4 Days Away: Questions and Answers for Union Die-Hards, and Newbies Alike

4 Days Away: Questions and Answers for Union Die-Hards, and Newbies Alike

Clearly, I am a soccer fan.

I played the sport (I still pretend to, on occasion), coached and refereed for a few youth teams and watched enough games on TV to have odd cravings for Singha Lager and Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer – popular sideline advertisers in English stadiums.

I love soccer and I want other people to love it, too. But there is one thing I’ll never understand about many soccer fans who want to have their Singha and eat it too.

The same people who complain about a lack of mainstream soccer love – “it’s not on SportsCenter,” “the Inquirer had a 3-inch Union story,” “the game is on a channel I don’t get” – turn their noses up at “newbies” who ask questions about the game or say “field” instead of “pitch.”

You can’t have it both ways. You either want more people to appreciate the game, or you want it to be your cliquey little niche. I prefer the former, which is one of the reasons my three-plus years at PPL Park have been so enjoyable.

Sure, there are plenty of “soccer snobs”  hanging around on the banks of the Delaware. Folks who like to rattle off the current standings in the Dutch Eredivisie, brag about how they’ve “been here from the start” or tell you how you “don’t really understand the game” because you didn’t wake up at 4:45 a.m. to watch the Urawa Reds battle Yokohama in the J-League.

For those people – and soccer-heads who like to analyze formations and pick apart the SuperDraft (that includes me) – there are plenty of Union-specific blogs out there. Here at The Level, we’ll try to continue where @Rev215 left off before his Gareth Bale tattoo got infected (or he had a kid, not sure which). Plenty of smart, nuanced debate about the Union for the die-hards, as well as some light-hearted stuff for those of you who just like to tailgate outside PPL, have a beer (or two) and enjoy a sunny summer afternoon.

So with first kick just a few days away (forecast isn’t looking bad, by the way), here’s a few questions you might overhear on Saturday when the Union host Sporting Kansas City (4 p.m., 6 ABC) – whether it’s a seemingly uneducated ask from a “newbie” or a well-thought-out prediction from a scarf-carrying Son of Ben. We’ve even provided a few stock answers/statements you’re free to use, with or without attribution to The Level.

What happened to Freddy Adu?

John Hackworth happened, that’s what. Hack has made it clear he was not and is not on board with Adu’s game, and the former child prodigy will never suit up for the Union again. But he’s still collecting a BIG paycheck. The team claims to be searching for a way to dump Adu, but it’s much easier said than done.

So the Union are holding him hostage?

Actually, it’s more the other way around. Adu is guaranteed at least $400,000 this year, and, just as any of us would do, he’s not willing to simply ignore than fact and move on. Both sides have been relatively quiet, but Adu seems to be standing pat and waiting for the right opportunity. Given his inflated sense of his own abilities, he might be content to sit tight until Real Madrid comes calling.

Can we talk about something else?

Absolutely. That will be the last Adu reference here on The Level until he is dealt or steps on a field in another shirt. That’s a promise.

Will the 2013 Union be more like the 2012 side that struggled to score goals and win games, or the 2011 team that surprised us all with a playoff run?

If I had to guess, it will be somewhere in between. We’ll have a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects –  as well as a few predictions – later in the week, but it would be fair to expect much more from this team than we saw in 2012. Hackworth has had time to make the team his, and we’re well past “they’re still young” as an acceptable excuse. Anything short of a playoff berth would be a disappointment.

I want to buy that sweet new third jersey (which hasn’t been unveiled yet). Who will score the goals this year so I know what name and number to get?

Hackworth has indicated he will likely play three attacking players up front. At first glance, it seems you’d be safe going with the No. 11 of fan-favorite Sebastien Le Toux, No. 6 of newcomer Conor Casey or No. 9 of last year’s goal-scoring leader Jack McInerney. As was proven during training camp in Florida – where the first team struggled to score – it might take time for those three players to jell. We’ll have more on predicted formations and stat leaders later in the week, but for now, you might want to go with a blank jersey. Just ask anyone wearing a Carlos Ruiz or Jordan Harvey shirt at PPL.

What about Zac MacMath?

It’s put up or shut up time for MacMath. If you want to take the popular side of the argument at PPL, you can talk about how great the young goalkeeper is. If you’re feeling feisty, show a little more skepticism (like I often do on this subject). MacMath is immensely talented and amazingly athletic, but from where I sit, it’s time for the 21-year-old, former first-round pick to put the team on his back and win a few games on his own this season. With the departure of team captain and center back Carlos Valdes, he might get that chance early in the season as the defense finds its chemistry.

Why can’t anyone hit a good corner kick on this team?

I don’t really have an answer for that one. Sorry.

How ’bout a beer?

Options abound, but I’ll politely suggest that you skip the lines at Chickies & Petes. Enter through the southeast Supporters Gate and get a double-sized beer at the Snake & Shield, or walk toward the team store and hit up the Boddingtons cart just across the concourse. If you’re looking to use up all your Weight Watchers points for the week, find one of the Philly Favorites stands for my favorite PPL item: Philly Fries. A large boat of French fries smothered in steak, cheese and onions. Much more bang for your buck than a bready cheesesteak.

So you’re an overweight soccer fan, then?

[Hangs head in shame … orders a salad.]

* * *

So if you’re one of the die-hards and find yourself with an extra ticket, invite that neighbor who mocked your Sons of Ben scarf last weekend. And if someone mispronounces Hoppenot, be a nice guy and help him out.

And if you’re a soccer hater (not including those who will comment on this post – you’re a lost cause), stop by PPL this season. Even if it turns out you hate it, there are far worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.

Plus they have Boddingtons on tap.

Follow Steve Moore on Twitter @smoore1117. Stop by and say hi at the top of section 138.

The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver


The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver

I’ve been saying it since early 2000s: The Eagles will never, ever win a Super Bowl again until they go out and get a big-time wide receiver. 

The one year they had one -- 2004, with Terrell Owens -- they got to the Super Bowl. But they never got there earlier, with the likes of Na Brown, Todd Pinkston and James Thrash; nor later, when they blew it with T.O. and failed to land Big-Time Receivers like Roy Williams, Erik Moulds, Javon Walker, or Peerless Price. 

We face a similar situation today.  The Eagles are 4-2 and just beat the Vikings, the league’s last undefeated team. But the team’s lackluster receiving corps threatens to derail the season, and with it the crucial first year of Carson Wentz’s career. Missing out on the playoffs in their rookie year because of receivers who can’t catch the ball is the sort of thing that ruins young quarterbacks for life. 

Don’t make the same mistake again, Howie Roseman. Go out and get Alshon Jeffrey. Or Torrey Smith. Or better yet, Alshon Jeffrey AND Torrey Smith. I don’t care what it takes- and it’s not like the Eagles are ever having draft picks again anyway. 

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we’d traded for Anquan Boldin. I’ve wanted the Eagles to get Anquan Boldin for 10 years, and they never have- not even this year, when he was a free agent, and he went and signed with the Lions and helped beat us two weeks ago.  

So in conclusion: Do whatever it takes, Howie. Start a bidding war. Just keep offering #1 picks until the Bears or Niners say yes. 


In an event I’d have considered considerably less likely than either the prospect of a Cubs world championship or the election of a woman as president of the United States, Joel Embiid on Wednesday night played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It took almost three years, but Embiid finally passed Andrew Bynum on the Sixers’ All-Time Games Played List. 

But Embiid was not the MVP for the Sixers’ opener. That title goes to the older gentleman who charged at Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with two raised middle fingers, as he screamed an f-bomb at him. 

Yes, he was thrown out of the arena, though had it been up to me I’d have given the guy a ticket upgrade, and possibly a job with the team. The greater point is, how many times did you see fans in courtside seats flipping the bird at opposing superstars, in the three years Sam Hinkie was in charge? Exactly. The passion for the Sixers is back. 

My ideal scenario: The Sixers trade for Russell Westbrook, and the cover of next year’s team yearbook is Westbrook and that fan, side by side, flipping the bird together. 


Other Philly sports takes: 

- It’s so, so pathetic that Pittsburgh keeps changing the name of its hockey arena. 

- I heard they were doing E-A-G-L-E-S chants at the Sixers home opener. Awful- they should keep that stuff where it belongs, at Phillies games. 

- I can't figure out how to pronounce Big V's full name so for now I'll just call him "Winston Justice.”

- My thoughts on the WIP lineup changes? It’s about to time they gave a shot to an ex-Eagle in the mid-day, and an overweight out-of-towner in the afternoon. 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

USA Today Images

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Lawyers for a former Penn State assistant football coach urged a judge and jurors Thursday to find the university liable for how it treated him after it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Jerry Sandusky with child molestation.

McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other damages, saying he was defamed by a statement the school president released the day Sandusky was charged, retaliated against for helping with the Sandusky investigation and misled by school administrators.

Sandusky, a former defensive coach at Penn State, was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. He maintains his innocence.

In closing arguments Thursday, Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad emphasized that McQueary had said he was damaged by public criticism that he did not to go to police or child-welfare authorities when he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001. Instead he reported it the next day to then-head coach Joe Paterno.

"Mr. McQueary was not damaged by any action of the university," Conrad argued. "Mr. McQueary, as he testified and as he recognized, if he was harmed, was harmed by national media and public opinion."

McQueary testified he has not been able to find work, either in coaching or elsewhere, but Conrad blamed that on an inadequate network of contacts and the lack of a national reputation.

Judge Thomas Gavin will decide the whistleblower count, a claim that McQueary was treated unfairly as the school suspended him from coaching duties, placed him on paid administrative leave, barred him from team facilities and then did not renew his contract shortly after he testified at Sandusky's 2012 trial.

McQueary was not allowed to coach in the school's first game after Paterno was fired, a home loss to Nebraska.

"That sends a very clear signal to those in your network that the university doesn't want you to be supported," Strokoff said. "`Stay away, you're a nonperson.'"

Penn State has argued it put McQueary on leave out of safety concerns, as threats were fielded by the university.

Strokoff said there was no evidence of multiple death threats against his client, and called McQueary's treatment outrageous.

"He should not have been the scapegoat," Strokoff said.

Jurors will decide the defamation claim and a misrepresentation allegation that two administrators lied to him when they said they took his report of Sandusky seriously and would respond appropriately.

Conrad insisted they did take steps to inform McQueary about the actions they were taking, which included meeting with Sandusky and an official from the children's welfare charity he founded, and telling Sandusky to stop bringing children into team facilities.

"No one told Mr. McQueary, `You cannot go to the police,'" Conrad said.

The defamation claim involves a statement issued by Penn State then-president Graham Spanier expressing support for the two administrators, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz, when they were charged with perjury in November 2011 for allegedly lying about what McQueary told them in the weeks after the 2001 incident.

The perjury charges against them were dismissed earlier this year by a state appeals court, but Curley, Schultz and Spanier still await trial in Harrisburg on charges of failure to properly report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of children.

McQueary lawyer Elliot Strokoff said Spanier's statement could have led people to conclude McQueary was a liar.

"If the charges are groundless, then the grad assistant lied," Strokoff said. "And that's defamation."

Conrad said Spanier's statement indicated the charges against his two top lieutenants would be proven groundless.