the third period, it was a 3-2 game and momentum had been building in the Flyers' favor.

Then a key moment. A lost faceoff and the puck goes back to the point where Chad Ruhwedel fires so quickly that goalie Michal Neuvirth couldn't track the puck.

That was it. Game over.

"We brought it back [to 3-2]," Simmonds said. "We just had to get the tying goal and it slipped away. … We've got to score."

Still, there is time to regroup again with 21 games left.

"We have to have a short memory," Simmonds said. "Whether it's a good game or bad game, you move on."

They’re moving on but they're not gaining traction.

Weal back in lineup
Jordan Weal (concussion symptoms) re-entered the lineup in place on Roman Lyubimov. Weal missed two games after suffering the injury Feb. 16 in Edmonton.

Weal moved to left wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Simmonds.

“It’s a short sample, but it’s his body of work since he has been with us over the last couple weeks,” coach Dave Hakstol said of moving Weal there.

Before his injury, Weal played left wing on Sean Couturier’s line with Jakub Voracek. Brayden Schenn went back to center Saturday night between Nick Cousins and Voracek. It was another new line for Schenn.

If you’re wondering, Schenn has played left wing 33 times this season in 58 games.

Weal said he “felt good” and seemed excited to play in an NHL outdoor game.

Midway into the game, Michael Raffl went back to the top line and Weal moved to a line with Couturier and Dale Weise.

Weal played 15:43.

Power-play position
Shayne Gostisbehere played the point this game with the first unit and not the half wall. He also scored a goal there.

Coach Dave Hakstol has been rotating him from the point to the half-wall depending upon the personnel on the ice.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment no matter where I am," Gostisbehere said. "It's just nice to be on the power play. Whatever position they put me in out there, up top or on the wing, it's something I have to be ready for. I think I'm comfortable in both spots."

Outdoors
General manager Ron Hextall liked the outdoor game concept.

"It’s unique," Hextall said. "When they first started, I don’t love change. I was a little skeptical, I guess. I think they’re terrific. I really do.

"It’s good for the game. People watch an outdoor game and will pick that game because it’s an outdoor game. There is something about them. They’re neat."

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).