And So It Begins...Union Open Season In Houston

And So It Begins...Union Open Season In Houston

The Union open their 2011 season tonight in Houston against the Dynamo (8:30PM/6ABC). Although the road was unkind last season the Union did manage to pick up their first ever road win in Houston last May. Danny Mwanga was the hero that night, netting the game winner in stoppage time.

As detailed in our season preview post a number of new faces will make their Union regular season debut this evening. Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, center back Carlos Valdes, midfielder Brian Carroll, and forward Carlos Ruiz will likely be in Peter Nowak's starting eleven.

Nowak will have a full complement of players to choose from as the Union are healthy to start the season. Sebastien Le Toux had an MRI on his ankle early in the week, but he should be fully fit tonight.

On the flipside, Houston will likely be without Brian Ching, who is battling a hamstring strain. It's disappointing that he likely will not play as I was looking forward to seeing how the Union handled a player who is as good in the air as Ching.

Without Ching the Dynamo will rely on Dominic Oduro, Jason Garey, and rookie Will Bruin, who was drafted eleventh overall in 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Brad Davis is the string puller for the Dynamo in the midfield. He racked up 12 assists last season, which led Houston.

Ruiz, Le Toux, Mwanga, and the rest of the Union will be facing Tally Hall, an inexperienced goalkeeper who will be making just his sixth career start. Hall takes over for longtime Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad, who retired to become the goalkeeping coach for D.C. United (only to unretire and assume a role as a player/coach for Ben Olsen down in D.C.). Union fans are well aware of how young goalies can struggle, so it will be paramount for the Union to test Hall often.

With all of the new additions Peter Nowak has much more flexibility in terms of shape/formation. His back four will likely consist of Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Valdes, and Sheanon Williams. Roger Torres, Justin Mapp, Carroll, and Le Toux are the most likely midfield candidates (perhaps deployed in a diamond formation with Le Toux up at the top). Ruiz and Mwanga should combine together up front.

Regardless of formation the Union should be a better and more organized side as compared with last year. Looking back, it's amazing that Toni Stahl and David Myrie started the opener in Seattle last season. Yes, that happened.

Danny Califf picking up a yellow card a minute into that Seattle game happened as well. Here's hoping they've figured things out and don't go down a man 41 minutes into the opener like they did last season (oh, Toni Stahl).

One final housekeeping note: With Vancouver and Portland entering the league Houston, at least for the time being, has moved to the Eastern Conference.

Final Score Prediction: I may be caught up in the excitement of opening night, but is it asking too much for the U to pick up a road win AND keep a clean sheet tonight? I think they come out and set the tone for the entire season tonight. Union Win 2-0.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red:  Purely out of habit I'll go with Califf.

Instant Replay: Braves 12, Phillies 2

ap-phillies-adam-morgan-face.jpg
The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Braves 12, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – The Phillies continued to stumble toward the season’s finish line on Wednesday night. They were hammered, 12-2, by the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

Adam Morgan was bruised for 10 hits and nine runs in five innings.

The Phils have lost five of their last six games. They have given up 63 runs over that span.

The Phils have lost six straight to the Braves and are 16-35 in their last 51 games against the NL East.

With four games to play, the Phils are 70-88.

Starting pitching report
Morgan was hit hard early but had to give the Phils some innings as the bullpen has carried a heavy load lately. He finished the season 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA in 23 games, 21 of which were starts.

Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz picked up the win. He gave up just one run over five innings.

At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have scored 599 runs this season. They are the only team in the majors not to reach 600.

The Braves had 13 hits, including six for extra bases. They were 5 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Matt Kemp doubled and homered for the Braves.

Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 30 games. He has reached base safely in 46 straight games, tying Washington’s Jayson Werth for most this season.

ICYMI
Like Pete Mackanin, GM Matt Klentak sees a need for offense, but he remains committed to the team’s rebuild (see story).

Health check
Roman Quinn is likely done for the season. Aaron Nola is throwing in Florida (see story).

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday night. Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.78) will make his final start of the season (and likely his final with the Phillies) against Atlanta right-hander Josh Collmenter (3-0, 4.19).

It will be the Phillies’ final appearance in Turner Field. The Braves move into a new park next season.

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers on Wednesday night took to the PPL Center — home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms — to give fans an early glimpse of the organization’s young talent, much of which will play on a nightly basis in Lehigh Valley.

One player that may reach Philadelphia before he ever lands in Lehigh Valley did not disappoint as the evening’s main attraction.

In his quest to make the Flyers’ roster at 19 years old, heralded prospect Travis Konecny scored a goal and tallied an assist to lead the orange and black past the Devils, 2-0, in their fourth preseason game, improving to 2-2.

Let’s dive into the action with 10 observations from the game:

1. We start with who else? Konecny. Head coach Dave Hakstol paired the talented winger with Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl, two of the few NHLers to suit up Wednesday. Konecny jumped all over the opportunity, deflecting an Andrew MacDonald shot for a goal 4:30 into the second period. Just shy of five minutes after, he delivered a pretty touch pass to Raffl in front for a 2-0 lead. Konecny just narrowly missed adding another goal and assist, as well, later in the stanza. You know when he’s on the ice because you’ll see bursts of unmatched speed. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder is incredibly shifty with the puck and adept at avoiding contact. At times, he’ll get pushed around when a bigger body squares him up, but he makes up for it with his elusiveness. The 2015 first-round pick sure played the part of an NHL player ready to contribute to a team in need of playmaking.

2. Samuel Morin is a big boy. The 6-foot-7 defenseman really utilizes his tall frame and upper-body strength when battling along the boards. Obviously he needs to work on his skating and puck handling, but he has the size and makeup to compete.

3. Goalies Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon will duke it out for playing time in Lehigh Valley. It’s an impressive tandem. Both combined for the shutout. Stolarz, 6-foot-6, made eight saves in the opening period and 11 total over 29:23. He showed good quickness and instincts. Lyon, not so big at 6-foot-1, is sound and holds records for his time at Yale. He converted seven saves. It’s a duo worth keeping tabs on throughout the season.

4. Forward Colin McDonald will be a nice safety net for the Flyers if they ever need a body willing to bring nothing but physicality. He made loud, impactful hits and had a fight — albeit a short and weak one — early in the first period.

5. Defenseman Mark Alt lost a fight quickly in the second period. He may have lost his balance, but he went down hard. Alt appeared fine when he got up. However, he never returned to the game.

6. The Flyers killed two power plays on the night. The PK continued to show more aggressiveness and disruptiveness on the puck carrier, which wasn’t always the case last season. It’s a big reason the Flyers fell in such a big hole against the Capitals during the playoffs. So far this preseason, the Flyers are 16 for 17 on the penalty kill.

7. Along with Schenn, Raffl and MacDonald, other Flyers to play were Boyd Gordon and Chris VandeVelde, who handled themselves well, as expected. Defensive prospect Robert Hagg had an assist, as did Schenn and MacDonald.

8. Keith Kinkaid was in net for the Devils. He’s expected to be New Jersey’s backup netminder. The 27-year-old is 15-14-5 in his career with a 2.71 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Not crazy stuff, but still a goalie with NHL experience. However …

9. The Devils visit the Rangers Thursday night, so they too deployed a fair share of prospects, resulting in Kinkaid without a ton of help.

10. The PPL Center is a beautiful venue and should be a hot-spot for Flyers fans throughout the 2016-17 season. The trip is doable, parking is accessible and cheap and the arena doesn’t sport a bad seat. The Phantoms should be fun with added experience and talent.