Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Plenty of media outlets and Union blogs will offer
their take on games this season immediately after the final whistle.

With that in mind – as well as a job that leaves
me working nights and a 15-month-old baby at home who makes it hard
to do anything not on his schedule – we’re trying something
a little different.

Set the DVR, make a few mental notes from my seat
in Section 138 (too cold this week for any real note-taking) and let
things simmer for a few days – good or bad. Then tackle the replay
from the first minute to added time, and try not to ramble too much.
Might be a running diary like this (sorry, I’m not that creative),
and it might not. We’ll see how it goes.

We also might touch on the TV broadcasts a little
bit. How games reach fans on TV has always interested me, and hopefully
might not be totally boring to you.

And we’re off.

PREGAME: The game was on 6ABC, with usual play-by-play voice
J.P. Dellacamera and new color analyst Alejandro Moreno, who played
for the Union in their first season.

LINEUP: I was WAY off in my pregame post, partially because
Hackworth veered from his expected 4-3-3 for a 4-2-1-2-1. I was very
surprised by it at first, but I really like the formation for this team
(if not the players in it). With Okugo, Lahoud and Carroll on the roster,
you have three holding midfielders, so it makes no sense to play a 4-3-3
where you may not really used one at all. Le Toux has worked well as
a solo striker, but I would still like to see Conor Casey on from the
start, and either pair him with Le Toux up top or let Le Toux play just
off Casey.

1’: The new third jerseys looked great when they were released,
and they look even better in action. The white shorts are great. In
other uniform news, I thought I liked the new two-tone Sporting shirts,
but they look really weird on the field, especially for those wearing
long sleeves.

4’: Gabe Farfan with two golden chances off a good ball from
Michael Farfan. First one right into KC goalie Nielsen, rebound shot
way over the bar. It was a promising start for Gabe Farfan, who was
a very surprising starter up high.

6’: At this point, things are off to a good start. Some decent
possession on the other side of midfield, and two plays where Jack McInerney
would’ve been way offside last year but Le Toux stayed on well.

8’: Le Toux gets a long floating ball from Carroll and can
only muster a lobbed shot way over the bar. He was 1-on-1 with Matt
Besler, and should’ve done better to bring it down. All in all though,
the Union have done more in the first eight minutes in the attacking
half than in entire games last year.

10’: Le Toux tries to cut it back in the box for Daniel but
it’s a nothing pass kicked out for a corner. He sometimes needs to
be more unselfish and have a shot.

11’: Gaddis comes all the way from left to right to cover
for Sheanon Williams, who was way up in the KC 18 on the last attack.
I love the way Williams attacks on the wings, but with the shaky nature
of this defense (more on that later), he and Gaddis need to err on the
side of caution more often.

14’: Le Toux and Gabe Farfan working well together in opening
minutes. Nice balls into space and predicting each other’s movements.
I never liked Gabe as a left back (not sure I like Gaddis, either),
but I could learn to like him playing up higher.

16’: Sloppy pass from Carroll to Michael Farfan, but Carroll
is bailed out by a stupid foul. This will not go down as one of Carroll’s
best games. He seemed out of

17: UNION
GOAL. The move starts with a really bad pass from Gaddis for
Daniel, which is easily intercepted by Chance Myers, but quickly given
away on an even worse turnover. With one quick touch, Daniel sends a
perfect floating ball to the penalty spot, which Le Toux
cradles with his right foot before poking it past Nielsen.

The first touch was amazing, but he got away with a less-than-precise
finish. Still, a just reward for the Union’s strong start.

18’: Le Toux really needs a signature goal celebration. Also,
I predicted something right! (Not that I went out on much of a limb).

20’: Moreno has already provided more solid analysis and
insight than Bob Rigby did all of last season. He doesn’t overtalk
and seems to work well with Dellacamera. Although a screaming
goat
would have been an upgrade over Rigby.

22’: Carroll gets pushed off the ball with ease and it leads
to a half-chance for KC. Like I said, not his best game.

23’: A brilliant outside-of-the-foot ball from Michael Farfan
to Williams sets up a GOLDEN chance for Le Toux just inside the 18.
Looked like he was aiming to curl it far post but flat-out scuffed the
shot and missed the net entirely. The moment that really changed the
game, in my opinon.

24’: Le Toux was solid, but a minute after the missed chance
he fails to put anything on an attempted cross and it is easily cleared
away. Union really possessing the ball well, though.

26’: Gaddis streaks down the middle and draws a promising
free kick on a foul by Aurelien Collin. The kid has unbelievable speed,
and could really develop into a nice left back if given the chance.
But his lack of size means he needs to play smarter in the back, especially
on set pieces and scramble situations.

27’: Michael Farfan puts a free kick on frame (BREAKING NEWS!)
and forces a nice save from Nielsen.

28’: I DESPISE short corners. Just so you know.

31’: It was about this time that we all realized just how
cold it was in the River End. Also when we started to wonder exactly
who the back-breaking end-of-half goal against was going to come from.

32’: Benny Feilhaber commits a foul and then screams at the
ref with a “Who? Me?!?” look. For you soccer newbies, this is what
we call “being Benny Feilhaber.”

36’: Nice job by Gaddis to run at Colin again. He seemed
to know Colin had one yellow card and forced him into another dangerous
tackle. Colin makes a nice play to stop him, but that’s great awareness
from a young player.

37’: Great corner kick from Le Toux and a semi-free header
by Okugo that he can’t get on frame. Solid corner by Le Toux, who
often misses his mark on those.

39’: Moreno (rightfully) harping on Le Toux’s inability
to ease pressure by holding up the ball. He needs to get better at that,
especially if he going to play up top alone.

41’: SPORTING GOAL. Carroll’s biggest mistake of the match
leads to a goal. Okugo misreads a bouncing ball on the wing 40 yards
out and it falls to Convey. At this point, my brother, standing beside
me, says “He should’ve fouled him there.” Carroll can see a teammate
out of position in front of him and needs to go for the ball and take
a “professional” foul, even if it means a yellow card. Instead,
Carroll meekly stabs at the ball and Convey beats him easily before
floating a cross into the box.

Claudio Bieler nods it down nicely to Feilhaber, whose
shot is saved well by Macmath. But Parke and Gaddis are inexplicably
retreating BEHIND their goalie to guard the line, so when the rebound
rolls out to Graham Zusi, there is no one there and he roofs it to tie
the game
. Plenty of blame to go around on this one.
Macmath gets the least, as the shot was ripped and would’ve been hard
to push to catch or push to one side. Carroll needs to do better, and
Gabe Farfan and Michael Lahoud need to do more than watch from the edge
of the 18. A terrible goal to give up when you’ve dominated the half.

HALFTIME: The scoreline is not what the Union deserve for this
possession and passing game, which has been better than at any point
in 2012. Also, I’m super pumped that the creepy Bimbo teddy bear ads
are back this year (sarcasm font). And Peter Pappas is part of the halftime
show on 6ABC. I got his autograph on a Philadelphia Kixx ball after
a game at the Spectrum when I was a kid. That ball would be worth a
pretty penny today. An actual penny.

46’: SO MANY empty seats at the start of the second half
… a PPL Park tradition. For a new stadium, the number and layout of
the bathrooms is embarrassing, especially when men vastly outnumber
women. Not sure I’ve ever seen a second-half kickoff live.

54’: Feilhaber runs over Michael Farfan and gets called for
a foul. Running people over and pretending he did nothing wrong is what
Feilhaber does best.

60’: Sporting really controlling the ball now. Everything
has been different since the Zusi goal. Despite that, the Union have
had one or two forays into the attacking third. Last year when momentum
changed this way, the Union folded up and never pushed forward.

66’: Williams tangles with substitute C.J. Sapong and get
called for a foul. From my seat on Saturday I thought it was a foul
on Sapong if anything. From here it should’ve been a no-call. Both
guys were using their arms.

66’: SPORTING GOAL. Zusi’s free kick is well-placed, but
the Union are just watching. Gaddis
lets Oriol Rosell run free for the header
, so he gets
Blame #1. But Macmath MUST be more assertive there. You know where Zusi
is going to put it, so come to the ball and be aggressive. The goalie
is always going to get the benefit of the doubt in a penalty box pileup,
but Macmath consistently seems unwilling to make the first move. Just
bad all around from the Union, who apparently don’t practice set piece
defending.

70’: McInerney comes in for Gabe Farfan. I thought Farfan
was serviceable enough to deserve another chance in the attack. I’ve
never been the biggest McInerney fan, and would’ve rather seen Hoppenot
or Casey come in here.

75’: Williams trying to beat two men by himself. That tells
you all you need to know about the second half. No poise at all. For
Hackworth’s sake, you hope it’s not tired legs. Let’s also not
forget that Sporting K.C. is one of the top three or four teams in the
league, as well.

79’: Le Toux with a great ball to McInerney, who directs
a great header on goal, but Nielsen is positioned well to make the save.

80’: Roger Torres comes in for Lahoud. I have never liked
Lahoud but thought he played OK in this game. Not sure he needs to be
out there with Carroll and Okugo though.

83’: SPORTING GOAL. Again, this was easy to see a mile away.
Zusi is everywhere on this play, floats a great ball to Myers, who cuts
it back to Bieler, who seemed shocked to be so alone inside the 18. The experienced
forward makes no mistake and slots it home past Macmath.

Why are the Union never linked to designated players like Bieler? (The
$1 million question).

84’: Casey comes in and throws his body into Collin, drawing
a cheer from the Sons of Ben, who were waiting for anything to cheer
about.

89’: Gaddis lucky to not see a red card after a wild tackle
on Peterson Joseph.

90’: Let’s hope the Union are taking notes. This is how
an experienced winning team closes out a game. Sporting putting on a
second-half clinic.

FINAL: SPORTING K.C. 3, UNION 1.

I won’t get too caught up in one game. And there
were plenty of reasons to think this won’t be 2012 revisited. The
offense was MUCH better and there were chances created. There was even
a chance well-finished for a goal.

The problem is the defense was sloppy on all three
goals, while Macmath shares the blame for at least one of them (the
second). I like Gaddis, but he might be a better option as the left
back, especially if Bakary Soumare can play in the middle alongside
Parke.

I won’t fall into the “more of the same” argument. This was not like a 2012 loss, even if it felt like it at
times. There is more talent here and more cohesion, especially in the
midfield. That’s not to say roster moves aren’t needed and lineup
changes shouldn’t come. But let’s wait a few games before we write
off 2013 as a continuation of 2012.

Follow Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.