Between the Lines: For McInerney and Casey, chemistry class in session

Between the Lines: For McInerney and Casey, chemistry class in session

I've been playing soccer since I was a little kid, and watching it on
TV for more than a decade at this point. But aside from one U.S.
National Team game in 2009 at the Linc, I didn't start watching soccer
(not counting high school or college soccer) in person until the Union's
first home game -- also at the Linc -- in 2010.

After just a few
games, I quickly learned how much there is to actually watch when you
can see outside the boundaries of the TV screen.

on occasion here at The Level, I'll try to showcase something that the
average fan might not have noticed "Between the Lines."

I've been
pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I've gotten from my posts,
not only from die-hard Union fans, but even more-so from
self-proclaimed "novices" who have gotten into the Union and really
would love to know more about what they're watching (see: Campitelli,

Take a look at the Union's first goal from Sunday's win over D.C. United. Just watch it through once, I'll wait.

So, you might have noticed a few things: An absolutely stone-cold,
precise finish from Jack McInerney, for sure. Maybe the nice through
pass from Conor Casey. If you were really paying attention, you might
have seen the atrocious turnover by Dejan Jakovic that started

But go back and watch it again. This time, focus on
McInerney from the beginning of the clip (No. 9, starting at the bottom
of the frame).

He jogs slowly toward the center circle, and even
applies a bit of token pressure on Jakovic at midfield. But as Jakovic
hits the soon-to-be-failed pass, you'll see McInerney curl upfield
BEFORE Brian Carroll even slides to intercept the pass. By the time
Carroll hits Casey with a short pass, McInerney is already running,
nearly at full-speed.

Casey gets the pass from Carroll and doesn't
even look up before sliding the ball in front of McInerney. The D.C.
player at the top of the screen -- Brandon McDonald -- doesn't realize
what's happening until it's too late. His slow reaction keeps McInerney
onside, and the current Major League Soccer scoring leader does the

Granted, McInerney still had a lot to do to finish the play,
and he did it without even looking like he broke a sweat. With his left
foot. But the story of that play -- and the Union's second goal by Casey, where Danny Cruz delivered a perfect pass -- was the chemistry up front for the Union.

you've followed the Union since their inception, you haven't seen that
kind of chemistry, maybe ever, save for a few glimpses from Sebastien Le
Toux and a few teammates in 2010 and 2011. In fact, one of the few
really "pretty" goals that I can remember off the top of my head -- by
"pretty" I mean a goal with a perfect setup from a teammate and a great
finish -- was Le Toux's second goal in that home opener at the Linc in
2010, off an unreal cross-field pass from current Union TV analyst
Alejandro Moreno (skip ahead to 1:30).

Why do the Union seem to have at least the beginnings of some
chemistry up front? Of course McInerney is coming into his own -- and
may find himself wearing the red, white and blue this summer -- and
Casey is an experienced player in this league. But for the first time in
a while, the Union have some sort of consistency up front.

this case, "consistency" is a relative term. Casey and McInerney have
now been paired together up front for THREE MATCHES IN A ROW! You'll
have to pardon the all-caps, but former Union manager Peter Nowak
would've used McInerney's inclusion in the MLS Team of the Week to bench
him this Saturday night in New England. Nowak made changes in his
lineup just to prove he knew more about soccer than the average fan.

while Union manager John Hackworth still makes a few lineup decisions
and substitutions that baffle me (more Kleberson, less Lauhoud), he
seems to see what the rest of us are watching: that McInerney and Casey
are developing that unspoken communication that makes soccer fun to
watch. For goal-starved Union fans, that can't be a bad thing.

the next time you watch a game on TV (the Union face New England
Saturday at 7:30 on The Comcast Network) or watch from the stands (the
team is home three times in May: the 4th, 15th and 18th), take your eye
off the ball for a few minutes and focus on a player seemingly on the
periphery. You just might notice something worth talking about.

Sixers teased in preseason finale with Jahlil Okafor back, Nerlens Noel out

Sixers teased in preseason finale with Jahlil Okafor back, Nerlens Noel out


MIAMI — Jahlil Okafor called it a “tease.”

He was talking about his oh-so-brief 2016-2017 debut, but he could have also been summarizing the Sixers' constant state of taking one step forward and one (injured) leg back.

Okafor, a 6-11 center and the NBA’s third overall pick in the 2015 draft, played 7:32 minutes on Friday and produced four points, one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover. He had been held out in camp previously because of knee soreness.

His return was the good news for the Sixers.

But, before Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat even started (see Instant Replay), the Sixers announced that center/forward Nerlens Noel will have a “minor surgical procedure in the coming days,” (see story).

Sixers center Joel Embiid, who has missed the past two years because of foot surgeries, said he empathizes with Noel.

“It’s hard,” Embiid said. “Obviously we need Nerlens if we want to win. But that’s basketball. Things happen. You can’t control injuries.

“I feel bad for him because this is the beginning of the season. Everybody wants to play the beginning of the season. But I’m sure he is going to work hard to come back even stronger.”

On the positive side for the Sixers, there was the return of Okafor … even it felt like baby steps for him.

“I started to feel really good,” said Okafor, who had surgery on his right knee in March and experienced soreness on that same knee Sept. 30. “It was kind of like a tease to me because I really got going. I wanted to continue to play, but that’s why I have the medical staff to keep me disciplined.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said before the game that he would keep Okafor to just six to eight minutes, and he was true to his word.

Okafor, who made the only shot he attempted from the floor and was 2 for 4 on free throws, did not play in the second half.

“The scoring piece to my game, that’s like riding a bicycle,” Okafor said. “I know I can score the ball. It was good to get back out there with my teammates and hear them cheer for me on the side.”

Okafor said he tried to convince Brown to let him extend past the script of no more than eight minutes.

“He was like, ‘Have your lawyer call my lawyer,'" Okafor said. “We will talk about the season home opener (on Wednesday night against Oklahoma City), and hopefully I can increase my minutes.”

Okafor said he didn’t want to put a number on how many minutes he thought he could’ve played in his season debut except to say he knew he could play more.

Interestingly, Embiid, who had 18 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes, said he felt Okafor was a bit fatigued.

“I think he was a little bit tired,” Embiid said. “Obviously, he hasn’t played in a while. But just like me, he’s going to dig down. He is a proven scorer. He can do whatever he wants on the court.

“Once he gets back in shape, we as a team are going to be really good.”

Okafor was a minus-5 while he was on the court. But Brown said he was impressed by some of the less-hyped aspects of Okafor’s game.

“I thought he was really good defensively,” Brown said. “He sat in his stance and moved his feet. I thought he did a great job of fronting the post.”

Brown said the Noel injury was almost unfair.

“Clearly, it was a situation in the preseason where he would have played a lot,” Brown said. “The timing is unfortunate.”

Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's 4 TDs

Penn Athletics

Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's 4 TDs


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Alek Torgersen threw four touchdown passes, three to Justin Watson, and Penn rolled to a 42-7 victory over Yale in the first night game in Yale Bowl history.

Torgersen completed 16 of 23 passes for 229 yards and rushed for 66 yards. Watson had 10 receptions for 166 yards with touchdowns covering 5, 41 and 35 yards.

Torgersen moved into a tie for second with 47 career TD passes and Watson moved into fourth in career receptions (161) and touchdowns (17) for the Quakers (4-2, 3-0 Ivy Leauge).

Tre Solomon rushed for 120 yards, seven shy of the career high he set a week earlier, on 15 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run, for Penn, which won its fourth straight. Cameron Countryman had a 10-yard touchdown reception and Karekin Brooks had a 13-yard run for his first career touchdown.

Penn, which led 35-0 at halftime, finished with 508 yards and held the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-2) to 229.